Inquiry Led Learning in International Perspective: A study of the PYP Exhibition in 5 countries

Year: 2016

Author: Medwell, Jane, Bailey, Lucy, Cooker, Lucy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper is an exploration of how inquiry led learning can be adapted for cultural context across contrasting national settings. Drawing on a conception of inquiry-led learning as collaborative and constructive of knowledge (Bacon & Matthews, 2014; Lüddecke, 2015), and Thomas and Brown’s (2011) suggestion that it is particularly relevant in our fast-evolving world, this paper asks to what extent inquiry-led learning is embedded in Western ‘cultures of learning’ (Jin & Cortazzi, 2006), and examines the ways in which it fits with other approaches to education. This paper’s exploration of inquiry-led learning is based on data collected from a research project examining the impact of the ‘Exhibition’ of the International Baccalaureate Organisation’s (IBO) Primary Years Programme (PYP). The PYP is implemented in 1266 primary schools in 106 countries (IBO, 2015), and culminates in the PYP Exhibition, an extended piece of inquiry-led learning conducted by 10-12 year olds on an issue of their choice. This paper reports on the factors that facilitate and inhibit this form of learning in four different countries across four continents – Kenya, Russia, China, UK and Mexico. The data collected for this study include a survey of students in seven case-study schools following the PYP, as well as focus groups with 8-10 students in each school. Interviews with parents, teachers and curriculum leaders complement this student data to enable the contrasting views of different stakeholders about inquiry-led learning to be explored. The paper concludes with a consideration the ways in which the notion of inquiry is adapted to contrasting cultural settings.