Inquiry-based learning

Queen's 2021 Draft Student Learning Plan (PDF 624 KB) proposes that Queen’s University should make inquiry-based learning the signature student learning experience. The Plan describes it as an "opportunity that brings students from diverse disciplines together in interdisciplinary teams to focus as a team on solving a “wicked idea” in the community. By a “wicked idea,” we mean an idea that is of important social, economic, political or cultural influence that has impact on others’ lives in the community. It may include something like “homelessness in Kingston,” a particular climate issue for a community in Eastern Ontario, or an issue facing correctional facilities in the area. The issue does not have to be profound and could be entirely local in scope. It may be an ‘experimental’ structure, a conception, or a ‘what if.’ The aim is not necessarily to solve the idea entirely (or indeed at all), but to engage students in the practice of identifying and taking ownership of the idea, rehearsing best practices for collaboration, identifying opportunities for meaningful community engagement, and implementing imaginative approaches to problem-solving."

A summary of the core elements of an inquiry-based learning experience are described in the Plan.

  1. Learning to learn: learners develop the skills to problem-solve, engage with diverse ideas and perspectives, lead a project, collaborate, and communicate 
  2. Learning by doing: learners work on an impactful idea that they can see and experience and that matters to others in the community, and by doing so in a team-based environment
  3. Decision-making in learning: learners make choices in an inclusive, pedagogically sound fashion 
  4. Undisciplined learning: learners work in teams across disciplines and consider new ways of seeing problems including decolonizing approaches and embracing Indigenous ways of knowing.
  5. Collaboration and learning leadership: learners work in multidisciplinary teams of smaller groups for an impactful teambuilding and leadership experience
  6. Community impact: learners have opportunities to engage with the Eastern Ontario community and make a difference by bringing the university into the community
  7. Breaking down learning silos: learners are exposed to other disciplines beyond their initial programs at an early yet crucial time in learning 
  8. Open inquiry mindset: learners honing skills to engage with real intellectual change, differing world views and with diversity through team-based community projects
  9. Engaged learner experience: learners are invited to chart their own learning journeys without topics and structure being imposed and where their voices and experiences are respected
  10. Current and timely issues: project ideas are responsive to societal needs
  11. Learning from and through diversity: learners are empowered to engage with ideas, people, and places that reflect the diversity of our communities

Queen's Draft Plan - Research & Teaching Interdependence (PDF 245 KB) also outlines the need for greater integration of research in the undergraduate experience. Examples of inquiry-based learning at Queen's are described in Inquiry-Based Learning and Undergraduate Research: Approaches and Resources (PDF 951 KB).