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SCUPI Teaching Seminar丨Inquiry-Based Learning—What is it and why do we care?

Published on: April 2, 2022 | Views: 665

The first Teaching Seminar of 2022 spring term in Sichuan University- Pittsburgh Institute (SCUPI) led by Dr. Robin Cunningham was held on this Friday, April 1st in Room 204, Zone 4, Liberal Arts Building. 

Dr. Cunningham shared his experience of using an inquiry-based approach in his class.

Dr. Cunningham began with a quotation from Paul Tillich, an existentialist philosopher: “The fatal pedagogical error is to throw answers, like stones, at the heads of those who have not yet asked the questions.”

In his teaching career, Dr. Cunningham always believes that Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) can be a useful active learning tool to stress the central position of students in the learning process. 

Rather than telling students what they need to know, teachers should encourage them to explore the material, ask questions, and share ideas.

After a brief overview of IBL, Dr. Cunningham showed instructors how the IBL approach is used in his class. 

Instructors then took part in an activity and discussed the benefits of IBL. They agreed that IBL can help students concentrate during learning, develop critical thinking, increase the ability of communicating complex ideas, etc.

Dr. Cunningham’s favorite part in this approach is that students can carry on a task step by step even though they are confused about what to do.

However, instructors may also face challenges when using IBL approach. 

For instance, instructors agreed that they must be careful about students’ varied background knowledge. For Dr. Cunningham, he found it takes roughly twice as much time as a normal lecture. He also believes small-sized class are better for students when using IBL.

Dr. Cunningham’s teaching seminar ended in a lively discussion.

To continuously improve teaching, Dr. James McDougall will share his ideas on “Blackboard Hacks and Technology in the Active-Learning Classroom” on April 22nd.

In the SCUPI Teaching Seminar, our faculty members aim to improve their students’ learning and their own experiences as instructors through a reflective exploration of their own practices and beliefs about teaching.

SCUPI is calling for proposals for teaching seminars in Spring 2022. Faculties are encouraged to submit proposals!

Author | Joanna Peng

Editor| Euphy He