Foreword: about this guide
Enquiring Minds is a research and development project exploring questions of educational change. The aim of Enquiring Minds is to enable students to take more responsibility for the content, processes and outcomes of their learning. We believe that students bring to school valid and important knowledge, and the project is an attempt to bring about deeper engagement in learning by starting from students’ own interests and needs. For teachers, Enquiring Minds offers the possibility of an extended view of their work as they find ways to respond sensitively and practically to children’s lives and existing knowledge.
Enquiring Minds is being developed at a time when there is heightened debate about how the curriculum and schools should be organised. This guide provides an account of what is distinctive about the Enquiring Minds approach, arguments about why schools and teachers should develop the approach in schools, and guidance as to how it can be developed. We start from the assumption that sustainable change in schools happens though the principled thinking and practices of teachers rather than through the imposition of external models.
It is our view that schools should be places where students have a voice in determining how their learning is organised and experienced, and that the content of learning should be negotiated with students. This guide should be used as a point of departure for schools and teachers who wish to travel in similar directions. Although the research focus has, to date, been on Key Stage 3, some people have suggested that it be used with older or younger students and we would be interested to hear how teachers and schools use the guide. This guide is supported by the research evidence which you can find in our research.
The writing of this guide is based on the practices of teachers and students. At the same time, we are not claiming that this is the final word on Enquiring Minds. Indeed, we are aware that the ‘vision’ of Enquiring Minds as set out at the start of this section has not yet been achieved in the two schools that we have been working with. This is because the changes needed to bring about the type of student-led enquiry we seek require far-reaching changes in school culture, ways of thinking about teaching and learning, and teacher-student relations. This guide seeks to present a vision of how learning might be, and at the same time provide ideas about how that vision might be realised in practice.