engaging ells in the inquiry process

by EDUC507
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engaging ells in the inquiry process

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•need to be taught about how assessment works.•need to be actively involved in creating rubrics by helping to set the assessment criteria•are provided with the strategies, skills and opportunities to assess their own learning.•are provided with the strategies, skills and opportunities to provide meaningful feedback to their peers.•set goals, next steps or develop strategies to improve learning and understanding.•The broader school community participates in assessment. There are opportunities for other educators and peers to be involved in the assessment of the work.•Communication about assessment is regular and clear.•Procedures are in place to regularly review and improve summative and formative assessment.

“Research suggests that inquiry-based learning increases student creativity, independence, and problem solving skills, and it improves student achievement” (http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/aisi/themes/inquiry.aspx)

Many of the initiatives that Alberta Education has focused on and implemented in the past few years encourage the use of inquiry learning. The Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) and the Inspiring Action on Education initiative are two initiatives that best focus on bringing inquiry learning into the classroom. Inquiry was a theme identified by AISI but many other themes directly correlate to inquiry learning including: assessment for learning, critical thinking, differentiated instruction, parent and community engagement, student engagement, and personalized learning. Each of the above themes is incorporated into inquiry and is good practise when teaching English language learners. It is also important to note that second language learners were another theme identified by AISI. Many AISI projects have been funded to enhance the ability of Alberta teachers to effectively and authentically introduce inquiry into the classroom. The vision of the Inspiring Action on Education is “to inspire and enable students to achieve success and fulfillment as engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit within an inclusive education system” (Alberta Government, 2010). The Alberta Government states that a transformation of our education system is needed to better prepare students for their future. Inquiry is the best teaching tool to help both students and the government to achieve this goal as the principles of inquiry are the same as those identified by this initiative and can be seen in the diagram to the left. Through these initiatives, the goal of Alberta Education is clear, it wants to create and focus students and teachers energy to remind them how fun and fulfilling learning can be.

Some examples of varied and authentic assessment sources include, but are not limited to:•Student questions•Inquiry Lab Books•Portfolios•Visual art•Anecdotal observations"Using multiple sources of evidence increases the reliability and validity of the evaluation of student learning" (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010).


“Inquiry is the dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlements and coming to know and understand the world” (Galileo Educational Network, 2004).

Engaging ELLs in the Inquiry Process

"If the question, investigation, and outcome(s) are truly meaningful to the learner, she or he will apply this newly-acquired knowledge in her or his own life by sharing knowledge and by taking concrete action in the world ."(Sincero, 2006)

Comfort is a main factor in creating a low-stress environment that is conducive to inquiry learning: children “are able to think better in an environment they find comfortable” (Buhrow and Garcia, 2006, p.13). The key to this type of environment is staying away from children sitting in desks bound in rows where there is no room to move around, explore and interact with other students. Rather, an inquiry classroom should have: low shelves and tables, rugs and pillows, and lots of space for student work to be kept visible (Buhrow and Garcia, 2006). This environment allows children to easily access resources on their own, to comfortably curl up to read or think or write, and to share their work in progress with others, which leads to collaboration and learning from each other.

Assessing ELLs through the Inquiry Process


"Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand."


Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Model is a collection of theories regarding language development, one of which is The Affective-Filter Hypothesis. This theory suggests that even if the English language learner is taking in the appropriate information, language development will not occur if negative emotions, such as anxiety, low motivation or low self-esteem, are present (Shoebottom, 2012). Therefore it’s highly important that educators create a low-stress environment for ELL students. Inquiry is an important strategy because it appeals to a high level of student engagement and, as Buhrow and Garcia (2006) suggest, “when a student is so engaged in what he or she is doing he or she forgets about the stresses of a language”(p.11). In accordance with Krashen’s theory, it is these students that forget about the stress of learning a language that will actually learn the language more easily.

The Effect of Classroom Environment on Inquiry for ELLS

Alberta Education's Views on Inquiry

ELL Theories of Language Development and their Correlation with Inquiry* ELLs learn three ways: incidental learning, vocabulary learning strategies & direct teaching* Incidental and vocabulary learning are most applicable with inquiry*Interactionist model: language learning results from the interaction between the learner and the social environment. This interaction creates more opportunities to develop language and negotiate meaning

Inquiry Implications for ELLs* Inquiry based learning utilizes visual, motor and cognitive skills all at once, thoroughly involving the students and making their educational experience more meaningful*Inquiry has been shown to enhance content knowledge and reading comprehension, student motivation and attitudes towards learning* Inquiry allows for contexualized learning, which provides support for ELLs



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