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Learning through enquiry in primary schools

This work-based learning module is relevant to a wide range of primary school professionals who support children’s learning – teaching assistants, classroom helpers, cover supervisors, learning mentors, volunteers and additional classroom staff. You will develop your skills as an enquirer and researcher in primary schools, increase your theoretical knowledge and reflect on your workplace practice. 

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

Student Reviews

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What you will study

This module promotes your learning in the workplace. You will explore topics such as staff roles, safeguarding, creativity, technology and environments for learning in the primary school. Through a series of mini-research projects, you will develop your knowledge, understanding and practice in supporting children’s learning. You will use a range of enquiry methods that are appropriate to your work, such as observing and interviewing, as you plan and carry out small-scale investigations linked to module topics. You will develop your skills in questioning, information-gathering, evaluation and reflection. You will also consider issues of ethics and inclusion as you examine your professional practice and children’s experiences in primary school.

This is an online module with one printed Module Reader covering small-scale research in primary classrooms and the role of classroom support staff in promoting children’s learning. It will provide scope and inspiration for your own enquiries and professional development. On the module website you will access the overall guide to the module, the weekly study planner, readings and study activities, the directed practical enquiries, audio and video study materials, and all assignment and assessment resources.  

You will learn

By the end of the module you will have:

  • developed your knowledge and understanding of how primary-age children learn, through small-scale enquiry in a practical, work-based context
  • developed your knowledge and understanding, through small-scale research, of how key principles and theories influence your practice in relation to children’s learning and development
  • developed skills in observing and evaluating children’s learning and in supporting pupils who may experience barriers to learning
  • presented evidence of developments in your professional practice.

Vocational relevance

This module has a specific vocational relevance. It is the compulsory OU level 1 work-based module in the Foundation Degree in Primary Teaching and Learning and Diploma of Higher Education in Primary Teaching and Learning, aimed at teaching assistants and learning support staff (including volunteers) working in primary schools throughout the UK. Following successful completion of the Foundation Degree or Diploma of Higher Education you may choose to progress to study at degree level. If you are thinking about training to be an early years or primary teacher, you can choose your optional module to support this goal. For more information on careers in teaching please see our booklet Becoming a Teacher.

Outside the UK

This module is available in the United Kingdom and to students working in English-medium primary settings in Europe and British Forces schools.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be allocated a tutor who will guide you through the study materials, assess and comment on your assignments, and advise and support you where necessary. Your tutor is particularly concerned with helping you with your study methods and providing feedback on your assignments. You will be expected to communicate with your tutor. Based on student numbers and locations, you may have the opportunity to meet at face-to-face tutorials; where these are provided, you are strongly recommended to attend. Where and when your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of the students taking the module in your geographic area.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and the end-of-module assessment (EMA) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is a compulsory module of the Open University Foundation Degree in Primary Teaching and Learning and the Diploma of Higher Education in Primary Teaching and Learning. This module is also available to Open Degree students who meet the entry criteria detailed below. 

In order to study and successfully complete this module you must:

  • have experience of working directly, in a paid or voluntary role, with primary children following the National Curriculum for England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland
  • throughout the module, work directly with primary children in a suitable setting for a minimum of five hours per week in a paid or voluntary role. Checks will be carried out to ensure students are in the correct setting.  Students who are found not to be in an appropriate setting may risk failing the module.
  • have permission to carry out work-based learning tasks in your work setting (you will need to submit a Permission Agreement Form that has been signed by your employer with your registration application)
  • have a named, suitable person in the setting who is willing to offer you informal mentoring and support throughout the module; this person will confirm in writing that you have carried out the required practical activities which form the basis of your assignments. Your mentor should be an experienced member of staff in the school, e.g. Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or other subject coordinator, class teacher, head teacher or deputy head teacher. 
  • have regular and frequent access to a PC with access to the internet
  • be competent in using the internet for academic purposes and digital office applications (e.g. word processing).

Anyone working in a primary school will need to organise a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS, formerly CRB check) or equivalent depending on the country in which you are working. It is the responsibility of you and your employer to ensure you meet these requirements, and not the OU. You should contact the relevant agency in your country for more information if you are in doubt about your eligibility, or to find out more. For whom to contact in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales see our Disclosure and Barring Service information document.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

You will need to present your Permission Agreement Form with your registration application. 

You should identify your school-based mentor prior to the start of the module. Mentoring is a voluntary role that will involve approximately seven hours of support across the entire module. You can download and print our information sheet, Information for schools and mentors for E101 and E207, from our Childhood and Youth Studies website. We will provide the booklet Guidance for school-based mentors


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

To register for this course - see How to register below. Registration closes 17/09/15

You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

To register for this module, please refer to the entry requirements and contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service (online registration is not available).

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 29/07/2015.

What's included

The study materials include a Module Reader, Guidance for school-based mentors, and the website. The website contains the overall guide to the module, the weekly study planner, readings and study activities, the Guide to your practical enquiries, audio and video study sequences, and all assignment information and assessment resources.

You will need

You will need access to the internet to use the website and study the module. Discussions with other students through the online forums are a very important form of additional support, so everyone is strongly encouraged to participate.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio or video components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, foreign language or diagrammatic materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

This module requires the use of tools such as online forums.  If you use specialist software or hardware to assist you in using a personal computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.