Over the past decade, the phenomenon of inquiry-based learning has come to shape the framework of modern learning practices. Backed by decades of research and with explicit applications across the Australian National Curriculum, it is safe to say that inquiry-based learning is at the core of 21st century learning.
“Inquiry” as a term, lends itself to the ‘act of asking questions’ or ‘undertaking an investigation’, and in the educational context that is exactly where the heart of this learning approach lies. Gone are the days where students are seen as passive recipients of knowledge and teachers are viewed as static transmitter of facts. Today’s 21st century classroom is all about knowledge construction, probing students to independently and collaboratively learn through the process of exploration, investigation, research, pursuit and study.
Drawing on constructivist ideologies, inquiry-based learning emphasises a hands-on, minds-on teaching and learning approach whereby students and teachers share the responsibility in the learning process. This dual passageway challenges students to guide their own learning pathways and challenges teachers to act as the facilitators and supporters of the student learning process. Through harnessing the spirit of investigation, inquiry-based learning advocates the importance of thinking in order to create meaning, working to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding.
In theory this learning approach appears faultless, effectively placing students at the centre of their own learning. In practice, inquiry-based learning achieves exactly that. Through focusing on the process rather than the outcome, students are able to understand the reasoning behind their learning, and therefore engage with their learning on a deeper level. Whilst indeed this learning model is a notable shift away from traditional teaching methods; it is a favourable shift that is seeing students extend their academic capacity.
Education consultant, Kath Murdoch, recognises the importance of inquiry-based learning in facilitating the “thinking” process. Following years of academic research and practical experience, Kath has developed a useful set of considerations which can help teachers to integrate inquiry into their classroom practices.
- Frame inquiries around provocative, essential questions rather than closed ‘topics’
- Select content that will provide ample ‘thinking leverage’ – give students something worth thinking about
- Ensure inquiries are designed with sufficient points of reference or relevance to the real lives of students we teach
- Consider the ‘kind of thinking’ that students will most often need to be doing as they move into the inquiry
- Consider the thinking dispositions that you can ‘spotlight’ though the inquiry
- Spend time ‘tuning in’ to students’ thinking early in an inquiry
- Using students’ own questions
- Make thinking explicit – take about it and model it
- Press the pause button – take time to stop and think
Source: Kath Murdoch, 2012
Through implementing an inquiry-based learning model students not only obtain valuable knowledge, however they also develop a range of transferable skills around cognition, analysis and investigation. Moreover, with a focus on collaborative group work, students are given the opportunity to develop essential soft skills such as communication, problem solving, delegating and team building – all of which help to provide a complete and holistic learning experience.
Here at 3P Learning we believe one of the most valuable benefits of inquiry-based learning is the facilitation of life long learning for students. In today’s ever-changing world, the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete is forever shrinking. For this reason there is an undoubted need for us as individuals to actively review, update and expand our knowledge as the world changes around us. This is precisely where the benefits of an inquiry-based learning model lie – as from a young age students are developing essential learning skills to assist with all their future endeavours.
Kath Murdoch, 2012. ‘Inquiry Learning – journeys through the thinking processes’, Education Consultant, http://kathmurdoch.com.au/index.php?id=22
Neil Stephenson, 2014. ‘Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning’, Teach Inquiry, http://www.teachinquiry.com/index/Introduction.html
Ontario Student Achievement Division, 2013. ‘Inquiry-based Learning’, Capacity Building Series, http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf
TeAchnology, 2014. ‘What is inquiry-based learning?’, TeAchnology, http://www.teach-nology.com/currenttrends/inquiry/
The Academy of Inquiry Based Learning, 2014. ‘What is IBL?’, The Academy of Inquiry Based Learning, http://www.inquirybasedlearning.org/?page=What_is_IBL