We see IBL as a pedagogy which best enables students to experience the processes of knowledge creation. The core ingredients of an IBL approach that most researchers are in agreement with are:
- learning is stimulated by inquiry, i.e. driven by questions or problems;
- learning is based on a process of constructing knowledge and new understanding;
- it is an 'active' approach to learning, involving learning by doing;
- a student-centred approach to teaching in which the role of the teacher is to act as a facilitator;
- a move to self-directed learning with students taking increasing responsibility for their learning; and
- the development of skills in self-reflection.
Several modes of IBL are discussed in the literature. One framing we find useful is that of Staver and Bay (1987) who distinguish between structured, guided and open inquiry. Their definitions were particularly oriented towards problem solving, but we broaden their categories to allow exploration of issues. Thus we distinguish between:
- structured inquiry – where teachers provide an issue or problem and an outline for addressing it
- guided inquiry – where teachers provide questions to stimulate inquiry but students are self-directed in terms of exploring these questions
- open inquiry – where students formulate the questions themselves as well as going through the full inquiry cycle as given in Figure 1.
*CBL (guided inquiry) over PBL (open inquiry)
The relationship between IBL, problem-based learning (PBL), and case-based learning (CBL) is less clear. Problem-based learning has a well developed literature base but like IBL, the definition of the term is contested and again there are a variety of approaches that fall under the umbrella term of PBL. All approaches may begin with a question, although open inquiry often starts with a general theme or issue from which students develop a particular question to be addressed. The timescale for IBL (over weeks or months) is typically much longer than for either PBL (hours to weeks) or CBL (minutes to hours). Whilst open inquiry promotes student choice in terms of the topic of learning, in PBL and CBL, the content and skills to be learned are usually far more prescribed. CBL and PBL are thus akin to structured and guided forms of IBL. In all approaches the teacher’s role is one of a facilitator. Given these relations between the three approaches, the research team decided that PBL was a more prescriptive form of IBL, and CBL a more focussed form of PBL, giving a nested hierarchy within the realm of active learning (Figure 2).
Why Use Case-Based Learning?Research has shown that case-based learning has been very successful at providing a context for abstract material. Cases also provide an ‘experience’ for students that can be transformed into learning through reflection or experimentation. Case-based learning has been linked with the effective development of critical thinking, problem solving, clinical reasoning and analysis, which in turn are characteristics of a deep approach to learning. It also can be used to facilitate a model of self-directed and reflective learning that serves students very well in future courses and careers. (Dunne and Brooks, 2004).
- Herreid, C. F. (2007). Start with a story: The case study method of teaching college science. NSTA Press.