As I prepare to head back to classes next week, I find myself thinking a lot about use of various terms that are being tossed about in my corner of education these days (and, as I write this, I find another article about another term that has become equally problematic that might interest readers.) Guided Inquiry was developed by Carol Kuhlthau and the folks at Rutgers a bunch of years ago, but if I do a Google search or speak to certain people about it, it feels like the term is “owned” by the science education community. Are both groups talking about the same thing? Or are there two different “Guided Inquiries” floating about. (Thanks to Leslie Maniotes, I find out that they are, indeed, to different uses of the term)
Likewise, the whole PBL discussion leaves me a bit confused. Project Based Learning seems to have it’s home at the Buck Institute but how is it related to Problem Based Learning? Both are similar in that they are inquiry-based approaches to dealing with learning concepts that are, primarily, student-centered. Or the driving questions or problems being addressed have some deeper relevance to the students. How does Guided Inquiry overlap with either PBL? Inquiry is a key element, but it seems that there is less emphasis on the process of inquiry in PBL than there is in Guided Inquiry. PBL expects that the product of the learning process is appropriate to the issue being dealt with and is more likely to be something other than your traditional essay. But then again, Guided Inquiry doesn’t assume “traditional” forms of learning output either. The product of all of these approaches is likely to be any number of presentations, physical products, digital creations or… When we speak of the product, then we are also dipping our toes into the area of Maker Learning. Makers are focused more on the end product, it seems, than addressing a particular concept. Maybe there is a continuum here that looks like:
Guided Inquiry <———–> PBL <————> Maker Learning
inquiry focus <————————————> product focus
The danger with this continuum seems to be that the best Maker Learning uses maker skills and ideas to explore deep inquiry that extends well beyond the product creation focus. Likewise, great Guided Inquiry can produce some amazing products that demonstrate the best of creation skills. Not that Maker Learning and Guided Inquiry are opposites, but, I suspect that, like extreme opposites in many other areas, the net result ends up looking an awful lot alike.
I find it disconcerting when talking with educators to find that we are using the same words but are having entirely different conversations. If we realize that our use of the terms are different, then we can have some great conversation about what those differences are and lend some clarity to our thinking and discussion. But more often than not, I find myself leaving a conversation wondering about little inconsistencies and or feeling like I don’t really understand the term in question. I think that it’s important that we are careful with the words we use and ensure that our communities of educators are coming from a similar place, at least in terms of the discussions we are having even if our personal practice differs.
Today’s thoughts… As always, please poke, prod or generally correct me! 🙂