Facilitating inquiry and problem based learning

Reading about good practice for the facilitation of problem based learning much advice relates to face to face situations and situations, where problems are presented to learners instead of them being learner defined. Some additional pointsfor facilitation of PBL or inquiry based learning ……

– Student centred facilitation does not equate with teacher inaction, online facilitators need to be pro-active in seeking to assist learners to make appropriate study designs and to undertake their research thereafter.

– When learners are defining their own problem or issue to research, clear parameters are needed before the design process begins. The parameters ensure that assessment is possible (for example learning outcomes). These parameters should be explored with learners before negotiation. 

– Prepare strategies for dealing with negotiation difficulties : Facilitator group work or panels can provide a useful source of consistency for handling negotiation.

– The design of PBL needs to be gradually sequentially scaffolded. Learners may benefit from making decisions about their learning choices in a gradual or staged way (rather than to make having all decisions at once). For example decissions may be made first about broad topic, then methodology, then the design of learning outcomes or activities. The task of designing learning may be overwhelming if not staged or scaffolded. As learners become increasingly skilled, independent and confident in design the scaffolding may become less prominent. The sequential, unfolding of learning design prevents a scattershot approach to learning design whereby learners make choices which do not necessarily support each other. Sequenced scaffolding ensures decision making is informed at every moment in the process.

– A-synchronous technology can be used to enable thoughtful negotiation. 

– Facilitated community can generate support, cross-pollination and criticality between learners and provide a social dimension to PBL/inquiry based learning (and in so doing prevent isolation too). 

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