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S. Alisauskiene, L. Milteniene, J. Valuckiene

Siauliai University (LITHUANIA)
The significant change in education in general and in higher education in particular has been obvious in post-soviet countries, including Lithuania, in the last two decades. The most evident characteristics of change in higher education is a paradigm shift from teaching towards learning and collaboration with the student at the centre. The shift from teaching to learning requires new teaching methods and strategies. The use of, and evidence behind, three related student-centred approaches to teaching has grown significantly over the past decades: problem-based learning (PBL), inquiry-based learning (IBL) and undergraduate research (Hudspith and Jenkins, 2001). IBL is a method of teaching that puts the student at the centre through a focus on real problem solving through collaborative effort. It is both an individual and a group process whilst receiving support from an experienced teacher.

Authors aimed to explore the experiences of students and university teachers while applying an inquiry-based approach to Master’s study programmes in the social field. We present an experience of application of IBL as an umbrella method to disclose approaches to learning that are driven by a process of inquiry. The present piece of research deals with the theoretical analysis of inquiry method as an opportunity to realise engaging curriculum, including the three dimensions: to know, to act, to be (Barnet, Coate, 2006), and the analysis of the experience while applying an IBL in three Master’s study programmes: special teacher education, economics and management.

The research methodology was based on a case study of Siauliai University (Lithuania). The reflections of participants have been used as a method for data collection. The data has been collected in a two academic year period: 2012-2013 and 2014-2015. The students and the teachers of the three study programmes (special teacher education, economics and management) took part in the research.

An analysis of the data reveals that the engagement of students into IBL requires much more field-related knowledge from students, their competence to explore, also their values and attitudes related to a particular professional field and inter-professional cooperation.

Students put stress on the inquiry-based learning as a method allowing:
a) to know through finding a right theory by themselves in order to make a decision;
b) to act while discussing in peer groups, listening to others, sharing information, interpretations and responsibilities, learning from each other;
c) to be by having a freedom to self-expression and self-confidence.

In order to maintain the student-centred approach and students’ personal experiences, a teacher needs to adjust and / or to use a new structure and content of the curriculum. Teachers put the stress on the issue that they need to be well prepared to use the IBL method, and to know how to play the role of the facilitator. Learning from own experience and also from students’ experience has been emphasised as one of the most valuable and at the same time one of the most challenging issues in the inquiry-based learning.