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  1. 1. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 1 A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning Evangeline Beaver EDTECH 504 Dr. Jennifer Freed Boise State University
  2. 2. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 2 AbstractConstructivism is described as a learning theory based on how students discover new knowledgethat attributes to prior knowledge. Online learning allows students to build their own meaningby reflecting their own experiences that integrate into communication interface. This paper willhighlight one of the emerging theories of learning and analyze the constructivist theory withinthe context of teaching for the 21st Century. This study also outlines the foundation ofWebQuest inquiry-based learning activities. It focuses on college freshman, inquiry to highereducation, creating opportunities to explore vital information to ask questions, and increaseunderstanding in order to process the learner’s autonomous thinking.
  3. 3. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 3 Introduction What is constructivism? Constructivism is described as a learning theory based on howstudents discover new knowledge. According to Molebash (2002), built upon previousknowledge “Constructivism can represent an epistemological view, a learning theory, aphilosophy of teaching and learning, a general pedagogical approach, or some combination ofthese meanings” (p. 434) based on critical inquiry. Students construct their own view of theworld by attributing prior knowledge, reflections of their own experiences, to current knowledgeto create new meaning. The Internet can be an important tool for both teaching and learning. The dynamically evolving technologies for computer-mediated communication offernew possibilities for the classroom. WebQuest is one example, an inquiry-based learningapplication. The fundamental methods in teaching in higher education will modify existingpractices into a student-centered learning environment via the use of technology, an emergingtrend in education. This is an overview about a constructivist approach to teaching with anapplication of WebQuest. Constructivism Children construct their own progress through their own actions and usually throughinteraction with adults. When they become an adult, they are ready for higher education. Intheir research, Engel, Scott and Cole (1992) wrote, “We call that perspective culturalconstructivism; the idea of this approach can be grasped most readily by contrasting it withPiagetian constructivism” (p. 191). This study is an approach derived from social activitycommunicated through a computer inquiry-based learning in a social context. Petraglia (1998)points out “Most educators easily accept constructivism’s central premise that learners approachtasks with prior knowledge and expectations based on their knowledge of the world around
  4. 4. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 4them” (p. 53). Therefore, authenticity is the key factor of the constructivist theory, andimportant because many individuals interpret understanding differently in order to answer theproblem. Research shows that the emerging technology trends help to constitute a change in the21st century. A student-centered learning environment will lead students to improve andunderstand a global network perspective and shape their own growth. Anthony (1996) stated,“Learning is a process of knowledge construction, not of knowledge recording or absorption” (p.349). Therefore, using current knowledge to construct new knowledge captivates the principle ofconstructivism. The learners process inquiry-based learning by a WebQuest application andinterpret the knowledge differently through their own experience. For example, students will begiven a to-do list for the WebQuest by reading the sources, navigating the Web, and completinga reflection paper. Through a process of question and discussion, students can become experts, broadeningtheir skills of lifelong learning. Skills such as navigating the Web and a virtual classroomprovide students autonomy in the learning environment. We evolve over time and create anenvironment where technology integration is expected to help teachers teach. In highereducation, the study suggests that teachers and students emphasize an openness from transitingfrom a culture of individualism to collaborative learning environment. Lueddeke (1999) pointsout that “the main benefit of arriving at a practical framework for guiding change and innovationin higher education illuminate a complicated process” (p. 243). Critical thinking skills areessential for independent thought and problem solving in students’ professional and personallives towards a constructivist framework.
  5. 5. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 5 Lueddeke (1999) also notes, “Focus on reflective, generative and transformative activity,stressing the synergy of the creative process itself” (p. 245). In the constructivist theory, studentscan adapt an existing practice and change circumstances by demonstrating how to constructdifferent aspects of human knowledge. Learning is an active process that may enhanceinteraction through a constructive approach to inquiry-based learning in a diverse environment. Inquiry-Based Learning The students are given autonomy and control of the direction of their learning activities.They learn by asking questions that engage in intellectual inquiry that activates meaningfullearning and metacognition through experimental design using a constructivist approach(Anthony, 1996, p. 350). The learners vigorously clarify meaning through their own prevailingknowledge, which encompasses the notions of mental effort or meaningful intellectualexperiences. According to Correiro, Griffin, and Hart (2008), during inquiry-based activities,students are encouraged to assume responsibility for their own learning (p. 457). For example,diverse environments encourage inquiry and help build new knowledge, allowing students torecognize change, which promotes high-level thinking and relate educational technology such asonline discussion. Essentially, having more access to the Internet increases global networkingand therefore enhances practices in teaching and methods for learning. In addressing student learning networks, Engel et al. (1992) suggests the followingpedagogical and social context oriented curriculum: “Indicate some strategies for the creation ofgenuine collaborative interaction in the cross-cultural context, in a discussion of projects, and theexchange between cultures serve to promote intercultural understanding through student learningnetworks” (p. 230). Learning in the multicultural environment construct to inquiry-basededucation human interface promotes a combination of social awareness and autonomous
  6. 6. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 6operation. Based on data about constructivist learning and inquiry-based learning, I havedeveloped new understanding and discover WebQuest inquiry-based learning perhaps evolve aterrific knowledge in students’ critical thinking skills and develop community practice. As an instructor,teaching that involves students in identifying questions and engaging with peers in criticalconversation results in increasing students experience with inquiry-based learning whereknowledge is constructed. One could view this conversation that constructivism argues to learn by social practice.In reading Chapter 5 of Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environment, Nussbaum detailshow argumentative or persuasive discussion is an important component of a learningenvironment. The constructivist argumentative discussion is putting pieces together that willdevelop students’ ability to think critically and in a constructive way. For example, the use ofFacebook helped improve social interaction in global perspectives and students becameproductively engaged in their learning environment. In discussion three of EDTECH 504 class, the three emerging theories such asbehaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are critical features from an instructional modelperspective, which provide rigorous fundamentals for planning and conducting instructionalstrategies interact with learners. The study suggested behaviorism underlies cognitivism as thenotion of hierarchy in an educational environment. Connectivism connects the acquiredinformation that is processed into new information, which branch out to constructivist learning.The cognitive system is memory. The information employed into memory and restoredeffectively is the structure of processing, control, and the flow of all information. Gagne (1992)theory of instruction states cognitive processes: • Gaining attention
  7. 7. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 7 • Informing learners of the objective • Stimulating recall of prior learning • Presenting the stimulusAs a teacher, I found that learning proposed by Gagne that the brain schema enables any personto be consistent in cognitive learning. Data reveals that some teachers and students have the opinion that one emerging theorymight be wrong to apply in their teaching or learning. In addition, this data could be applied inall situations by individual-based learning on how an individual processes information. Aneducator’s function is to support what the learners choose to do in an inclusive way ofunderstanding. According to Engel et al. (1992), “In the years before World War II, the wordcomputer referred to a person who computed numbers and modern computer born from thewomb of military” (p. 192). The evidence shows that inquiry-based learning is a culturalconstructivist theory perspective. The transformation of prior knowledge is to bring atechnology integrated world into school life from multiple perspectives similar to ownexperiences. Correiro et al. (2008), states, “Diverse environments encourage inquiry and buildnew knowledge, allowing students to recognize the need for change” (p. 457). Moreover,“Encouraging students to apply knowledge while practicing skills promotes higher-level thinkingand fosters a greater understanding of major concepts” (p. 457). Therefore, the effectiveapplication of constructivism to student learning ability entails prior knowledge, conceptualmeaning, articulation, sufficient organization, and exercise to incorporate constructivistprinciples into a culture of familiarity. Although researchers disagree about the organizational and pedagogical development ofonline education practices in regards to the constructivist approach, they stay biased by not being
  8. 8. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 8empirical and not signifying the assessment tool for the effectiveness of the practices (Gazi,2011, p. 14). In addition, the courses need to be designed collaboratively in learning to the constructivistapproach based on inquiry-learning development. In this process, students will be able tocomprehend the knowledge they gain with multiple perspectives and apply their own experiencesin life. However, Gazi (2011), points out, “In respect to the dynamics of the critical successfactors within the online pedagogy for implementing a constructivist approach into onlineeducation practices and evaluating effectiveness of practices based on learner satisfaction is animperative hot issue within the literature” (p. 15). Therefore, this study is important as it exposesthe improvement and authentication for further assessment of the emerging theories, which haveimpact on developing skills within a collaborative learning environment. Jonassen and Rohrer-Murphy (1999) notes, “Any activity is the individual or group ofactors engaged in the activity that shapes the way people act and think” (p. 63), an ideal foroptimal student learning. This is social-cultural perspective that focuses on people’s interactionand learning how it occurs in a meaningful activity. This motivates a person in a new likelihoodto use a constructivist-learning environment and engage with meaningful learning activities.Significantly, Gazi’s (2011) notion is that “Learner’s prior knowledge has to be taken intoaccount and the content of the course should be convenient to the learners” (p. 13). Ultimately,prior knowledge on the number of lectures, readings, and group discussion, learners will gainvalue through using a constructivist approach to inquiry-based learning. Correiro et al. (2008)states that the learning experience is assessed at both a group and individual level. Class-widecomparisons of the data may greatly enhance learning and provide the instructor with a usefulgroup assessment tool (p.460). For example, students can be motivated with a simple question.
  9. 9. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 9Why is it important to create balance in daily life, school, work, relationships, and hobbies? Inaddition, inspiring students to connect their prior knowledge can further develop the learningexperience. In Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), constructivist theory creates critical thinking skills bydiscussing questions to ensure the students progress to a higher level of thinking and effectivelyengage in critical communication skills. Asking questions to generate higher thinking is anexcellent way to motivate students’ thought processes. Thinking skills can be broken down intothe following categories according to Bloom’s Taxonomy: Knowledge: remembering prior learned information Comprehension: understanding the meaning of information (explain or describe) Application: applying prior learned information Synthesis: applying prior knowledge and skills to combine or rearrange Evaluation: deciding according to a set of criteria.Therefore, the list of verbs used for learning objectives and discussion questions relate toconstructivist theory and an approach to inquiry-based learning. This implores the use ofBloom’s taxonomy based on higher-order thinking. According to Anthony (1996), “The ability to look forward with such intentionality and to adapt to changing circumstances sometimes necessitate leaving behind old ways of doing things. Learning organizations are those in which people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together” (p. 350).
  10. 10. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 10 Correiro et al. (2008) states that we have designed this experience primarily for collegecourses and it may also be adaptable to certain high school curricula. This laboratory experienceis aligned with the “Science as Inquiry” standard in that students are exposed to the basicelements of the scientific method within a constructivist framework. The students are required toformulate a hypothesis and to adapt and execute the experimental design to address thehypothesis (p. 457). The fundamental educational problem of a changing world is neither one ofknowledge nor of skills, but is one of being. In other words, the educational challenge of a worldof uncertainty is ontological in nature. It is clear from this work that participation andpersistence goes hand in hand and, of course, these are in turn related to engagement,empowerment and ultimately student retention (Jonassen and Rohrer-Murphy, 1999, p.70). According to Jonassen (1999), “The focus on Graduate for the 21st Century has permitted a re-evaluation of the nature of higher education. In this respect, we have moved away from a focus on course content towards one of learner capabilities. There are still challenges ahead, principally in terms of how we reconcile the increasing trend in personalization of the learning experience with that of an ‘industrial model’ of the structuring that experience. This is something that will increasingly impact on the First Year given the diversity of learner backgrounds and qualifications” (p. 80). This study examines the new possibility to apply constructivism in the classroom.Perhaps, unlearning to learn can challenge our own critical thinking and put things into a newperspective. The notion of emerging theory is to focus on an application and transformation asrelated to our own experiences. What is the purpose of theory if we do not use one of the
  11. 11. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 11emerging theories such as the constructivist theory? Theory is only theory if we only know howit works but not in community practice, teaching, and learning. The learning theory of constructivism is worth exploring in my future teaching career.This study also demonstrates thinking is beyond simple linear models and learning unfamiliarity.The notion of first-year students is that as they apply their learning by constructing their ownmeaning based on prior knowledge and their learning styles. As previously mentioned, I pointedout that a constructivist approach in inquiry-based learning application enhances students’critical thinking skills and communication skills as they construct the new information in theirown learning knowledge. This study encompasses 21st Century nature of higher education is tofocus on first-year students in the college level. The main point is that this kind of emergingtheory is turning to an issue of how we foster development for learners. I plan to useconstructivist theory in my class, which aligns with the Boise State University core course (UF100). One of the learning outcomes is to engage effectively in critical thinking skills and tocommunicate effectively. It is interesting to note that the constructivist theory links to our dailylearning styles as well as student learning styles. Therefore, it is clear that in a new era it is morelikely achievable to apply emerging theories by the degree of choice to use in the classroom oronline. Conclusion The purpose of writing this paper was to examine the emerging learning theories and howall theories have application in the classroom. Constructivism helps to broaden the learners’innovative and critical thinking skills and create a positive impact to any classroom. Therefore,after studying the constructivist theory, I better understand the importance of utilizing it in an
  12. 12. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 12approach to inquiry-based learning when students are actively engaged in acquiring knowledgevia a framework of online discussion. As Teale, Hester, and Owens (2011) states, “Freshman in the college level and inquiry tohigher education has traditionally focused on having students answer questions; inquiry-basedlearning formulate an engaging questions and they participate in various critical reading skillswhat they find on the Internet” (p. 624). Metaphorically, asking questions acts as a mechanism to understand analytical andcritical discussion. Knowledge is significantly improved when we support students’ educationalneeds and add into the curriculum the practice of critical thinking skills by being activelyengaged in the learning process. A constructivist approach to inquiry-based learning for collegefreshman will help students gain a better understanding of complexity in higher education.Previously, as pointed out, education involves exposure to the unfamiliar and challengesstudents. I believe a constructivist approach implemented with inquiry-based learning viaWebQuest will engage students intuitively and will be key in challenging their critical thinking.
  13. 13. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 13 ReferencesAnthony, G. (1996). Active learning in a constructivist framework. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 31(4), 349-369.Bloom, B. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives; the classification of educational goals. Retrieved from the-classification-of-educational-goals/oclc/179029&referer=brief_results.Correiro, E. E., Griffin, L. R., & Hart, P. E. (2008). A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning: A TUNEL Assay for the Detection of Apoptosis in Check Cells. American Biology Teacher, 70(8), 457-460.Engel, M., Scott, T., Cole, M. (1992). Computers and education: A cultural constructivist perspective. Review of Research in Education, 18, 191-251.Gagne, R. M., Briggs, L. J., & Wager, W. W. (1992). Principles of instructional design. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Gazi, Z. A. (2011). A step for evaluating constructivist approach integrated online courses. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(3), 13-20.Jonassen, D. H. and Rohrer-Murphy, L. (1999). Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist-learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(1), 61-79.Lueddeke, George R. (1999). Toward a constructivist framework for guiding change and innovation in Higher Education. The Journal of Higher Education, 70(3), 235-260.Molebash, P. E. (2002). Constructivism meets technology integration: The CUFA technology guidelines in an elementary Social studies methods course. Theory and Research in Social Education, 30(3), 429-455.
  14. 14. A Constructivist Approach to Inquiry-Based Learning 14Nussbaum, E. M., Winsor, D. L., Aqui, Y. M., & Poliquin, A. M. (2007). Putting the pieces together: Online argumentation Venn diagrams enhance thinking during discussions. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 2(4), 479-500.Petraglia, J. (1998). The real world on a short leash: The application of constructivism to the design of educational technology. Educational Technology Research and Development, 46(3), 53-65.Teale, H., W., Hester, L. J., Owens, R. F., (2002). Where do you want to go today? Inquiry-based learning and technology integration. The reading teacher owning technology. International Reading Association, 55(7), 616-625.