2nd February 2015
Pedagogy according to Watkins & Mortimer (1999, p. 3) is “any conscious activity by one person designed to enhance learning in another”. Inquiry pedagogy can best be understood then as the collection of conscious activities, exercises and practices that revolve around a collection of specific teaching and learning strategies that promote student-centred research and investigation, discussion and collaboration, and metacognitive thought processes.
Based on constructivist theory, which suggest that learning is a social process mediated by the shared exploration of understandings through prior experiences and language (Churchill, 2011; Cross, 1996; Pritchard, 2009); inquiry-based learning is a pedagogical umbrella term that covers a number of approaches to teaching and learning. It refers to the frameworks or processes that provide a method of student participation and learning through the encouragement of active learning, driven by questioning and critical thinking. During this learning process students generate questions based on their own interests, curiosities, experiences, and perspectives as a learner. When this occurs, learning becomes an organic and motivating process that is intrinsically enjoyable. Beaumon (2001 p.61) reflects that, “Inquiry based problems that stir curiosity can prompt [learners] to wonder, question, probe, and explore information from various angles. Opportunities to reflect and evaluate what they have said or prepared can make them increasingly aware of important intellectual standards, such as logical reasoning, clarity, accuracy, and precision”.
During the process of Inquiry Learning the teacher becomes a co-learner, working alongside students to investigate topics and provide guidance where necessary, to students experiencing difficulties, through the use of appropriate scaffolding. Alongside numerous researchers Churchill et al. (2011), explain the importance of scaffolding, for teachers undertaking more complex domains, such that inquiry questions are built on existing knowledge platforms in order to develop new target knowledge. A process Kellow (2014) describes as “Guide on the side rather than Sage on the stage”. Inquiry Learning not only encourages students to actively construct their own knowledge and bring personal ideas and concepts to the learning experience, but encourages them to make changes in their attitudes and behaviours in a way that provides them with the means to take ownership of their learning (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2007).
As access to knowledge and information becomes easier, teachers frequently find that inquiry learning, when contrasted with more traditional models, emphasizes learning as the development of a depth of understanding in students which parallels the intended retention of content knowledge and skills. As educators this form of model becomes increasingly important for teaching Authority Subjects as;
- Students enter the classroom with preconceptions about the world in which they live, and the role and function that it holds.
- The development of educational competence requires factual knowledge organized around conceptual frameworks and common curriculum elements. As a result, topics and activities should be designed to maximize student interaction and understanding.
- It highlights the use of meta-cognition which assists students in taking control of their own learning by embedding opportunities in classroom and homework tasks, for students to ask their own questions and define independent learning goals.
In considering this framework, teaching practices that maintain an inquiry orientated disposition toward learning within the authority subject of Ancient History would include:
- problem-based learning that begin with an ill-structured problem, background-study, case-study or scenario
- project-based learning which require students to create a project or presentation as a demonstration of their knowledge and understanding
Beaumon, G.W. (2001) Teaching with Adolescent learning in mind. Arlington Heights, Illinois: Skylight Professional Development
Churchill, R. et al. (2011). Teaching: Making a difference. Milton, QLD: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
Cross, M. (1996). Teaching Primary Science: empowering children for their world. Melbourne: Longman Australia.
Kellow, J. (2014). What is Inquiry? [online] accessed 23 December 2014 from http://www.inquiringmind.co.nz/WhatIsInquiry.htm.
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. London: Libraries Unlimited.
Mortimore, P (ed.). (1999). Understanding Pedagogy and Its Impact on Learning, London: Paul Chapman/Sage
Pritchard, A. (2008). Ways of Learning: Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classrrom. NY: Taylor and Francis