A look at Inquiry-Based Learning: part 1

By Ivan Danielewicz

Students feeling ripped off for the quality of education they receive should be happy to know that the University of Calgary is taking steps to remove classes without any student-teacher interaction by implementing Inquiry-Based Learning.

Inquiry-Based Learning and Blended Learning aim to create a stronger interaction between the professor and student, student and student, and the student and course material. Several courses at the university as well as the Masters of Teaching program already use Inquiry-Based Learning and the results have called for more courses to switch to this method of teaching. Currently, the university is accepting proposals from professors who would like to redesign their courses or create new ones. To do this, they could receive up to $10,000 from the university to redesign the course.

“In the broadest sense, Inquiry-Based Learning is a search for meaning,” described Dave Hawes, Manager of the Educational Services in the Learning Commons. “Instead of the professor standing in front of the class and giving facts, we’re trying to get students involved more meaningfully and to come up with their own questions.”

Inquiry-Based Learning has been around the university for a while and now the university is taking an active approach to implement it into most of its programs. Some of the programs won’t be fit for this type of teaching style because of course content or class sizes.

“It’s not appropriate for every course,” stated Hawes, “but there may be parts of it that can be changed.”

The Inquiry-Learning Action Group will be accepting and screening each of the applicant’s proposals. These proposals can be found on the Learning Commons website and consist of a variety of questions to help narrow down the field. On top of this, the dean of the applicant’s faculty has to add a brief statement of support for the professor applying for the grant. The project and financing are taking place out of the Registrar’s Office.

“The ILAG are looking for proposals that are specific and for opportunities to make a big impact,” said Hawes. “They want a very focused and strategic plan in place that is sustainable.”

The hard part, Hawes argued, is defining Inquiry-Based Learning.

“This is something that is hard to attach a label to,” explained Hawes. “A lot of professors are already doing it, but they don’t call it Inquiry-Based Learning.”

Inquiry-Based Learning is the new direction that the university has taken to help improve the quality of education on campus. By getting both the student body and professors actively involved in teaching a course, the students should be able to expect a higher quality of education and interaction with their professors.

The Inquiry Based Learning classes that have been either created or revamped with this grant money will be offered either in Fall 2005 or Winter 2006.

There are not an exact number of grants that will be handed out by the ILAG and so the number of courses that will be changed are undetermined. Additionally, the idea of Inquiry Based Learning is somewhat hard to define and so the results will be difficult to measure.


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