Inquiry-based Learning (IBL) is an approach to teaching that nurtures student questioning, reasoning and understanding. It is often associated with John Dewey (1859 – 1952), the American philosopher and educationalist. Dewey is probably more famous for advocating ‘experiential (or experience-based) learning’, but the importance he attached to reflecting on one’s experience should not be ignored: “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn,” he wrote, “and (if) the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, learning naturally results.”
For him, then, finding ways of stimulating inquiry – thinking about the whys and hows of life, and about what to do and value – was a prime task of the teacher. He also talked about the value of ‘Communities of Inquiry’, but it was a successor of Dewey at Columbia University, Matthew Lipman (1924 – 2010), originator of Philosophy for Children, who showed how this idea could be translated into practice in the classroom.
Part of the secret was to encourage teachers to develop their own questioning skills, especially following the model of Socratic questioning. Another part, influenced by constructivist psychologists, especially Vygotsky, was to encourage the development of dialogue in the classroom, so that students helped each other to construct common, sound understandings.
Roger has been promoting IBL for many years, even before the growing concern about teaching to the test, and ‘shallow’ learning. Most recently he has piloted a P4C course that he tailored for schools in the IB network, and he is now offering this course to any school seeking to put inquiry at the heart of their curriculum. His aim is not just to improve inquiry skills in classrooms, but also to imbue them with the philosophical spirit of inquiry (hence, the inquiry-inspired teacher and learner). Click here for further information.
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