Readings and discussions (40%)

The focus is on inquiry teaching and learning, including rationales, approaches, implementations, challenges, and dilemmas. Inquiry-based learning does not ignore the usual focus on content: “What should be taught? What do learners need to know?,” or method: “How should we teach?” but it begins with even more basic questions. We will explore at least one of these each week. We will discuss articles drawn from a diverse collection of readings, including descriptions of classrooms and other learning settings, analyses of student learning, theoretical analyses of inquiry, and critiques of these approaches. These articles are meant to be read and thought about within the context of our own inquiry projects.

After the first few weeks, students will lead the class discussions. This will work out to one to three sessions, and may be done in teams. For that week, you may use the inquiry unit as shown in the syllabus, select one from the list under “Other questions,” or create an entirely new question. You may use an existing unit as it stands or revise it to reflect your own interests. (If you choose to revise a unit, you should move the old content to the end under a heading such as “other activities.”)

One student each week will be asked to write a short reflection on the unit, and post it in the Class notes section of the Bulletin Board. This will also serve as a shared memory on what we did that day, as well as a repository for citations, announcements, and such that may arise in the discussions.

Inquiries into inquiry (60%)

During class, we will engage in our own inquiries into a variety of topics. Through these activities we will establish a common experiential base for our conversations about learning.

In the first week or two, we will designate a whole class inquiry from among Possible class inquiries. Students will then select a topic (ideally within that, but not necessarily). There will then be five assignments related to the inquiry. The word counts are simply to give an idea of the expected scope, and are not a rigid requirement. In fact, we will discuss all aspects of the requirements in relation to the whole class inquiry and individual goals for the class.

  1. Feb. 14: How inquiry is fostered (or not) in a discipline or learning setting (~250 words)
  2. Feb 21: Annotated Bibliography for inquiry-based learning (three entries each)
  3. Mar. 7: Draft/outline of a contribution to the Inquiry kit (~1250 words)
  4. Mar. 14: Responses to two projects of other students (~200 words each)
  5. Apr. 11: Class presentations begin (15 min. + 15 min. discussion)
  6. Apr 18: Final report (~2500 words)

Discussions about these in inquiries will continue in the Bulletin Board. The texts are posted to the Document Center. Note that both of these online venues are private to members of the class.

Weekly questions and schedule

As Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner discuss in Teaching as a Subversive Activity, asking fundamental questions can get you into a lot of trouble. Simple and obvious assumptions about teaching and learning, such as “We need to have clear (even national) standards for what is to be learned,” “Learning objectives should be explicit,” “The instructor should always provide clear explanations,” “Learning should proceed from simple tasks to more complex ones,” “It’s important to determine the learner’s readiness to learn, “One has to learn the basics first,” and many more, turn out to be neither simple nor obvious.

Jan. 24: What assumptions do we make about teaching and learning?

Consideration of some of the assumptions we make about teachers and teaching, students, learning, and the interactions among these.

  1. Introductions/course goals
  2. Syllabus/expectations
  3. Choosing a class inquiry | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science special issue
  4. What is inquiry-based learning?
  5. Assumptions about learning
  6. Discussion of the readings



Bohannon, Laura (1971). Shakespeare in the bush. In James P. Spradley and David W. McCurdy, eds., Conformity and conflict: Readings in cultural anthropology . Boston: Little Brown and Company.

Bruce, B. C., & Bishop, A. P. (2002, May). Using the web to support inquiry-based literacy development. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 45(8), 706-714.

Dewey, John (1912). The child and the curriculum.

[in class] Easley, J. (1987). A teacher educator’s perspective on students’ and teachers’ schemes. In D. Perkins, J. Lochhead, & J. Bishop (Eds.), Thinking: The second international conference (pp. 507-527). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Short, K. et al. (1996). Does Inquiry Make a Difference? Examining Our Beliefs About Curriculum In Learning together through inquiry: From Columbus to integrated curriculum. Stenhouse.


About Learning: Theories on How People Learn. Examines 12 different theories on how people learn, including Constructivism, Behaviorism, Piaget’s Developmental Theory, Neuroscience, Brain-Based Learning, Learning styles, Multiple Intelligences, Right and Left Brain Thinking, Communities of Practice, Control Theory, Observational Learning, Vygotsky and Social Cognition, and Problem Based Learning.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Recent research provides a deep understanding of complex reasoning and performance on problem-solving tasks and how skill and understanding in key subjects are acquired.

Zajda, Joseph (Ed.) Learning and teaching. ISBN 1-875-40808-8 Explores major and current themes in the learning/teaching process – from an international and comparative perspective. The authors debate such issues as learning and cognitive processes, students in the classroom and teaching styles. Their views are based on either the findings of original research or observation as experienced teacher educators. Topics covered include learning enhancement, reflection in education, cognition, excellence in education, special schools, classroom interaction, discrimination, assessment and what makes a “good” teacher.


Consider each of the eight assumptions in the Easley article, working in small groups. Which of these are true, sometimes true? What factors might cause you to question any of them?

  1. Teachers should regularly lead class discussions, presenting clear explanations and examples of basic concepts and/or asking questions so that students can piece together the principles desired.
  2. All teachers need to master their subjects, as a prior condition to trying to teach them.
  3. Teachers can and should transmit their knowledge to pupils.
  4. Teachers should, at first, present simple and easy problems and tasks, in order to build pupils’ courage to tackle more difficult and unfamiliar tasks.
  5. Teachers should give equal attention to all pupils.
  6. Teachers should give quick feedback on pupils’ work, indicating clearly what is wrong and why.
  7. Children should focus first on content and second on means of expression.
  8. Children should strive to understand their teachers and the textbooks.

Easley, J. (1987). A teacher educator’s perspective on students’ and teachers’ schemes. In D. Perkins, J. Lochhead, & J. Bishop (Eds.), Thinking: The second international conference (pp. 507-527). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.