“Inquiry is an approach to learning whereby students find and use a variety of sources of information and ideas to increase their understanding of a problem, topic or issue. It requires more than simply answering questions or getting the right answer” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari 2007, p.2)
Planning for Inquiry
For an inquiry-based unit to be effective it must be well-planned and the inquiry process integrated into the unit of work. It is therefore recommended that an instructional or guided inquiry team as suggested by Kuhlthau (2010) be established. The goal of this team is to expertly guide students through curriculum based inquiry units and towards deep knowledge and understanding. In addition, the inquiry unit needs to be tailored to the subject discipline and the cognitive ability of the student. It is essential that students are provided with stimulating and engaging encounters with information which both motivate and direct their ongoing inquiry. The teacher-librarian is perfectly placed to partner with the classroom teacher to provide authentic learning tasks for their students.
Model of Inquiry
The model for inquiry recommended for this unit of work is Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Design.
Within the Guided Inquiry Design Process Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2012), discuss the invitation to inquiry where at the start of an ILA the student is invited into the inquiry. There is a powerful opener which engages the learner and stimulates their curiosity. This opener sparks conversations about ideas, poses questions and problems, highlights related concepts and creates relevance with the learner’s prior experiences. In the observed ILA, students were told what to do. Results from the questionnaire found disengagement and boredom with the task. It is therefore recommended the teacher finds ways to engage students with the task. Those students who did show engagement had prior experience and interest in their family trees confirming the need to find a ‘third space’ which allows students to connect with the topic.
Questioning Framework for Historical Inquiry
For historical inquiry to be productive it must engage students in searching for different truths and perspectives. This search for truth relies on immersing students in higher level questioning processes which arouses curiosity, wonder and ultimately critical thinking (Pappas 2006). As higher-order thinking skills do not come naturally to children, students who undertake historical inquiry need to be explicitly taught how to understand key questions such as Why?, Who?, When?, What caused?, What resulted?, and How good or bad? (Stripling 2008). Murdoch (2012) suggests devising and displaying a compelling or rich question to drive inquiry –
“A compelling, overarching question invites many more questions to support it. This is where the thrill of inquiry teaching lies – we start out driven by an interesting and compelling question – but we don’t really know where that journey will take us” (Murdoch 2012, para. 3).
The subject area of history and topic area of immigration to Australia requires a questioning framework which suits the task. Within the context of this historical inquiry and Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Design “Identify” questioning and brainstorming ideas onto a concept web or mind map is recommended, as an initial foray into the topic. Questioning is integral to the inquiry process as our thinking is driven by questions. Todd (2012) believes teaching students to ask the right questions is one of the greatest skills we can instruct. It will be necessary throughout the unit for students to return to key questions and it will be essential that the teacher and teacher-librarian relevantly guide the questioning process. It is recommended for this year level that deeper questions are dug and knowledge attained by also using a Question Builder.
In moving through Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Design, I recommend the teacher and teacher-librarian work together to provide engaging means for creating and sharing the student’s learned knowledge. As previously mentioned in my post ‘Action Taken’ I had come across interesting literature on using popular texts as a means of improving comprehension in a social studies classroom. In my final post for the subject CRN600 I refer to this transaction and suggest using a virtual game QuestAtlantis as a method for engagement, exploration and knowledge construction. I believe this would push students into the “transformative” and “expressive” GeST windows.
A final recommendation for this inquiry unit is the essential task of reflective writing. In understanding the reflective process I recommend that the students in this class be instructed on Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process.
By understanding the affective, cognitive and physical processes required in undertaking research, students are given a framework which normalizes their feelings towards seeking, finding and knowing about information. By sharing these facts as to how people learn, students will have acquired valuable insight and the ability to push through what are sometimes daunting research tasks. Reflecting back on the unit of work will reinforce an understanding of the Information Search Process as well as what they have learned, providing them with a deeper comprehension of constructed knowledge. While the teacher is able to make an evaluation via a relevant rubric, I would consider the students reflection to be a powerful tool for discovering what the student has learned and recommend it to be used to inform student assessment.
Kuhlthau, C., Caspari, A., & Maniotes, L. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A, (2012). Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited
Pappas, M. L. (2006). Primary sources and inquiry learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(1), 23-26. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/
Stripling, B. (2008). Inquiry: Inquiring minds want to know. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 25(1), 50-52. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/