Posted by: Dan | January 8, 2009

Inquiry-based Learning

I’m certainly not trained in any established pedagogical strategies, and thus am not a qualified teacher. I’m a biologist, which makes me an expert of sorts on one area of science but inept at teaching it!

Nevertheless, I was impressed by one teaching strategy: Inquiry-Based Learning:

Inquiry-based learning is an instructional method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It was developed in response to a perceived failure of more traditional forms of instruction, where students were required simply to memorize fact laden instructional materials. Inquiry learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental and analytical skills rather than how much knowledge they possess. [Links and citations in original.]

In this strategy, teachers become facilitators, and independent thinking and problem-solving become central. Of course that is the core principle of science that must be conveyed to students. But there’s another aspect of science education — surveying the vast body of knowledge of a field of science, including the history of the field and dominant conceptual frameworks, that you can’t teach by student-driven investigation.

A blend of the two, hands-on investigation and critical review of theory, are how scientists pursue discoveries, and how students should be taught science as well.

Okay, that’s my outsider’s view of science education — for more, check out this Downloadable book [.doc] about the teaching of science inquiry.

And, for a related post, John Hawks has a post in the last few days on Evidence-based lecturing.



  1. The Winter 2008 issue of Harvard Educational Review has a nice article on Inquiry-based Learning. I recently posted a review of it on my blog:

  2. TeacherJay,
    Thanks very much for the contribution!


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