The 'structured enquiry' is not a contradiction in terms: focused teaching for independent learning


By Mike Gorman, published 9th September 1998

Mike Gorman uses the language of the National Curriculum Order to describe and analyse his practice. Yet he throws down a challenge to those who use it uncritically rather than interpreting it to make their own meaning. Like Dale Banham, he sees Key Elements 4 and 5 as virtually omnipresent, needing an explicit relationship with other objectives in all our planning, and an explicit teaching focus almost all of the time. Gorman chooses to conceptualise Key Elements 4 and 5 differently from the National Curriculum rubric and he shows how this works in his detailed planning. Mike Gorman's main theme, however, is the creative tension between structure and independence in teaching the practice of historical enquiry. He adds his voice to the many now alerting us to the fact that pupils will not become ‘independent learners' just by being given more independence. Instead, his piece is driven by a paradox: in his quest to make pupils independent, he draws the role of the teacher all the more sharply and strongly, suggesting that teachers need very tight thinking about conceptual areas and learning stages. He builds a model for enquiry work which, used repeatedly, will teach pupils to enquire on their own. Finally, notice too, the effects of other thinking about progression in his department coming through. The linked Key Element for his case-study enquiry is 2b (causation). By Year Nine the pupils are confident in framing certain types of question about causality. Why? Because they have done it before and the teachers remind them of this. This article will be an invaluable stimulus for history departments reviewing their policies on progression (and not just in ‘enquiry skills') and developing teaching strategies, across the 11 to 16 curriculum, for meeting more demanding targets at GCSE.

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