This year my classes made the transition to inquiry-based learning—completing over twelve IDMs. I think that the IDM is such a useful tool for thinking about inquiry, not just teaching it. I decided to give my students the option of writing an IDM because I believe that my students can do it and be transformed by the process.
While only five took up the challenge, Wesley Wei’s IDM about LGBTQ+ is proof that students are more than capable to construct an IDM. While I was there to help guide him through the structure of the blueprint, Wesley dove into questions, tasks, and sources, spending hours figuring out their connection.
The result was incredible and is proof that often we need to trust our students and to mirror their energy and creativity. I’m very proud of Wesley and am humbled by his keen eye, intelligence, and passion for what he believes in.
–Ryan New, Teacher, Boyle County High School in Danville, KY
President, Kentucky Council for the Social Studies Steering Committee
As a student on the receiving end of inquiry instruction, creating an inquiry design module (IDM) shed new light about the inquiry process and the approach to answering the complicated questions. I initially came upon the IDM through Mr. Ryan New’s class, who currently teaches my AP Government and Politics class and two years ago taught AP World History at Boyle County High School in Kentucky. Leading up to the introduction of the first IDM, each of our lessons (in both courses) were framed and driven by compelling questions.
Upon my first in-class IDM, Did the Constitution Establish a Just Government?, it was quickly evident that I had no idea what I was doing—the methodology of inquiries called upon a certain depth of specific-topic explorations, starkly contrasted with the conventional survey-class structure to which I was accustomed. Yet, before long, I had produced two or three papers in response to inquiries which molded my thought processes and piqued my interest to look into creating an IDM with a topic of my choice, an option Mr. New gave us for our culminating assignment. With his help, I eventually leaned towards a subject which I was passionate about and believed could be thought-provoking, challenging, and compelling—the LGBTQ+ community and its movement. Quite frankly, this controversial subject was readily avoided in most classes, prompting me further to look into the subject.
Now, fitting the entirety of LGBTQ+ issues into a succinct inquiry was quite literally impossible, especially with an overwhelming amount of content in the last few years. I aspired to cover everything from the antiquated FDA policy of blood donation to the Matthew Shepard Act; from the Compton’s Cafeteria riots to landmark Supreme Court cases.
Again, impossible. The purpose of creating this inquiry, though, was not to chuck the entire issue into the arms of a student, but to look at an issue through a microscope with different lenses–a “deep dive,” as Mr. New would say. This enabled me to focus on the core pieces of the issue and to narrow my sources, which came naturally as I eventually arrived at my own compelling question, What Makes a Movement Successful?
In due time, I completed the initial draft of the IDM. Looking back, it has not only allowed me to learn more about the issue itself (hours spent digging through countless sources does a mind and body good!), but has alleviated me of my past, chaotic disorganization in writing papers, as the IDM itself was crafted to flow logically: The compelling question facilitated a structure where clear categories became evident. As inquiry-writing progressed, I recognized many merited perspectives and learned how to narrow down the wide array of sources to the absolute essentials.
So why did I pursue writing an inquiry? The development of an inquiry seeks to both expand and challenge the traditional classroom setting of lectures and presentations delivered by the instructor. Instead, the IDM hands the development of skills to students. From both making and answering inquiries, I’ve witnessed my growth in skills, such as analyzing and evaluating evidence, drawing comparisons, synthesizing information, and creating logical arguments. Personally, in the process of creating this IDM, I was tasked with balancing my limited scope of knowledge with a new mode of presentation, uprooting the typical style of learning. It was a learning curve, but one that has a great potential to transform classrooms.
See versions of Wesley’s IDM on the KY State Hub Page.