Bring Back Inquiry-Based Learning

Is there a place for inquiry based learning?

The answer is “yes” but only under specific conditions.

An analysis of PISA (2015) by McKinsey (here) shows that some inquiry-based learning in class is optimal when combined with a majority of fully directed teaching:

Cognitive Load Theory can add greater insight to this analysis. The Expert Reversal Effect (see Kalyuga here) recognises that the impact of fully directed instruction decreases as the learner’s expertise increases – until a sweet spot is reached. Once the learner has achieved sufficient expertise he/she/they will benefit from minimally guided input.

The ‘Sweet Spot’ Model for deciding when to introduce minimally guided instruction.

In short:

  1. fully guided instruction is by far the most effective way to teach novices;
  2. practise each new item of knowledge or skill, gradually reducing guidance as expertise grows;
  3. assess to see whether learners are sufficiently expert before introducing minimally guided activities.

Thank you for reading,



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