On November 3rd 2014 Mario Mäeots will defence his doctoral thesis "Inquiry-based learning in a web-based learning environment: a theoretical framework of inquiry-based learning processes".
Professor Margus Pedaste, University of Tartu
Professor Wouter Reinder van Joolingen, Utrecht University
Inquiry-based learning has an important role in today's science education. This is confirmed by many European-level documents and recent curriculum reforms in Estonia, where inquiry-based learning is an umbrella term for science related subjects.
Inquiry-based learning is a learning method where students take on the role of a scientist, mirroring activities employed by scientists-formulate hypotheses, carry out investigations and collect evidence to propose explanations about the investigated phenomena. Teachers no longer are the primary source of knowledge. Students take their own responsibility for obtaining new knowledge. The teacher's role is to enable the construction process as a facilitator and to provide resources.
Inquiry-based learning is applicable in regular or virtual classrooms. The latter enable conducting experiments impossible in a regular classroom (e.g., experiments that are dangerous). One example of such virtual classrooms is the inquiry-based learning environment Young Researcher (http://bio.edu.ee/teadlane), which is designed for students from the 6th to the 9th grade for learning biology. There are five inquiry-based tasks that need to be solved (e.g., "Why do muscles wear down differently?"). The entire learning process is structured according to inquiry learning stages: problem identification; research question and hypothesis formulation; planning and carrying out an experiment; analysis and interpretation of data; and drawing conclusions.
As a result of the doctoral study, a theoretical model of inquiry-based learning was constructed that serves as a conceptual structure for showing how inquiry processes are related to each other. Additionally, it was revealed that applying a comprehensive inquiry-based learning environment improves students' inquiry skills and general inquiry knowledge; also, it was found that the development of inquiry skills is influenced by the interactions between such skills, as well as by general inquiry knowledge.