Atomic Bombings Lesson - Practical Inquiry

This blog post is based on a previous post published on 12/5/16 called Atomic Bombings Lesson - Community of Inquiry

In a previous blog post, I used the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model to analyze an online lesson plan developed for my Virtual Teacher specialization. The lesson plan askS that students formulate their own opinions about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and share these opinions in an online discussion board.

Diving deeper into evaluation, I’m reviewing the lesson by magnifying one of CoI’s core elements: Cognitive presence. Cognitive presence is the extent that members of the CoI can find meaning through reflection and discourse. To review how Cognitive presence operates, we use the Practical Inquiry model.

What is Practical Inquiry?

The Practical Inquiry model comes from inquiry-based learning, which was developed by John Dewey in 1933. Inquiry-based learning is described as having a cycle in which a question or problem is presented, participants explore and investigate, they create a solution, and finally they discuss and reflect in connection with the solution’s results (and being cyclical, this leads to a new question or problem). 

Practical Inquiry model visualized...

Instead of forcing fact memorization, inquiry-based learning creates a more exciting learning experience. Learners are engaged through exploration, leading to questions, discoveries, and new understandings.

In 1999, D. Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson, and Walter Archer extracted the Practical Inquiry model from Deweys design as a conceptual order for computer-facilitated learning. The model has four phases:

Triggering Event – The problem, challenge, or task proposed by the instructor. (This requires problem-solving strategies be used as a way to achieve learning outcomes.)

Exploration – The process of individual reflection by learners, as well as the discourse through which problem formulation occurs. Exploration is evident in divergent thinking, exchange of information, and requests for feedback.

Integration – The process of learners reflecting individually and as a group, and reaching some convergences by connecting ideas, identifying patterns and relationships, and proposing solutions.

Resolution – The community applies and tests the solutions in real world situations. Learners defend their resolutions and the thinking that supports their resolutions.

Analyzing the Lesson Using Practical Inquiry

In the previous blog post, I described evidence of CoI’s Cognitive presence by saying “The students are asked three questions about the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In a nutshell, why did the U.S. do it? What was the destructive impact? Why is it, or isn't it, justified? The third question encourages students to reflect about the event, and form their own opinions and meaning.”

Deeper inspection of the lesson plan using Practical Inquiry reveals some lacking areas of Cognitive presence, specifically in the Integration phase.

Triggering Event: In the lesson plan, I propose three questions. Why did the U.S. drop the bomb? What was the destruction? Was is justified or not?

Exploration: Students watch the videos and read the online articles. Because of my Teaching presence, they are provided two sides of the debate from reputable sources. Based on these virtual components, students can answer the questions and reflect about the bombings. They are also encouraged to respond to other students’ opinions. 

Integration: Here is where the lesson starts lacking. Though I encourage students to respond to one another’s opinions, nothing guarantees that they will. I state that I will respond to guide learners and perhaps through my intervention I can aid in converging and connecting ideas.

Resolution: Real-world application of this type of discussion is mostly intellectual. Tangible evidence of applying this new knowledge and exploration occurs later when students express their opinions. This type of critical thinking of the bombing attacks is transferable to other historical events, and aids in the learners formulation of their own opinions and paradigms. 

Even though my lesson plan was missing reinforcement in certain levels of Cognitive presence, as exposed using the Practical Inquiry model, I know that using discussion boards for CoIs like this one is fairly common practice, whether in academic spaces or affinity spaces. The model’s cycle can commonly break off after the Resolution or even the Integration phases. Nevertheless, I think with careful instructional design these loose ends could be tied to other ends later on in a curriculum.