Inquiry-based learning

Maarten van de Ven

Many of the current approaches to pedagogy in universities rely on prior, incremental acquisition of knowledge for success.

This paper describes an alternate approach to pedagogy which is more socially equitable, which recognizes that there are differences in backgrounds, preparation, and knowledge among students, and capitalizes on individual and diverse opinions. In closed-loop, reiterative inquiry-based learning, students are focused on learning how to learn, how to reason, and how to communicate and share ideas from different perspectives effectively. The premise is that critical thinking, logical deduction, prioritization, and understanding the importance of diversity are fundamental skills that can be learned and developed for students to become more effective, collaborative problem solvers.

Following simple steps in an analytical process, students learn not only how to process and research ideas, but appreciate how to evaluate and validate information from diverse sources—effectively they become sophisticated problem solvers in multicultural, multidisciplinary contexts.

Data are presented to show that offering one of these courses in the first year of university study can have a profound impact on student learning, develop persistent, superior, and transferable skills, and can influence the understanding of the importance of diversity and diverse thinking.

Students from the inquiry-based learning group had, on average, higher academic grades, preferentially used original articles and resources for library-based research, showed a greater prevalence for choosing subsequent courses with a greater emphasis on research activities, and were more consistently involved in community and international service.

More information
Alastair J. S. Summerlee (2018) Inquiry-based learning: A socially just approac…