A look at Inquiry-Based Learning: Part 2

By Ivan Danielewicz



Like any policy that gets put into place, Inquiry-Based Learning will have its problems, as it becomes implemented into part of the education offered at the University of Calgary. The two largest stumbling blocks for Inquiry-Based Learning that the university can for see in the near future will come from class sizes and finances.

“The professors who want to have a [Inquiry-Based Learning] class have to have a plan in place,” stated Dave Hawes, Manager of the Educational Services in the Learning Commons. “The course has to be sustainable over a long period of time.”

Laura Shultz, Students’ Union Vice-President Academic and a member of the Inquiry-Learning Action Group, agreed with Hawes. She said that the possibility of financial problems could stop the progression of developing some programs.

Although, she doesn’t see this as the biggest problem, Schultz said class sizes could become an issue.

“It can be done in larger classes,” explained Schultz. “But it lends itself to smaller classes.”

Hawes agreed that Inquiry-Based Learning might be difficult in a class of 300 students.

Unfortunately for students, because class sizes are already an issue, the impact that Inquiry-Based Learning might have on the quality of education could be limited.

To this objection, Schultz argues that numerous faculties around the university are part of the push to implement Inquiry-Based Learning. Faculties such as Communication and Culture, Science, Humanities, and Engineering are taking on first year classes that will also use Inquiry-Based Learning.

While the prospect of Inquiry-Based Learning sounds appealing for students, Schultz feels that some students won’t benefit from it.

“It isn’t for every student,” argued Schultz. “Some students do well in a more traditional, structured class.”

On top of this, Inquiry-Based Learning means more work for both faculty and students. Since students are expected to take on a greater deal of information, they can expect higher workloads so that they can be prepared to use that information in class.

Inquiry-Based Learning classes are harder to design, requiring more time, planning and research to develop properly.

“In a true Inquiry-Based Learning class, students will notice minor differences, but they won’t drastic,” said Schultz. “It all has very much with the program.”

Students may not see a lot of change in their courses, even if they were to become considered inquiry-based because some teacher are already doing it. With the grants that professors can receive to develop their programs, students could expect brand new and revamped programs that will help students become more active and interested in the course that they are taking.

So, students will have to sit back and wait to see when and what changes occur in their programs as Inquiry-Based Learning becomes more of an official presence on campus.

“Its going to be a slow evolution,” finished Schultz. “The university isn’t going to give a deadline like all Inquiry-Based Learning are to be finished and implement by the Winter semester of 2008.”

So begins the waiting game.

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