Inquiry-based Learning and REALs

Inquiry-based learning

Defined: the creation of a classroom where students are engaged in open-ended student-centered hands-on activity (Colburn)

Dewey based on the idea that science learning should be authentic to sciene

Learners generate questions in this learning theory.

The way scientists do research.

Inquiry-based Vs. discovery learners id knowledge gaps

Inquiry-based Vs. project-based: finishing the project is the goal; technique along the way is secondary.

Attributes of inquiry based learning: questions, investigation, analysis, modeling data, motivation, perspectives, application, integrated understanding

Advocates: National Research Council

Inquiry-based learning is a constructivist approach.

Kids we assume that they are willing to take whatever we feed them

When children ask why they are practicing adult behavior


Cognitive load

Media, technology-based

Minimal guidance during inquiry-based and other instruction

Equivalent to minimal guidance

Edelson: using climatology Climate Visualizer didn’t need any curriculum; No guidance was a problem

Challenges: Motivation, students don’t participate; Techniques are accessible, background knowledge, student management of extended activities, practical constraints (schedule, technology)


Meaningful problems are provided to students (what the weather was the day they were born); Getting students thinking gets them interested; Bridge a gap; User interfaces; Scaffolding

Inquiry-based does not necessarily mean, “unguided”.

Teachers need training and support

Works when done right

Inquiry-based learning honors student led inquiry

Does it have to be something like scientist to or is there a less full version?

We see from the example of Whyville that it can work as a less full-version.  This is similar to many models, such as project-based and problem-based learning. Integrating inquiry-based learning takes time and guidance and balance are important.


Constructivist; Student ownership; Collaborative; Authentic

Defined: Dunlap and Grabinger put a name to this model

Flaws in conventional schools

Breadth not depth: cover everything versus few topics and go deeper

Decontextualization: inert knowledge or that knowledge that sits there and is not used to solve the problem

Poor practice exercises

Students are passive students are treated as recipients of information, not taking the lead or making decisions

Evaluation is not authentic

Students as winners or losers, used to screen students, grades, only so many winners

Erroneous Assumptions: Learning transfers with ease; Learners are receivers of knowledge; Basic skills = transfer learning; Learners are blank slates; Learning happens best outside of realistic context

New assumptions:Make people aware the learning transfer is difficult; Contextualize knowledge; Learning is a collaborative process; Mature vs. immature learners and reflection; Learning happens best in realistic situations; Learners need to think about how they are learning; Verbalize and make clear the processes.  Model for students.

Michelle’s course: how to use Moodle, students also developed Moodle courses. She used a more holistic approach looking at the course as a whole and students evaluated design and provided positives and negatives of actual design.

Key attributes of REALs: Student responsibility; Generative learning activities; Authentic learning

What is the Goal of REALs?

Give students skills to become successful citizens

Ready for college and career

Learn for a lifetime

Solve problems

Lowering dropout rate

Working collaboratively

Apply knowledge

Students are learning in the context of the classroom and can’t adapt to real world or change.

Important figures and authors in topics of educational computing: Kozma, Hmelo-Siler, Duncan, Chinn, Geier, Blumenfield, Marx, Krajcik, Fishmen, Soloway & Chambers, Horwitz, Newman & Swartz.

The two approaches to all learning:

  1. Traditional (direct)
  2. Inquiry

Michelle asked the question: what percentage of teachers shift from the direct instruction model?  As I thought of my own path in education  (a very short path) I wanted to branch beyond direct instruction after my first semester, but didn’t have the experience, confidence, or knowledge.  Teaching in higher education may allow for more flexibility in instruction and with each semester that passes, branching out becomes more natural.




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