Active learning has been defined as ‘anything course-related that all students in a class session are called upon to do other than simply watching, listening and taking notes’ (Felder & Brent, 2009, p. 2).
Active learning approaches can be incorporated into traditional lecture, seminar and tutorial classes. Some examples include:
- ‘one-minute papers’,
- asking students to respond to a discussion question in pairs, and
- using interactive technology to get immediate responses from students (for example the use of clickers or similar audience response technology).
Inquiry-based learning is a more structured approach to developmental learning. Students operate within a framework supported by a driving question or problematic scenario.
As a curriculum approach, inquiry-based learning builds from a natural process of inquiry in which students experience a ‘need to know’ that motivates and deepens learning. Inquiry-based learning requires guidance from the teacher in the role of facilitator: providing structure and support for students as appropriate to their developmental stage.
In short, inquiry-based learning approaches are characterised by:
- motivating learning through a sense of purpose and authenticity to ‘real world’ tasks and issues,
- encouraging students to become co-creators of their learning,
- developing student skills in self-direction, research, critical thinking and problem solving, and
- developing discipline knowledge and skills.
Three curriculum types that encompass active and inquiry-based learning pedagogies are project based learning, problem based learning and the use of case studies. Although each approach has a slightly different orientation, with different levels of engagement by the learner and teacher, there are many similarities between them.