Cultures of Inquiry & Learning Theory – OH MY!


I don’t know about anyone else but working on these two subjects together is both crazy confusing and very interesting at the same time.  There are three terms/concepts that I need to unpack before I go any further on this journey.

Cultures of Inquiry: “A culture of inquiry is a chosen modality of working within a field, and applied epistemology or working model of knowledge used in explaining or understanding reality” (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998, p. 83).

Learning Theory: Learning theories are frameworks that describe how information is absorbed, processed, and retained during the learning process.

Epistemology: ‘Epistemology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and justification of knowledge’ (Bates, 2015, p. 44).

All of these terms/concepts are about how we know what we know and why we want to know it. The way I understand it – cultures of inquiry are the how we find out; learning theory then is how we understand and transfer our new knowledge; epistemology is both, it is the overarching why and our way of knowing based on the inquiry and theory.

For example, what if we want to know why we celebrate Christmas. We might create a study based on historical and phenomenological inquiries to determine the significance of Christmas in the past and how it became the culture it is today. Then, we might use a constructivist model to teach that information to others to help them understand how we got to today.

I think I am beginning to understand….



Bates, A. W. T. (2015). Teaching in a digital age. Glokalde, 1(3), 501.

Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Sage.


3 thoughts on “Cultures of Inquiry & Learning Theory – OH MY!

  1. Excellent explanation Patricia!
    I felt the same way and when you use the words “crazy confusing and interesting”, that is exactly how I feel. Reading your explanation of how cultures of inquiry, learning theories and epistemology relate to each other, it makes a lot of sense! I see it that way too! I think we are on the right track!!!


  2. It is definitely starting to feel a bit overwhelming. However, I think the fact that we are all going through this together and can lean on each other is going to be a huge advantage. I kept getting Epistemology muddled in my head, but after a short chat with Jim where we put it into real world terms it cleared right up! Thank goodness we have such a great group!


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