Inquisitivism is an approach for designing and delivering web-based instruction that shares many of the same principles of minimalism and other constructivist approaches.  Inquisitivism is unique in that its two primary or first principles are the removal of fear and the stimulation of an inquisitive nature. The approach evolved during the design and delivery of an online full credit university course and continues to evolve.

Inquisitivism fundamentals include:

  • Fear removal. Dealing with the paralyzing fear that many adult learners experience must precede the stimulation of one’s natural inquisitiveness. Demonstrating that the computer or other piece of technology is not easily broken, providing explanations, examples and solutions for common errors and problems and the application of data backup will help quell the adult learners fear.
  • Stimulation of inquisitiveness. With the fear abated, encouraging adult learners to become like children and enjoy the pleasure of inquisitiveness can be easily facilitated. Encourage the use of the “HHHMMM??? What does this button do?” approach.
  • Using the system to learn the system. This is one of the key differences from the systems approach. All training must take place on the actual system that is being learned.
  • Getting started fast. Adult learners often have other interests than learning a new system. The learning they undertake is normally done to compliment their existing work. The “welcome to the system” prefaces and other non-essential layers in an introduction are simply a waste of the learners time.
  • Discovery Learning. There is no single correct method or procedure. Allowing for self directed reasoning and improvising through the learning experience will require the adult learner take full responsibility for their learning.
  • Modules can be completed in any order. Materials must be designed to be read or completed in any order. This will eliminate the common problems that arise from material read or completed out of sequence.
  • Supporting Error Recognition and Recovery. Much of what learner does is “error”. Since there is such a pervasiveness of errors in most learning it is unrealistic to imagine that errors can be ignored. Error recognition and recovery strategies need to be implemented to enable learners to learn from their mistakes instead of being trapped by them. Use of Frequently asked Question lists (FAQ’s) Help Forums and other help strategies must be implemented to deal the errors and problems that arise.
  • Forum for Discussions and Exploiting Prior Knowledge. Much adult education dealing with technology is conducted through alternative delivery. Distance education, web-based instruction and other alternative delivery methods can isolate students. Providing a conferencing system or similar computer mediated communication system for the replacement of face2face interaction is a crucial component of any alternative delivery program. Most adult learners of technology are experts in other areas or domains. Understanding the learners prior knowledge and motivation and finding ways to exploit it is one of the keys to effective adult training. In addition, adult learners can share their expertise or assist each other and should be encouraged to use conferencing system or other forms of computer mediated communication to facilitate social interaction.
  • Real World Assignments. “Make-work” (purposeless) projects are simply useless. All assignments must have a real world application. Adult learners are often undertaking training to be able to work in their own area of expertise more effectively. If possible the assignments should be tied directly to the learner’s personal or professional interests.
  • Developing Optimal Training Designs. Feedback facilities like online surveys or email should be used to allow learners to immediately provide feedback on any aspect of a program. Problems with instructions, assignments, wording or other problems should be immediately addressed corrected. Instructional models are not deductive or prescriptive theories, they are descriptive processes. The design process should involve the actual learner through empirical analysis so that adjustment can be made to suit the learners needs. “Develop the best pedagogy that you can. See how well you can do. Then analyze the nature of what you did that worked.” (Brunner, 1960)

The content above is an excerpt from the chapter called Inquisitivism:  The Evolution of a Constructivist Approach for Web-Based Instruction (PDF – 178kb) from the upcoming book Enhancing Learning Through Technology (In Press). For a more detail explanation of Inquisitivism, I encourage you to read the full chapter. Or if you are really facinated by this approach you can read results of over 5 years of research by either viewing or downloading the Doctoral Thesis Titled: Development and Evaluation of Inquisitivism as a Foundational Approach for Web-Based Instruction (PDF format – 1.6 Mb).

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