Trying to Design Optimally Effective Education by

combining Guided Inquiry and Direct Instruction

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

Most educators who have studied inquiry seem to agree that
  • inquiry activities — when students are searching for answers — can be educationally valuable;
  • during these activities we should guide students, to adjust the level of inquiry-difficulty so that, for most students, it's in a “just right” range, not too easy or too difficult, as in a skillfully designed mystery story;
  • we should try to design an educationally effective blending of direct teaching (which can be active-and-meaningful) with inquiry.
        But we can disagree about the types of blends that are most educationally effective for achieving different goals (to learn ideas, to learn skills,...) in different contexts (in labs, lectures, discussions, computer instruction,...).

        This page contains two major parts, plus an appendix:
        Part 1 describes a few basic Principles of Guided Inquiry, which are offered with sincere humility that is appropriate because — compared with other educators who have thought more deeply about the effective design of inquiry activities, and have more experience with this kind of teaching — I am not an expert.  If you are experienced with inquiry, please feel free to skip this part and move on to what I think is the more interesting and important part of the page:
        Part 2, which also is offered with justifiable humility, is a commentary on the main theme, urging the use of Guided Inquiry plus Direct Instruction because I think both can be useful in the design of effective education.

Part 1 — Basic Principles of Guided Inquiry

Although guided inquiry instruction can be used to help students learn both scientific concepts and thinking skills, I think it's more effective for thinking skills, so that's the focus of this section.  And science labs are a useful context for teaching scientific thinking skills, so that's where we'll begin.   Although each inquiry activity has its own unique situational context and educational goal, thus requiring customized adaptations for the design of effective instruction, there are useful general principles.  Many principles in this section can be used for non-lab settings, and in Section 2 the focus is on inquiry experiences outside the lab, designed to help students learn both skills and ideas.

       Guided Inquiry in Science Labs

       Opportunities for inquiry activity occur whenever inadequacy of knowledge (of concepts and/or skills) produces a situation where students don't know "what to do next" so they must think on their own, and are allowed to think.  These opportunities for inquiry can be accidental (when a teacher doesn't realize that students are struggling) or the obstacles can be intentional, designed into a lab as thinking activities that let students practice existing skills or learn new skills.  If a particular lab has a sufficient amount of inquiry activities compared with other types of thinking activities, so the ratio of inquiry/non-inquiry is high, it can be called an inquiry lab.

        Appropriate Level of Inquiry-Difficulty
        Inquiry experiences promote thinking and motivation when labs are well designed, with an appropriate level of difficulty.  But if a lab is too difficult, one result of inquiry can be frustration.
        A well-designed inquiry lab, like a well-written mystery story, aims for a level of challenge that is "just right" so students will not become bored with problems that are too easy, or become frustrated because the problems they encounter are too difficult and frequent.  Ideally, students will struggle temporarily but eventually they will succeed, and in doing so they will feel genuine emotional-and-intellectual satisfaction.  They will place a high personal value on their own success because they were able to overcome challenging obstacles during the process of problem solving.
        If parts of a lab are too difficult, some students may become frustrated.  But is this a bad result?  Almost always, long-term frustration should be avoided in K-12 or undergraduate labs.  But short-term frustration can have beneficial effects, motivating students who "don't like the feeling" to invest more effort in improving their skills;  and when students are forced to "think for themselves" despite their initial discomfort, they may discover previously unrecognized abilities that bring success, with the associated emotional-and-intellectual rewards and a feeling that "wow, I underestimated what I could do."  But even if at first some students are not successful, an effective teacher (caring, observant, wise, helpful,...) can help minimize the possibility of temporary frustration becoming permanent, with students losing confidence in their ability, and assuming they can never learn the thinking skills used in science.

        Adjusting the Level of Inquiry-Difficulty
        Due to its importance for instruction, many educators have studied principles for adjusting the level of inquiry-difficulty, and here are some useful principles for designing goal-directed education in science labs:
        As teachers, we can adjust a lab's intrinsic difficulty — what we ask students to do in the lab — and we can adjust its actual difficulty with guidance that modifies students' ability to cope with the lab by helping them prepare before the lab (for example, by letting them solve problems that are similar to those in the upcoming lab *) and by coaching during the lab (by observing students while they work, then providing guidance by asking questions, answering some of their questions, and directing attention to useful information from students' past experiences or current situation, thus giving them clues for how to think productively so they can solve their mystery of deciding "what to do next" and continue making progress in the lab).  Teachers can also coach after a lab is over, encouraging students to reflect on their experiences, and helping them organize their knowledge-and-skills in a personally useful way.   In the appendix, an inquiry lab is examined with Potential Questions-and-Answers that a teacher can decide to Use-or-Avoid with the intended clarity of "answers" varying widely, "ranging from direct clear explanation by a teacher, through various levels of giving hints (by asking sub-questions or in other ways) and promoting discussions (with or without the teacher), to a silent sink-or-swim approach where students must construct answers totally by themselves, using only their current knowledge that is based on their previous experiences."
        If inquiry-activities are among the goals for a lab, for each activity the difficulty can be adjusted (by choosing the intrinsic difficulty and providing guidance with pre-lab preparations and in-lab coaching) so the level of challenge is appropriate.
       * For effective planning in a course, Integrative Analysis of Instruction can be useful when the goal is to design a sequence of activities that will supplement the previous conceptual and procedural experiences of students, building on what they already have learned earlier in life, helping them prepare for the first lab, and then the second lab, and continuing through the course.  For example, if based on past experience we think many students will have trouble with a certain type of problem, we can design activities to help them gradually improve their skills in this area, thus allowing a gradually increasing level of difficulty for the problems being solved, including some problems "above their current level" to provide inquiry-challenges.

        Personally Customized Guidance:  As described above, the immediate results of inquiry can be positive ("promoting thinking and motivation") when the level of difficulty is appropriate, or negative ("frustration") when a lab is too difficult.  Sometimes both results will be happening in the same labroom, because abilities-and-knowledge vary from one student to another;  some students will recognize a problem and try to solve it but will fail, while other students already knew what to do so they never even faced a problem that needed solving.  In an effort to cope with this "one size does not fit all" aspect of instruction, a teacher can improvise during lab by observing students and making real-time decisions, while students are solving problems, to provide (or withhold) personally customized assistance for some students but not others.  This lets a teacher adjust the level of difficult for individual students or groups.   { But if the labwork is being graded, differences in "amount of help" raises questions of fairness, as discussed later. }   /   In concept learning, some computer programs are designed to personally customize the instruction by adjusting the difficulty level (of the problems assigned and hints given) based on the responses of each user.

        Here are some techniques (from Collins, Brown & Newman, 1987) to guide inquiry in Cognitive Apprenticeship:
  Modeling involves an expert's carrying out a task so that students can observe and build a conceptual model of the processes that are required to accomplish the task.  In cognitive domains, this requires the externalization of usually internal (cognitive) processes and activities — specifically, the heuristics and control processes by which experts make use of basic conceptual and procedural knowledge.
  Coaching consists of observing students while they carry out a task and offering hints, scaffolding, feedback, modeling, reminders, and new tasks aimed at bringing their performance closer to expert performance.  Coaching may serve to direct students' attention to a previously unnoticed aspect of the task or simply to remind the student of some aspect of the task that is known but has been temporarily overlooked.
  Scaffolding refers to the supports the teacher provides to help the student carry out a task.  These supports can either take the forms of suggestions or help.
  Articulation includes any method of getting students to articulate their knowledge, reasoning, or problem-solving processes in a domain.
  Reflection enables students to compare their own problem-solving processes with those of an expert, another student, and ultimately, an internal cognitive model of expertise.  Reflection is enhanced by the use of various techniques for reproducing or 'replaying' the performances of both expert and novice for comparison.
  Exploration involves pushing students into a mode of problem solving on their own.

Most principles in this section can be applied in other settings, such as the learning activities (examined below) that students can do before, during, and after a lecture or discussion section.

Section 2 — Moderation in our Use of Inquiry

APPROPRIATE HUMILITY — In the page introduction I say that the principles in Part 1 "are offered with sincere humility that is appropriate because... I am not an expert."  My personal humility is also justified for Part 2, but for a different reason.  I think that most of what I say in Part 1 is correct and is common knowledge, so I'm simply acknowledging that what I'm saying is not original, and others are more expert than me.  But in Part 2 it's possible that my views may not be correct, or (more accurately) that it may be difficult for anyone to be “correct” in their views about how we can most effectively combine inquiry teaching with direct teaching, due to our current deficiency of knowledge and the wide variety of instructional contexts (which depend on multiple characteristics of students & teachers, plus the subject area and the types of ideas-and-skills that are the goals of education

I.O.U. Some ideas in this section are fairly well developed now, and relatively soon (but not until late June) others will be developed more carefully and thoroughly;  currently my focus is completing-and-revising my page about Active Learning Theories and Teaching Strategies and when it's finished I'll return to doing significant work on this page.   Here are the topics:
    • ACTIVE LEARNING — excerpts from my links-page about Active Learning Theories and Teaching Strategies.
    • LEARNING ACTIVITIES and POGIL — In a brief outline of possibilities, I suggest that a wide variety of Learning Activities can be used to supplement basic teaching that uses inquiry instruction and/or direct instruction.
    • IDEAS and SKILLS — Why do I think inquiry is more useful for one of these?
    • MODERATION — what I think moderation is, and why it seems wise because "Inquiry can be Educationally Valuable, but..."

ACTIVE LEARNING  (and Eclectic Approaches to Instruction)
        Here are excerpts from my links-page (with idea-summaries, editorial comments, and links) about Active Learning Theories and Teaching Strategies:
I.O.U. - Currently, the page I'm quoting from is being expanded-and-revised, but soon — when my page about "Active Learning..." has been revised — this entire section will be revised.  Until then, I'm making it more difficult to read (with small green font) because I think you should invest your reading time in other ways, such as reading the page about "Active Learning..." ]
  A constructivist theory of Meaningful Reception Learning, developed by David Ausubel, is a favorite of mine. .....
    Many generations of learners have shown that cognitively active reception learning (aka direct learning) can be meaningful and effective, enjoyable and time-efficient.  Notice my combining of two terms (cognitively active, reception) that some people seem to think are mutually exclusive;  while I agree that sometimes these are separated in the behavior of learners who are "receiving" knowledge, reception and cognitive activity can be closely integrated, and when this happens the learning is effective and efficient.  In our efforts to develop instruction that is more effective, I think it would be more productive if more efforts were invested in eclectic approaches that try to optimize the potentially synergistic interactions between the mentally active learning that occurs by meaningful reception and during other types of thinking-and-learning activities. .....
    Instruction using "Overview, Case Study" is an example of a hybrid method that uses direct learning followed by creatively structured active practice with problems, both conventional and non-conventional, posing various levels and types of challenges. .....
    Here are two possible benefits of an eclectic approach:   if several approaches are used, this might make it more likely that, with students who have different learning styles, more students will get at least one teaching style that matches their learning style;   and if each mode of learning is especially useful for helping students learn some types of knowledge (conceptual or procedural), and if most of the learning in each mode can occur by using that mode for only part of the time — as in the 80-20 principle, which states that in many situations 80% of the total value comes from 20% of the whole — there will be diminishing returns with additional use. .....
    By ignoring the distinction between "what we can know" and "what actually exists," super-radical constructivism (which is proposed by some constructivist educators but not by most) can get carried away into the silliness of extreme postmodern relativism.
        Based on a theory of constructivist learning, a common claim about constructivist teaching is that because people construct their own knowledge, teachers should let students construct their own knowledge by “discovering” it for themselves, without any explanation by a teacher or textbook.  But discovery is only one type of constructivist learning.  We also construct our own knowledge during meaningful reception learning, so this also is constructivist learning.
        For example, think about your own recent experiences in learning.  Have you learned anything from reading this page, or the pages it links to?  How?  Even though the authors (myself and others) have tried to explain ideas clearly, any learning that occurs depends on you, when you invest time and effort in reading and thinking.  You have been mentally active, by trying to understand and organize the ideas you've read, along with your own ideas that were stimulated by your use of critical thinking while you've been reading, and during all of this you are combining your new knowledge with your previous knowledge.  Your experience is an example of the "cognitively active reception learning (aka direct learning)" that I claim "can be meaningful and effective, enjoyable and time-efficient." ..... According to Richard Mayer,
The idea that constructivist learning requires active teaching methods is a recurring theme in the field of education, ...[claiming that] "students should build (construct) knowledge for themselves; hence, constructivist approaches are basically discovery oriented” [implying]... that a constructivist theory of learning in which the learner is cognitively active translates into a constructivist theory of teaching in which the learner is behaviorally active.  I refer to this interpretation as the constructivist teaching fallacy because it equates active learning with active teaching.
• These excerpts are from Richard Mayer (2004), Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning?
• Another critical analysis is Why Minimal Guidance during Instruction Does Not Work by Paul Kirschner (Netherlands), John Sweller (U.K.), Richard Clark (U.S.), in Educational Psychologist, 2006.  They explain why "these approaches [with minimal guidance] ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half century that consistently indicate that minimally-guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process."
        But these papers criticize extreme teaching methods that use "...Pure Discovery..." and "...Minimal Guidance...", so we should ask “what types and amounts of guidance lead to more effective inquiry learning?” and “how can we use guided inquiry and direct instruction together, in a way that combines the best features of both to provide ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ in education?”
• These questions are the focus of my page, Wise Moderation in the Use of Inquiry Teaching by Craig Rusbult, where I recommend an eclectic blending of guided inquiry with direct instruction.
        Even though Richard Mayer criticizes the extreme of "Pure Discovery Learning," he is not against all discovery learning, and he says:
In many ways, guided discovery appears to offer the best method for promoting constructivist learning.  The challenge of teaching by guided discovery is to know how much and what kind of guidance to provide and to know how to specify the desired outcome of learning.  In some cases, direct instruction can promote the cognitive processing needed for constructivist learning, but in others, some mixture of guidance and exploration is needed. .....
    The best course for constructivist-oriented educators is to focus on techniques that guide students’ cognitive processing during learning and that focus on clearly specified educational goals. ... There is increasing evidence that effective methods for promoting constructivist learning involve cognitive activity rather than behavioral activity, instructional guidance rather than pure discovery, and curricular focus rather than unstructured exploration.
[ A transition/introduction will explain that this new section is the response of educators, before and after 2004 when Mayer wrote about "The challenge of teaching by guided discovery is to know how much and what kind of guidance to provide and to know how to specify the desired outcome of learning." ]

I.O.U. — [ There will be an introductory transition between the section above and this section. ]
        At a recent national meeting of the American Chemical Society (Division of Chemical Education) in late-March 2011, I was fascinated by the wide range of learning activities (to use before, during, and after classes or labs) available to help students learn more effectively.  Although the comments below focus on chemistry, similar learning activities are also available (and my comments are also relevant) in other subject areas.

        here are some ideas that (after a major revision that might occur in late June or July) will be used in this section:

        I was also impressed with what I learned about Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) — both in a full-day symposium at the meeting of ACS (organized by Richard Moog) and in an Introduction to POGIL by David Hanson & Richard Moog — in several ways:  [to be continued]

       IDEAS and SKILLS (teaching each by inquiry?)

        MODERATION — Inquiry can be Educationally Valuable, but...
        What do I mean by "moderation"?   { I.O.U. — In the near future, during late June or July, hopefully I'll revise it some due to what I've recently learned. }
        In my informed opinion (offered with appropriate humility) think every student should have many opportunities for small-scale inquiry (such as mini-activities before/during/after a class or lab, or occasional larger-scale experiences like an entire "inquiry lab") and at least one intensive longer-term experience, because inquiry promotes experiences that can be productive — that can help students learn a variety of valuable skills (conceptual and procedural, intellectual and emotional) for coping with problem situations where "what to do next" is not clear — but are unfortunately rare in conventional education.
        But I don't think it will be beneficial if inquiry methods are emphasized too heavily in the lectures and labs of a course or curriculum.  Even though inquiry can help students learn scientific thinking skills (especially in their first few inquiry experiences) and it can improve motivation, inquiry is only one way to learn the thinking skills of science, and by itself it usually is not efficient for learning the concepts of science because, in the long run, any large amount of conceptual learning will occur mainly by learning from others, by "standing on the shoulders of giants."  When teachers make decisions about instruction, they can think about how to most effectively use a combination of mentally-active inquiry learning and mentally-active direct learning.  Students can learn from their own experience during inquiry challenges, AND they can learn from the experience of others, by reading, hearing, or watching what others have written, spoken, or filmed.  Learning from others is an efficient way to learn a lot in a little time.
        Instruction using inquiry and non-inquiry should be a synergistic cooperation, not a winner-takes-all competition.  For example, inquiry learning could be an effective part of a well-designed plan for helping students learn some concepts, while other concepts are learned from direct instruction.
        two types of mutual support:  A very important thinking skill is the skill of learning concepts, and some experiences with "learning concepts by inquiry" might help students improve their concept-learning skills in ways that would transfer to other modes of learning concepts, including direct learning by reading and listening.  And direct teaching is one type of guidance that can occur in guided inquiry.
        a summary:  In my opinion, some inquiry-based learning is extremely valuable for supplementing student experiences, and is essential for a complete education;  inquiry can be very useful when used with moderation, but it should not be the main instructional format for conceptual learning in science education, and it should be part of a creative eclectic blending of instructional approaches for helping students improve their thinking skills.  For their own lifelong education, we should encourage students to learn in a variety of mentally-active ways, including inquiry and discussions, reading and listening.

   {my integrative analysis of an inquiry classroom and more about my views of learning by active inquiry & active reception



    A. Unwarranted Claims about Non-Inquiry Teaching made by overly enthusiastic advocates of inquiry teaching.
    B. Can direct education by reception learning (as in reading) be mentally active?
    C. Analysis of Inquiry — describes an in-depth analysis of an innovative genetics course, done for my PhD project, using my model of Integrated Scientific Method as the analytical framework.

        A — Unwarranted Claims about Non-Inquiry Teaching
        Enthusiastic advocates of inquiry teaching sometimes make unwarranted claims about non-inquiry teaching.  For example, Inquiry Based Approaches to Science Education - Theory and Practice by Wilfred Franklin, which was the #5 page in an early-2011 google search [inquiry in education], declares that "the chart below compares characteristics of inquiry-based approaches to more traditional approaches."

Principle Learning Theory Constructivism Behaviorism
Student Participation Active Passive
Student Involvement in Outcomes Increased Responsibility Decreased Responsibility
Student Role Problem solver Direction follower
Curriculum Goals Process oriented Product oriented
Teachers Role Guide/facilitator Director/ transmitter
        Do you think these claims are justified?  Is traditional (non-inquiry) education based on behaviorism?  Is it always bad for a teacher to be a "director" of education, or a "transmitter" of knowledge?  In non-inquiry teaching, are students always "passive"?
        I think the answers are "no" because learning is always an active process that requires thinking, whether this occurs during inquiry or non-inquiry.  The section below explains why-and-how we should view reading (or listening) as a mentally active process;  we should encourage students to read, expect them to read, and help them learn how to read in a mentally active way, instead of harshly criticizing non-inquiry learning (by reading or listening) for being "passive" and unworthy.

        B — Can direct education by reception learning (as in reading) be mentally active?
        True learning requires thinking.  When you learn by reading, for example, your thinking converts symbols on the page into ideas in your mind.  Every time you learn a new idea, you are actively constructing your own mental representations of the idea in a personally meaningful form.  And your new idea interacts with your old ideas, as you try to combine the new and old into a coherent system of ideas.
        The process of active reading is explained by Virginia Voeks, in her book On Becoming an Educated Person: "Start with an intent to make the very most you can from whatever you read.  Treat the author as you do your friends.  When talking with a friend, you listen attentively and eagerly.  You watch for contributions of value and are sensitive to them.  You actively respond to his ideas with ones of your own.  Together you build new syntheses."  When you're an aware-and-active reader, eagerly searching for new ideas, you will find them, and reading becomes a stimulating adventure.
        Teachers can help students develop this productive attitude toward learning, with students becoming motivated by the direct joy of reading-and-learning, or because they think their active reading will be indirectly useful.  For example, members of a class can have a pro-and-con debate about the ideas in a book they are reading.  This extrinsic activity might encourage some students to shift their reading strategy from boring passivity (by simply letting the eyes move from one line to another without engaging the mind-and-imagination) into the excititement of the mentally active reading recommended by Voeks.  But if you "internalize the action" you can always read with an active mind, whether or not your reading will be followed by an external debate.
        You control the quality of your learning.  You can read passively, but why wouldn't you want to make it an active adventure that helps you learn more and enjoy more?  If you're eager to learn and you "listen [and read] attentively and eagerly" it will be a stimulating adventure for you, and you will be richly rewarded with understanding and enjoyment.  Of course, you can use this approach to take full advantage of every opportunity for learning, in all modes of experience in all areas of life, whether it's reading a book, listening to a lecture, or in your personal conversations.

        C — Analysis of Inquiry (as part of my PhD project)
        In a conventional course, students typically learn science as a body of knowledge but not as a process of thinking, and rarely do they have the opportunity to see how research science becomes textbook science.  A notable exception is a popular, innovative genetics course taught at Monona Grove High School by Sue Johnson, who in 1990 was named "Wisconsin Biology Teacher of the Year" by the National Association of Biology Teachers, due in large part to her creative work in developing and teaching this course.  In her classroom, students experience a wide range of problem-solving activities as they build and test scientific theories and, when necessary, revise these theories.  After students have solved several problems that "follow the rules" of a basic Mendelian theory of inheritance, they begin to encounter data (generated by computer) that cannot be explained using their initial theory.  To solve this new type of problem the students, working in small "research groups", must recognize the anomalies and revise their existing theory in an effort to develop new theories that can be judged, on the basis of the students' own evaluation criteria, to be capable of satisfactorily explaining the anomalous data.
        As these students generate and evaluate theories, they are gaining first-hand experience in the role of research scientists.  They also gain second-hand experience in the form of science history, by hearing or reading stories about the adventures of research scientists zealously pursuing their goal of advancing the frontiers of knowledge.  A balanced combination that skillfully blends both types of student experience can be used to more effectively simulate the total experience of a scientist actively involved in research.  According to educators who have studied this classroom, students often achieve a higher motivation level, improved problem-solving skills, and an appreciation for science as an intellectual activity. ====[revise]

        For details about this fascinating course, you can visit a web-page that describes the course and its analysis and lets you download my PhD dissertation, which had two main objectives:
        • construct a model of Integrated Scientific Method and
        • use this model as a framework for the integrative analysis of Sue Johnson's innovative inquiry course.

This appendix has been imported from my page about Active Learning Theories and it will be "worked into" the page above.

Active Learning and Eclectic Instruction

This appendix is Part 2 of an "editorial" by Craig Rusbult, elaborating on the basic ideas from two brief introductory overviews, #1 and #2.
• By promoting awareness of "what can be learned" during educational experiences, teachers can make thinking activities more effective for goal-directed education (using Aesop's Activities) to teach concepts and also skills, as outlined by me (the editor) in a set of pages — Thinking Skills for Problem Solving (using Design Method & Scientific Method) — about developing instruction to teach thinking skills.
• Intuitively, we should expect active problem-solving (including guided inquiry and other approaches) to be very effective for helping students learn thinking skills — because improved problem-solving (and associated thinking skills) actually IS the educational goal — but relatively less effective for helping students learn concepts.
• How is instruction using guided-inquiry thinking activities similar to a mystery story?  Some principles of inquiry (plus my personal opintions) are described in Teaching Scientific Method in Science Labs.
• I think the potential uses of eclectic teaching approaches have not been sufficiently explored, and these approaches are under-appreciated and under-utilized.  One eclectic possibility is to design instruction with thinking activities that promote active "minds on" engagement by students, supplemented by explicit teaching of problem-solving methods (such as Design Method and Scientific Method) to help students learn the coordinated use of creative-and-critical thinking skills and transfer these skills to diverse areas of application.

Some ideas about informal active education are introduced in these excerpts from Whole-Person Education:

Learning and Thinking

Learning by Exploring
One way to learn about the world is to explore it yourself.  You can do this in many ways, using all of your senses.  You can explore near and far, by studying...   Exploring is fun at any age.  It is interesting and motivating for children, and also for adults who... are continuing their explorations.

Learning from Others
When you explore, you learn from your own experience.  But you can also learn from the experience of others, by letting them help you learn.  This happens when you read, listen, or watch what they have written, spoken, or filmed.  Learning from others is an easy way to learn a lot in a little time.

Learning is an Active Process
Learning is an active process that requires thinking.  When you learn by reading, for example, your thinking converts symbols on the page into ideas in your mind.  Every time you learn a new idea, you are actively constructing your own mental representations of the idea in a personally meaningful form.  And your new idea interacts with your old ideas, as you try to combine the new and old into a coherent system of ideas.
    The process of active reading is the theme when Virginia Voeks, in her book On Becoming an Educated Person, explains how to learn more and enjoy more while reading: "Start with an intent to make the very most you can from whatever you read.  Treat the author as you do your friends.  When talking with a friend, you listen attentively and eagerly.  You watch for contributions of value and are sensitive to them.  You actively respond to his ideas with ones of your own.  Together you build new syntheses."  When you're an active reader, eagerly searching for new ideas, you will find them, and reading becomes a stimulating adventure.
    You can read passively or you can make it an active adventure.  Some of the most effective teaching methods are designed to stimulate thinking, to replace boring passivity with exciting activity.  For example, members of a class can have a pro-and-con debate about the ideas in a book they are reading.  This activity encourages the mentally active reading that is recommended by Voeks.  But if you “internalize the action” you can always read with an active mind, whether or not your reading will be followed by an external debate.  You control the quality of your learning.  .....


Active Learning - Strategies and Theories (meaningful reception, constructivism,...)
Using Science Labs to teach Scientific Thinking Skills and Scientific Method
Science Labs and Thinking Skills - Examples from General Chemistry

Goal-Directed Education - Aesop's Activities for Thinking Skills
Motivations & Strategies for Personal Education
Skills for Effective Learning