Introduction to an Innovation in Our Department:

Inquiry Groups at UNC Chapel Hill School of Education

What is the issue we are trying to address?

There are two issues we are trying to address: 1) more opportunities for intellectual engagement around faculty and student selected topics related to education, and 2) more opportunities for research experience. An inquiry group brings together individuals interested in a particular topic. The goal is to more fully engage graduate students in the intellectual life of the School of Education (SOE). Some groups require hands-on research while others focus on intellectual discussions and writing.

How do we know that this is an issue?

Inquiry groups in the UNC-CH School of Education came about as a result of the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate. As part of this initiative, a committee of students and faculty has been meeting twice a month since Fall 2002 to discuss ways to improve the Education PhD program at UNC-CH. Through these discussions it became clear that students could benefit from more hands-on research experience as well as formalized opportunities to engage in intellectual discussions about topics of interest outside the classroom.

What is the change or innovation that is intended to address this issue?

A call for inquiry group proposals was distributed to faculty and doctoral students in Spring 2004, and 14 inquiry groups were offered in Fall 2004. The groups are open to all School of Education (SOE) masters and doctoral students. A group may be qualitative, quantitative, analytical, or philosophical in nature or some combination thereof. An inquiry group should meet regularly and should eventually lead to scholarly products (data collection, presentation, proposals, publications, etc.) for both faculty and graduate students.

Inquiry Groups at UNC SOE
This is a link to the website that was created for students to gain access to the information about the inquiry groups offered.

Why did we select that approach?

Through several discussions we considered a variety of ways to achieve our goals. Some of the proposed suggestions included: making hands-on research part of the requirements, eliminating core courses and replacing them with research groups, having more topic centered socials, and promoting group independent studies on topics of interest.

We decided on "inquiry groups" for several reasons: 1) they could be implemented almost immediately, 2) they would allow students more choice in fulfilling their specific needs, 3) faculty could propose projects that they already work on as part of their research, and 4) they could be viewed as an experiment without changing the existing course structure.

What is the intended effect of the innovation?

The intended effects include:

  • creating community
  • engagment with intellectual work
  • production (articles, proposals, presentations, etc.)
  • learning about inquiry/research

  • What data or evidence will demonstrate the effect of our innovation?

    Within the CID committee, we decided as a group that what we most want to know about the inquiry groups is: 1) was it worthwhile for students?, 2) was it worthwhile for faculty?, and 3) was it a meaningful experience? For our evaluation, we will ask each inquiry group participant including faculty to write 4 paragraphs about their experiences in relation to the four categories mentioned above: 1) creating community, 2) engagement with intellectual work, 3) production, and 4) learning about inquiry/research. The first evaluation will be conducted at the end of Fall semester 2004.

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