Getting to Bigger Questions

My grade 6 students have been engaged in an inquiry on grit, tenacity, perseverance and resilience.  In inquiry,  one starts with a question.  and as the inquiry progresses and thinking deepens new questions should arise, ones really worth thinking about.

In our inquiry this has begun to happen.

Today we examined patterns and themes emerging from student writing and conversations.  This was very a much a teacher-directed lesson.  I modeled how to spot patterns, pull out big ideas and develop questions.


1.  Students had previously shared their interviews with parents about our four words. The kids noticed as they listened that many parents had regrets about not pursuing more education (for whatever reason), dropping out of school and not working harder while in school.   As we thought about it we realized that the regret was really about being able to take advantage of opportunities. We wonder what causes people to drop out of school and what causes people to remain in school.

2.  Another common theme was family circumstances.  Many people show grit, tenacity and perseverance, but income levels and personal situations mean that sometimes, even when you want to pursue opportunities, you’re not able.  That led to the development of fantastic causal questions. I modeled this thinking for the class, as we created the questions and got to better bigger questions.

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As we discussed the opportunity questions we tried to imagine what the world would be like if everyone was involved in creating opportunity for others.  How would our lives be different?

3.  One student’s father hasn’t gone to post-secondary yet has developed a very successful career.  Another left school after elementary and now owns a business.  Clearly, there is more to success than formal education.  We have questions about that.

4. Finally, several parents acknowledged setbacks but did not regret them because they led to where they are today.

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We now have a rich set of questions – ones that will allow us to use some fantastic integrative thinking tools to – hopefully – develop deep understanding.

I then showed a causal model of someone’s personal journey showing where grit, tenacity, perseverance and resilience occurred. I pointed out how various decisions and chance opportunities seized along the way led to many doors being open. This is going to allow me to introduce feedback loops next week.

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The last thing students did was select one of the causal questions (ie, what causes someone to have opportunity?) and attempt to answer it in paragraph form.  Tomorrow we will create causal models to answer the same questions which should help students realize how useful cm’s are for uncovering complexity.


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