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Enquiry based learning

Water management: an enquiry-based learning scheme to explore the management issues associated with a chalk stream

Using an enquiry learning format for studying The River Chess:

Enquiry-based learning (EBL) is an umbrella term to cover a range of approaches in which students are actively engaged in investigating questions and issues. EBL can vary from investigations which are guided by teachers to those in which there is more student self-direction. Whether it is teacher-guided or student directed, good EBL has four essential characteristics (Roberts, 2003):

  • It is question driven and encourages a questioning attitude towards knowledge.
  • Students study geographical data and sources of information as evidence.
  • Students make sense of information for themselves in order to develop understanding.
  • Students reflect on their learning.

Students need to be aware of the key enquiry question(s) framing a unit of work. They should become familiar with the kinds of questions geographers ask and learn to formulate geographical questions themselves.

These enquiry-based resources have been compiled with a number of different potential aims in mind. You might like to select one of these aims for your activity:


  • To understand the challenges of managing water resources in the urban catchment of the River Chess.
  • To investigate and analyse the environmental, political, social and economic issues surrounding water management in the River Chess
  • To evaluate the range of potential long-term solutions to managing water quality in a chalk stream
  • To use skills of interpreting graphs, maps and a range of qualitative data to demonstrate an understanding of the complex balance of physical and human interactions in drainage basin management
  • To present a report showing evidence of synthesising data to make valued judgements in water resource management.

Some of the aims above require a student to demonstrate understanding and problem solving skills, whilst others require planning, prediction and judgement. We have produced a Blooms Chart to show examples of each activity that you could undertake with your students, and where the activity sits within the hierarchy of different learning approaches.

For each activity we have highlighted where teacher’s notes, stimulus material and useful links can be downloaded from our website.

If enquiry-based learning is new to you we suggest you explore this article called 'The Challenge of Enquiry-based Learning' by Margaret Roberts.

We have divided the learning material into a separate section for teachers and students.

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