Saturday, May 08, 2010

How Do I Move to an Inquiry-Based Form of Teaching/Learning?

Inquiry-based learning seems to be a buzz word in the curriculum overhaul movement of today. I think that most teachers can explain the overall idea of inquiry-based as a method which replaces memorization with a learning experience that engages students to learn by questioning. The question is how many educators can use their present knowledge-base to transfer their existing coursework into a bone fide inquiry-based learning experience?  I am not certain that I can do it.

My Instructional Technology university courses don't usually include much paper and pencil testing.  Most of them involve hands-on learning with projects that apply to the students' professional lives and pursuits. This hopefully makes their work more relevant and they are definitely problem-based, but I am not certain that I am posing the problems in a way that would be considered Inquiry-based.

I am tired of hearing and talking platitudes about changing our educational system from a memorization-based learning experience to a student-engaging learning environment which challenges students to answer problems and convert information and data into useful knowledge. Is there a system for this conversion? Is there a checklist to better identify an inquiry-based system? Is there a premise for the questioning system that needs to be used to optimize this system?

It is difficult for a university professor to acknowledge his ignorance in an area of study where he is supposed to be proficient, but I don't think that I understand the formalized world of inquiry-based/project-based/challenge-based learning.  I know that it is more than doing projects. There is a level of cognitive development that needs to be nurtured to optimize the learning experience for students AND teachers.

I may have a better understanding of Inquiry-based learning than I am admitting here, but I just wanted you to know that I am beginning a pursuit to better understand and implement inquiry-based learning in my courses.

What do you know about inquiry-based/project-based/challenge-based learning?  What resources can you suggest? Are you using this format? What are you doing?

Thanks for your thoughts and support.

Z


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9 comments:

  1. I believe there's a big difference between project-based and problem-based learning. Project-based learning often becomes focussed on a list of requirements. Perhaps if we redesign our instructional activities around complex problems the emphasis would be more on inquiry than the particular format of a project.

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  2. I think there are many types of inquiry and here lies much confusion when the buzzword "inquiry-based learning" is thrown out there. I have worked in PYP schools and essentially, it's a framework for learning. Much of the inquiry isn't open inquiry (no structure, and no specific learning outcome) but is structured inquiry (some structure, desired end is known and teacher guides students to end). Inquiry is about the path of learning. There are many paths that students may take to the same end and inquiry based learning acknowledges this.

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  3. Linda Engel11:01 PM

    Would inquiry-based learning be simply that the student becomes interested and motivated enough in the basic/core material he or she is taught that he/she actually starts asking more in-depth questions AND proceeds to seek the answers without be led/instructed to do so by an instructor.

    For example, I get enthralled reading The Taming of the Shrew and decide that Shakespeare might actually have been a budding feminist. I go off and research my hypothesis - even tho' I'm only in XX grade in high school. I may not figure out the correct answer and that may spur me on, etc.

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  4. Hi Leigh:
    I will get back to you on this as soon as my grades for this semester have all been calculated and posted.
    This is exactly the issue I am dealing with, and I plan to plunge head-first, full-steam into this "unknown" territory this summer, as I re-vamp my Environmental Science course and change it from mostly lecture-based (~70%, with a few in-class group activities sprinkled in) to a mostly inquiry-based case study approach.
    Wish me luck! I'll keep you updated on my transition.
    (the move will involve the implementation of "clickers," and very detailed study guides to be completed before class meets).
    Cheers,
    Barbara Harvey

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  5. I was in search of a way to reach more students as the diversity in my class (both ability and language) has increased substantially. During my search I found a couple of things about Problem Based Learning and thought that it might be an interesting addition to my class. However, I structured it a little more than most articles suggest, I tried to maintain the student's feeling of being in control of the process and their own learning. (So maybe this has been more a modified PBL.) It has worked pretty well, and I have had more success than I did last semester.

    Some resources that I found useful when entering into this "adventure": http://fur.ly/uk7

    I also found some great articles that were very helpful. (Will share if interested.)

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  6. Thank you for your insight, Jay. I look forward to reviewing your resources. It is a slim line that we walk between structure and control when we involve our students in Problem-Based Learning.

    Z

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  7. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Inquiry based learning in my school involves a paradigm shift in instructional practices. Students are much more engaged when they feel their curiosities are valued and sought after. Teachers change the way they present the essential questions of the curricular inquiry units. Students become involved and think critically because they're investigating their own questions within the (much looser) boundaries of the teacher's essential questions and goals for the unit.

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  8. This was posted by someone named Anonymous but disappeared. I want to share it because of its insight. Anonymous, Please contact me so that I can learn more about your school. Z

    Inquiry based learning in my school involves a paradigm shift in instructional practices. Students are much more engaged when they feel their curiosities are valued and sought after. Teachers change the way they present the essential questions of the curricular inquiry units. Students become involved and think critically because they're investigating their own questions within the (much looser) boundaries of the teacher's essential questions and goals for the unit.

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  9. Dr. Z,
    Herein lies the problem: We are supposed to be teaching engaged and motivated students with hands-on activities that invite inquiry and discovery. However, we are tested, and our schools are rated, by our school's testing data. Tests which do not assess our students' thinking or rationale, but rather their ability to read excessively dry and mundane texts and then, if they stay awake long enough, if they can answer correctly one of four options. They usually just make pretty patterns. They could care less what they ITED says about them, they just want their 251 so they can graduate. So, teachers are having to teach to the test or risk losing their jobs. It ain't pretty out there.

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