Assoc. prof. Jiří Dostál is an expert on inquiry-based learning and is currently implementing a number of investigations that relate to this area. He also concentrates at popularizing science and technology to the public, from children through youth to seniors. He has organized a series of popularizing and educational events that transcend into commercial (business) sector. Since he is one of the angels in our project L33N, I have conducted an interview with him about his activities related to entrepreneurial activities in education.
O: Jiří, thank you for your time.
J: Oh, it is OK, because sharing experiences and good practices is very important. It’s not all about creating and building things, it is rather about motivating other people to cooperate, or help them start creating their ideas and then implement them.
O: I know that you are recognized as an expert on inquiry-based learning (IBL) not only in the Czech Republic, but also abroad. What is it about specifically?
J: A lot of people ask that. Simply put, the motto is that if you want to learn something and really know it, I have to learn by doing (being active), but not in the way that I just imitate well-known procedures. This applies to both manual and intellectual activities. A person (a child, an adult) needs to be able to think and be creative, it is a general requirement. But that has to be learned, we must not rely on talent only. And that is the essence of inquiry-based learning where the child does not receive the knowledge, such a child must discover it for his/her own.
O: It sounds miraculous. Why hasn’t this been implemented in schools already?
J: It is not that simple. For example, the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden …) do not have good experience with IBL implementations. We cooperate closely, I go there and give seminars. It would be a misconception if we only teach children to explore, to seek new facts and thus learn. This is time consuming and the quantity of acquired knowledge is not, compared to the trans-missive concept of teaching, too large. Also, it must be taken into account that it is often more efficient to explain the principle and then apply it (e.g. multiplication tables in mathematics), or use drilling (in language teaching — learning vocabulary). But if we want to educate and raise independent and creative citizens who can work and solve problems and problems of everyday life, it is necessary to use IBL.
O: So what is better: transmission or inquiry-based learning?
J: You can’t ask a question like that. This is not about approaches that face each other in a conflict. Who does so is making a mistake. What is more, students are different, everyone likes something else. It’s about finding a suitable proportion of both approaches and appropriate curriculum to apply the approaches. It is difficult and part of didactics/methodology.
O: We have talked about school. I wonder, though, what about extracurricular activities?
J: Now you’ve mentioned a very broad area that operates mainly with business principles here in the Czech Republic. Examples include projects of our university, such as Pevnost poznání. It is a part of the university, but from the operational perspective it must be competitive. As well as other popular centres where there is an inquiry-based learning greatly encouraged. It is a fun way of learning. Basically, children do not even realize they are learning. Other projects or institutions are Techmania Science Center, Vida!, World Techniques or iQLANDIA.
O: Wow, these are quite big projects! Would you have an example of a good practice as well?
J: Yes, and I myself contributed to this. I will mention two projects of many. One project is called Scientists’ Night at the Faculty of Education at Palacký University, where we popularize the fields that the faculty cover in a fun way. Originally, this was a small event, but it has evolved and now provides a comprehensive range of activities, which significantly exceeds other faculties. The second one is a purely commercial project of two graduates of Palacký University. It focuses on handicrafts and trades where I personally from time to time implement a beekeeping course. Well, but time is getting less (laughs). The aim is to popularize forgotten or unusual crafts to the young generation.
O: How do you see this area in perspective?
J: People in the Czech Republic slowly learn that education is not for free. State can only guarantee some level, but if we are to apply innovative methods to create innovative educational situations and develop creativity in educated individuals, that cost something. It can be therefore predicted that more people will apply business principles in this field. On the other hand, I personally try to encourage large and small businesses to embrace the social responsibility. For example I have to highlight Mr. Kostka, who owns a company producing scooters and foot bikes, Tatra company or Miele. They support our events financially and provide material prices for the competition. I hope there will be more companies like this. I’m an optimist!
O: Thank you very much for the interview Jiří.
J: You are welcome.
Further information: Jiří Dostál (email@example.com)
Author: Ondrej Duda, PhD student and associate professor at the Institute of foreign languages at the Faculty of Education at Palacký University, member of LEEN team (Liminality & Educational Entrepreneurship)
Our webpage: www.l33n.eu
The LEEN project is funded by the ERASMUS+ programme (Agreement No. : 2015–1-BEO2-KA2O1-O12334).