This July I volunteered for two weeks with Teach a Teacher in Peru. Thanks to Kelly and Mac, I had the opportunity to meet with secondary science teachers in Lima and in the Callejón de Huaylas (Ancash) and share with them some classroom experiences about Inquiry Based Learning.
When I contacted Kelly at the beginning of this year, as a Peruvian myself I was very excited about the possibility of running Inquiry Based Teaching workshops for rural secondary teachers and sharing my experience in this topic with teachers interested in learning and implementing this approach in their classrooms. As a Physics high school teacher at a Canadian private school for the last 8 years, I have had the opportunity of working using this approach with science students and see first hand how motivated students can become with this approach. Little I knew then that this was going to be a great opportunity to learn some things about the current initiatives of the Peruvian Ministry of Education, some Latin American experiences related to Inquiry Based Teaching, and Peruvian high schools, among many other things. Today on this blog post, I would like to talk about some of the things I learned.
Peruvian Ministry of Education Current Initiatives: Given the PISA results of two years ago, where Peru was ranked 65th out of 65 countries or regions, the Government has been working during the last two years in modernizing the education system. One of the initiatives was to create specific guides called Rutas de Aprendizaje that give teachers very detailed information about new teaching approaches. The guides focus mostly on competencies rather that content and give contextualized examples for the different regions of the country. In Science, one of the approaches touched upon is precisely Inquiry Based teaching. These documents, I think, are a very good resource for teachers to learn about an approach to teaching that is based mostly on developing competencies rather that content. However, the government has not been able yet to reach all teachers in the country, especially those in rural areas, to train them in these new approaches. Kelly and Mac have recognized that and this is one of the reasons why the work of Teach a Teacher is so important for teachers in the Callejón de Huaylas.
Some Latin American Initiatives on Inquiry Based Learning: During the preparation of the workshops, I came across some interesting examples of Inquiry Based Learning initiatives in different parts of Latin America. Here are a few of them:
- La indagación, una ruta para aprender a conocer desde edades tempranas. Peruvian Ministry of Education and Fondep, 2013.
- Programa Pequeños Científicos, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia, 2008.
- Educación en Ciencias basada en la Indagación. ECBI Chile
- La Indagación y la Enseñanza de las Ciencias. Flor Reyes-Cárdenas, Kira Padilla. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2012.
- Enseñanza de la Ecología en el Patio de la Escuela EEPE. Natalia Arango, María E. Chaves ,Peter Feinsinger. Chile, 2009.
- La Indagacón Guiada. María Isabel Rivas. Universidad ICESI. Colombia, 2013
I shared some of the ideas described in these experiences with the workshop participants so they can refer to Spanish sources when thinking of implementing Inquiry Based projects in their courses.
Peruvian High Schools: I learned that in the last 20 years or so, the Peruvian government has managed to build high schools in many very remote areas. It used to be that most students from remote areas had to walk for two or three hours to get to school and nowadays this is not that common because most have a school in their community or a community close by. The downside is that this increased the number of high school teachers hired by the government, many of whom have little to no opportunity of professional development given the remoteness of their workplace. Nevertheless, many of these teachers value immensely any opportunity for professional development and it was nice to see that some of them showed up for our workshops.
Overall this was a wonderful and inspiring opportunity to establish a connection with Peruvian high school science teachers interested in Inquiry Based Learning, a connection that hopefully will lead to future collaboration opportunities. I will be forever grateful to Kelly and Mac for making this possible.
Giselle Lawrence, volunteer from British Columbia, Canada