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Designing inquiry based learning environments that integrate information communication technologies



Pam Hook


This article outlines four conversations that bring clarity to the design of inquiry-based learning environments that integrate Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). The first conversation explores what we understand by learning, the second how we think ICTs affect the learning process, the third how to build deeper understanding through a focus on student learning outcomes, and the final conversation discusses inquiry as a pedagogical approach. Key ideas from these conversations build an “understanding by design” pedagogical framework for inquiry with ICT integrated learning experiences. Both teachers and students can personalise the design of inquiry learning experiences using this framework, where students can “inquire to learn and learn to inquire”. The paper proposes encoding this inquiry design model in XML allowing personalisation of learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of students in New Zealand classrooms. It concludes with a challenge for educators planning learning experiences to clarify whether the intended learning outcomes for their students will be best met through pedagogies of inquiry or direct instruction or a combination of both.


Inquiry learning involves a process of exploration, questioning, making discoveries, and testing the reliability and validity of these discoveries to create new understanding.

Many New Zealand schools are adopting inquiry learning approaches integrated through ICT as pedagogies for differentiation of the student learning experience, (to inquire to learn), and for enhancing student understanding of the learning process, (to learn to inquire). This interest in constructivist pedagogies is reflected in the many school workshops with an inquiry focus at the MoE Learning@School conferences in the past three years.

Curiosity over inquiry learning mirrors recent Ministry of Education reports and policy initiatives favouring constructivist pedagogies. E.g. The Extent, Nature and Effectiveness of Planned Approaches in New Zealand School for Providing for Gifted and Talented Students, (Riley et al 2004), the Digital Horizons, ICT Strategy document, (Ministry of Education, Digital Horizons, Learning Through ICT, 2003), the Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling. Best Evidence Synthesis, (Alton Lee 2003), An e-learning framework for the schools sector, (Ministry of Education 2005a) and The New Zealand Curriculum Draft for Consultation 2006, (Ministry of Education 2006).

We encounter many questions over “inquiry” and the “integration of ICT” whilst working with New Zealand schools. It seems that the implementation of differentiated “learning experiences” through inquiry with or without the integration of ICT is largely uncharted. Even the most thorough “knowing” of inquiry, differentiation, and ICT, does not ensure an easy “understanding” of the implementation or practical design, structure, planning, and assessment approaches needed for creating responsive learning environments.

The teachers we work with commonly ask:
· What do “inquiry” and “ICT” mean in the context of “learning”?
· How do I implement inquiry that integrates ICT in a regular classroom?
· How can I adapt software for contextual use in inquiry?
· How much input should I have in student inquiry?
· How can I tell if inquiry that integrates ICT makes a difference to student learning outcomes?

The rest of the article will address these teachers’ questions through four different conversations.

Conversation 1: The "L" word

Part of the curiosity over inquiry learning relates to a lack of common understanding about the “L” word, as in L for “learning” or “learning process”. In our view, it is important that teachers designing “learning environments” for inquiry that integrate ICTs have an opportunity to clarify their understanding of “learning” beyond “learning is a narrative” or “journey” metaphors.

Unless we discuss “learning” before launching into inquiry learning, we cannot assume designing for inquiry across a school will lead to similar deep student learning outcomes. For example, one teacher may seek social, connected and distributed learning outcomes, when others seek clear objective learning outcomes. One may envisage content as discipline related information, and assessment as a tracking of knowledge acquisition by the student, when another may see content as process, and assessment as student reflection.

The simple argument holds that different understandings of learning exist between teachers who adopt constructivist-learning theories, and teachers who take a behaviourist approach. Putting aside the debate over what constructivism means, the former are likely to think of themselves as facilitators of learning in the classroom, “the guide on the side” providing free exploration within a “scaffolded” framework. The latter are more likely to see their role as one of “sage on the stage” whereby complex learning is introduced to the student in a series of small, progressive, mediated, steps. In reality, teachers’ complex roles in inquiry classrooms mean they commonly end up playing many roles.

Inquiry is not the easy option for student learning. For example, in scientific inquiry in realistic settings, de Yong (2006) reports

However, research indicates that, overall, students have substantial problems with all of the inquiry processes listed above (8). Students have difficulty choosing the right variables to work with, they find it difficult to state testable hypotheses, and they do not necessarily draw the correct conclusions from experiments. They may have difficulty linking experimental data and hypotheses, because their pre-existing ideas tend to persist even when they are confronted with data that contradict those ideas (9). Students also struggle with basic experimental processes. They find it difficult to translate theoretical variables from their hypothesis into manipulable and observable variables in the experiment (10); they design ineffective experiments, for example, by varying too many variables at one time (11); they may use an “engineering approach,” where they try to achieve a certain state in the simulation instead of trying to test a hypothesis (12); they fail to make predictions; and they make mistakes when interpreting data (13). Students also tend to do only short-term planning and do not adequately monitor what they have done (14). (p532)

The key point is that without clear understanding of the learning process and how to scaffold learning using cognitive tools during student inquiry, the design of meaningful inquiry based learning experiences may be compromised and as a consequence teachers and students may be disappointed in the inquiry in terms of student learning outcomes.

Conversation 2: The “L word” and ICT

The second conversation asks, “What is the relationship between ICT and learning?” The challenge in this conversation lies in avoiding thinking of technology as an isolated agent with the ability to educate students. Indeed, the government focus on locating the technology in education, rather than the social practices associated with the technology, is overly technocentric in this respect, (Stratford and Brown 2002).

Claims that an ICT strategy in education is “improving learning experiences and outcomes for all students”, (Digital Horizons Ministry of Education, 2003, p.8), are not backed by research allowing teachers to test the validity and reliability of these claims. The previous strategy document suggests instead that “Research into uses of ICT in education lags behind what is actually happening in schools.” (Ministry of Education, 2003, p.8)
This response means that teachers are left to imagine where this “currently emerging” research might be, and have to make sense of research they find, much of which relies upon valorising rhetoric, self reporting, and anecdote. The result of such rhetoric is that linking ICT to learning in many New Zealand classrooms is largely an act of faith.

Another approach uses a “prepositional classification” to look at the relationship between ICT and learning: learning about ICT, learning with ICT, and learning through ICT, (Ministry of Education, 2003, p.8). It is the latter, “the learning through ICT” that represents the Ministry “grail” for improving learning experiences and outcomes.

It is this last that most fully realises the potential; of ICT and that this strategy is designed to promote. (Ministry of Education, 2003, p.8)

Working with ictpd cluster teachers we have found that the Ministry’s “learning through ICT”, although comfortably aligned with the rhetoric of “integrating ICT”, and capturing a sense of “learning with ICT” (Brown, 1995) lacks sufficient detail of what the “through” might represent. Teachers talking about ICT and learning prefer the Ministries use of the “tool” analogy:

Nevertheless, evidence is currently emerging from studies in the UK and elsewhere that indicates improved outcomes for learners in schools where ICT is used as a tool for cognitive development in curriculum areas (Ministry of Education, 2003, p.8).

Our experience is that “collaborative authorship” is a more powerful analogy for learning through the many “information surfaces” of ICT, (Manovich 2001), than Taylor’s rather dated tutor, tool, tutee classification, (Taylor 1980). Elaborating on the sense of a teacher as a “meddler in the middle” of the learning process, (McWilliam 2005), “collaborative authorship” sees teachers, students, and ICTs involved as co-creators of new learning. ICT proficient students are already meddling with collaborative authorship in sampling, remixing as in the music/video industry and in open source software. This is most obvious in the computer game industries support for co-creating mods/avatars/and patches and in Linden Lab’s Second Life where users own the rights to their creations and can sell these for virtual currency to other users, which can be converted into real life currency at a fixed exchange rate, (Herman et al 2006).

The teachers we work with often use “narrative” as metaphor for learning with ICTs but adopt “database” as they gain confidence and explore the rich connectivity provided by ICT environments. Manovich (2001) argues that learning as a narrative, or journey, may be appropriate as a way of linking and making sense of information in information poor times. However, in information rich times, “narrative” needs replacing with a “database”, where a search engine allows individuals to collaborate to find and link ideas for new learning (Manovich 2001). Perhaps a linear metaphor like narrative is suitable when behaviourist and constructivist learning theories prevail and a non-linear metaphor like “database” is more suitable when we adopt co-creation learning theories.

Telling questions for teachers looking to integrate ICT in teaching and learning are “What is the role of ICT in society?” and “What is the social and cultural impact of ICT on democracy, on social relationships, or on the environment?”

Although it will take a decade to ramp up, mobile communications and pervasive computing technologies, together with social contracts that were never possible before, are already beginning to change the way people meet, mate, work, fight, buy, sell, govern, and create (Rheingold. 2002, pxiii)

Manovich suggests we will rethink our notions of stealing, plagiarising, and authorship, in the context of the many forms of collaboration available through ICT (Manovich 2001 p127)). Notions of individual authorship change when there is collaboration between author and software, including remixing, mashups, sampling, and user interactions with music, video, images and open source software.

In this context, Postman (1995) makes a compelling analogy between the ICT and the motor car when he asks, “How do they use us?”
What we needed to know about cars-as we need to know about computers, television, and other important technologies-is not how to use them but how they use us (Postman, 1995, p324).

When thinking about the social and cultural impact of ICT on teaching and learning, we should ask, “How does ICT use teaching and learning?” In answering this question, we may avoid designing learning experiences for students defined by the design constraints of the ICTs rather than by the learning intentions of the lesson plan. An example of ICT using teaching and learning is reported in The University of London Institute of Education evaluation of the Schools Whiteboard Expansion (SWE) Project (2007). Researchers found the use of a technology marketed as bringing interactivity into classrooms led “to some relatively mundane activities being overvalued.” (p.7) and reduced classroom interactivity to a point where students were immobilised by the screen.
The technology can:
'Reinforce a transmission style of whole class teaching in which the contents of the board multiply and go faster, whilst pupils are increasingly reduced to a largely spectator role (p.8)'

Conversation 3: The” L” word and designing for deeper understanding in student learning outcomes.

The third conversation broaches the backward design of learning experiences for differentiated student learning outcomes. To qualitatively differentiate learning experiences requires educators to assess individual learning needs, and then to design learning experiences to meet the individual needs identified. This suggests a role for ICT in differentiating individual student learning outcomes, personalisation.

The expectation that they must qualitatively differentiate the learning experiences of every student they teach is overwhelming for many teachers. In strictly timetabled secondary schools, where classes change on the hour, this may represent differentiating the learning experiences of over 150 students each day. Fraser (2000) calls for sharing power in differentiated learning environments where teachers;
'have to take cognisance of their students’ concerns, questions, and prior knowledge. This could mean abandoning some of their own ideas. In sharing power, teachers are in fact thrust into the role of researchers, and investigators, alongside their students(p. 35).
Fraser’s call for a power-sharing role for teachers is similar in intent to McWilliam’s “meddler in the middle”, (McWilliam, 2005). However, as Lefstein (2006) notes a teacher’s role is never neutral in the classroom,

Ellsworth draws attention to the way in which the call to dialogue is also an exercise of power, with its accompanying assumptions and expectations regarding teacher authority, communication norms, legitimate forms of participation, and privileged differences and identities. (p6)

A teacher’s role may never be neutral but it does seem plausible that ICT’s can make personalised learning easier. In fact identifying individual student needs, placing the learner at the centre and personalising student learning through ICTs is the key idea in the MoE’s new action plan for schools, “Enabling the 21st Century Learner – An e learning action plan 2006 -2010.

It’s all about providing a flexible system where teachers’ schools communities and other groups can identify the needs of their learners and be provided with the tools and support to meet those needs within the broader curriculum. Hon Steve Maharey Minister of Education Enabling the 21st Century Learner An e-learning Action Plan for Schools 2006-2010

However, it is “who identifies the individual’s needs” that is critical, (Fraser 2006). In education, we often understand personalisation as “institutional provision and procedure”. The kind of personalisation that occurs when individual needs and circumstances are anticipated and then built into provision through e learning environments that track, limit, and control. This is not unlike the regular classroom where after we take the attendance roll we use the ideas in the curriculum documents to determine student-learning experiences.

A second sense of personalisation develops when requests for greater flexibility lead the trade hall vendors to respond with a product customisable by the school, the teacher and sometimes but not often the learner. It is still institutional provision within a “walled garden” but the user can choose between predetermined elements of provision – e.g. to access the forum or the blog to record their questions. This is not unlike the regular classroom when we allow students to use different thinking strategies and tools to think about the ideas in the curriculum documents.//

The first two approaches to personalisation through ICT will not readily engage the learner who is already using the rich connectivity of ICTs to learn outside of school. It is a little like letting students who already drive cars on the road to bring their cars to school but to drive only in first gear in the parking lot. These first two approaches to personalisation through ICT do not readily engage teachers, the learning opportunities on offer are not different enough from the approaches they can access without ICT.//

According to Fraser’s personalisation framework, the third kind of personalisation through ICTs happens when
'Production, reception and relationships are supported by the system but determined by the user", - the ability to form original or derivative works, to collaborate, form networks and connections via the users choice of applications locations platforms.Fraser 2006
The connectivity of ICTs can contribute to this form of student-determined personalisation in a unique way. This personalisation of learning through ICTs is not unlike encouraging student metacognitive reflection on their learning process, so that in time students can determine their own learning needs for “production, reception, and relationships”.

The practicality of designing learning experiences that introduce deeper and more abstract understandings for all students can also be daunting for teachers. Reference to a “checkbox audit” (Taylor 2001), content, process and product (Riley et al 2004 p33), or a core and complex, differentiated planning template based on Bloom’s taxonomy, (Roberts, & Roberts,2001), are limited in their practical applicability to inclusive learning environments. These approaches also ignore the explicit integration of ICT.//

The following framework has proven valuable for teachers planning for deeper understanding in student learning outcomes in inquiry, Figure 1.


Figure 1 describes four necessary conditions for inquiry based learning environments if students are to understand themselves as learners, so that they may become “lifelong learners” through inquiry learning experiences at school. They are a common understanding of the learning process, common classroom practice, common language of instruction and common tools and strategies to enhance the learning process. We have found the Structure of Observed Learning Outcome (The SOLO Taxonomy) (Biggs and Collis 1982) to be key to all four conditions necessary for creating successful inquiry learning environments to meet the learning needs of diverse students, (personalisation),

SOLO provides criteria that identify the increasing complexity of student performance for understanding when mastering new learning (Biggs 1999, p.37). It is content independent and thus is useful as a generic measure of understanding across different disciplines. In our experience teachers using SOLO can easily, and reliably identify ascending cognitive complexity in individual and collective student learning outcomes.//

SOLO describes five levels of student understanding, Refer Figure 2.


Figure 2: Structured of Observed Learning Outcomes after Biggs and Collis (1982)

At the prestructural level of understanding, the student response shows they have missed the point of the new learning. At the unistructural level, the learning outcome shows understanding of one aspect of the task, but this understanding is limited. For example, the student can label, name, define, identify, or follow a simple procedure. At the multistructural level, several aspects of the task are understood but their relationship to each other, and the whole is missed. For example, the student can list, define, describe, combine, match, or do algorithms. At the relational level, the ideas are linked, and provide a coherent understanding of the whole. Student learning outcomes show evidence of comparison, causal thinking, classification, sequencing, analysis, part whole thinking, analogy, application and the formulation of questions. At the extended abstract level, understanding at the relational level is re-thought at a higher level of abstraction, it is transferred to another context). Student learning outcomes at the extended abstract level show prediction, generalisation, evaluation, theorizing, hypothesising, creation, and or reflection.

Educators and students can use SOLO to define curriculum objectives that describe different levels of understanding and, for evaluating individual and collective student learning outcomes. SOLO makes it possible to determine the cognitive complexity of individual student understanding and, to determine where to target new learning experiences and interventions, (that may or may not integrate ICT).

SOLO has several advantages over Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy (Bloom 1965) in designing differentiated learning experiences for deeper understanding. One advantage is that SOLO is based upon a theory about teaching and learning rather than a theory about knowledge, (Hattie and Brown, 2004). A second advantage lies in SOLO’s facility in enabling both student and educator to understand and evaluate learning experiences and learning outcomes in terms of ascending cognitive complexity. If SOLO is aligned to the design of learning experiences and their assessment, then both teacher and/or student can target desired cognitive learning outcomes with specific thinking interventions Table 1 illustrates how interventions can align to SOLO coded student learning outcome.

Table 1: Cognitive domain categories, thinking interventions, and student learning outcomes, as described by the SOLO Taxonomy .


Conversation 4: The “L” word and inquiry

In many New Zealand schools, an answer to the previous conversations is the adoption of “inquiry” learning. Inquiry is seen as an appropriate pedagogical approach to differentiate learning experiences to meet the learning needs of diverse students.

Judging by the number of ictpd clusters framed around inquiry, many schools are also using inquiry as a driver for the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Schools see inquiry as an alternative to didactic instructional approaches in schools, as a substitute for approaches that teach and test for inert knowledge and never develop into deeper understandings. If you ask teachers “Why inquiry?” many suggest that the pedagogy of student-centered exploration will (in some ill-defined way) introduce an “authenticity” and “engagement” to the learning experience.

However, the telling conversational question for schools and educators planning for inquiry based learning environment is:

Do students who experience inquiry based learning environments have an understanding that is more cognitively complex than students who learn in “direct teaching” environments?

The suggestion seems plausible but the causal linking of pedagogies for inquiry with enhanced student learning outcomes is difficult to substantiate. Indeed Kirschner and colleagues argue that inquiry learning approaches,

…ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half century that consistently indicate that minimally-guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. (Kirschner, et. al., 2006).

Schools looking for research evidence on the efficacy of an inquiry based learning environments are poorly served. Literature reviews reveal reliance on anecdotal reactions to inquiry based pedagogical interventions. When research exists, too often the research methodology and sample sizes used means much of it is not repeatable, or able to be generalised to other settings.

Of concern is that pedagogies of “inquiry” can create inert content knowledge, much like the pedagogies of “doing a project” in the 1960’s and webquests in the 1990’s, the very outcomes they are adopted to prevent, refer Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) who suggest that:

The use of inquiry methods in schools has been based on a frequently disappointed confidence in the power of children's natural curiosity.

Planning for transfer in student learning experiences is also a key issue in inquiry learning. When investigating the educational effectiveness of problem oriented learning, which should not be confused with inquiry-based learning, Gentner, Loewenstein, and Thompson (2003), showed that when studying a problem in isolation, tertiary students continued to compartmentalise and create inert knowledge. Students may as well have learned the new concepts in a didactic way in terms of any difference problem oriented learning made to student learning outcomes. It was only when the learning activity required students to compare and contrast quite different cases, that transfer of knowledge and dramatic learning gains resulted from the activity.

Teachers choose inquiry pedagogies when they want their students to understand both the process of learning and new content through their learning experiences. They favour the inquiry approach over direct instruction because it is perceived as “learner centred”, collaborative and having an authentic context. However, given the unease over learning outcomes in minimally guided instruction and inquiry learning, (Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark 2006), it is important to clarify just what students “learn to inquire” and “inquire to learn.” Inquiry learning can be dodgy in terms of deep, connected, and abstract learning outcomes because learners are trying to accommodate new content and new research processes at the same time. As well as suffering from cognitive overload, inquiry means students may not be confronted with the “to be learned” material, and tend to overemphasise the communicative activities over the other inquiry activities. De Yong (2006) has shown that learners have problems with all transformative and regulative processes associated with inquiry.

Also at issue are terms like “learner-centred”. As Paris and Combs’ (2006) report, there is little agreement over the meaning of the term “learner-centred”, “Shallow understandings and conflicting practices abound. (p571).” Contradictions occur when schools adopt learner-centred constructivist ideologies, and then design learning environments for student inquiry that limit the learning decisions that can be made by students.

When the four conversations combine

Designing learning experience

Every school we have worked with has had a different approach to planning for student learning, sometimes several different approaches. To accommodate the multiplicity of approaches used in New Zealand schools, we developed an “understanding by design” framework to help teachers structure differentiated learning experiences that integrate both thinking and ICT learning interventions, (Appendix).

Wiske’s (1998) framework for the logic of “teaching for understanding” (a concept originally from David Perkins) encourages teachers to ask four questions when planning for student learning.
1. What is worthy of understanding?
2. What should students know, understand, and be able to do?
3. How can we enhance student understanding?
4. How can we determine what students understand?

These questions lie behind the following framework, which aligns the planning of learning experiences with the differing levels of understanding in the SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis 1982). Planning is collaborative, in teams, syndicates and or across whole school staff.

This framework allows planning, for ascending cognitive complexity whereby concepts, thinking skills, strategies, and key competencies align with differentiated SOLO coded learning experiences and learning outcomes.

In identifying the direct teaching that must happen before students launch into open inquiry, it scaffolds learning experiences in a way that differentiates the curriculum for students of all abilities.

The framework also integrates thinking strategies and ICTs used to target and scaffold differentiated SOLO coded learning outcomes.

It is designed to be understood and used by both teachers and their students who can begin to take responsibility for negotiating differentiating approaches for their own learning, to learn how to learn.

The framework encourages teachers to initiate planning for inquiry by first identifying what is worthy in understanding, (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998), to address questions of “overarching understandings”. In our experience of planning with cluster teachers this approach has enhanced teacher understanding of the pedagogical foundation for their inquiry in a way that selecting big ideas, or concepts from a concept curriculum checklist (Erickson, 1998), does not.

Next an essential question that will form the basis for the inquiry is identified and tweaked against Harpaz’s criteria of open, undermining, rich, connected, charged and practical (Harpaz 2005). The framework then requires teachers and or students to identify the key competencies (Ministry of Education 2005), target thinking interventions (skills and strategies), and identify thinking dispositions (Costa and Kallick 2000), and that will most enhance student learning during the direct teaching that precedes student inquiry.

The framework encourages teachers to identify the role of both teacher and student, across the inquiry learning experiences through an adaptation of Herron’s levels of inquiry, (Herron, 1971)

Table 2: Learning to learn: Inquiry stages aligned to student and teacher role

Learning to Learn Inquiry
Formulating the Question
Locating relevant Information and data
Data Collection/Analysis
Creating new knowledge
Presenting of new knowledge and understanding
Learning Outcome Emphasis
Teacher Supported Inquiry
Beginner Inquirer
Student/ Teacher
Proficient Inquirer
Student/ Teacher
Student/ Teacher
Expert Inquirer
Student/ Teacher
Independent Inquirer
Collaboration with researcher
Student/ Researcher
Student/ Researcher
Student/ Researcher
Create new knowledge

Independent Inquirer Collaboration with researcher || Researcher || Student/ Researcher || Student/ Researcher || Student/ Researcher || Create new knowledge ||

The inquiry design framework supports pedagogical approaches allowing; teacher supported inquiry confirmation/verification approaches, student constructed open inquiry, and all the stages of teacher student guided inquiry in between.

Teachers often use direct teaching – teacher supported inquiry (confirmation/verification), to plan immersion learning experiences and to teach research skills before students are challenged to develop their own questions for more student driven open inquiry.
Teachers and students can use the same design template to plan the learning experiences and questions for their new learning.

The teaching and learning experiences that will help students gain the knowledge and skills needed for understanding are identified and coded against SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs and Collis 1982). For example, teachers and/or students are asked to design learning experiences in response to the following questions:

Aligning learning experiences to SOLO also allows teachers to identify the thinking and ICT interventions that target individual student learning needs at each level.
For example, coding the complexity of thinking interventions used in schools against SOLO Taxonomy allows teachers to more effectively target the thinking tools and strategies that will help students to “bring in ideas”, “link ideas” and “take linked ideas into another context” in students’ SOLO coded learning experiences. Refer Thinking interventions
Insert Figure XX
The design framework also foreshadows the integration of ICT in the SOLO coded “bringing in of ideas”, “linking ideas” and “taking linked ideas into another context” learning experiences of inquiry with triggers for:

In thinking about how the ICT environments available on school networks might enhance the conditions for teaching and learning aligned to SOLO taxonomy during student inquiry, we address calls for subversive use and volatile design in educational software, (Squires 1999). These ICT lists are descriptive rather than prescriptive as the role of ICTs in the learning design changes with contextual use.

When we involve students in personalising their own learning, the SOLO code learning framework allows students to understand where they are in the learning process, and to identify the interventions that will help them gain a deeper understanding.
Formative assessment of student learning is planned for against the SOLO coded learning experiences.
Finally, the design framework requires a “performance for understanding” or formative assessment of a student’s new learning. This performance is coded against SOLO taxonomy ensuring that the qualitative understanding of students is recognised across all levels of ascending cognitive complexity.

The four conversations inform the design of the pedagogical framework for learning to learn through inquiry enabling both teachers and students to plan:

Conclusions and Future Work

Until teachers are clear about their beliefs about the “L” word in formal learning environments such as school, there will always be misunderstandings around the design and structure of inquiry based learning experiences. Simply changing the adjective in front of the “L” word, or the preposition after it, will not clarify the educational rationale for the activity. “Inquiry learning”, “problem based learning”, “differentiated learning”, “learning through ICT”, “learning in ICT”, “learning with ICT” will all continue to be misunderstood until we clarify what we understand as “learning”. Equally if not more important we need to clarify both the acquisition and the participation learning experiences of students, (Sfard 1998). As teachers we need to understand that inquiry learning is not suitable for all learning, there is a place for both inquiry learning and direct instruction in New Zealand classrooms.

Sound curricula combine different forms of tuition, both inquiry learning and direct instruction. Inquiry learning may be more effective in acquiring intuitive, deep, conceptual knowledge; direct instruction and practice can be used for more factual and procedural knowledge. Ultimately, we want students to gain a well-organized knowledge base that allows them to reason and solve problems in the workplace and in academic settings. Finding the right balance between inquiry learning and direct instruction, therefore, is a major challenge. (De Yong 2006 p.533)//

De Yong’s (2006) challenge means educators should focus on what students need to learn before deciding whether inquiry that integrates, ICT is the best approach. Furthermore, if we accept that a contemporary definition of ‘learning’ is a long-term change in a person’s thinking and behaviour, and then rarely do schools and teacher assess such long-term changes.//

A future challenge would be to develop this “understanding by design” framework into a flexible learning process database that can be edited by teachers and students alike to meet both the acquisition and participation learning needs of students. The use of such a reusable pedagogical design framework by teachers and students would be an important next step in addressing the rationale for the integration of ICT in learning, and could bring a much-needed clarity to research into the capability of inquiry integrating ICT to enhance student-learning outcomes. It may well help us research whether students who experience inquiry based learning environments that integrate ICT have an understanding that is deeper, more integrated, more coherent and at a higher level of abstraction than students who learn in “one size fits all” environments that integrate ICT.//

Do we learn to inquire or do we inquire to learn? Perhaps with thoughtful pedagogical design, we can do both


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Hooked on Thinking Integrated Curriculum Unit Planner that integrates ICT

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