Learning is an essential part of life, whether it is for personal growth or for occupational advancement. The four pillars of learning are foundational in any educational setting, providing the principles and structure necessary for quality learning to occur. These four pillars are, inquiry, reflection, collaboration, and application.
By exploring each of the four quality learning pillars, we can gain insight into how they are essential in learning and the processes in which they are applied.
Inquiry is the first pillar of learning: the ability to search and investigate new and existing material to form an understanding of the material. The goal of inquiry-based learning is not to commit information to memory, but rather to understand and apply the material to everyday life and situations.
Effective questions are developed around the material and the answers uncovered through independent inquiry, or collaboration with peers or experts in the subject matter. Searching through library databases and digital archives, or through ground resources makes a great starting point for the inquiry process. Inquiry-based learning provides personal ownership of the material, as it fosters independent research, critical thinking, and an ever-increasing repertoire of knowledge.
The process of producing questions and answers to these questions is actively engaging and encourages purposeful engagement with the material. In addition to personal ownership, inquiry-based learning builds empathy and bridges gaps between knowledge, giving us understanding and appreciation of the material explored.
Reflection is the second pillar of learning: the ability to look back within previous studies and projects and comment on their process and outcome. The process of reflection is key in our development, as well as in understanding the material learned. Reflection allows us to gain better insight on how we learn, how we communicate, and how we process our thoughts on things we study.
It allows us to zoom out on our own endeavors and prepare us to analyze things objectively in future opportunities. Reflection can take place in three forms.
Reflection-on-action looks back at the outcome of a research project or assignment and considers whether the outcome was successful or not. Reflection-in-action takes place during a task or research project, where the learner actively reflects on the process of the task at hand and adjusts the process when necessary.
Lastly, reflection-for-action involves the learner looking back at the previous research project or assignment and identifying patterns, opportunities, and strategies from it and applying them to their current task and research.
Collaboration is the third pillar of learning: the ability to collaborate with peers, experts, resources, and technology to form a more cohesive understanding of the material at hand. teamWith this type of learning, multiple people come together to share ideas, brainstorm and challenge each other’s ideas, and in the end form a more comprehensive understanding of the subject. Through collaboration, learners can build avenues of communication and relationships with peers, while developing their own ideas and understanding.
Collaborative learning brings communities together, gives learners multiple perspectives into a topic, and helps them build on their knowledge of the world, while spreading mutual understanding and respect within their learning community. Groups also allow learning to extend beyond the classroom and connect learners globally.
Communicating with like-minded resources and peers allows for new, innovative ideas to be generated and a broad range of topics to be explored.
Application is the fourth pillar of learning: the ability to apply knowledge gained in the previous three pillars, to real-world scenarios and everyday situations. Unlike rote memorization or regurgitation, application requires learners to draw from their knowledge and take appropriate action.
Application focuses on results, problem-solving, and the ability to solve issues in a variety of real-world settings. Application allows us to take our understanding of topics and use them to solve real world problems. It encourages exploration and experimentation and helps one develop critical thinking skills.
Through application, learners are able to process what they have learned and use it to not only benefit themselves, but also help others as well. Application encourages learners to think critically and find solutions outside of their comfort zones.
The four pillars of learning provide the essential components needed in order to increase our understanding of the world. Inquiry, reflection, collaboration, and application are essential aspects of quality learning, as it allows us to take what we have learned and apply it to real life scenarios and everyday situations.
Each pillar provides an opportunity for us to develop new skills and expand our knowledge. By exploring each individual pillar, we can gain insight into how quality learning is achieved, and how it lays the foundation for future learning experiences.