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A conceptual understanding of research traditions underpinning inquiry based teaching practices

Shanmugavalli Narayanan

The overarching objective of this paper is to describe the conceptual and epistemologicalunderstanding of inquiry-based teaching practice and study how constructivism underpins inquiry. In a learning context, inquiry plays a vital role in developing students’ conceptual understanding and critical thinking, thus emphasizing the importance of this discourse in this paper. Inquiry-based pedagogical approach involves active learning and application of constructed knowledge. In particular, inquiry-oriented pedagogical practice supports active engagement of students in their learning by encouraging them to: formulate questions, design investigations, test hypotheses, record observations, and draw inferences from data.The conceptual understanding of inquiry in this paper are described by analyzing research articles to illuminate how this pedagogy plays a vital role in developing students’ conceptual understanding and critical thinking.The epistemological underpinning is delineated by drawing on the philosophy and research concepts of constructivists.Constructivism is a pedagogical reaction to didactic approaches such as traditional and transmissionist instructional models where the teacher is expected to transmit knowledge and students are viewed as passive recipients of knowledge. On the other hand, constructivism asserts that learning is an active process. Notably, constructivism advocates that knowledge is constructed based on learners’ personal experiences, prior knowledge, and active engagement through social negotiations rather than acquiring it passively. Specifically, this paperdiscusses constructivism as conceptualized by Piaget, Vygotsky and Von Glasersfeld and illustrates how constructivism underpins inquiry.

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