Evaluating enquiry-based learning in the Faculty of Health Science at La Trobe University/The experience of enquiry-based learning

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This page lists the experiences in the Faculty of Health Sciences at La Trobe University, when using enquiry-based learning methods and frameworks. The list draws points from recorded interviews, noted discussions, emails and surveys, and is divided into beneficial and challenging experiences. The only criteria for the list is that points must have been experienced, and not be theoretical, ideal, potential or hypothetical.

Beneficial experiences Challenging experiences
Social interaction is supported by team-based enquries. Due to the teamwork nature of the enquiries set in first year, contacts, familiarity, friendships and social interaction are supported and carried forward into the subsequent years of study. Helping to form these social bonds early seems to be supporting some people's successful progression in the wider course program. Some have said that the teamwork feature of the enquiries set in the subjects, creates some measure of peer pressure to study harder and fulfill their roles in the team. Enquiry-based learning may not be an appropriate method for some subject areas. Because courses are divided into into subjects, and sometimes modules within a subject, and those subjects typically run for just 12 weeks, and that some subjects are wholly about the memorisation of names and facts, or afford minimal time toward workshops, it has been difficult for some coordinators and teachers to properly implement enquiry-based learning in those subjects.
Scenarios and case studies anchor learning. They've been a trigger for curiosity and discussion, and something people can hang onto and work through in their subjects and courses. They provide a commonality in experience and expectation. Some class sizes are too large, with scenarios for enquiry too prescribed, and the time afforded to enquiries made too short, rendering the model ineffective under these conditions. The facilitator struggles to form a relationship with groups, there isn't enough time for 'free enquiry' through discussion and exploration, and there is a need for better skills and methods for dealing with difficult groups, people with weaker communication skills, or people who are evidently only surface-learning in the method.
Beneficial experience Grouped methods of assessment have caused dissatisfaction toward enquiry-based learning. Teamwork has been a strong aspect of the design of enquiry-based learning - especially in the first year of courses. Some assessment of learning outcomes has been at the group level, not addressing concerns held within the team that some people worked harder and contributed more than others. This problem becomes particularly acute when a group is assessed as not meeting learning objectives, or under achieving. There may well be people in that group who worked hard, and would have achieved more had the group been different. More exacting group assessment models are needed if teamwork is going to continue to be a designed feature of the enquiries.
Beneficial experience Idealised outcomes are not always realised. The idealised outcomes of enquiry-based learning include self sufficient and team-based learning; the use of scenarios, problems, case studies and the like to drive depth and breadth of learning; a commonality of experience in learning... but these have often not been realised when implemented in adverse conditions such as high staff turnover, low facilitator skill levels, increasing class sizes, and low motivation on a student group toward a subject.
Beneficial experience Some teaching staff struggle with the methods. Some teachers feel that they have mastered lecturing, and that it is the most fair and equatable, intergenerationally consistent and quality assured method of teaching. Enquiry-based learning has introduced many variables to the experience for both teachers and students, some of which are outside the control of the teacher who would normally lecture on topics, and rely on assignments to drive motivation for learning.
Beneficial experience Challenging experience
Beneficial experience Challenging experience
Beneficial experience Challenging experience