Posted by: Kathy Cassidy | September 25, 2011

Passion-Based Learning–The Adventure Begins

I’m not usually afraid to take risks. I’ve done some things in my classroom that people consider to be innovative.  When there is a new tool that I think will benefit my students, I’m one of the first to try it.

Despite this, somehow the thought of a using an inquiry or passion-based approach in my classroom made me very nervous. I’m not sure why. I’ve done some inquiry units in my classroom in the past.  I’ve always been a teacher that valued choice.  I am comfortable with students choosing different ways to learn and to show their learning. Still, this felt like a big step for me.

Designing a Pattern House

Shelley Wright has been very open about her journey over the past year, and I appreciated her honesty, but as I read, I kept wondering what, beyond the quick sound bites I saw from hers and other classrooms, this would actually look like in a PRIMARY classroom.  When I get my new crop of five and six year olds, none of them can yet read.  This makes it more than a little difficult for them to do traditional research.

Last spring, I decided that I wanted to take the plunge into inquiry learning beginning with this school year.  So during the summer, I made it my mission to find out as much as I could about inquiry classrooms.  I took a passion-based learning class from Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach of Powerful Learning Practice (a great foundation). I went to inquiry learning sessions at PD opportunities I had this summer. I hounded people like Amanda Marrinan and Betty-Lou Ayers for specifics. I bought and read books.

The school year approached and I still felt uneasy. Could I do it? What if it didn’t work? Finally, I decided that I couldn’t just teeter on the brink waiting to see what PBL would look like before I began. The only thing to do was to jump right in and do it. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I’m continuing to look for them along with my students. Let the learning begin.



  1. Bravo! I’d love to be in an inquiry passion-based learning environment! Looking forward to hearing updates as the year continues!

  2. I hope you’ll write a detailed account of one of your PBL projects. I’m trying to engage my students in a similar way. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your endeavors. Thanks for sharing.

    • My plan is to blog about it as I go. Hopefully I’ll make the time to do that…

  3. Hi Ms. Cassidy, My name is Michelle Loupe and I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I am in school to become an elementary school teacher, so I love hearing about your approach. I think that it awesome that you like to take risks that says a lot about someone. I really hope the Passion based learning works out for you. I am looking forward to following up to read about the results. This is all a learning experience for me as well. Good luck, I can’t wait to read more. Feel free to visit my class blog or my personal blog Have a wonderful day!

    • Thanks for your comment, Michelle. Your blog looks like you are off to a great start. I hope to continue to blog about this process in my classroom, so you’ll be able to see how things are going.
      Good luck in your studies.

  4. It seems like you are in the midst of your own inquiry. You too are the learner! The children’s process will be enriched by your reflections through this blog. Looking forward to reading more.

    • That is it exactly. And I have to remember that the way I sometimes feel like I am floundering is the same way that the students feel.

  5. I’m glad you hounded me, Kathy. And the exciting part of an inquiry approach is that you never know where the learning is going to take you. Have fun on this new part of your journey!

  6. Kathy, I was so glad to see the link to your blog on our PLP class on Connected Coaching. I have tried PBL in my 4th grade class, with little success but lots of learning about what didn’t work, but I was getting frustrated because all of the information I’m finding is about high school students. I am really looking forward to following your journey doing PBL with younger kids so I can learn more about what it might look like at my level. Thanks for being so willing to share!

  7. Kathy, I love this post of yours! This sounds very much like where our full-day, everyday Kindergarten classes are headed, and I’m excited to hear what this looks like in Grade 1. I’ve been trying to do more of this in my classroom too, and I’ll definitely be looking to you for inspiration. Can’t wait to read future blog posts of yours!


    • Thanks Aviva. I, too, want to know what this looks like in grade one. I intend to do my best to figure it out. I don’t have all of the answers, but am discovering more every day.

  8. Bravo! I am going to take the plunge into inquiry based learning this term. I think the biggest hurdle for me is fear, even though I know it it the right thing to do. It is reinforcing to read about others who have overcome the fear and tried it out. Thanks!

    • Glad to hear you are joining the learning revolution!
      I am now four months into this adventure. Even though I love the student-centeredness of inquiry and the students are still learning their outcomes, I still do not feel the sense of confidence that I would like to. I suppose for someone with my personality it comes with time. Next year I’ll know it all.;-)

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