Inquiry-Based Learning class

Inquiry-based learning is a powerful way of thinking about learning as it occurs in libraries, museums, community centers, homes, workplaces, or online, as well as in formal settings, such as schools and universities. It implies the creation of environments in which learners are actively engaged in making meaning through personal and collaborative inquiry. It does not ignore the usual focus on content/skills: “What should be taught?,” or method: “How should we teach?” but begins with even more basic questions about the nature of learning and life.

Because of this, considerations of inquiry-based learning lead directly to issues of lifelong learning, the nature of knowledge, purpose, social justice, and democracy. This broad sweep makes it impossible to encapsulate inquiry-based learning in a simple framework or method. But it is also an indication of its importance in defining ways of thinking about the meaning of community, the roles of teachers and students, the relations between school and society, and how learning and life go together.

In the course we examine the nature of inquiry and of inquiry-based learning, drawing on philosophical, historical, and critical sources such as Jane Addams, John Dewey, Paolo Freire, and Myles Horton. We read about, observe, and engage in inquiry-based learning. We also consider challenges to inquiry-based learning, including those related to management, assessment, basic skills, cultural differences, and pedagogical goals.

The course is recommended for Community Informatics and Writing Studies, but should be of interest in other programs as well. One aspect that’s been especially useful in past semesters is to have students bring their own experiences and questions from fields such as library youth services, art education, kinesiology, technology-enhanced learning, computer-mediated communication, philosophy, and other areas.

Class discussions will rely upon resources for Inquiry-Based Learning and readings in the Community inquiry bibliography.

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