History and Social Science

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How does the teacher’s traditional role change in an inquiry-based classroom? Discuss this question in the context of teaching history in the primary classroom.

A teacher’s traditional role is altered when transposed into an inquiry-based classroom. The teacher’s role adjusts to accommodate inquiry learning, from being the sole educational pivot, to operating as facilitator in a learner centred environment. Theorists such as Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky have contributed to key concepts of the philosophy behind inquiry methodology. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages. The operation of a teacher in an inquiry-based primary classroom can be observed through examples in the context of teaching history. In order to unpack a teacher’s role in an inquiry-based classroom, one must outline the philosophy behind inquiry methodology. John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky all developed theories that serve as the foundation to inquiry learning. The instructional model of inquiry learning encompasses strategies that focus on active, collaborative, hands-on learning where students develop higher level skills and construct deep understanding of a topic (Dewey, 1916/1997; Piaget, 1954, 1973). Inquiry learning is based on process: how to analyse and interpret information and to comprehend what is being learnt. Rather than reproducing a memorised answer through rote learning, teamwork is an integral component of inquiry learning. Students’ understanding is deepened and made permanent by interaction with other students (Schank & Cleary, 1994). Learners internalise ideas as they actively work to understand them (Papert, 2000). There are advantages and disadvantages of this methodology. In a classroom situation, stimulating learning and motivating students are crucial issues for a teacher when they are teaching for life-long mastery. A key strategy for achieving this goal is to view the learning environment through a Constructivist lens. Constructivism is the concept that effective learning occurs when students actively engage in activity as opposed to being passive recipients of information transmission (Dempsey & Arthur-Kelly 3). In a period of time where people are increasingly saturated with multi-media stimuli in a globalising world, it is a crucial skill that students be able to analyse multiple points of view and successfully discover reliability in order to become effective citizens (Hoepper, 2011). Research has shown that studying a topic through multiple sources results in more developed understandings and heuristics (Gabella, 1994). Therefore, inquiry learning has advantageous application in multiple-source learning environments and an advantage over passive imbibing of data for the effective equipping of future citizens. Research is showing that inquiry learning is an excellent pedagogy for teachers to use when working with students with learning difficulties. A study by Ferretti, MacArthur, and Okolo (2001) revealed that inquiry learners had an increased level of self-efficacy as opposed to those exposed to instructional modes of learning. A disadvantage of inquiry learning is that it can require greater preparation time, follow-up and monitoring of students and their access to resources (Pawson, Fournier, Haigh, Muniz, Trafford, & Vajoczki. 2006). In the traditional role, a teacher is responsible for the gathering of information. This process, when undertaken by a class-sized group of students with differing abilities and motivational levels, can become more lengthy (Könings, Wiers, ven de Wiel & Schmidt. 2005). The teacher must also ensure students have access to a range of resources which may prove problematic depending upon the topic, availability of resources and time pressures in a crowded curriculum. The traditional teacher’s role has changed in to accommodate inquiry learning. The teacher must recognise students have pre-existing knowledge and skills (Killen 85). They develop a personal...
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