TILA (Theory of Inquiry Learning Arrangements; Reitinger 2013) is a general theory of inquiry learning, already published in research literature. With TILA, the idea of self-determined inquiry in autonomy-oriented arrangements (Deci & Ryan 2004; Reeve 2002) at schools or higher education institutions gets theoretically and empirically confirmed and ready for transfer into the interdisciplinary discourse.
The project focussed the theoretical framework of TILA, which referes to six theory-based criteria of Inquiry Learning. These criteria are a) discovery interest, b) method affirmation, c) experience-based hypothesizing, d) authentic exploration, e) critical Discourse, and f) conclusion-based transfer. These six criteria represent the definitional frame construct of inquiry learning and brighten the understanding in several aspects: (a) by referring to these criteria, inquiry learning can be defined more precisely, (b) the criteria allow for a linking between the theoretical framework of inquiry learning and actions (practice of learning), (c) the contentual clarification of the inquiry learning term through the criterial differentiation supports the empirical accessibility of the construct, and (d) the criteria provide an orientation for practitioners, when preparing, performing and reflecting inquiry learning arrangements.
Recapitulating the mentioned criteria, inquiry learning can be defined as a process of self-determined quests for discovering knowledge contexts and insights that are new for the inquiring learner. Thereby, inquiry learning evolves into both an autonomous and structured process at the same time. This process reaches from a sensory tangible discovery via a systematic exploration through to a methodological procedure typical of scientific activity (Moegling 2010, p. 100). Inquiry learning arrangements, therefore, are educational settings characterized by collaborative inquiry learning endeavors. Within inquiry learning arrangements, the previously mentioned six criteria unfold.
Nevertheless, a inventory for investigation of Inquiry Learning Arrangements - basing on the mentioned critera - would be helpful.
The project fostered the development and testing (according to Classical Test Theory; DeMars, 2010; Devellis, 2011) of such an inventory. The development was performed in two steps. Firstly, a repesentative sample of teacher students was investigated to test and reduce a large number of construct items to a preliminary scale of 16 items (4 items per each criteria; experinece-based hypothesizing, authentic exploration, critical discourse, and conclusion-based transfer). The approach of this study 1 followed the methodology of exploratory analysis. Secondly, within study 2 another sample of teacher students was invited to rate the preliminary scale of 16 items. The data was investigated by confirmatory analysis. The scale was reduced to a fully standardized 12-item-inventory.
The first publication concerning this project (Criteria of Inquiry Learning Inventory; CILI) was published in 2015. The finalized inventory was published in 2016 (Reitinger, 2016).
In applying databased modification of an exploratory tested set of items and subsequent Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA), a statistically sufficient inventory to measure the evolvement of Inquiry Learning could be created. The battery comprises 12 items: 3 items per each criteria, i.e., experience-based hypothesizing, authentic exploration, critical discourse, and conclusion-based transfer. The results of the CFA reveal the best statistical fit for the theoretically underpinned four-factor-model. This model assumes that Inquiry Learning is a heterogeneous overall construct. It occurs where the described Criteria of Inquiry Learning evolve. By using the developed inventory, these degrees of evolvement can be measured subsequently to an Inquiry Learning Arrangement (in tertiary education). The author refers to this four-dimensional set of items as CILI.