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Top Ten Benefits of Education Rooted in Inquiry and Collaboration

Inquiry Friday, 03 Mar 2023

One of the most compelling educational research findings of the 21st Century to date speaks to how education rooted in inquiry and collaboration maximizes student learning for all. As Brigid Barron and Linda Darling-Hammond have noted in edutopia, “Today’s students will enter a market that values skills and abilities far different from the traditional workplace talents that so ably served their parents and grandparents. They must be able to crisply collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then conduct targeted research and work with others to employ their newfound knowledge.” (2008).

What was in the first decade of this century a growing body of research supporting inquiry- and project-based collaborative learning is now, in 2023, approaching a definitive conclusion. NPES’ long-standing approach to learning as active and collaborative questioning, researching, creating, and sharing is more timely than ever, central to the success our students experience in high school and beyond. Among the most important findings is that students who learn in this way:

  1. Excel in challenging higher-order complex tasks
  2. Develop a deeper conceptual understanding in the subjects they study
  3. Learn to think critically, creatively, and flexibly
  4. Self-advocate and ask questions to deepen their learning
  5. Listen more carefully and integrate new ideas into their own thinking
  6. Develop resilience for ambiguity, uncertainty, complexity, and struggle
  7. Apply prior learning to new situations and problems
  8. Thrive as a member of a problem-solving team, contributing and helping others contribute, too
  9. Express themselves effectively and confidently in a variety of ways, acquiring strong communication skills
  10. Develop empathy and cultural competence through working closely toward common goals with others who differ from them in identity, life experience, and perspective

This top-ten list is not exhaustive of all the benefits inherent in inquiry-based learning like that curated by our exceptional teachers at NPES, but it is powerful. I see these qualities alive throughout our school and in students I interact with everyday, and I hear from our alumni how these skills–even more than the considerable subject-matter content they mastered–have positioned them for success. An approach to teaching and learning that focuses on curiosity, deep questioning, seeking conceptual understanding, and collaborating with others to create something useful, inclusive, and meaningful to all engaged students enthusiastically in the learning process, and it is this joyful engagement that is at the heart of the NPES program.