Authentic Enquiry Design Principles

This project explored the applications of Authentic Enquiry in different contexts in order to identify and refine a set of design principles which can have widespread applications across domains,  in particular the corporate world.  It was a collaboration between learning professionals in business, education and community.  It was based in the Systems Learning and Leadership Centre at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol and was co-directed by Tim Coburn and Ruth Deakin Crick.

Key themes: Authentic enquiry; coaching for knowledge construction; coaching for learning; use of web 2.0 environment for enquiry and for remote coaching; applications for different aspects of business, community and educational development.  Authentic Enquiry Design Principles03

The project built on the research into learning power and authentic enquiry at the GSE and the two practical tools that help to scaffold the process of learning. These are  a) an instrument for assessing learning power and stimulating change  (ELLI) and b) a process of self-motivated enquiry-led learning that makes learning more authentic.   Known respectively as Learning Power and Authentic Enquiry, these ground-breaking, research-based tools could enhance the quality of learning in society across a range of domains – in primary, secondary and tertiary education; in commercial, public and third sector organizations and in community led social, economic and personal development projects.

Value to Society and Engagement

Together with other factors, effective learning underpins the continuous improvement of social and economic well-being.   Its value is not restricted to education but is immanent in organizations as an enabler of value creation and in individual lives as we grow and adapt throughout our lifetimes. These new ‘products’ promise significant value to society.

As with other innovations, realizing such value for diverse stakeholders is more likely to happen when representative stakeholders are engaged in the development process. Stakeholder engagement adds value in refining the product for use in different contexts and in the exchange of learning between contexts; it encourages broader-based ownership and raises the collective will to make it work successfully.


So far, Authentic Enquiry has been developed with partners in educational organizations and documented for publication by Ruth Deakin Crick as a structured process with 8-9 stages, which facilitate the development of knowledge construction and particular thinking and learning capabilities, and lead to authentic, contextualised outcomes.  It has been field-tested in education by a small number of practitioners who know the process well.

Further development of Authentic Enquiry is required for it to be ready for use in the corporate sector and a practitioner training and accreditation protocol will be needed to ensure quality and consistency as more practitioners are trained.

This project aims to identify the core design principles which underpin authentic enquiry,  learning from its applications in schools, community, higher education and the work place.   Specific objectives include to:

  • Refine and document Authentic Enquiry as a practical methodology that can be used with consistency across the educational, corporate and community sectors.  EBL Pictoral Structure Final
  • Integrate Learning Power and Authentic Enquiry so that they reinforce each other in use as the learner’s combined mindset and toolkit for learning successfully.
  • Field-test the methodology with representative stakeholders in the educational and corporate sectors to learn whether and how different learning outcomes and different contexts can be accommodated by a common approach.
  • Develop a protocol for the training and accreditation of practitioners and the development of training programmes
  • Identify and select a distribution channel(s) that makes Authentic Enquiry accessible to society and which also generates feedback and revenue to support the sustainable development of research-led learning ‘products’ and ‘processes’ for the benefit of society at large.

3. A Multi-Disciplinary, Collaborative Approach

Achieving these objectives calls for a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach with the active involvement of stakeholder representatives from the Graduate School of Education, ViTaL Partnerships, educational and corporate organizations and collaborative companies and universities already involved in deploying both Learning Power and Authentic Enquiry.   This approach will be enabled by  Centre for Systems Learning and Leadership based in the Graduate School of Education but with University wide internal and selected external collaborators.

4.  Prototypes

The project team includes experts from schools,  community and the corporate sector. The prototypes to be explored include an MSc Unit in Education,  an Engineering programme in Sustainable Systems, several school based enquiry projects,  community projects with NEET learners and young offenders, and a prototype in a large corporate organisation.