Saturday, July 01, 2006

Is it Inquiry or Problem-Based Learning?

There's been quite the buzz in the southwestern Ohio area lately about inquiry-based learning. Firstly, my school district's super has adopted this approach in an effort to keep test scores the highest in the state. As a result, we have spent a lot of time during inservice days listening to consultants define exactly what inquiry-based learning is and then planning inquiry lessons and units in grade level and subject area teams.

But the enthusiasm for this approach doesn't end in my district. I recently presented at a conference here in Cincinnati called Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Literacy. The focus of many of the conference sessions was inquiry-based learning.

Questions, Questions, Questions

  1. I've learned quite a bit about this approach, but all of the information has left me a little confused. Many of the lessons that are considered inquiry seem to me to fall under project-based learning. Students are systematically creating an artifact, but they don't seem to be generating questions as they go. How do we distinguish between project-based and inquiry-based learning?
  2. Aren't inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning the same thing? If so, why make a distinction between the two? I know that true inquiry must result from student-derived problems. But I've seen continuums that state that inquiry can also result from teacher-derived problems.
  3. Shouldn't all inquiry-based lessons begin with some sort of question or problem? In college, I learned that inquiry begins in one of three ways: discrepant events, a question, or by inquiring into the identity of an object, piece of art, etc.
  4. Is this an example of an inquiry-based lesson?
I'd love to get a little Socratic dialogue going on this topic. Post a comment with answers to the questions above and possibly include a question of your own.

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