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Inquiry Based Learning: a perspective

  1. Inquiry Based Learning: a perspective Sheila Webber Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield November 2007
  2. Outline • Inquiry Based Learning at Sheffield University • CILASS and examples of work so far • Use of Second Life in a 1st year undergraduate module • Demonstration of Second Life (we hope ;-)
  3. IBL “IBL is a term used to describe approaches to learning that are based on a process of self-directed inquiry or research. Students conduct small or large-scale inquiries that enable them to engage actively and creatively with the questions and problems of their discipline, often in collaboration with others. IBL approaches include case-study and problem-based learning (PBL) methods as well as research projects of different kinds. It is a key characteristic of IBL that inquiry tasks facilitate exploration and investigation of issues or scenarios that are open-ended enough for different responses and solutions to be possible (Khan and O´Rourke, 2005)” Khan, P. and O´Rourke, K. (2005). `Understanding Enquiry-based Learning´, In: Barrett, T., Mac Labhrainn, I., Fallon, H. (eds), Handbook of Enquiry and Problem Based Learning. Galway, CELT.
  4. IBL involves • Students and/or tutors establishing question/problem etc • Students pursuing lines of inquiry • Drawing on existing knowledge • Identifying new learning and information needs • Seeking information, evidence • Discussing, receiving feedback, synthesising information, constructing knowledge • Analysing & communicating ideas, results • Working with staff as partners, participating in a research community
  5. Approaches to IBL • Student-led exploration, investigation and research • Open-ended, critical inquiry • Guided and supported by academic and learning support staff • Problems; case scenarios; field-work; experiential learning; small- and large- scale research projects… • ‘Full’ IBL – the design principle for whole modules/programmes • ‘Hybrid’ IBL – activities incorporated into more traditional curricula
  6. Why IBL? • Active and deep engagement with discipline-based learning • Experiencing ‘supercomplexity’ – messy, open- ended problems and questions • Developing capabilities of relevance to social participation, employment, lifelong learning • Strengthening relationship between research and teaching in HE
  7. IBL: a strategic focus The ‘Sheffield Graduate’ “Studying at Sheffield will provide students with the opportunity to… become involved in inquiry-based learning, as a means of actively engaging with the questions and problems of their discipline and of developing a range of inquiry-related capabilities and skills” University of Sheffield Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy, 2005-10.
  8. Centre for Inquiry based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences (CILASS) “Modelling the process of research within the student learning experience”
  9. CILASS • Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning • 5 year programme (£4.5 million funding) of reward, development, innovation, research • Core community: Faculties of Arts, Social Sciences and Law • New teaching spaces, some core staff: but mostly focused on developments with academics in real modules (by February 2007 – 70 modules in 20 departments/schools.) • Aiming to make “a major contribution towards strengthening the links between research and teaching at UoS” •
  10. CILASS - an inquiry framework • Exploring what IBL means in different contexts • Experimenting with new ideas and practice • Learning about ‘what works’ from students’ and tutors’ perspectives • Sharing ideas, critically examining what we do • Carrying out evaluation and research • Building practice and theory
  11. Some key activities • Grants for individual or Departments (bidding rounds) • IBL café every Tuesday morning • Scholarship of Teaching & Learning group • Students Ambassadors & Departmental Champions networks • Research project, investigating the perceptions of a sample of UG students through the 3 years of degree • Staff/student conference; workshops etc. + CETL activities • Blogs (student one won a prize) & newsletter • Student competitions (logo, photos) • CILASS Fellowships • Information Literacy Network
  12. A vision of universities as… “Places where academics work collaboratively in partnership with students as members of inclusive scholarly knowledge-building communities; where teaching and research are integrated, and where both students and academics are engaged in the challenging process of coming to understand the world through systematic investigation and collaborative decision-making in the light of evidence” (Brew 2006).
  13. CILASS IBL framework • Collaborative inquiry and inquiry communities • Information literacy development • Networked learning • Interdisciplinary inquiry • Classrooms as research environments (‘collaboratories’) Information literacy: “knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner” (CILIP).
  14. IBL in the arts and social sciences at Sheffield: sme examples
  15. Field work UoS, Dept. of Archaeology
  16. ‘Understanding Law 2’ • 250 students • Online workbooks, structured tasks • Learning journals • Supported by online discussions (WebCT) • 45 research groups, developing multimedia resources (film, podcast, powerpoints) • Presented at ‘celebration of learning’ event (attended by other students, staff and invited law professionals)
  17. Inquiry at Level 1 ‘Understanding Law 2’ “It´s been really great – to be able to talk to academics – as a first year law student, you have so many arguments inside you, you are averse to so many things, and think so many things are unjust, and it´s really great to talk to somebody who has that knowledge, who can tell you ‘actually, there´s no precedence for that´ – it´s really helped me a lot!”
  18. Richard Steadman-Jones and Duco van Oostrum, “Routes Roots” English Language and Literature, Level 2 Undergraduate
  19. Inquiry into…. “It was very much a case of making you think, rather than spoon-feeding you”. “They’d start you off with something, then you’d go off and do it, and [the tutors] always said … we were throwing up things they hadn’t even considered”. “I found myself applying the research methods to other modules so the module was more skills-based than I anticipated which was more beneficial to me than just knowledge” “The module] has really changed my thinking and understanding of literary research”. …genealogical autobiographies
  20. Information Management • First-years generating their own research questions Does Facebook support • Working together and with tutors on students’ small-scale research projects personal information • Interacting with researchers and management? practitioners • Using technologies – blogs, WebCT MOLE What does mobile phone user behaviour contribute to • Accessing info resources in class – detrimental environmental effects and how can these Library, web be reduced? • Collecting and analysing data • Presenting posters at research ‘conference’ Strongly process- (not content-) driven – students’ information literacy is essential
  21. Inquiry at Level 1 – Information Management “So in other words the idea is to give students a chance to teach themselves in some sense and the module staff was making an impression of rather a team of advisors and coordinators, rather than ordinary lecturers.”
  22. Photographed & uploaded to WebCT Group Copycam Individual mindmap mindmap, presented and discussed in class WebCT Blogs Copycam
  23. INF106 ‘Inquiry in Information Management’ Close of module research poster conference, May 2007 “What made us pick this particular topic was that we were all fascinated by something non-one within the department really knew the answer to. Although we were not actually carrying out original research, and someone out there had the facts we needed to successfully answer the question, it was the challenge of finding this that drew us to the idea of [the topic]…
  24. Second Life
  25. Second Life • 3-D Online Digital world • Most things created by SL residents: SL fashion designers, architects, bakers, animal makers …. • Avatars- 3D representation of yourself – free to signup and can live on freebies, but need Linden dollars if want to own land, buy clothes etc. • Communication through text chat, Voice and Instant Messaging
  26. Practical issues • Need broadband and good computer with right graphics card • Have to upgrade software about every 6 weeks • Max of about 40 avatars per region/island, and 45K on whole grid • Learning curve in basics of movement & communication • Some people may have concerns about signing up for avatar or entering a dangerous space (but possibly more those not used to social software) • Inclusion issues
  27. My Department in SL • July onwards lent office by Eduserv for Centre for Information Literacy Research: started discussion series (every week or 2) • Successful bid to CILASS to fund island for a year • Island delivered early October: Infolit iSchool • Compulsory activity (feeding into assignment) for 1st year BSc Information Management students in Information Literacy class (20 students) starting 22 October (!) • No student had used virtual world before (nb SL main grid is 18+ only) • Work with 2 librarians: in Sheffield (Lyn Parker) & St Andrews (Vickie Cormie)
  28. My Department in SL • Aim to deepen engagement with subject & class & part of induction into research: in Sem 2 they undertake their own IM mini-projects, as described earlier • Students will undertake critical incident interviews with SL residents (a time when they had an information need relating to a SL activity) in SL itself • Currently setting up interviews after email to SL Educators list – good response - international • Students will analyse transcripts in relation to models of RL information behaviour + audit interview technique (for assessment)
  29. Observations • SL a learning (and play) space – more like a classroom space than a website – with new possibilities • Has to be pedagogic rationale with students or they may see it as just faffing about in SL • Students won’t automatically be engaged & there is a learning curve, even for gamers (but does have fun factor) • When not so rushed – organise more quests etc. as part of intro to improve engagement & hopefully student helpers too • Valuable as staff/professional development environment • Transmissive approaches even duller in SL than in Real Life – need activity rather than content
  30. Sheila Webber Sheila Yoshikawa
  31. Resources • Kay, J and Fitzgerald, S. (2007) Second Life in Education (wiki with useful information for educators and students, and information on the authors’ own projects – they are Australian educators) • Kemp, J (Ed) (2007) Second Life Education Wiki: SimTeach ducation_Wiki • Second Life Educators List (SLED). (Very high volume discussion list, but is an invaluable resource) • There are further resources linked from these e.g. at