Fostering inquiry-based learning with embedded generative and retrieval activities

Constructing elaborate and lasting knowledge is a crucial endeavor in inquiry-based teaching. However, empirical research has indicated that students need support when constructing mental representations, which can be applied across different contexts and can result in lasting learning. Generative learning activities and retrieval activities are discussed to contribute to elaborating and consolidating processes, thereby evoking rich mental representations and lasting learning. How these activities should be combined and how they should be embedded into larger instructional units to maximize the construction and consolidation of lasting knowledge are still open questions.
In this research project, we will blend domain-general cognitive science research and subject-specific science education (physics) to shed light on the effectiveness of generative and retrieval activities in the context of inquiry-based teaching. The first aim of this project is to investigate whether combining different generative activities (explaining to fictitious others and drawing) enhances the construction of rich mental representations during inquiry learning. The second aim is to investigate whether consolidation processes during activities can be further improved by integrating principles of lasting learning. Therefore, we investigate effects of spacing and the effects of supplementing generative activities by retrieval practice on learning. We will conduct three classroom experiments (Grade 7 and 8 physics students) with a pre- posttest design, including an immediate and an eight-week delayed posttest to answer these research questions. In addition to students’ learning outcomes, we will analyze their explanations and drawings to portray the underlying learning processes.

Keywords: learning by explaining; drawing; retrieval practice; inquiry-based learning


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Lachner, A., Hoogerheide, V., van Gog, T., & Renkl, A. (2022). Learning-by-teaching without audience presence or interaction: When and why does it work? Educational Psychology Review, 34, 575–607.

Ainsworth, S. E., & Scheiter, K. (2021). Learning by drawing visual representations: Potential, purposes, and practical implications. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 30(1), 61-67.

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