A study of students' inquiry-based I-Search learning experiences
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Inquiry-based learning has triggered interest among educational researchers and practitioners for a long time, for it is a promising teaching and learning method that makes learning more meaningful and conducive to higher-order thinking and active knowledge construction. Inquiry-based learning is not easy to adopt, because it emphasizes that students construct their own knowledge through actively engaging in their learning process. Therefore, most students feel challenged by this learning approach. A precondition to solving this problem is to have substantive knowledge about students’ inquiry-based learning experiences, which is lacking in the relevant literature. My study was designed to fill this gap in the literature by providing rich descriptions of students’ inquiry-based learning experiences under a specific inquiry model, I-Search. Five research questions were investigated: (a) How do students choose their I-Search topics? (b) How do students generate their I-Search questions? (c) How do students explore information related to their I-Search topics? (d) How do students respond to their collected information? (e) How do students present their I-Search findings? A generic qualitative approach for this study was employed. Six students volunteered to participate in the study. In-depth interviews and documents created by participants were the main data sources. An abduction, a combination of inductive and deductive analysis approach, was used for data analysis. The study found that students were able to use various strategies to determine their I-Search topics. They also utilized multiple methods to generate their essential questions and sub-questions. In addition, they employed different ways and criteria to explore relevant information and made various responses to their collected information. Individual and contextual issues and two-step methods influenced the format and content of participants’ final products. The findings also showed that multiple instructional interventions were needed to support students’ learning along different I-Search stages. Finally, the study suggested a series of specific scaffolds that could be provided to support successful inquiry-based I-Search learning. Further research directions were also discussed in this study.