Source:Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 17, No. 1, February 2011, 51–72.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aims to analyze how an elementary school teacher supported the collaborative inquiry practices within her classroom.
The research questions were as follows:
How did the teacher design, organize, and guide the students’ inquiry and design practices?
How did she utilize the tools and community members in supporting the inquiry culture within her classroom?
How did she reflect and interpret the unfolding events?
Participants and the setting of the study
The Artifact Project was designed to support students’ developing an understanding of Finnish culture and the role and diversity of artifacts, and it was divided into three phases – ‘The Past, the Present, and the Future of Artifacts.’
The project took place in Laajasalo Elementary School, Helsinki, Finland, in the years 2003–2004.
32 students participated in this project.
The researchers and the teacher designed the overall frame of learning by setting up the basic infrastructure: the main phases and the top-level goals of the Artifact Project, technological tools used during the project (i.e., KF), guidelines for basic social organization (i.e., four students in group), and general pedagogical approach that was based on progressive inquiry (first and second phases of the project) and learning by collaborative designing (in the last phases).
However, the teacher was responsible for the implementation of the projects and its specific activities.
This study is designed as a longitudinal classroom ethnography.
The authors concentrate on the teacher’s reflective diary in order to describe her own pedagogical design and facilitation of students’ collaborative process.
Furthermore, the authors video-recorded approximately 70 hours of classroom practices, made field notes, and drew on the KF database accumulated across the project.
This study revealed the teacher’s experiences in her practice while supporting pupils’ efforts to take cognitive responsibility for designing and advancing their own collaborative object-oriented inquiry process.
Overall, the teacher’s writing indicated her interests and thinking. However, the researchers found that their interest along with the teacher’s own interests affected her writing.
The teacher also utilized the community’s available resources, such as single students’ skills and knowledge, and bound them to be used by whole community.
The analysis revealed that in the teacher’s reflections, there were not significant differences between the project phases although the phases of Artifact Project were based on the different types of inquiry activities and the nature of their objects in each phase was different. In all of the phases, the teacher’s support was based on sustaining the collaborative student-centered process of working and explaining.
The authors conclude that without teacher-controlled guidance and the organized conceptual and material support in the process, the pupils’ engagement in the in-depth cycles of knowledge-building inquiry processes would probably not have been possible at the same level.