The work of educational theorists such as Piaget, Dewey, Vygotsky and
Freire paved the way for inquiry based learning. What resources add
contemporary relevance to their research?

Tags: dewey, educational, freire, inquiry, inquirybasedlearning, piaget, research, theorists, theory, vygotsky

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The web site Youth Learn is a comprehensive yet easy to understand resource dedicated to defining and exploring Inquiry Based Learning. Also referred to as Problem Based Learning, the term is, “...used to describe educational approaches that are driven more by a learner's questions than by a teacher's lessons”. Simply put, Inquiry Based Learning engages students in the process of making learning decisions. It differs from the traditional framework of teaching wherein instruction is driven by a structured series of lessons and activities that are based on a predetermined set of skills that are to be mastered and evaluated.

Research shows that some of the benefits of Inquiry Based Learning include;

* flexibility: well suited to accommodate a variety of student needs and interests
* motivating for students that may not perform well in a traditional classroom environment where teacher “provides” information through lecture and/or demonstration
* reinforces skills in physical, emotional, and cognitive domains
* ideally suited for interdisciplinary projects that can be used to reinforce a variety of skills and concepts within the same project
* can be used for individual or collaborative activities
* appropriate for students of all ages
* provides an environment that “...validates the experience and knowledge that all kids bring to the learning process”.
* allows teachers to reinforce skills while guiding students through the inquiry process

While the premise of Inquiry Based Learning is that students are actively involved in planning, developing, and evaluating activities, careful forethought and execution on the part of the teacher is also necessary according to the research of Dr. Cornelia Brunner, of the National Research & Development Center on Instructional Technology. In addition to her research related to the relationships between learning, teaching, and technology, Brunner has designed and implemented educational materials incorporating technologies that support Inquiry Based Learning.

Brunner’s “The Inquiry Process” pictured below, provides a model for teachers to follow when planning and implementing inquiry based activities in the classroom. More detailed information about the model can be found in the Youth Learn article “How to: Inquiry”

What students know and what they want to learn are not just constraints on what can be taught; they are the very foundation for learning. Dewey's description of the four primary interests of the student are still appropriate starting points:

1. the child's instinctive desire to find things out
2. in conversation, the propensity children have to communicate
3. in construction, their delight in making things
4. in their gifts of artistic expression.

I just joined this group and absolutely love the youth learn site. I did not know about it before and have enjoyed browsing through the resources. I will be leading a discussion on inquiry based learning for my elementary social studies methods class and will direct them to the site for background information.



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