Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry based learning involves questioning to find relevant information and is an alternative approach to learning. There are 4 levels of inquiry, true, guided, structured, and confirmation inquiry to gain skills and knowledge.


Confirmation inquiry is the first phase whereby the teacher focuses on a topic or theme and then students are offered a method or procedure and a set of questions while the results are known ahead of time. The next level is structured inquiry, and this is where the teacher offers guidelines and the initial question. The goal is to encourage students to come up with findings and explanations. They analyze and asses the information and findings. Unlike the first level, students are not told the relationship in advance and are expected to analyze data and investigate. The third level is where students are only offered a research question and try to develop and follow procedures of their own. The teacher offers guidance and opportunities to analyze data, conduct experiments, and learn to practice. This means that the teacher's role is active rather than passive. The fourth level is known as true or open inquiry and allows students to formulate questions and carry out their own investigations. This level is based on scientific reasoning and knowledge and experience gained during the previous three levels. Students master skills that allow them to record and analyze findings and to draw conclusions. While during the first stage the teacher provides a research question, procedure, and solution, open inquiry offers the opportunity to develop a question, choose a method, and come up with a solution. Some scholars point to the fact that lower levels (one to three) are not sufficient to gain important skills such as critical thinking. There is a difference between open learning and the lower levels - students are not expected to achieve concrete results.

Benefits for Students

There are plenty of benefits for students, and one is that inquiry based learning helps them understand the relationship between different activities that fall within the scope of a particular subject area. The learning process has a positive impact on academic achievement. This is a student-centered approach that enables children and adolescents to have control over the learning process and thus gain more confidence in their own skills. Students have incentives to carry investigations until they find the answer. The learning process enables students to draw upon skills, experience, and knowledge they've already mastered. This means that prior knowledge and experience serve as building blocks that allow learners to build on and incorporate new approaches and understandings. Students have better understanding of new concepts and ideas because inquiry based learning has a positive impact on cognitive outcomes. Learners build connections between concepts and ideas which enables them to understand the world around them. They are also encouraged to share their ideas and experiences which is a great way to master teamwork skills. They are more engaged and motivated to acquire new knowledge, and the process itself encourages independent learning. This is also a good method to help students build problem solving skills through experimentation. It is also a way to mend misconceptions. Inquiry based learning also engages learners in theory building which is a higher level skill than plain memorization. The role of the teacher is to motivate students beyond integrating new facts and to make sure they understand basic concepts. The goal is to move away from traditional approaches that present knowledge as fixed and hierarchical.


One problem that teachers report is the time it takes to master critical-thinking skills by using this approach. They invest more time in preparation initially but many report that mastering inquiry based learning pays back. Students find it easier to memorize material and understand key concepts. At the same time, direct instruction is still a preferred method because it is easier for teachers to implement.

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Learning About Alternative Assets

There are plenty of investment instruments to consider, including bonds, stocks, mutual funds, certificates of deposits, money market and savings accounts, and others. Some investments are safe and offer low returns while others are designed for seasoned investors with a high risk profile. Instruments that are different from cash, bonds, and stocks are considered alternative investment vehicles.

Types of Instruments

This is a large and loose group of investment vehicles that includes financial and tangible assets. Examples of financial assets are derivatives, venture capital, carbon credits, and distressed securities. Carbon credits, for example, are created on the carbon market. It is segmented into regulatory and voluntary markets. Credits are generated as a result of different types of projects, including methane capture, energy efficiency, reforestation, and the use of renewable energy sources. Energy efficiency, for instance, refers to efforts at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using energy-efficient equipment and machinery and installations. Other types of financial assets include film production derivatives, private equity, and commodities. Commodities come in the form of marketable items and are used to reduce investment risk and to diversify portfolios. They are often included in the portfolios of sovereign investment funds and pension funds. In addition to these instruments, there are tangible assets such as collections of stamps and coins, antiques and collectibles, works of art, precious metals, and others.

One of the main benefits of alternative assets and commodities is that they are often featured as liquid investment instruments. Another benefit is that they help diversify portfolios and serve as an additional source of potential returns. On the down side, alternative investments are riskier simply because there is little information such as historical return data and risk. Another problem is that alternative assets are more expensive, and it is not always possible to assess their current market value. Thus they are not the best option for new and inexperienced investors because of the detailed risk analysis required.

Assessing Risk

When investing in assets, it pays to look at different types of risk such as tax, purchasing power, legislative, political, and liquidity risk. Political, reinvestment, interest rate, and market risk are other factors to consider. Fixed income instruments such as certificates of deposit and bonds are vulnerable to purchasing power, reinvestment, and interest rate risk. Other vehicles such as annuities and municipal bonds are less vulnerable to tax risk while equity-based products such as stocks are subject to market risk. In any case, all instruments are subject to legislative and political risk.

Dealing with Risk

Default risk is a serious problem because it is equal to non-payment. The risk is high for company deposits, debt based on promissory loans, and other types of unsecured loans. When investing in business, industrial, or commercial enterprises, there is a risk of bankruptcy or failure. Make sure you check credit ratings before you invest in debentures or deposits. If you want to play on the safe side, look for large and established companies with nationwide presence. When it comes to liquidity, some assets and instrument are more liquid than others. For example, government securities, current accounts, silver, gold, and cash have a very high liquidity. Other instruments such as mutual funds, actively traded shares, bank deposits and shares, and units are also liquid. Debentures of established companies and fixed deposits offered by businesses with good credit have medium liquidity. At the other end of the spectrum are investments such as real estates, unlisted debentures and shares, shares that are not actively traded, and debentures and deposits of companies with poor credit and loss-making businesses.

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Investing in a TFSA as a Student

Many Canadians wonder whether it is better to invest in a RRSP or a TFSA as both tools are good savings options. Obviously, the best thing to do is to invest in both but if you are like most Canadians, you have to make smart choices.

Investing in a TFSA

A tax-free savings account allows students to contribute up to a threshold of $10,000 if they are 18 years of age or older. Contributions are made out of your after tax income. Withdrawals can be made at any time during the year, and money is tax free. When it comes to investments, the TFSA works like a basket where different solutions are held, including bonds, stocks, high-interest savings accounts, GICs, and others.

Benefits for Students and Types of Accounts

There are plenty of benefits for students who choose to open a tax-free savings account, one being that they can use it as an emergency fund for a rainy day. This may be a good idea when inflation is low given that it is tax free. A better option is a mutual fund TFSA whereby you are allowed to make pre-authorized contributions on a monthly basis. Value investment strategies offer better returns compared to market timing. What you need to do is comparison shop for funds that have low expense management ratios. The expense management ratio can vary from 0.5 to 3.2 percent, depending on the fund of choice. Whether you choose to invest in a mutual fund TFSA also depends on your risk profile and tolerance. Another option is to use a tax-free savings account as a trading account. In this case, you may want to go for discount brokerage. The main benefit is that accountholders are not required to pay taxes on their capital gains. At the same time, this can be a risky investment solution for young professionals and students, especially if you plan to use the money to meet other short- and medium-term goals. And there is always risk that you lose a portion of your money. A final option is to use your tax-free savings account as a guaranteed income certificate account. This is one solution if you have a low risk profile. The downside is that the returns are also low (in the range of 1.5 - 2 percent).

Things to Consider

If you have outstanding balances such as credit cards -, student loans, consumer loans, and others, then you need to balance between monthly payments and contributions to your TFSA. Interest charges pile up - and increase the cost of borrowing while late and missed payments will affect your credit score.

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