Trying the ILP and its process for the first time (and even the second or third time) is a little terrifying. You don’t know where your students will go, you don’t know what they will ask, and you might not even know what texts they’re going to study. Helping them through moments of frustration and confusion can be equally frustrating and confusing for you as you go through the learning process along with your students. We have to remember what Dr. Kuhlthau tells us about the affective domain of learning–we have to go through moments of frustration and doubt before we can reach clarity. When those moments hit, and they absolutely will, it seems easy to go back to more traditional, teacher-delivered curriculum. That’s why we highly recommend trying this for the first time with someone else–even if that someone else is one of us.
Going through anything different or new is uncomfortable. The first time I went through this, I learned to rely on Heather as a friend who also happened to be really closely aligned to me in pedagogy and teaching practice. I relied on Marci as an inquiry expert, and I relied on Meg as a teacher who had experimented with this before. They were my personal learning network, my support team. And very often I needed their help to troubleshoot, but I also leaned on them emotionally. When I hit major challenges or felt like I was nearing a breaking point, they encouraged me to continue. And they could do this because they believed in the values of this process as much as I did, and they wanted to see me succeed with it.
I also relied on my students as equal contributors to the classroom environment. We all muddled through together, and I made sure they knew what I was questioning and struggling with, and I made sure that they shared their questions and struggles with me. It became an opportunity for me to share my philosophies and pedagogies with the students because they continually asked me why I was making them learn this way. I could honestly tell them that I knew it would make them better learners. They would know how to overcome obstacles, find answers to their own questions, and articulate their learning. I could give them examples of progress I had already seen in their abilities–the student who would agonize over public speaking but could now present information clearly to small groups, the student who wrote on a basic level and improved enough to pass the midterm essay, the student who started by asking me if he got the right answer and gained the confidence to explain why he now thought his responses were important to him.
If you make the commitment to this process and the pedagogy behind it, don’t back down. Seek out teachers in your school that can be your support system like Meg, Marci, Heather and I were for each other. And, if you don’t find those teachers at your school, the four of us have been through this before, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us.