Cunning Plan 144: promoting independent student enquiry

Teaching History feature

By Ben Twitchin, published 11th October 2011

Getting students to generate their own questions can seem like a formidable challenge, even for experienced teachers with extensive subject knowledge developed over years of teaching. Imagine how much more alarming it appeared to a student-teacher being encouraged to take risks by handing more responsibility to the students. Could it really work as a strategy for a large mixed-ability Year 9 class, many of whom had opted not to continue with history into Year 10?

The suggestions that I had read elsewhere about encouraging students to ask and answer their own questions tended to assume that the process would last several lessons. For a first attempt, I wanted to try something on a much smaller scale; something I knew I could handle within a single lesson, without setting up unrealistic expectations; something that would offer appropriate choices for students working at very different levels of attainment. An introduction to work on the ‘Blitz Spirit' offered a perfect opportunity to engage students, to encourage independent learning and to allow them effectively to differentiate for themselves.

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