Trevor MacKenzie is a high school teacher, Instructional Coach, speaker, and author of two books, Dive into Inquiry and Inquiry Mindset. He teaches at Oak Bay High School in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
I was excited to receive a preview copy and write a review of Trevor’s new book, Inquiry Mindset. It is amazing and I highly recommend it. We had this conversation right when the book was coming out but it is still timely because of all the information Trevor shared about his journey in education and diving deep into inquiry. Below are a few excerpts from the podcast:
About you and your family
Yes, I’m a Canadian born and raised in British Columbia, Canada and moved to Victoria almost 20 years to the university here. That’s where I met my lovely wife, Sarah. We did some traveling and taught in different countries for a bit but we always knew Victoria was going to be our home. We have 2 sons, Ewan who is 9 going into 4th grade and Gregor, a six-year-old going into first grade now since we did the podcast.
As you know with kids, they are naturally curious and discovery-based learners. They helped me shape my understanding for the teacher I wanted to be for my kids but also my children in my 9-12 English classes at Oak Bay High School. I do a lot of traveling, a lot of consulting, visiting really neat spaces, and dealing with innovative practices where inquiry-based learning is happening.
What it was like for you as a learner
In school, I had a pretty up and down experience. I think a lot of authors and consultants have similar situations as I did; a story that they don’t want to pass on to their students or to their own children. I had a lot of mediocre learning experiences, nothing that really stood out for me as a teenager. But there were a few amazing educators and coaches that really went out of their way to create some memorable experiences for me, whether it was on a bus to a basketball tournament or a poetry unit that enlivened my passion for writing. They are a big reason why I became a teacher because they passed on their passion for teaching to me. They left an impact on me for lifelong learning and paying it forward. I try to go back and let those teachers know that they made a difference in my life. So often we don’t hear from our students the impact of our hard work, determination, and passion as teachers because they leave and it doesn’t resonate with them until much later. For anyone listening to this podcast, let those teachers know what you are doing with your life. It is so important to say thank you to the teachers who left their mark on your life. It can be such a powerful moment.
This is the reason why inquiry is such an important part of them so they are immensely curious and connected at the moment. It makes the energy around the learning palpable.
A magical time to be an educator
I am still a full-time teacher and Instructional Coach. Things are changing for me in the sense because I do a lot more travel, writing, and sharing on my blog at https://trevormackenzie.com. It is a magical time for educators for a number of reasons. Two reasons:
- We can learn from one another in ways that we weren’t able to learn from one another in the past. We can connect globally with teachers and students who are doing amazing, powerful things. We can leverage those partnerships and collaborations to impact the students in our rooms.
- I also think it is a magical time because of the students in our room. I believe our students are the most creative generation of students in the history of education. I’m not saying they are more artistic or more well-spoken. I mean they are building, creating, engineering, and designing so much more than previous generations.
The “Tree of Inquiry” can be a helpful visual to understand how various educational buzzwords connect to inquiry. (Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt) Article: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51580/four-inquiry-qualities-at-the-heart-of-student-centered-teaching
Demystifying what Inquiry is
It is important for our learners to be able to explore their curiosities, questions, interests, and passions. We need to strike a balance between what is expected for us to teach in the curriculum and what is best for students to learn for their future. Dive into Inquiry hits that balance and allows teachers to see what the balance can look like day-to-day in their classroom and how do adopt that balance, structures, and processes. Honor student voice, and still hold clear what we know is good for student learning.
Inquiry for me really surfaced because of the needs of the students I was working with. I spent the first 8-9 years working with at-risk students who were facing challenges that no student should have to face. Attendance was irregular. Wellness was inconsistent. Students were dealing with anxieties and may not have had a lot of support for their learning in their homes. I would have students disappear from class maybe for a week for a time even months on end. Your heart would hurt wondering where these students were. They would kind of drift back into the class unexpectedly. If you greeted them with the work or assignments they missed or a test they had to retake, they would never return to class.
YouTube on Dive into Inquiry
So I learned through this class, that these students needed relevance and why learning mattered. Beyond relevance, they needed relationships with a connection of trust with the teacher in the room. Plus that it wasn’t going to be about the assessment or the assignments that would drive learning. I ended up tinkering and learning about building those relationships and honoring the individual and in some cases, failed at miserably which actually is powerful learning. In the process, I came to understand what inquiry truly is.
Dive into Inquiry, through EdTech Press https://www.edtechteam.com/blog/2016/08/dive-into-inquiry-amplify-learning-and/
The swimming pool graphic analogy has several types of inquiry from the shallow end that is more teacher-centered and student participants to the deeper end of the swimming pool that is more teacher facilitated and student directed. What I propose in the book is that there needs to be a gradual shift of control over learning from the teacher to the student. The analogy says we don’t want to throw our students into the deep end without the skills and understandings necessary to be successful in the deep end of the pool that is called Free Inquiry. That is where students choose their own topic, craft their own essential question, and create their own inquiry unit of study. If students aren’t properly prepared for that, they can feel overwhelmed, anxious, and can lead to something that is not successful. Going through the cycles of inquiry until they feel more successful. That’s why we proposed in the book this gradual shift so students take a more drastic change in the classroom so students love learning.
Graphics by Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt
I’ve seen achievement and test scores increase. I firmly believe that when students have that engaging role that they used to have in Kindergarten. Our job is to bring back that curiosity and awesome learning experiences.
That’s where Inquiry Mindset comes in and focuses on the K-7 classroom. Honoring those student questions that they have so they don’t lose those curiosities. My gut tells me that somewhere in students’ elementary school experience when things become too prescribed, too standardized, and those natural curiosities and questions students have to get pushed to the wayside. The world of tomorrow is not standardized and not a prescribed world. We cannot have our learners leave our system following the steps or orders of operations. The world is so much more than that. They need to be able to answer questions that are authentic, that cannot be just googled or solved in a quick search, that requires unpacking and grappling with a variety of resources, looking at problems from different perspectives, and then working with a bunch of different people and interest groups to solve these problems. These are the soft skills they will need for their future.
This is Barbara. Here’s my review of Inquiry mindset:
Trevor MacKenzie expands on his first book with another powerful argument for inquiry-based learning by challenging educators to stoke students’ curiosities, hear their voices, and nurture their hearts. Inquiry Mindset provides practical advice, examples, strategies, and resources for teachers so they can meet those challenges for their own professional learning. MacKenzie takes readers on their own personal journeys to discover how they can become inquiry teachers. I highly recommend Inquiry Mindset for any teacher who wants to harness the potential for increasing student agency over learning.
Trevor MacKenzie is an award-winning English teacher, Instructional Coach (focusing on inquiry and technology), and a graduate student from Victoria, BC, Canada who believes that it is a magical time to be an educator. By increasing student agency over learning, weaving in strong pedagogy, transformative tech use, and sharing learning to a public audience, Trevor’s learners are ready to take on important roles in the 21st century.
Trevor uses technology to enhance his teaching as he experiments with the flipped classroom, inquiry-based learning, iPad Ed, and exploring student blogging as a means to reflect on learning. He strives to make learning public and meaningful and support innovation and connection amongst educators.
Trevor is the author of Dive into Inquiry published in the summer of 2016 by EdTechTeam Press and a new book, Inquiry Mindset co-authored with Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt who also did the amazing graphics for the books.
Dive into Inquiry: https://www.amazon.com/Dive-into-Inquiry-Amplify-Learning/dp/1945167149
Edutopia article: Bringing Inquiry-Based Learning into Your Class
The Tree of Inquiry at MindShift by KQED