Building a Canadian Engaged Inquiry Network

Principal Investigator: Rob Wilson, University of Alberta

[Submitted Proposal]


This project will create a national network that explores, assesses, and promotes inquiry-based teaching practices in Canadian universities, schools, and informal learning environments. Focusing on teacher education, student learning outcomes, and community engagement, this network will initially consolidate existing strengths in inquiry-based pedagogy in Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta. It will also foster emerging interests in this pedagogy in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan before expanding nationally.

The educational power of engaged inquiry using philosophical dialogue is internationally recognized (Millett & Tapper, 2011; UNESCO, 2007). This network will establish best practices for engaged inquiry and associated participatory research methodologies. By encouraging local researchers in education and philosophy to collaborate on engaged inquiry, it will enhance the ability of Canadian schools and other sites of learning to facilitate core competencies that play a key role in students acquiring transferable thinking, social, and communicative skills requisite for success in school and work. These competencies promote intellectual dispositions and personal tendencies recently recognized in several Canadian curriculum initiatives as critical for life-long learning.

The project will concentrate in particular on engaged inquiry practices. Such practices engage students in three senses: by engaging student interests and experiences through dialogical exchange; by engaging students in peer-constituted communities of inquiry; and by engaging student learning experiences with life beyond the classroom. Project team members have expertise using novels and other evocative objects as a basis for structured, open-ended dialogue and philosophical reflection that promote students’ critical, creative, collaborative, and communicative skills. By encouraging a curious disposition in students, engaged inquiry promotes individual and collaborative learning, and inculcates a drive towards meaningful life-long learning among students and researchers. Through (i) specific research pathways created by team members, and (ii) innovative community outreach and knowledge mobilization, the project will develop and test the hypothesis that best practices in engaged inquiry advance teacher education and improve student learning outcomes and experiences.

A national “engaged inquiry network” of researchers, students, teachers, principals, and community organizations is the key to consolidating and expanding engaged inquiry in and beyond the Canadian education system. Two developments make this project timely: 1) The growing presence of engaged inquiry in teacher education and Canadian schools. For example, in secondary schools in Ontario, philosophy is an established teachable subject; Manitoba has recently followed suit. Elementary schools in Quebec and Alberta incorporate engaged inquiry into existing programs, and BC and Saskatchewan have rapidly expanding interests in such inquiry. 2) The emphasis in 21st-century learning on competency-based programs used in several provincial ministries, including Alberta Education (Inspiring Education, 2010) and the BC Ministry of Education (BC’s Education Plan, 2013).

Network activities will enhance engaged inquiry in students, teachers, and Canadian communities. The network will: 1) oversee and coordinate research that more fully explores and assesses the educational benefits of engaged inquiry practices, especially for core competencies, 2) promote ongoing innovations in the delivery of engaged inquiry, 3) facilitate the sharing and integration of resources crucial to successfully implementing engaged inquiry programs, and 4) offer crucial mentoring for students and teachers utilizing engaged inquiry.

Engaged Philosophical Inquiry and the Cultivation of Pro-sociality and Social Responsibility.

If this network will be funded, in 2015 Drs. Barbara Weber and Kim Schonert-Reichl will study the impact of EPI on social responsibility and the sense of communal duty and belonging in middle school children in the Vancouver metropolitan area (Schonert-Reichl et al., 2012; Weber, 2013c).

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