Inquiry-guided Learning 2014

In this session, we will exchange ideas and techniques for student research and other types of projects that incorporate the “independent investigation of questions, problems, and issues, for which there often is no single answer.” (Lee, 2004).  We’ll begin by constructing a common framework of terms and concepts.  Carol Gee and Mary Brantl will then share their experiences with the group and help facilitate the discussion.


9:00am – 9:15am:                Background and Overview Terms and Concepts

9:15am – 9:30am:                Mary Brantl

9:30am – 9:45am:                Carol Gee

9:45am -10:00am:               Discussion

Links to materials discussed in today’s session:

Buck Institute: Project-Based Learning

Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning

Everything You’d Ever Want to Know about Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory, Shorter Version with snazzy graphics

Because today’s topic centers around Inquiry-Guided Learning, here’s a quick synopsis of the terms and concepts:

Inquiry-Guided Learning: IGL promotes the acquisition of new knowledge, abilities, and attitudes through students’ increasingly independent investigation of questions, problems, and issues, for which there often is no single answer.  Inquiry-based learning incorporates Project and Problem-based learning and covers a range of approaches to learning and teaching, including:

  • Field-work
  • Case studies
  • Investigations
  • Individual and group projects
  • Research projects

Specific learning processes that people engage in during inquiry-learning include:

  • Creating questions of their own
  • Obtaining supporting evidence to answer the question(s)
  • Explaining the evidence collected
  • Connecting the explanation to the knowledge obtained from the investigative process
  • Creating an argument and justification for the explanation



Project-Based Learning: Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.  PBL typically includes: Designing and/or creating a tangible product, performance or event, Solving a real-world problem (may be simulated or fully authentic) and/or Investigating a topic or issue to develop an answer to an open-ended question.  Essential Elements of PBL include:

  • Significant Content – At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects.
  • 21st century competencies – Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry – Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question – Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know – Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice – Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Critique and Revision – The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Audience – Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.



Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL): POGIL is a research based learning environment where students are actively engaged in mastering course content and in developing essential skills by working in self-managed teams on guided inquiry activities.

A Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) classroom or lab consists of any number of students working in small groups on specially designed guided inquiry materials. These materials supply students with data or information followed by leading questions designed to guide them toward formulation of their own valid conclusions – essentially a recapitulation of the scientific method. The instructor serves as facilitator, observing and periodically addressing individual and classroom-wide needs.

POGIL is based on research indicating that:

  • Teaching by telling does not work for most students,
  • Students who are part of an interactive community are more likely to be successful
  • Knowledge is personal; students enjoy themselves more and develop greater ownership over the material when they are given an opportunity to construct their own understanding.



Questions to consider when choosing a methodology:

Are the students working to solve a specific problem or a series of problems?

To what extent should the Instructor guide the students through the project/problem?

Is there a prescribed sequence that should be followed or is the sequence contextual to the project (i.e. defined by the student or the instructor)?

Does the project intend to primarily build core knowledge and content mastery or to apply and synthesize prior learning?



One thought on “Inquiry-guided Learning 2014

  1. Learning by doing is how adults learn and retain the most knowledge. I always struggle with how much guidance to give students – especially undergrads – re projects and how much to let them “struggle” to extract their own learnings from the project experience? Ideas?

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