The case for inquiry

The one-sided use of cognitive science in mathematics education has begun to reach disturbing levels in some areas of the UK.  Many proponents of techniques linked to cognitive science, such as 'I do, we do, you do' and 'silent teacher', have an aversion to inquiry. So much so, in fact, that schools have started to ban inquiry from classrooms, even when teachers want to use inquiry approaches.

As one executive headteacher of three London secondary schools said in discussion with a teacher, "Inquiry learning is a big no-no." His schools have a highly traditional approach to teaching and an oppressive culture. 

The schools are part of a 90-school multi-academy trust (MAT) that illustrates the trend in the UK. A decade ago, the MAT invited Inquiry Maths to run a workshop at a conference it organised at its flagship school. Now the MAT's maths advisers spend their time rooting out any sign of inquiry.

On this page, we have collected together articles and blog posts that address the fashion for using cognitive load theory and evolutionary psychology to justify draconian and authoritarian practices. And in an attempt to redress the balance, we make the case for inquiry.

Is the success of inquiry a myth?

The post addresses the contention from three academics that the effectiveness of inquiry learning is a myth.

Is Inquiry Maths dangerous?

The post responds to Craig Barton's criticism that Inquiry Maths is inefficient and a 'bad thing' in his first book.

Is cognitive science the only way?

The article proposes a more appropriate field of psychology on which to build a blended classroom practice.

Is Direct Instruction better?

The post compares Naveen Rizvi's use of a prompt in Direct Instruction to it use in an inquiry classroom.

Are the new approaches inclusive?

The article contends that cognitive science promotes exclusionary practices and discusses an alternative based on inquiry.

Are small steps essential?

The article contrasts the 'path-smoothing' small steps approach to 'challenging' inquiry and student-led learning.