Being somewhat ignorant in terms of the practical applications of inquiry-based learning, a myriad of questions begin to flood my thoughts at the end of day as I walked out of my “Inquiry and ICT” class; why has my school not taken a vested interest in this seemingly obvious, natural approach to learning while others have made it a school-wide initiative? Why is it only fairly recently that “inquiry-based learning” has come to the forefront as a buzz word in educational circles? Have I used this approach and not realized it? Should I be using it more? What are its strengths? Just how valid is it?
The questions kept coming, but it was the last one that resonated with me a little louder: Just how valid is it? Maybe it’s just me, maybe it happens with age, in any case, I seem to have become increasingly skeptical as the years have gone by so the phrase “show me, don’t tell me,” comes to mind more often. By the end of the initial readings and class discussions it seemed obvious that one should implement teaching practices to include inquiry; but to what extent?
There seems to be numerous studies that prove the case for inquiry-based learning. “For example, sixth graders in a suburban school who were given inquiry-based physics instruction were shown to do better on conceptual physics problems than eleventh and twelfth grade physics students taught by conventional methods in the same school system.” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking 2000)
I needed to explore the flip-side of this coin. What does the opposition have to say? Well, in the article entitled “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching,” it states:
“Moreno (2004) concluded that there is a growing body of research showing that students learn more deeply from strongly guided learning than from discovery. Similar conclusions were reported by Chall (2000), McKeough, Lupart, and Marini (1995), Schauble (1990), and Singley and Anderson (1989). Klahr and Nigam (2004), in a very important study, not only tested whether science learners learned more via a discovery versus direct instruction route but also, once learning had occurred, whether the quality of learning differed. Specifically, they tested whether those who had learned through discovery were better able to transfer their learning to new contexts. The findings were unambiguous. Direct instruction involving considerable guidance, including examples, resulted in vastly more learning than discovery. “ (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark 2006)
Now I’m confused. It’s surely easier to follow the inquiry bandwagon but as my father used to tell me, “If everyone else jumps off the bridge, would you do that too?” Do I invest in teaching practices that show mixed reviews or do I stick with the tried, tested, and true methods? “Inquiring” minds want to know!
Bransford, J., Brown, A. & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-78). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press (Chapters 1-3).
Kirschner,P., Sweller, J., Clark, R (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.