Pedagogy in FYI Courses

Any pedagogy that moves students toward these objectives is a good one.

The term “Inquiry-guided learning” captures a good deal of what an appropriate pedagogy looks like. This was the term that the Council on Undergraduate Education used in its successful grant application to the Hewlett Foundation, and it has served as the anchoring concept for the Hewlett Initiative. “Inquiry-guided learning” means that the class is conducted by working toward and on questions to which students really want to know the answer. And so faculty devote time, energy and attention to arousing students’ interest and eagerness for answers and directing the students toward them. FYI courses are in the spirit of and responsive to the 1996 position statement adopted by the Council on Undergraduate Education on “Increasing Student Responsibility for, Involvement in, and Commitment to Learning.

There is no one way to do inquiry-guided learning. What works for one faculty member may not work for others. Some of the possible ways are:

  • Strategies listed on the FYI instructor help page
  • Use of a challenging text. Student-generated questions about it. Faculty-generated questions on applying it
  • Break-out group (task-oriented small group discussions)
  • Student reports
  • Student journal of observations and questions
  • Guest speaker followed by a question-and-answer session
  • Use of the language of critical thinking such as “standards of critical thinking;” differences among facts, opinions, judgments

Many faculty combine several of these strategies in every class session. They can also be effectively combined with twenty or thirty minutes of straight lecturing. Students who are developing the habit of asking questions will continue to ask questions during lectures, and lectures themselves can be structured to foster the spirit of inquiry by continuously raising questions, sometimes leaving them temporarily unanswered.