Friday, June 11, 2010

What is Enquiry-Based Learning (EBL)?

“Enquiry-Based Learning inspires students to learn for themselves, bringing a real research-orientated approach to the subject.”

Dr Bill Hutchings

EBL describes an environment in which learning is driven by a process of enquiry owned by the student.

Starting with a ‘scenario’ and with the guidance of a facilitator, students identify their own issues and questions. They then examine the resources they need to research the topic, thereby acquiring the requisite knowledge. Knowledge so gained is more readily retained because it has been acquired by experience and in relation to a real problem.

It is essential that our students are educated for knowledge creation, lifelong learning and leadership. They will take on leading roles in their future working environments: directing change, asking important questions, solving problems and developing new knowledge.

EBL covers a spectrum of approaches, for example:

EBL includes Problem Based Learning, Small scale investigations and Projects and Research

Characteristics of EBL

  • Learning is essentially student-centred, with an emphasis on group work and use of library, web and other information resources.
  • Lecturers become facilitators, providing encouragement and support to enable the students to take responsibility for what and how they learn.
  • Students reach a point where they are not simply investigating questions posed by others, but can formulate their own research topics and convert that research into useful knowledge.
  • Students gain not only a deeper understanding of the subject-matter, but also the knowledge-development and leadership skills required for tackling complex problems that occur in the real world.

Benefits of EBL

  • Fundamentally, students are more engaged with the subject. Learning is perceived as being more relevant to their own needs, thus they are enthusiastic and ready to learn.
  • Students can expand on what they have learned by following their own research interests.
  • EBL allows students to develop a more flexible approach to their studies, giving them the freedom and the responsibility to organize their own pattern of work within the time constraints of the task.
  • Working within and communicating to a group are vital for a student’s employability.
  • Self-directed learning not only develops key skills for postgraduate study, but also leads to original thought that contributes to larger research projects, papers and publications.
  • For teaching staff, developing an EBL module helps to understand the learning process and the changing needs of students.

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