Enquiry-based learning – how effective is it?

Education experts are now favouring this technique over conventional methodology.

Photo: Unsplash

Enquiry-based learning is a phrase that is frequently used by educators and seen by many parents are the preferred way of learning. 

What is enquiry-based learning?

In a nutshell, the key to its success is sparking curiosity. Instead of instructing students and telling them what to do, the role of a teacher using an enquiry-based syllabus is to get them interested through sharing, exploring and questioning. Rote learning and memorising have their place in education; but is outdated and appropriate for certain subjects and situations, e.g. learning poetry and literary text. This is why enquiry-based learning from the early years through to university has become so popular and effective – by cultivating proactive, independent learners school becomes so much more interesting! 

What is the main benefit? 

One of the primary benefits of enquiry-based learning is the nurturing of self-motivated learners, whose interpersonal communication and critical thinking skills are continually being honed. Teachers are then able to spend more time monitoring and nurturing a child’s other skills sets and virtues. These learning, cognitive and communication competencies are not only applicable to school but also for daily life. 
Attaching a positive mental tag to a child’s perception of learning is essential so that they continue to enjoy and want to learn. As they acquire knowledge through research, reading, listening and experimenting; they will come to their own conclusions and discover new things. This connections between an enquiry and the answer is a gradual skill that yields sharp, curious minds. 
A process that empowers and motivates learners, by letting them take the wheel, this pathway transfers ownership from teacher to students and makes them responsible for the knowledge gained. 

A gradual process 

The biggest hurdle of enquiry-based learning is inciting interest. In order to achieve what education experts call ‘triggering interest and learning’, take an example that will appeal to the learner. For example, social media can offer plenty of educational queries – ask them why they thought a video or headline was interesting – find out what grabbed their attention and the reasons behind it. 

The process of enquiry-based learning is a natural one and can begin by sparking curiosity and encouraging discussion. If the topic is art, a teacher could ask – “If I spilled paint on the floor, is it actually art?” If the topic is physics, the question could be – “If I released a Pokémon card and a Pokémon toy from the same height at the same time, which would hit the floor first?” 

Once the teacher grabs the attention of the class, the next step involves students asking themselves: What do I already know about the subject? The role of the teacher is to facilitate a meaningful exchange that will lead to the next two questions: What do I want to know about the subject? And, lastly, what have I learned about the subject? After going through this process, proponents of enquiry-based learning recommend asking students to reflect on what worked about the process and what didn’t. The vital final step of enquiry-based learning involves students explaining what they have learned and proving that information is better retained when we experience it and are interested, rather than just reading or being told. This is especially true with younger learners. 

The way and what students learn today is very different from their parents and constantly evolving and it’s not enough to just learn and memorise. Reproducing words from a textbook in an exam or project is no longer the norm, and enquiry-based learning has been proven to be the ideal basis for early years STEM subjects and for future projects / assignments. 

Tags: News & Features, Feature, Schools, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary
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