Inquiry Based Learning

Never Stop
the Natural 'Why'?'

The Natural 'Why?'

Inquiry-Based Learning in OPEDUCA is about the unrelenting question 'Why?'. It is where students in OPEDUCA start with and never let go of again. The 'Why' is about the for adults sometimes nerve-wracking experience when dealing with children and youngsters. Giving answers is hard to hold on to. A sight of relief when the awaking mind can be handed to teachers or parked behind a laptop. It is about the process of a pupil growing into a student, gradually finding herself in a warm bath of answers, discovery and ever further exploration.
Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) in the context of OPEDUCA sees to learning with a mindset in the momentum of interest and focus (where the inquiry is). It is a principle of learning hence education from the very first moment on, allowing students to further this critical quality along their pathway of development and enrich it with enhanced skills and competencies, eventually growing into a mindset that remains with them for the rest of their lives.

Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) in the context of the OPEDUCA Concept sees to learning with a mindset in the momentum of interest and focus (where the inquiry is). The student collects, interprets and assimilates data to information, the mind open to gather, place, interpret and get informed. A process for a part instrumentalized through the instrument Flight for Knowledge.

Although literature mentions that differences in the amount of guidance lead to distinctions between structured inquiry, guided inquiry and open inquiry (Biggers & Forbes, 2012; Chinn & Malhotra, 2002; Kuhn et al., 2000), in OPEDUCA only open inquiry meets the intention and quality of IBL. This since moreover since ‘structured’ and ‘guided’ variations eventually offer room for teachers to escape to pure instruction.

Not as strict, the same goes for Problem Based Learning (PBL) where the art lies in the application of involved guidance, not teaching or lecturing. Noting that one of the most found characteristics of an effective learning environment sees to placing the acquisition and use of knowledge elements in the context of analyzing, explaining and addressing realistic problems (Bosch, 2003) we interpret ‘problem’ as ‘realistic, relevant. Here is a reason why thematic learning based on the Dimensions of (Education for) Sustainable Development is a critical element of the OPEDUCA Concept. Each OPEDUCA instrument has aspects of PBL as a pedagogy, while ‘Problem-based’ is an underlying principle. Studies have shown a robust positive effect of PBL on skill development, grasping interconnections between concepts, deep conceptual understanding, the ability to apply appropriate metacognitive and reasoning strategies, teamwork skills and class attendance, but have not reached any firm conclusion about the effect on content knowledge (Prince & Felder, 2006). From our practice we can relate to the latter, however, it is not the method as such which gives rise to questioning its effect on content knowledge but the way it is conducted. A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of PBL on knowledge acquisition and the development of problem-solving skills in college students found they may acquire more knowledge in the short term when instruction is conventional, but through PBL they retain knowledge longer (Dochy, Segers, Van den Bossche, & Gijbels, 2003). This notion of persistence relates to our positioning of ‘problem-based’ as a principle of ESD.

The line towards domination of teaching is crossed when moving to Project Based Learning, the students being more confined and set free only temporarily. Project Based Learning is a more narrow conception, restricted in scope and time, using a more structured problem to drive the acquisition of new content knowledge (Lohman, 2002).
Task-based Learning is then to be seen as even more restricted while Case Based Learning is another grade simpler as it looks at specific well-defined matters (well-structured, rich contextual details being provided, students called on to apply material that is already familiar).

Learning tuned to the person at a specific moment is entirely different from a school class in which a teacher tries to meet a multitude of mindsets with a single instruction addressing a sole issue. As the term tells, IBL is about learning and should not be regarded a teaching approach. It is not a minimally guided instruction as it requires teachers and educators to guide but not channel students’ learning. Critical observations in daily practice showed that such requires open questioning by informed educators, critical thinking and a continuous exchange of the learner also with herself. Teachers’ instruction does not rest in the core of the process but is a complementary source. IBL focuses on the conditions and basic ability of the students to formulate good questions, identify and collect appropriate evidence, present results systematically, analyze and interpret these, formulate conclusions and evaluate their value (Lee, 2004).

Inquiry-, Problem, Project-, Task- and Case Based Learning
a Continuum as such

Observing this more fold of Inquiry-Based Learning it is at least remarkable that, certainly when one states that sustainable development regards ill-structured problems, ESD is mostly applied by way of Case Based Learning flavored with Project Based pedagogy. We noted a range of ESD practices that honor teachers’ and consultants’ discomfort with less predictable learning processes or strangeness to matters so profoundly that ESD is degraded to choreographed schooling, not even education. Obviously, OPEDUCA differs substantially from such shallow unworldly perceptions of ESD, leading to practices that are little more than attempts of Case Based Learning on pre-selected ‘problems’ using artificial simulations.

Although perceivable as separate approaches to choose from, Inquiry-, Problem, Project-, Task- and Case Based Learning are parts of a continuum as such, ranging from a more liberal student-steered quest of inquiry to the more often observed teacher-directed assignments. 

The further IBL, PBL and the derivates based on it are stipulated and pressed into a format, the less effective the approaches appeared to become in terms of student involvement and learning outcomes. Also, scholars were seen to (over-)structure and define practices by ways of a time plan, framework and exercises, apparently answering to teachers’ conservatism by offering them a straitjacket disguising conservatism. It became clear such suffocation of students’ creative engagement and restriction of teachers’ professional development stands opposite to ESD.

The attitude and capacity of the teacher makes a substantial the difference, dictates the effectiveness of the approach. We argue teachers better chooses for clear IBL and PBL or remain in the traditional instead of hiding an instructive regime behind a new phrase. 

Saving Schools from the 'Learning-' cacophony

Obviously, we found no reason to promote further ornamenting of school-based Education, many schools resembling Christmas Trees already, hung with bulbs and garlands to apparently meet 'innovations' and 'priorities'. Let for example 'Deep Learning' be mentioned, its meaning and added value questioned.  

Inquiry Based Learning put to Practice

through the OPEDUCA-instruments

Flight for Knowledge

In Flight for Knowledge students jointly develop so called 'Fields of Knowledge' in which they systematically collect and underpin the variety of elements and aspects a future defining theme comprises,
a process based on a continuous questioning of what is sought, observed, understood.


Complimentary to Flight for Knowledge, in BusinessClass construct a future relevant businesscase by addressing product, service, production, marketing, consumerism, etc. by thoroughly questioning each and every aspect, eventually generating complex and detailed understanding of sustainable consumption & production.

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For academic reference and publications: Eussen, J. F. G. (2022). ESD-based education - - ISBN 9789464235906