October 2018 Reigniting Curiosity & Inquiry in Higher Education: A Working Conference

This three-day working conference to be held at the University of Prince Edward Island in Fall 2018 will be the third in a series of UPEI/UCalgary co-hosted gatherings . Our goal with this third working conference is to bring together past attendees from Alberta with scholars from across
Eastern and Central Canada to expand their knowledge of inquiry-based learning in higher education (IBL-HE) and cement more diverse collaborations of researchers and practitioners. Our objectives include to provide:

a) a forum for discussion of the ways in which IBL is currently utilized in higher education,

b) alternative approaches that can be utilized,

c) resources for instructors and students designed to facilitate IBL success,

d) a virtual forum for new research collaborations to be formed and ongoing collaborations to be supported.

The purpose of inquiry as a pedagogic tool is to help students to develop the necessary skills that will enable them to explore and find answers to their central question while increasing students’ ownership of and investment in their own learning. In K-12 education IBL is linked to the development of critical thinking skills (Alberta Education, 2010), increased student engagement (Hudspith & Jenkins, 2007) and deep learning (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). We are seeking to expand those same learning benefits into post-secondary education where little research has been done (Adimoto, 2013), with a particular emphasis on the underrepresented areas of arts, humanities and social science (Yesudhas, Lalit, Josy, & Impana, 2014) by developing our understanding of inquiry not only as a pedagogical tool but as a mindset, attitude, or
“desire to inquire” that can be developed and strengthened resulting in greater life-long and life-wide learning.

We cannot assume that IBL works in the same way in higher education as it does in K-12
however given the unique constellation of circumstances presented by the university experience which make the necessary conditions for taking intellectual risks such as engaging in IBL in the higher education classroom more challenging to attain. These include short semesters (four months to one week), larger classes (30-100+ students), high stakes and outcome focus in which students and professor feel the pressure for goal achievement in the service of career development (Boyle & MacKinnon, in press; Shin & Jung, 2014), and unrealistic expectations and negative stereotypes of what learning in higher education will/should be (Bunce, Baird, & Jones, 2017; MacKinnon, 2017).

The morning sessions of the conference will focus on attendees learning about, sharing and debating the issues surrounding curiosity and inquiry in higher education, exploring their interests in inquiry-based learning and developing concrete IBL skills to implement in their courses. Afternoon sessions will provide forums for active, collaborative partnerships and planning of joint research studies and evidence-based evaluation of teaching protocols. Participants will help create an “Starting IBL in higher education” handbook, form diverse IBL research collaborations with a plan for designing and implementing their studies using a private Virtual Research Environment , and contribute to the updating of our public Project Website. We hope that this face-to-face meeting time will encourage participants to maintain their research collaborations using the VRE and meet in person again in 12-18 months to share their progress/results and to strengthen research networks and expand their collaborations.