Standardized Education vs. IBL

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This video illustrates some of the associations commonly made with standardization, but highlights some of the benefits of new instruction methods like IBL.

Standardized education has a long history and has been entrenched into many education systems today. It is characterized by traditional methods and structures (e.g., lecturing, rowed seating for students, standardized exams) and involves the teacher taking centre stage as “the sage on the stage”. The idea is that the skills and tools of the teacher that contribute to student learning can be optimized and reproduced to make student success more predictable, a view that has been challenged more regularly in recent years since the beginning of the constructivism movement. Areas of central concern for the teacher traditionally are:

  • teacher discipline mastery
  • lesson planning
  • classroom management
  • evaluation

A common thread running through standardized methods is the preoccupation with achieving consistency in teaching and learning from student to student and school to school. A criticism of such an approach is that it leaves little room for student creativity and generation of information, which results in a narrowing of learning outcomes (Davis, Sumara, & Luce-Kapler, 2015).

Inquiry-Based Learning is a very different approach to education as it is both a method of teaching and a series of skills intended for the use of students during the process of formal education. It makes use of students’ natural curiosity and wonder by posing driving questions and problems that require investigation in order to resolve. Watt and Colyer (2014) outline the key characteristics of IBL that exist regardless of subject area being studied:

  • IBL makes use of a question or problem that is posed by either the teacher or students, which is relevant to those involved in the class and to the discipline studied.
  • The problem presented provokes the natural wonder and speculation of students, which fuels learning.
  • The teacher models, scaffolds, and supports the stages of inquiry through ongoing assessment during student activities. As students gain more skill, knowledge, and competency, the teacher gradually releases responsibility for modeling and students gain greater independence.
  • In order for inquiry to be meaningful and rich, knowledge of major concepts and ideas in the discipline of study is necessary, meaning that foundational knowledge is important for higher order tasks to take place.
  • Attitudes and dispositions must allow all people involved to be curious, empathetic, skeptical, collaborative, and open to taking risks.
  • In order for IBL to be effective as a learning tool, students must have critical thinking, collaborative, problem-solving, metacognitive, and communications skills, which can be learned and are practicable.

IBL involves much more than remembering information passed to students through direct instruction. Its success relies much more on students’ use of information for a purpose that is engaging and relevant to them.

Roles of Teacher and Student in IBL