Ivan Moore

  • The enquiring mind knows no boundaries: does teaching across the disciplines have to be so different?

    Ivan Moore, Karen O'Rourke, Norman J Powell
    University of Manchester

    Session 1b

    Monday 3 September 2007, 15.45-16.45

    Research seminar

    Themes: Skills development, The teaching-research nexus, Learning for learning’s sake

    Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) has been gaining momentum in undergraduate programmes internationally. It is argued [1, 2] that EBL provides learners with a learning experience through which they develop professional and personal skills and attributes ranging from teamwork and leadership skills to problem solving and information skills (conference theme 6) and personal attributes such as accepting responsibility for their own learning and actions. EBL is crucially seen as a learning approach that supports the development of academic skills and generic research skills, hence working at the nexus between teaching and research (conference theme 8) and providing motivation for the learners (conference theme 10). At the heart of EBL is an environment in which the learners are supported in determining their own lines of enquiry: identifying what is known; what needs to be learned; what information is required; how it is to be acquired, processed and applied; and how it is to be shared with others [1].

    Development of this general pedagogy attempts to engage with an increasing range of disciplines by building on well established approaches to teaching and learning within those disciplines. These approaches may be described by terms such as Problem Based Learning (PBL) [2]; design exercises; investigations; case studies; and project based learning. The essential, common ingredient is that an initial ‘trigger’ (the problem, design specification, area for investigation or case) stimulates the learner to pursue a particular line of enquiry, through which learning is achieved. The learner is supported by a range of resources including online, paper based and human resources.

    However, particular, discipline-specific, approaches to the pedagogy appear to evidence variations in practice, which may lead to differences in the learning outcomes achieved. These variations may be based on fundamental differences in the pedagogy of disciplines, or they may simply reflect the ways in which EBL is interpreted in the cultural and experiential context of the disciplines.

    This seminar considers practice in each of the four Faculties in a large, research intensive UK university in order to gain a better understanding of teaching across the disciplines (conference theme 9). Each Faculty has introduced a large-scale EBL implementation, supported by a central development support unit and an external educational development consultant. An analysis of the literature of both EBL in particular and of discipline-specific theories of student learning has been used to underpin initial phenomenographic and action research programmes, which have identified staff conceptions of EBL and their role as facilitators of student learning; methodological approaches to EBL; student learning experiences and learning outcomes. For example, the published literature on design studies in engineering is compared with the literature on generic EBL practice, in order to ‘map’ conceptions, principles and processes before the analysis of practice is compared to this mapping. This literature survey and research programme is attempting to identify if variations in practice are based on published, and therefore accepted, practice in disciplines, or whether it is simply a result of the adaptation of a new pedagogy with familiar conceptions and practices within the disciplines. The seminar will begin by reporting on these initial findings. Using EBL techniques, the presenters will support a discussion of the generic and discipline specific features of EBL and the student learning outcomes that seem to result from their experience of Enquiry Based Learning. The planned outcome of the seminar is that participants will develop a shared understanding of the role of EBL in developing professional, personal, academic and research skills in students and of the discipline specific variations in the way that EBL is interpreted.


    1. Barrett T et al [eds]; Handbook of Enquiry and Problem Based Learning; AISHE; Ireland; ISBN 10: 0-9551698-0-1
    2. Savin-Baden M, Wilkie K; Challenging Research in Problem Based Learning; McGraw Hill; 2006; ISBN 0335220061