Argue points you think makes sense and those you have different opinions about
What were the clearest takeaways from the articles?
What were the most confusing parts of the articles?
What new concepts or theories did you encounter?
What was the most unexpected thing you learned from the week’s readings?
Read the 3 articles below and answer the questions above.
Note please make sure to argue points.
April 2006 Journal of Engineering Education 123
MICHAEL J. PRINCE Department of Chemical Engineering Bucknell University
RICHARD M. FELDER Department of Chemical Engineering North Carolina State University
To state a theorem and then to show examples of it is literally to teach backwards.
(E. Kim Nebeuts)
Traditional engineering instruction is deductive, beginning with theories and progressing to the applications of those theories. Alternative teaching approaches are more inductive. Topics are introduced by presenting specific observations, case studies or problems, and theories are taught or the students are helped to discover them only after the need to know them has been estab- lished. This study reviews several of the most commonly used inductive teaching methods, including inquiry learning, problem- based learning, project-based learning, case-based teaching, dis- covery learning, and just-in-time teaching. The paper defines each method, highlights commonalities and specific differences, and reviews research on the effectiveness of the methods. While the strength of the evidence varies from one method to another, inductive methods are consistently found to be at least equal to, and in general more effective than, traditional deductive methods for achieving a broad range of learning outcomes.
Keywords: inductive, teaching, learning
A. Two Approaches to Education Engineering and science are traditionally taught deductively.
The instructor introduces a topic by lecturing on general princi-
ples, then uses the principles to derive mathematical models,
shows illustrative applications of the models, gives students prac-
tice in similar derivations and applications in homework, and
finally tests their ability to do the same sorts of things on exams.
Little or no attention is initially paid to the question of why any of that is being done. What real-world phenomena can the models
explain? What practical problems can they be used to solve, and
why should the students care about any of it? The only motivation
that students get—if any—is that the material will be important
later in the curriculum or in their careers.
A well-established precept of educational psychology is that
people are most strongly motivated to learn things they clearly
perceive a need to know . Simply telling students that they will
need certain knowledge and skills some day is not a particularly
effective motivator. A preferable alternative is inductive teaching and learning. Instead of beginning with general principles and eventually getting to applications, the instruction begins with
specifics—a set of observations or experimental data to interpret,
a case study to analyze, or a complex real-world problem to solve.
As the students attempt to analyze the data or scenario and solve
the problem, they generate a need for facts, rules, procedures, and
guiding principles, at which point they are either presented with
the needed information or helped to discover it for themselves.
Inductive teaching and learning is an umbrella term that en-
compasses a range of instructional methods, including inquiry
learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning, case-
based teaching, discovery learning, and just-in-time teaching.
These methods have many features in common, besides the fact
that they all qualify as inductive. They are all learner-centered (also known as student-centered), meaning that they impose more re- sponsibility on students for their own learning than the traditional
lecture-based deductive approach. They are all supported by re-
search findings that students learn by fitting new information into
existing cognitive structures and are unlikely to learn if the infor-
mation has few apparent connections to what they already know
and believe. They can all be characterized as constructivist meth- ods, building on the widely accepted principle that students con-
struct their own versions of reality rather than simply absorbing
versions presented by their teachers. The methods almost always
involve students discussing questions and solving problems in
class (active learning), with much of the work in and out of class being done by students working in groups (collaborative or cooper- ative learning). The defining characteristics of the methods and features that most of them share are summarized in Table 1.
There are also differences among the different inductive meth-
ods. The end product of a project-based assignment is typically a
formal written and/or oral report, while the end product of a
guided inquiry may simply be the answer to an interesting ques-
tion, such as why an egg takes longer to boil at a ski resort than at
the beach and how frost can form on a night when the tempera-
ture does not drop below freezing. Case-based instruction and
problem-based learning involve extensive analyses of real or hypo-
thetical scenarios while just-in-time teaching may simply call on
students to answer questions about readings prior to hearing
Inductive Teaching and Learning Methods: Definitions, Comparisons, and Research Bases
about the content of the readings in lectures. However, the
similarities trump the differences, and when variations in the im-
plementation of the methods are taken into account, many of the
differences disappear altogether.
Although we just claimed that inductive methods are essentially
variations on a theme, they do not appear that way in the litera-
ture. Each method has its own history, research base, guidebooks,
proponents, and detractors, and a great deal of confusion exists re-
garding what the methods are and how they are interrelated. Our
objective in this paper is to summarize the definitions, founda-
tions, similarities, and differences among inductive learning
methods and to review the existing research evidence regarding
Before we begin our review, we will attempt to clarify two
points of confusion that commonly arise in discussions of induc-
Is inductive learning really inductive? In practice, neither teach- ing nor learning is ever purely inductive or deductive. Like the sci-
entific method, learning invariably involves movement in both di-
rections, with the student using new observations to infer rules
and theories (induction) and then testing the theories by using
them to deduce consequences and applications that can be verified
experimentally (deduction). Good teaching helps students learn
to do both. When we speak of inductive methods, we therefore do
not mean total avoidance of lecturing and complete reliance on
self-discovery, but simply teaching in which induction precedes
deduction. Except in the most extreme forms of discovery learn-
ing (which we do not advocate for undergraduate instruction), the
instructor still has important roles to play in facilitating learning—
guiding, encouraging, clarifying, mediating, and sometimes even
lecturing. We agree with Bransford: “There are times, usually
after people have first grappled with issues on their own, that
‘teaching by telling’ can work extremely well” [2, p. 11].
Are we talking about inductive learning or inductive teaching? Is there a difference? A common point of semantic confusion associ- ated with inductive methods has to do with the distinction between
teaching and learning. Thus, for example, one hears about prob-
lem-based learning but just-in-time teaching, and both inquiry
learning and inquiry-based teaching are commonly encountered in
the literature. There is, of course, a difference between learning
(what students do) and teaching (what teachers do), but in this
paper we will never examine one without explicitly or implicitly
considering the other. The reader should therefore understand that
when we refer to “inductive learning” or to an inductive instruction-
al method with either teaching or learning in its name, we are talk-
ing about both strategies that an instructor might use (teaching) and
experiences the students might subsequently undergo (learning).
II. FOUNDATIONS OF INDUCTIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING
A. Constructivism According to the model that has dominated higher education
for centuries (positivism), absolute knowledge (“objective reality”) exists independently of human perception. The teacher’s job is to
transmit this knowledge to the students—lecturing being the nat-
ural method for doing so—and the students’ job is to absorb it. An
alternative model, constructivism, holds that whether or not there is an objective reality (different constructivist theories take opposing
views on that issue), individuals actively construct and reconstruct
their own reality in an effort to make sense of their experience.
New information is filtered through mental structures (schemata) that incorporate the student’s prior knowledge, beliefs, preconcep-
tions and misconceptions, prejudices, and fears. If the new infor-
mation is consistent with those structures it may be integrated into
124 Journal of Engineering Education April 2006
Table 1. Features of common inductive instructional methods.
them, but if it is contradictory, it may be memorized for the exam
but is unlikely to be truly incorporated into the individual’s belief
system—which is to say, it will not be learned.
Constructivism has its roots in the eighteenth-century philoso-
phies of Immanuel Kant and Giambattista Vico, although some
have traced it as far back as the fourth to sixth centuries B.C. in the
works of Lao Tzu, Buddha, and Heraclitus. The constructivist view
of learning is reflected in the developmental theories of
Piaget , Dewey , Bruner , and Vygotsky , among others.
In cognitive constructivism, which originated primarily in the work of Piaget, an individual’s reactions to experiences lead to (or fail to lead
to) learning. In social constructivism, whose principal proponent is Vygotsky, language and interactions with others—family, peers,
teachers—play a primary role in the construction of meaning from
experience. Meaning is not simply constructed, it is co-constructed.
Proponents of constructivism (e.g., Biggs ) offer variations
of the following principles for effective instruction:
● Instruction should begin with content and experiences likely
to be familiar to the students, so they can make connections
to their existing knowledge structures. New material should
be presented in the context of its intended real-world appli-
cations and its relationship to other areas of knowledge,
rather than being taught abstractly and out of context.
● Material should not be presented in a manner that requires
students to alter their cognitive models abruptly and drasti-
cally. In Vygotsky’s terminology, the students should not be
forced outside their “zone of proximal development,” the re-
gion between what they are capable of doing independently
and what they have the potential to do under adult guidance
or in collaboration with more capable peers . They should
also be directed to continually revisit critical concepts, im-
proving their cognitive models with each visit. As Bruner 
puts it, instruction should be “spirally organized.”
● Instruction should require students to fill in gaps and ex-
trapolate material presented by the instructor. The goal
should be to wean the students away from dependence on
instructors as primary sources of required information,
helping them to become self-learners.
● Instruction should involve students working together in
small groups. This attribute—which is considered desirable
in all forms of constructivism and essential in social
constructivism—supports the use of collaborative and
The traditional lecture-based teaching approach is incompati-
ble with all of these principles. If the constructivist model of learn-
ing is accepted—and compelling research evidence supports it—
then to be effective instruction must set up experiences that
induce students to construct knowledge for themselves, when
necessary adjusting or rejecting their prior beliefs and misconcep-
tions in light of the evidence provided by the experiences. This
description might serve as a definition of inductive learning.
B. Cognition Research Bransford et al.  offer a comprehensive survey of neurologi-
cal and psychological research that provides strong support for
constructivism and inductive methods. Here are some of their
● “All new learning involves transfer of information based on previous learning” [2, p. 53].
Traditional instruction in engineering and science frequently
treats new courses and new topics within courses as self-contained
bodies of knowledge, presenting theories and formulas with mini-
mal grounding in students’ prior knowledge and little or no
grounding in their experience. Inductive instruction, on the other
hand, presents new information in the context of situations, is-
sues, and problems to which students can relate, so there is a much
greater chance that the information can be linked to their existing
Since learning is strongly influenced by prior knowledge, if new
information is fully consistent with prior knowledge it may be
learned with relative ease, but if it involves a contradiction several
things may happen. If the contradiction is perceived and understood,
it may initially cause confusion but the resolution of the contradic-
tion can lead to elimination of misconceptions and greater under-
standing. However, if learners fail to understand the contradiction or
if they can construct coherent (to them) representations of the new
material based on existing misconceptions, deeper misunderstand-
ing may follow [2, p. 70]. Traditional teaching generally does little to
force students to identify and challenge their misconceptions, lead-
ing to the latter situation. The most effective implementations of in-
ductive learning involve diagnostic teaching, with lessons being de- signed to “discover what students think in relation to the problems
on hand, discussing their misconceptions sensitively, and giving
them situations to go on thinking about which will enable them to
readjust their ideas” [2, p. 134]. The proper choice of focus questions
and problems in inquiry-based, problem-based, and discovery learn-
ing methods can serve this function.
● Motivation to learn affects the amount of time students are will- ing to devote to learning. Learners are more motivated when they can see the usefulness of what they are learning and when they can use it to do something that has an impact on others [2, p. 61].
This finding supports techniques that use authentic (real-
world, professionally relevant) situations and problems to provide
contexts for learning the content and skills a course is intended to
teach. Inductive methods such as problem-based learning and
case-based teaching do this.
● The likelihood that knowledge and skills acquired in one course will transfer to real work settings is a function of the similarity of the two environments [2, p. 73].
School often emphasizes abstract reasoning while work focuses
almost exclusively on contextualized reasoning. Organizing learning
around authentic problems, projects, and cases helps to overcome
these disparities and improves the likelihood of subsequent transfer,
in addition to increasing motivation to learn as noted in the previous
item. Moreover, traditional schools differ from most work environ-
ments in that school heavily emphasizes individual work while most
work involves extensive collaboration. Assigning teams to perform
most required tasks (as most inductive methods do) thus further pro-
motes transfer, provided that the students are helped to develop
teamwork skills and the work is organized in a way that assures indi-
vidual accountability for all of the learning that takes place [8–12].
● Helping students develop metacognition—knowledge of how they learn—improves the likelihood of their transferring infor- mation learned in one context to another one [2, p. 67].
Methods that train students in systematic problem-solving
methods (generating and evaluating alternative solutions, periodi-
cally assessing progress toward the solution, extracting general
principles from specific solutions, etc.) and call on them to make
April 2006 Journal of Engineering Education 125
sense of new information, to raise questions when they cannot,
and to regularly assess their own knowledge and skill levels pro-
mote the development of metacognitive skills. Most variants of
problem-based learning include such steps.
C. Intellectual Development and Approaches to Learning Most college students undergo a developmental progression from
a belief in the certainty of knowledge and the omniscience of author-
ities to an acknowledgment of the uncertainty and contextual nature
of knowledge, acceptance of personal responsibility for determining
truth, inclination and ability to gather supporting evidence for judg-
ments, and openness to change if new evidence is forthcoming [13,
14]. At the highest developmental level normally seen in college stu-
dents (termed “contextual relativism” by Perry ), individuals dis-
play thinking patterns resembling those of expert scientists and engi-
neers. A goal of science and engineering instruction should be to
advance students to that level by the time they graduate.
In their courses, students may be inclined to approach learning
in one of three ways . Some take a surface approach, relying on rote memorization and mechanical formula substitution, making
little or no effort to understand the material being taught. Others
may adopt a deep approach, probing and questioning and exploring the limits of applicability of new material. Still others use a strate- gic approach, doing whatever is necessary to get the highest grade they can, taking a surface approach if that suffices and a deep ap-
proach when necessary. Another goal of instruction should be to
induce students to adopt a deep approach to subjects that are im-
portant for their professional or personal development.
Felder and Brent  observe that the characteristics of high
levels of intellectual development and of a deep approach to learn-
ing are essentially the same. Both contextual relativism and a deep
approach involve taking responsibility for one’s own learning,
questioning authorities rather than accepting their statements at
face value, and attempting to understand new knowledge in the
context of prior knowledge and experience. It is reasonable to as-
sume that instructional conditions that induce students to adopt a
deep approach should also promote intellectual growth.
Several conditions of instruction have been shown to promote
a deep approach, including interest and background knowledge of
the subject, use of teaching methods that foster active and long-
term engagement with learning tasks, and assessment that em-
phasizes conceptual understanding as opposed to recall or the ap-
plication of routine procedural knowledge . Well
implemented inductive teaching methods serve all of these func-
tions. Authentic problems and case studies can motivate students
by helping to make the subject matter relevant, and they also tend
to keep the students interested and actively engaged in their learn-
ing tasks. Having to analyze complex situations also promotes the
students’ adoption of a deep approach to learning, as rote memo-
rization and simple algorithmic substitution are clearly inadequate
strategies for dealing with such situations. Moreover, open-ended
problems that do not have unique well-defined solutions pose se-
rious challenges to students’ low-level beliefs in the certainty of
knowledge and the role of instructors as providers of knowledge.
Such challenges serve as precursors to intellectual growth .
D. Learning Cycle-Based Instruction Several well-known instructional models involve learning cycles,
wherein students work through sequences of activities that involve
complementary thinking and problem-solving approaches. In
most of these cycles, the different activities are designed to appeal
to different learning style preferences (concrete and abstract, ac-
tive and reflective, etc.) . When instructors teach around the cycle in this manner, all students are taught partly in a manner they prefer, which leads to an increased comfort level and willingness
to learn, and partly in a less preferred manner, which provides
practice and feedback in ways of thinking they might be inclined
to avoid but which they will have to use to be fully effective profes-
sionals. Teaching around the best known of such cycles—that
associated with Kolb’s experiential learning model —involves:
(1) introducing a problem and providing motivation for solving it
by relating it to students’ interests and experience (the focal ques-
tion is why?); (2) presenting pertinent facts, experimental observa- tions, principles and theories, problem-solving methods, etc., and
opportunities for the students to reflect on them (what?); (3) pro- viding guided hands-on practice in the methods and types of
thinking the lessons are intended to teach (how?); and (4) allow- ing and encouraging exploration of consequences and applications
of the newly learned material (what if ?). A learning cycle developed at the Vanderbilt University Learn-
ing Technology Center is the STAR Legacy module (Software Technology for Action and Reflection) , which consists of the
1. Students are presented with a challenge (problem, scenario, case, news event, or common misconception presenting the
targeted content in a realistic context) that establishes a
need to know the content and master the skills included in
the learning objectives for the module.
2. The students then formulate their initial thoughts, reflecting on what they already know and think about the context of
the challenge and generating ideas about how they might
address the challenge.
3. Perspectives and resources are provided next. Perspectives are statements by experts that offer insights into various dimen-
sions of the challenge without providing a direct solution to
it, and resources may include lectures, reading materials,
videos, simulations, homework problems, links to websites,
and other materials relevant to the challenge.
4. Assessment activities are then carried out in which the stu- dents apply what they know, and identify what they still
need to learn to address the challenge. The activities may
include engaging in self-assessments and discussions, com-
pleting homework assignments, writing essays or reports,
and taking on-line quizzes or exams. Multiple iterations be-
tween Steps 3 and 4 would normally be required to fully
meet the challenge.
5. In the final wrap-up, an expert may present a model solu- tion to the challenge, or the students may present a report
and/or complete an examination showing that they have
met the challenge and demonstrated their mastery of the
knowledge and skills specified in the learning objectives.
The Star Legacy module is a clear exemplar of an inductive ap-
proach to teaching and learning. Depending on the nature and
scope of the challenge, instruction based on such a module would
qualify as inquiry learning, project-based learning, or problem-
based learning. Similarly, learning cycles based on learning styles
that begin with the presentation of a realistic problem or a challenge
of some sort are inductive. Instruction based on learning cycles is
126 Journal of Engineering Education April 2006
consistent with accepted principles of cognitive science  and its
effectiveness has been repeatedly demonstrated empirically .
In summary, inductive approaches to teaching and learning
have much in their favor. They are supported by the best research
on learning currently available, compatible with the currently
most widely accepted theories of learning, and promote problem-
solving skills and attitudes to learning that most instructors would
say they desire for their students. Following a brief section on as-
sessment, we will examine the individual inductive methods—
what they are, what they have in common and how they differ,
and what is known about how well they succeed in achieving de-
sired educational outcomes.
III. ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION OF INDUCTIVE METHODS
Rigorous comparisons of inductive methods with traditional
expository methods are not easy to design for several reasons .
● There are many varieties of inductive approaches, each of
which can be implemented in many ways—with greater or
lesser instructor involvement, with or without formal facili-
tation of teamwork, with most of the work being done in or
out of class, and so on. Two articles may claim to be studies
of, say, problem-based learning, but they could involve dra-
matically different forms of instruction and may well pro-
duce different learning outcomes.
● Instructors may have varying degrees of experience and skill
with whichever method they adopt. Two different instruc-
tors using the same method in the same class could get dif-
● Student populations also vary considerably in distributions of
gender and ethnicity, age, experience, motivation to learn,
learning styles, and levels of intellectual development (among
others) . The same instructor could use the same method
in two different classes and get different outcomes.
● The conclusions drawn from a study may depend strongly
on the learning outcome investigated—acquisition of factual
knowledge, development of a problem-solving or interper-
sonal skill, retention in a curriculum, self-confidence level,
attitude, or any combination of these. An inductive method
may be superior with respect to one outcome and inferior
with respect to another. (We will shortly see an example of
this phenomenon in the case of problem-based learning,
which has frequently been found to lead to superior high-
level skills and attitudes but inferior short-term acquisition
of factual knowledge.) Moreover, reliable and valid assess-
ments of high-level skills such as critical or creative think-
ing or attributes such as lifelong learning skills are difficult
to obtain, and two studies that use different assessment
methods could arrive at different conclusions.
● Finally, as Prince  points out, implementations of in-
ductive approaches such as problem-based learning nor-
mally involve active and collaborative learning methods,
both of which are known to have positive effects on many
learning outcomes. If an inductive method is found to have
a positive effect, sorting out how much of it can be attrib-
uted to the method itself and how much to other methods
imbedded in it can be a formidable challenge.
Considering these difficulties, it is not surprising that pub-
lished studies report both positive and negative outcomes for in-
ductive learning relative to conventional instruction. Given the
difficulty (if not impossibility) of carrying out a clean and conclu-
sive comparative study, the best we can do is to look at results
from a number of studies with different instructors, implementa-
tions, learning outcomes, and student populations, to see if any
robust generalizations can be inferred. The sections that follow
summarize results of such meta-analyses.
IV. INQUIRY LEARNING
A. Definition and Applications Inquiry learning begins when students are presented with
questions to be answered, problems to be solved, or a set of obser-
vations to be explained . If the method is implemented effec-
tively, the students should learn to “formulate good questions,
identify and collect appropriate evidence, present results systemat-
ically, analyze and interpret results, formulate conclusions, and
evaluate the worth and importance of those conclusions .”
The same statements could also be made about problem-based
learning, project-based learning, discovery learning, certain forms
of case-based instruction, and student research, so that inquiry
learning may be considered an umbrella category that encompasses
several other inductive teaching methods. Lee makes this point,
observing that inquiry is also consistent with interactive lecture,
discussion, simulation, service learning, and independent study,
and in fact “probably the only strategy that is not consistent with
inquiry-guided learning is the exclusive use of traditional lectur-
ing” [24, p. 10]. In this paper we will use the term inquiry learning to refer to instruction that uses questions and problems to provide
contexts for learning and does not fall into another more restric-
tive inductive learning category.
Besides overlapping with other inductive methods, inquiry
learning encompasses a variety of techniques that differ from one
another in significant ways. Staver and Bay  differentiate be-
tween structured inquiry (students are gi
We are a professional custom writing website. If you have searched a question and bumped into our website just know you are in the right place to get help in your coursework.
Yes. We have posted over our previous orders to display our experience. Since we have done this question before, we can also do it for you. To make sure we do it perfectly, please fill our Order Form. Filling the order form correctly will assist our team in referencing, specifications and future communication.
2. Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER INFORMATION" section and click “PRICE CALCULATION” at the bottom to calculate your order price.
3. Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
4. Click “FINAL STEP” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
5. From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.
Need this assignment?
Order here and claim 25% off
Discount code SAVE25