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Inquiry Based Learning in History Essay

History is the process of learning the past events, through the evaluation, analysis and development of specific historical concepts. The understanding and awareness of history is vital for prosperity and development of any civilized society. The 7-10 Curriculum is notable for studying the Australian history more so in the context of the rest of the world, with a strong focus on the relevance of the local history (Taylor, 2012).

It is also in this curriculum that inquiry based focus gets the most attention. Up until 1960s, the traditional method of teaching and learning information was through repetition and memorization of information in history manuals, textbooks, and other educational materials. However, in the 60s, a new pedagogical method was introduced to the Australian academia, which had a very different approach compared to other learning methods.

Rather than study, assess, and absorb ready-made data from textbooks, this new method, called inquiry-based learning, focused on students constructing their own knowledge, and integrating novel ideas into the already established frameworks of thought in their minds. This is achieved by the teacher working with the students, usually through active discussion, negotiation, and questioning of ideas and points of view, in direct contrast to how ideas are treated in the traditional teaching approaches (Reynolds, 2012).

The aim here is to not only enrich the amount of a students’ historical knowledge, but to also teach them how to think critically and to analyze the causes and consequences of the historical topics studied (Teaching history using an inquiry model, n.d.).

The use of inquiry-based learning implies a number of attributes, which define the process and the interactions that take place during the study. It allows students to develop skill sets and critical thinking, create the conditions for deeper and more long-term learning by building on prior knowledge and experiences, social interaction, the use of “hands-on” learning activities and exploration of new perspectives

In practices, in history classes, and especially in primary classrooms, these attributes help students to frame and focus their questions, efficiently locate, organize and analyze evidence, evaluate the available data, and synthesize and reporting conclusions ,and, finally, consider consequences and outcomes of assessed situations (Gilbert & Hoepper, 2014). Under this approach, the students are encouraged to use historical inquiry skill, which means using valid academic sources, providing and fact-checking evidence for their arguments (Reynolds, 2014).

The aim and rationale of the historical curriculum is to achieve functional lifelong learning, an extensive awareness of both the local and world history, and understanding of events, political and ideological movements, societies, and developments that have shaped the world as it currently is. The Australian Curriculum: History also attempts to ensure that students develop a good understanding of the various historical concepts, such as change, continuity, cause and effect, evidence, and the others, and will be able to use them both when responding for the subject and in everyday speech.

These goals have been addressed in the new syllabus, as it was introduced in schools around the county. While many changes were minor compared to the HSIE K–6 Syllabus, the inquiry based learning received much more solid ground in the new curriculum, and its role was properly reflected in. This leads to the teaching system being a compromise between the teacher- and student-centered study, where the teachers take the roles of guides for students and the curriculum accounts for the additional freedoms given to the students, directing them towards discoveries, discussion, and deeper learning.

In particular, in primary classes, a lot of attention is focused at the students relating and discussing progressively more complex information on their own, beginning with their family heritage, eventually moving on to the changes in the community over time, the effects of British Colonization, while at the same time the teacher requires them to first demonstrate skills of historical inquiry and communication, and eventually to be able apply these skills in practice (Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW, 2012).

The inquiry skills are applicable to most of the topics on the curriculum and are nowadays vital in the learning of the core areas of the subject: Chronology of events, Historical questions and research, Analysis and use of sources, Perspectives and interpretations, and Explanation and communication.

Furthermore, as the students improve understanding of these areas through traditional class work as well as inquiry based learning, students’ cognitive, research, social, affective, and communication skills also inevitably improve, along with their confidence.. It is important to understand that all of the attributes are interconnected and interdependent, and are very useful in the educational process.

They improve and develop as students rely on them more in inquiry discussion sessions, making students progressively more adept at the subject and the learning process in general. Through mastering these skills, students are encouraged to be active and informed citizens (Gilbert & Hoepper, 2014; 7–10 History, 2016).

Inquiry helps students observe and analyze historical events from different perspectives, which allows them to assess information critically. This is very important for both deep and long-term learning, because historically few events and movements can truly be considered one-sided (Teaching history from various perspectives, n.d.). It is very important that students do not grow accustomed to perceiving history as a fully explored and verified entity. History presents many opportunities for reconsideration and revaluation, which works very well with the inquiry learning.

In class, inquiry is always used in the format of questions. This approach puts students into the position of historical detectives, forcing them to search for answers to the questions and reconsider their views on the different historical situations, while also creating a clear learning objective for the students. Usually, there is a “key inquiry questions” which summarizes the objective of the class, and which is further developed through additional questions. And what is even more important, inquiry facilitates conceptual development, which has now become the key attribute of the history education.

As we cans see, inquiry based learning plays a very significant role in the learning of history. Rather than “force-feed” students ready-made knowledge, it instead encourages them to engage with the material in a discussion. Obviously, inquiry cannot serve as the basis of the whole lesson, and requires the lecturer to step in and introduce data in a much more traditional manner. But once the students are given a chance to participate in the group discussion and analysis of the topic, their mental facilities start functioning better, and they get more engaged with the material, and tend to absorb the information much better and much more effectively.

As this would imply, such an emphasis has been placed on learning through inquiry in history because it makes students much more efficient at mastering their curriculum.


7–10 History. (2016). Web.

Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW. (2012). History K-10 syllabus Vol 1 History K – 6.Sydney, Australia: Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards New South Wales

Reynolds, R. (2012).’Inquiry learning.’ In Teaching history, geography and SOSE in the primary school. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Reynolds, R. (2014).’History.’ In : Teaching humanities and social sciences in the primary school. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press

Gilbert,R. & Hoepper, B. (2014). Teaching Humanities and social sciences. History, geography, economics and citizenship in the Australian Curriculum. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage learning.

Taylor, T. (2012). ‘ Why history matters.’ In D. Boon, C. Fahey, J. Kriewaldt & T. Taylor, Place and time: explorations in teaching geography and history. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W : Pearson Education Australia

Teaching history using an inquiry model. (n.d). Web.

Teaching history from various perspectives. (n.d). Web.

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