What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look Like?
Nov 21, 2019
The classrooms in our schools have evolved with the changing times. The teaching-learning process has seen a marked transformation in resources used, techniques adopted, and strategies applied. The earlier method of the teacher ‘teaching’ facts has given way to the student ‘inquiring’to explore and understand concepts. This helps to develop skills that are a prerequisite for future success. This inquiry-based learning has become popular in the modern classroom, and is effective in preparing the student for higher studies and future success in the job front.
So, what is inquiry-based learning? How does it work?
Inquiry-based learning involves active participation of students in the learning process. The student is not a passive recipient of knowledge; instead she is involved vigorously in the process of learning – through exploration, investigation, discussion and collaboration with peers. Such learning works on the principle of curiosity to gain knowledge – which is satisfied when the learner reflects intensely, asks questions, pursues information, solves problems, and sifts through materials to arrive at the answer.
It is true that students learn in the classroom only when they are engaged in the learning process in positive ways. A passive role in the classroom does not yield the desired result, as ‘taught’ facts are not retained in the mind of the recipient. On the other hand, inquiry-based learning is experiential learning, and is the basis of the popular project-based and STEM learning that is being encouraged in modern classrooms all over the world, being the precursor of future educational research.
What, then, is the ultimate aim of learning?
The ultimate aim of learning is not mere acquisition of knowledge – it is much more than that. It is arousing interest in the students to delve into a matter, ask questions and seek answers, face problems, arrive at solutions, and think deeply to arrive at conclusions. This is the goal that every educator strives to achieve in her classroom – a goal that may be reached if students are encouraged to learn by inquiry. This involves facing challenges that inspires the learner to negotiate them in positive ways with innovative methods, helping her to develop and hone skills that lead to ‘learning’ in the true sense of the term.
What are the advantages of inquiry-based learning?
Inquiry-based learning is a strategy that has multiples advantages, and scores over traditional learning strategies in all possible ways. First and foremost, it is self-directed study, with a shift in effort from the teacher to the student in the learning process. This learning process necessitates active student engagement – who asks questions, explores the theme through investigations, collaborates with peers to brainstorm solutions, thinks flexibly, adapts to different situations, and arrives at conclusions. Additionally, students understand the importance of collaboration and sharing thoughts and ideas as an integral part of the learning process. It is a known fact that the human brain retains more when it is engaged in an activity, and learning thus gained is retained for a longer period. It also hones skills that are useful in the future. Research has proven that learning gained through ‘hearing’ is lost after a while, with only 5% of it being retained; while only 10% of what we ‘read’ is retained in us. On the other hand, a whopping 75% of learning that is gained through ‘doing’ is retained in us even years after it was acquired.
Inquiry-based learning is this hands-on, meaningful learning that is retained in the students, and assists in building up of independence and critical thinking skills in them– necessary characteristics in today’s competitive world that demands innovative and ingenious contributions from its denizens.
Dr. Swathi Menon, EdD
Indo Scottish Global School