What is IBL?
...and why should I be interested?
IBL = Inquiry Based Learning
It's often easier to describe IBL in terms of what it's not. It´s not sitting in a cosy lecture theatre being spoon-fed information. It´s about thinking outside the box, creating new and exciting ideas to enhance your learning process. This approach enables independent, original thinking, giving you marketable and useful skills that can be applied in the outside world.
It is more than likely that you have experienced IBL as part of your degree program without even realising it. Some modules on your course may be entirely centred on IBL with specific aims and tasks. However, other degrees may incorporate IBL more subtly in your seminars, tutorials, laboratory or field work.
Video: what is IBL? The student view
CILASS exists because the Higher Education Funding Council for England has recognised existing excellence in IBL at the University of Sheffield, awarding it a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Based on the first floor of the Information Commons, the CILASS centre works to promote and improve IBL within the Arts and Social Sciences.
CILASS is working with staff to locate IBL as an essential pivot between teaching methods and students' learning/response, making IBL the heart that beats beneath the University experience.
Video: what is IBL? The CILASS view
Why should I be interested in IBL?
There are plenty of reasons why IBL should be an integral part of learning at University - to name just one, it often makes the learning process more interesting and stimulating, and that can't be a bad thing!
Of course, traditional lectures are essential, and indeed can feature IBL learning techniques. However, Inquiry Based Learning tends to place the focus upon the student as the active participant, encouraging you to explore your chosen subject yourself. As such, IBL often takes place outside the lecture theatre or classrooms.
For example, in the Russian and Slavonic Studies Department, a new idea this year is for Final Year students, who have just returned from their Year Abroad, to make a short documentary video which we will then show to the Level Two students who will go away this year, to encourage and reassure them about their coming adventures. This activity encourages students to think about their experiences, and ask themselves, "What did I need to know a year ago? How could I present this information in a way that my coursemates will understand?"
This has met with success in our department - people can't wait to get their hands on a camera, and start filming! But this isn't just about playing around with a video camera - we will be learning useful transferrable skills such as film editing, deciding what infomration is essential, and what information can be put to one side. And of course, it will help out those students about to embark upon their travels.
There are an increasing number of modules and courses throughout the university (such as Slavonic Studies) that have been designed with IBL in mind. However, even if your course is not one of those, Inquiry Based Learning in probably used often than you realise. For example, when you're asked to pick a topic and research it without being spoon-fed, the focus is on your own inquisitiveness, and thus that is a form of IBL.
Inquiring further into something obviously deepens your understanding, and that can be very rewarding, but it could be even more rewarding if you went about your research in a different way. For example, think about collaborative teamwork - it can be much more interesting talking with other people about the topic you are looking into, and as the saying goes "two heads are better than one" - but more than two heads are even better!
There are many forms of IBL, but the emphasis is always on the fact that you should go out there and get motivated and interested in what you're researching!