All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), AISHE-C 2008: Encouraging Student Engagement

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The Use of Enquiry-Based Learning (EBL) for Encouraging Student Engagement in Lifelong Learning
Norman James Powell, William Hutchings

Last modified: 2009-01-22


A core theory underlying EBL is that it simultaneously encourages student engagement and extends the range of lifelong learning skills developed. EBL does this through adoption of a research-like method of learning, which encourages a scholarly approach to the subject and incorporates skills essential to workplace activity.
This paper draws on two examples from contrasting disciplines:
o Adaptation of a course in 18th-century poetry enabled explicit development of professionally-orientated skills while at the same time reinforcing academic content, through involving students with engaging tasks which encourage student involvement in both process and content. The format of the task necessitated team-work, which, by bringing together students' different experiences of and assumptions about their subject, challenged and widened those assumptions.
o In electronic engineering a number of instances of EBL have been developed throughout the curriculum, including a tutorial activity and small-scale investigations in third-year modules. The purposes of these activities include developing practices and understanding of industrial processes and products while demonstrating the relevance of discipline knowledge.
In each case the curriculum has been modified to provide students with an opportunity to develop lifelong learning skills through authentic rehearsals of professional situations. In these contexts the acquisition and even creation of knowledge are achieved through a combination of individual research and enquiry, and the collaborative sharing of that knowledge. The generation of those skills will be evidenced through the design of the activity, triangulated with student and staff reactions.
Thus EBL creates a learning experience in which students' involvement with the discipline goes alongside the development of lifelong learning skills. In the process engaging students not only in discipline knowledge but also with the skills and attitudes involved in lifelong learning.


enquiry-based learning; lifelong learning