An experience of Inquiry Oriented Learning
Many of us were subjected to tertiary teaching where the repetitive sequence (especially in the sciences) was: lecture, laboratory demonstration, laboratory experiment, write up the experiment, next lecture – and the cycle repeats.
Thirteen tertiary teachers recently experienced an Inquiry Oriented Learning (IOL) approach to teaching. The features of this approach are that students:
- engage with questions that have no predetermined answers
- develop and implement approaches to address those questions
- work to refine their method and quality of data
- gather evidence
- formulate and communicate explanations and conclusions based on that data.
The workshop at Victoria University was conducted by Associate Professor Les Kirkup of the University of Technology Sydney.
The question for investigation was an elegantly simple real-life problem. The managing director of a manufacturing company wanted to know which of two proprietary brands of sticky tape was the 'stickiest'? The one manufactured by his company, or the opposition product?
Armed with simple science laboratory equipment and minimal instructions, pairs of participants took 15 minutes to investigate the question. That was followed by a short facilitated discussion on progress and then 45 minutes in which to complete the process and come to a conclusion. The results were collected and further discussion followed. The group then examined their experiences from both the point of view of students, and from the viewpoint of teachers organising an IOL activity. This was a simple and easy to follow process which highlighted the variables involved in IOL.
The two and a half hours were drawn together by final remarks from the Associate Professor. He has observed the value of inquiry-oriented activities. 'When properly scaffolded and supported, these activities enhance student engagement, attitudes, learning outcomes and provide rich opportunities for students to be creative, work productively in teams and communicate their ideas.'
The evaluations showed the workshop was well received and gave an instructive insight into how subjects can be taught in a mode that stimulates innate curiosity and simulates the real-world problem-solving processes found in the world beyond tertiary education environments.
For more information about IOL visit the IOL Science website.