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Wisdom Wednesdays: From Inquiry to Improv in the Arts Classroom
Feb 10, 2022 | Michael Skillern

Greetings, Arts Lovers!

This week on Wisdom Wednesday, Michael spoke in detail about the Stages of Inquiry as outlined by Trev MacKenzie. Then, Michael made connections between the four stages of inquiry and improvisation across Music, Dance, Theatre, and Visual Art. The ways one can teach improvisation and creation align very well with Trev’s outline of the Stages of Inquiry. 

MacKenzie described the initial stage of inquiry as Structured Inquiry. He explains that Structure Inquiry takes place in situations where students are following the teacher's lead and engaging in a single inquiry all together. Across all of the disciplines, Structured Inquiry is a time for you to introduce knowledge and skill to your students. The umbrella inquiry here is represented by the following: How can we create art in our given medium (music, dance, theatre, visual arts)? What materials do we have? What pitches and rhythms do we know? What space can we work with? How can we move our bodies? 

Following the initial inquiry is Controlled Inquiry. Here, MacKenzie describes a setting where teachers give the topic and identify the resources available to students to respond to the topic or answer questions. Here, we outline all of the inventories, skills, and knowledge. Then, we narrow our students' focus. We’re trying to avoid just handing out a blank canvas and prompting creation. That comes last.

Then, Guided Inquiry takes place when the teacher issues a topic or question and the students design their own responses. Here, students have access to the inventories you created together, as well as skills and knowledge from outside. Students should be allowed to use whatever materials are available. The teacher gives direction, but as little as possible. We’re almost at the point of just handing out a blank slate and prompting creation.

Lastly, MacKenzie describes Free Inquiry as student action on topics they choose, using methods and solutions they choose, with no prescribed outcome. Here’s a blank page, here’s a quiet room, here’s an empty stage. Create!

How can we create art with our mediums? Watch the full webinar below!