IPLA 2014 Explores Inquiry-Guided Learning

In 2012, a new publication in the New Directions for Teaching and Learning (NDTL) series by Jossey Bass presented the experiences of a number of institutions and individuals worldwide who had developed inquiry components within their institutions. This year’s IPLA has gathered many of these scholars and a number of others to explore the many ways of engaging students through inquiry assignments, courses, and programs. A very brief definition is here, and we encourage you to view inquiry as an array of approaches that foster gradual student independent inquiry.


What is Inquiry-guided learning?

From Virginia Lee website

Inquiry-guided learning (IGL) refers to an array of classroom practices that promotes student learning through guided and, increasingly, independent investigation of questions and problems for which there are no single answer. Rather than teaching the results of others’ investigations, which students learn passively, instructors assist students in mastering and learning through the process of active investigation itself. This process involves the ability to formulate good questions, identify and collect appropriate evidence, present results systematically, analyze and interpret results, formulate conclusions, and evaluate the worth and importance of those conclusions. It may also involve the ability to identify problems, examine problems, generate possible solutions, and select the best solution with appropriate justification. This process will differ somewhat among different academic disciplines.

Learning in this way promotes other important outcomes as well. It nurtures curiosity, initiative, and risk taking. It promotes critical thinking. It develops students’ responsibility for their own learning and habits of life-long learning. And it fosters intellectual development and maturity: the recognition that ambiguity and uncertainty are inevitable, and in response, we must learn to make reasoned judgments and act in ways consistent with these judgments.

A variety of teaching strategies, used singly or, more often, in combination with one another, is consistent with Inquiry-guided learning: interactive lecture, discussion, group work, case studies, problem-based learning, service learning, simulations, fieldwork, and labs as well as many others.

In fact the only method that is not consistent with IGL is the exclusive use of straight lecturing and the posing of questions for which there is only one correct answer.

IPLA Inspires Creative Pedagogy

A four-day professional-development conference, the Institute for Pedagogy in the Liberal Arts (IPLA) aims to inspire creativity and foster effective teaching in the liberal arts. The format consists of two two-day sessions where participants focus on new ideas to refresh and expand their teaching. “By having a pair of two days sessions over the four-day institute, participants have enough time to reflect deeply and actually apply the idea of each selected track to a course or to their teaching in general,” explained Jeffery Galle, Oxford associate professor of humanities and director of the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE).

Added Galle who organizes the IPLA under the auspices of the CAE, “Each year, Oxford College faculty really lead the way in this institute by sharing their passion for specific pedagogies and program features. This institute belongs to the college and its primary emphasis upon teaching and learning. It’s a privilege to be a part of this effort.”

Exemplifying Oxford’s emphasis on teaching excellence, the IPLA sessions typically focus on a broad range of topics, including inquiry-based learning, peer instruction, digital humanities, teaching/learning through technology, problem-based learning, case-based learning, methods of assessment, course design, sustainability as a pedagogical project, and a number of other issues and pedagogies used in higher education.

Conceived originally as one type of faculty support for Emory faculty, IPLA has grown to support the vision of Oxford College as a national model of a liberal arts intensive educational experience. Applications to IPLA arrive from faculty in institutions across the US and at times from Europe and Canada.