12 April 2014

Introduction to Open Education

This post is an introduction to some thoughts on enquiry-based learning (EBL). I intend to write a series on EBL’s primary structures, benefits and disadvantages, and EBL’s potential use in legal education and independent learning per se. This post considers some issues that may be inherent in my approach. In the posts that follow, I frame EBL against a background of competing pedagogies that I (re)arrange specifically in the light of EBL.

The concept of 'open education' relates to the student's breadth of choice in the substantive materials studied and the methods used to study them. This idea becomes more obvious in my posts that explore EBL's details and opposition.

1. Intent

I will (or at least imply that it is possible to do so) collect other educational theories and their structures under one of three bespoke categories. This approach organises teaching practices into three groups that may each be divided further. The umbrella headings are Enquiry-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning, and Basic-Socratic Models of Learning. These are expanded and discussed in individual essays then explored further with regard to each other and in relation to educational theory.

2. Prior Remarks

1) Before any deeper analysis, I must note (i) the umbrella groups overlap on a pedagogical continuum, and (ii) the groups are individual continua, also: each category may be implemented to varying degrees from extreme commitment to languid apathy. Each category may adopt either other group’s features or remain faithful only to itself--some features naturally overlap, which is neither resolvable nor problematic: an enquiry-based course may begin with problem questions; a problem-based course may involve socratic dialogue; and a basic-socratic course design might resort only to internal themes--these are just example combinations.

2) I want to argue, however, that enquiry-based learning--in its purest form--is the best learning model available. EBL should be paramount in curricula design and teaching practice. I may change my mind while arguing. It may transpire that all I have achieved in rearranging pedagogies into three EBL-driven categories is to collect the best parts of selected theories into enquiry-based learning and relegate all their poorest elements to problem-based or basic-socratic learning paradigms. If it turns out that I have done this, I will admit it, and attempt to salvage whatever remains.

3) Throughout this series I use ‘enquiry’ and ‘investigate’ as synonyms for EBL. This should make sense in context. I currently make no distinction between enquiry and inquiry: their difference is historical and etymological. Although, if things get complicated, it may be useful to give each spelling an alternative definition. I will be explicit if I do so.

4) I will refer to the three categories of education as ‘learning paradigms’. This is to highlight a theme that underlies and informs EBL: educational theory and practice should be determined by educational aims; it is at least preliminarily satisfactory to assert that learning is itself an educational aim. If education is encouraged to facilitate this learning--rather than some other aim or factor--the whole process becomes less about teaching, and the vocabulary must change to accommodate the new emphasis.

3. Coming Up

The next post in this series outlines enquiry-based learning, and offers a tentative definition, which hopes to indicate EBL’s scope.

Created: 14 May to 18 August 2014. Version 1.0.

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