Below is the curated collection of ten resources which all add insights to the main question posed:
What are the specific considerations for Neurodiverse Learners in the Inquiry Learning Process?
Please click here or on the image below to visit the collection on Scoop.it for a summary of resources.
I lead this curation of resources about Inquiry Learning and Neurodiversity with this post from the blog 366 Days of Autism . It explains in real world terms how new education policies or directions can leave portions of learners in the wake of their hype. The author questions the ability of her son with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to successfully participate in Inquiry Learning activities in his classroom due to his neurology. The role of parent voice in agency for their child, who is not able to advocate for him/herself, is very valid and reminds us to listen to all stakeholders in the education outcomes. This is not a scholarly article or peer-reviewed research study, but it perfectly positions the question of whether Inquiry Learning can be an exclusionary practice in a very defined social context.
The second resource in this curated collection introduces altruistic and nonaltruistic mindsets (and correlating realistic and autistic reasoning) and their role in the Inquiry Learning process. This study tested the ability of neurodiverse learners to arrive at logical outcomes throughout a STEM-based inquiry learning exercise entitled “The Wright Brothers”. It showed dramatically different outcomes for autistic thinkers (illogical) and realistic thinkers (logical). This study confirms the legitimacy of questioning whether Inquiry Learning is an exclusionary practice for neurodiverse students. It is important to my question as it introduces psychological and neuropsychological profiles to the Inquiry Learning discussion and the significance of ‘ability’ to learning outcomes. NB: Link to Editor’s Paywall provided.
The third resource in this curated collection brings cognitive ability and skills required for Inquiry Learning into very sharp focus. The authors of this paper propose that arguments supporting the merits of Inquiry Learning rest on the critical assumption that students already possess the cognitive ability and skills that enable them to engage in these activities with successful learning outcomes. However, if students lack the necessary cognitive skills and abilities required, Inquiry Learning could in fact be counterproductive, resulting in frustration and feelings of hopeless at trying to understand the world. Again this study supports my question of whether Inquiry Learning can marginalise neurodiverse students who possess a different suite of cognitive skills and abilities.
(2000). The Development of Cognitive Skills To Support Inquiry Learning. Cognition and Instruction: Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 495-523. doi: 10.1207/S1532690XCI1804_3
This text examines the role of induction (the ability to make general rules based on a number of observations) in the Inquiry Learning process and differentiates induction abilities in students with and without learning disabilities (LD). It showed students with a LD displayed significant weaknesses on some aspects of induction and a substantial proportion (28%) never made the correct induction independently. The authors suggest that additional support will be necessary if students have a neurodiversity impacting on learning ability when using induction in the Inquiry Learning process. NB: Click on .pdf file to go to publisher’s Pay Wall.
This article warns against the notion that technologies will create a level-playing field for neurodiverse students in the Inquiry Learning process. The authors stress that while educators want to shift to student-centered learning activities, the research does not support full-inquiry learning for students with disabilities, especially those who lack expressive language skills. They advise: when planning lessons, teachers must focus on how technology supports instructional practice.
If the neurodiverse learner cannot participate fully in the Inquiry Learning process without scaffolding, what form should that scaffolding take? This seventh resource is a qualitative study providing evidence of meaningful inquiry-based learning taking place with minimal or no teacher support. The authors supposed that the reason behind the students’ engagement in deep and meaningful learning lies mainly in the design of the courses that facilitated student-to-student support. However, successful learning was predicated on students being motivated to achieve learning goals, have regulatory skills and a willingness to collaborate with their peers in order for deep and meaningful learning to take place, all of which can provide challenges for neurodiverse students.
The previous resource in this curation describes “motivation to achieve learning goals” as fundamental to the Inquiry Learning process. What, how, when, where and how students learn might be variables but the static non-negotiable end-point is that something has been learned. This eighth resource is a qualitative study which showed neurodiverse students were impaired in their comprehension of the process and intention of teaching and learning and their performance was correlated with the cognitive domain of Theory of Mind.
This article contrasts Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, and Inquiry Learning. ABA is often touted as the best-known educational strategy for autism and strong evidential support. ABA uses reinforcements in structured environments to encourage learning, which is diametrically opposed to student-directed Inquiry Learning. If classrooms are moving to a student-centred learning environment, is it too divisive to also include existing proven strategies at odds to the new pedagogy. Is inclusion the loser at the end?
The ninth resource in this curation is a thought-provoking blog on developing self-advocacy in Neurodiverse learners and how this might play out in an Inquiry Learning environment. Collaboration, and its accompanying social skills, may form part of the Inquiry Learning process in student bodies and neurodivergent learners bring their own levels of social abilities to this process. An alternative to teaching (coercing) the neurodivergent learner to confirm to the social norms of the group, is the concept of helping others understand the unique social and communication skills of the neurodivergent learner which may add to the richness of the learning environment for all students.
I end this curation with an article that hopefully leads you, the reader, to ask your own questions about Inquiry Learning and Neurodiversity. The author warns about relying on a reductive notion of cognitive skills and abilities required for Inquiry Learning, such as perseverance, self-management, flexibility, resilience, and creativity – all of which present challenges for certain neurodivergent learners. However, the author also posits that the end result of the Inquiry Learning process is not the development of skills but rather that “meaning” that was added throughout the process via the interjection of “character, social meaning, and aspects of emotional intelligence”. Are neurotypical learners able to work with neurodiverse learners who present idiosyncratic versions of all of these aspects of personality?
Mapping the Journey
Audet, R. and L. Jordan (2008) Integrating inquiry across the curriculum. Heatherton, VIC: Hawker Brownlow. p. 14
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004) Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services, 2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT.
Feature Image: AVN Photo Lab (no date), Landscape With Large Woodpile In The Summer Forest From Sawn Old Big Pine And Spruce De-barked Logs For Forestry Industry [photograph]. Retrieved 1 September 2016 from www.shutterstock.com