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Challenges in inquiry-based learning

Presentation at Power of ESD conference 2012

Alexander Hellquist

on 20 May 2014

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Transcript of Challenges in inquiry-based learning

Theoretical background
Challenges in inquiry-
based learning

The concept of ecosystem services can help in achieving sustainability - also in cities. Ecosystem services deserve more attention in urban planning. (ENSURE 2012)
Because the allocation of ecosystem services directly affects many people and raises questions about equity, carefully designed [discourse-based valuation] methods will help achieve social equity goals. (Wilson & Howarth 2002)
Inquiry-based learning as a way to
create participation and ownership and of a learning and action process.

When different stakeholders agree on a learning and action goal mutuality is created and power differences addressed.

(e g Torbert 2004).
Ecosystem services can contribute to poverty alleviation (MEA 2005). Poverty is complex and the relationship between poverty and ecosystems is not always clear-cut (TEEB 2010).
Useful distinction in systems thinking between so-called “hard” and “soft” systems (Ison, 2010).

Hard systems approach:
The world as made up of systems. E g some ecologists describe and research systems called “ecosystems”.
Unintended consequence: sometimes assumed that there is agreement about “the system” and what a change for the better might be.

Soft systems approach:
Applicable to situations that are complex and confusing.
An ecologist who adopts this perspective would see an ecosystem as a way of thinking about complex interactions in particular situations or as a device to describe to enhance communication and understanding (Archer, 2007)
Relations between people and ecosystems in cities are very complex. New forms of governance including many stakeholders are needed to tackle this complexity. (Rhodes 1997, Elinor Ostrom 2003).
Work on collaborative learning rejects using education as a tool to influence human behaviour in a particular direction. Participants should engage in a process of self-reflection on the relationship between their own guiding assumptions and interpretations and those of others (Jickling and Wals, 2008)
Cyclical learning process
Stretegic inquiry of Ahmedabad
“Learning together,
how can we improve the quality of
life in informal settlements around lakes
and ponds in Ahmadabad?”
Learning objectives and structure is often vague. Learning will inevitably involve concerns with uneven power relations and different worldviews and values. (Armitagea, Marschkeb & Plummer 2007)
Collaborative learning is designed to address complexity by pooling expertise from different stakeholders, building trust, and co-creating new knowledge and shared understanding. (Daniels & Walker 1996)
The Supporting Urban Sustainability (SUS) professional training programme
In brief, transformative learning describes a process by which individuals develop more
functional frames of reference. It helps the learner negotiate meanings, intentions and values, rather than merely accepting those of others. (Sinclair & Diduck 2001)
Absence of careful examination of the factors that determine if, who, how, when and what type of learning actually occurs. (Armitagea, Marschkeb & Plummer 2007)
Much emphasis has been placed on the importance of learning to support collaborative environmental management and achieve sustainability...

Yet, [...] despite widespread support of learning as a normative goal [...], core concepts, assumptions and approaches to learning have been applied in vague and sometimes uncritical ways. (Armitagea, Marschkeb & Plummer 2007)

To establish capacity of key organizations to collaboratively learn about and take action using ecosystem services for poverty alleviation (ESPA) approaches in cities.
Pretty's Typology of Participation
(Pimbert and Pretty 1995)

1. Self-mobilization

2. Interactive participation

3. Functional participation

4. Participation by consultation

5. Participation in information giving

6. Passive participation
People participate in joint analysis, which leads to action plans and the formation of new local groups or the strengthening of existing ones. These groups take control over local decisions, and so people have stake in maintaining structures or practices.
People participate by taking initiatives independent of external institutions to change systems.
People participate by forming groups to meet predetermined objectives related to the project, which can involve the development or promotion of externally initiated social organization.
"Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand."

Scientifically proven - e.g. Cooper and Prescott (1989)
Action inquiry begins because we experience a gap between what we wish to do and what we are able to do.

Addressing this gap contains two elements: the inquiry necessary to build new capabilities, and the inquiry to learn whether we have accomplished to close the gap.
(based on Torbert 2004)
Lessons learned:

Collaborative learning is useful for
achieving ESPA action in cities.

It can invite to profound forms of participation.

Flexible evaluation methods are needed.
Story-based approaches useful.

It is important to be aware of power relations coming into play during the development of an inquiry.
In a multi-stakeholder setting, it is a challenge to achieve organisational learning based on an inquiry developed outside the organisations.

It takes time to pursue inquiries related to complex "soft systems". It is important to have a plan for long-term funding from the start.
Inquiry-based learning:
Based on your experience and expertise, please reflect upon, criticize, add or subtract from these recommendations. Thank you!
It is important to be transparent in terms of the learning method in order to avoid confusion and expectations that can not be met among participants.
Based on Kolb (1984)
Facilitation is challenging and requires knowledge of the contexts in which the inquiry is developed.
Full transcript