Peer Feedback 2

The process of analysing a unit of work and suggesting elements for redesign of a unit to become “more inquiry” is a huge task. I have really enjoyed reading many of my peers work and seeing their suggestions for better questioning, implementation of critical literacies and the like. Here are two that I particularly enjoyed reading.


Christine Tsoumbris:

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.47.16 pm



Emily Scott:





Final Reflections 2


FitzGerald, B. (2015). “The Great Wall”, Beijing. CC by 2.0

I started this adventure 3 months ago –  my first venture back into University Education. When I realised my first subject would be about Inquiry Learning, I wasn’t alarmed or phased but rather very excited about delving into a topic that I had an interest in. I knew about Kath Murdoch and was ‘sort of’ experienced in that I teach in a school where inquiry is important and valued. It is something we strive to achieve daily. However, as a curious educator I still had questions myself about this educational thought, are we doing it ‘right’? And when I was asked to go through the inquiry process using my “own” questions as the driving content I wasn’t short of wonderings. My original questions were:

What is true Inquiry?

How should a library be involved with all classes in their inquiries?

How does the natural curiosity of early childhood change throughout the formal school years?

Then names like Kuhlthau, Maniotes, Lupton, (to name a few) came along. Who were these people, what were their thoughts….why hadn’t I heard of them before…..where had I been. My eyes were opened and I began reading, learning, researching and inquiring into new understandings of what inquiry is, may be, should be. I realised, it is definately not a black and white answer.

The Journey has been LONG!!! It has been a road of ups and downs and many detours along the way. My road was replicating Kuhlthau’s , (2010) Information Search Process model.  Feelings of emotion have stretched me and frustrated me,  development of new ideas have excited me and the general idea of these new learnings have been the constant push to get through – for the benefit of my teaching and my students.

Discovering the likes of Kuhlthau was one of those moments of ‘Yes’ I get this. Why haven’t I heard of her Guided Inquiry opinion before? Once researching and reading into her ideas such as those formed with Maniotes and Caspari (2012) around the Guided Inquiry Design Framework, awareness was set in place. I was able to think about my questions around ‘true inquiry’ and  ‘natural curiosity’. Thinking and processing steps that can be taken to be a “guiding” educator within the classroom.

I have always been naturally curious about the notion of “inquiry learning”. I have dipped my toes into the process however, after completing this course I now feel like I have even more of an understanding about this idea of “inquiry is a way of learning new skills and knowledge for understanding and creating” (Kuhlthau, 2010),  to “guide students in experiencing essential inquiry elements such as questioning, information literacy, and iterative research cycles (Lupton, 2016). Developing more of an understanding of critical literacies through Lupton’s GeSTE Windows (2016) and thinking more analytically about questioning practice and the right frameworks for a particular unit have been at the forefront of this new attained knowledge. I have always known that the basis of an inquiry cycle is the cycle itself, however as a teacher, sometimes this notion and how to actually execute it in a classroom were beyond me. I am a teacher who truly believes in the curiosity of the student….but to truly deliver this notion was always hard….time always got away.

Being exposed to the understanding that “asking questions is at the heart of inquiry-based learning” – “questions that kids honestly care about” (Youth Learn, 2016) made an impact on my learning experience. I have been a part of the questioning process but upon reflection, hadn’t really undertaken (until going through this process) the depth of this concept. Guiding, modelling, exposing students to different questioning frameworks, to enable and empower them along their inquiry road has probably been my biggest take-away from this whole process.

And finally, my last question, how does the library be involved with all classes for their inquiries…..I think I am on the path of being one of the “Guided Inquiry Team” (Kuhlthau, 2010) members.  I like the idea that by being one of these people my role is  to “provide a synergy of ideas for developing inquiry learning and also provide the additional professional guidance and ongoing support student inquiry requires.” Moving closer to the students world and the curriculum, having “third space”.

So, where to now…….my journey continues……I am now in the process of sharing my new found knowledge with colleagues, getting them to also ask questions, expose them to new ideas….to see if we are delivering best practise in our classrooms. And as my journey is one of inquiry, I have a new question……

How am I going to achieve this new-found “guided inquiry” team approach with other educators? 

I have begun the sharing of information; the questioning of what we are doing…….now to the implementation of new theories and ideas……the journey continues!!!!


Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. Maniotes, L,K. Caspari, A,K. (2012) Guided Inquiry Design. Rutgers School of Communication and Information.(2016)

Lupton, M. (2016) Inquiry learning: A pedagogical and curriculum framework for information literacy. In Sales, Dora & Pinto, Maria (Eds.) Pathways into Information Literacy and Communities of Practice: Teaching Approaches and Case Studies.Chandos Publishing.

Lupton, M. (2016)

Youth Learn © 2016 Education Development Center, Inc.

Unit Re-Design



Image by Author, 2016


This post provides an overview of the suggested changes to be made to the Simple Machines unit in the previous post. The new plan has been redesigned reflecting the changes suggested to ensure that the unit in question is more inquiry driven.

Component How it is completed.
Name of the Unit




Grade level

Curriculum / Standards


Transdisciplinary Theme – How the World Works – Simple Machines

How the world works Simple_Machines Unit Planner

Simple Machines Unit Lesson Sequence


Primary Years Programme / American Aero Science / Social Studies

5 weeks

Type of Inquiry Guided Inquiry
Inquiry Model Used Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle

Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design

Information Literacy GeSTE Windows – mainly in the Situated and Expressive windows with elements of the Transformative to be implemented.
Assessment Many opportunities to show thinking and understanding throughout the process of inquiry. Constructing a machine of some sort at the end…..their own choice of machine and through reflection explain what their machine does.


The goal of this unit – “How the World Works – Simple Machines” is to allow the students to be creative and to construct a ‘working’ machine. Along the way they will be exposed to machine elements; complex machines and how they work; and be encouraged to investigate, explore and ask questions that lead to their own designs and creations.

Through investigation and analysis of the aforementioned unit the overall assumptions acquired were that the unit could benefit with a little more Student involvement in the investigation process and the development of driving questions. There is evidence that the unit strives to be inquiry driven as there were many elements noted, that were of value in the delivery of the unit previously. These included:

  • the use of Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle,
  • Bloom’s revised Taxonomy showed that all steps were attained in this unit even reaching the creating stage.
  • minimal elements of teacher and student direction in the inquiry
  • Big idea essential questions are aimed to be implemented along with a range of the other questioning frameworks, such as KWL (Ogle, 1986) and visible thinking tools like wondering wall activities.
  • GeSTE windows analysis showed that the critical literacies understandings were mainly in the Situated and Expressive windows.

The main aim of this post is to implement the suggestions made previously, into the unit by re-designing it, to incorporate the recommendations. My recommendations were:

  • to have more student led explorations
  • more student led questions
  • teachers framing better questioning techniques with the students
  • a variation on the summative assessment
  • the unit outline to show the inquiry stages using Gourley’s (2008) cycle (as these are represented in classrooms)
  • the outline to show Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design (2012)
  • more hands-on learning opportunities rather than teacher demonstration
  • a range of challenges
  • implementing the KWHLAQ (Barell, 2008)
  • more reflection times
  • try to incorporate the Transformative Window of Lupton’s (2016) GeSTE Windows

Inquiry Approach

It is important to highlight that the idea of this unit being described like Dunkhase’s (2000) “coupled inquiry” was very much appreciated as an appropriate approach for this unit of work considering the age group of the children involved. The suggestion was made that the areas of this approach that needed improvement were the “Open Inquiry” and “Inquiry Resolution” parts of the cycle (see the full cycle image in the previous post). The updated unit weekly plan has aimed to implement these ideas through the children ‘playing’ and ‘testing’ their questions as “asking questions is at the heart of inquiry-based learning.” (Youth Learn, 2016) There is also encouragement to “get them thinking, and help them make connections with their world outside of school” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2016)….to help them come up with their own theories and assumptions. Time provided to share these findings with each other is also now included. There is a move to the final assessment being completely student decided in terms of what they want their machine to achieve. If a student requires a problem to be provided, the teacher will cater for this, otherwise it will be totally up to the students, to allow them to be independent in terms of their design.

This unit is designed around the idea of Kath Murdoch’s (2010) Phases of Inquiry but Gourley’s (2008) Inquiry Circle is displayed in the classrooms as a guide to leading the cycle. The Central Idea: “Simple Machines play a role in our everyday lives.” is unable to be changed and for the sake of this process the Teacher Guided Questions will also remain the same: What are force and work?; How do Simple Machines work?; How do Simple Machines make work easier?. The intended plan is that the students will be guided more in the construction of their own questions around these essential questions, and  be given time to investigate these. More directed questioning frameworks are encouraged to be used by the teachers (guided) to lead students into becoming better at asking their own questions rather than relying on the teacher to tell them what they should be questioning.

The Re-Designed plan in the link below has these added elements to the document:

  • Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle
  • Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design (2012)
  • Old Plan
  • New Concepts to be implemented – incorporating the ideas of questioning, KWHLAQ; more hands-on opportunities.
  • Revised Blooms Taxonomy implemented after the new concepts added, providing details of what part of the Taxonomy step.

All of the above were noted in some form in the prior post as having suggestions of improvement to this learning inquiry. The following link to the new re-designed plan will show the changes/modifications made in response to the recommendations above.


Development of Inquiry Skills

When referring to the above re-designed unit plan it should be noted that there were intended ideas put in place to further the development of the Inquiry skills required. Being a unit in a school that follows the International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme Curriculum, it was intentional in the redesign to ensure that elements of this thinking process were included in the Unit of Inquiry.  Right in the beginning of the unit there is now intended notions of “more hands-on learning opportunities, to challenge them to find out more” (International Baccalaureate Organisation,2009) and this is more evident also throughout the unit. (see the images below)


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016

Another “inquiry” ideal that was intended was the use of mini cycles happening within the main Inquiry Cycle (Gourley, 2008). By using the strategies of Barell’s (2008) KWHLAQ process questioning technique, the aim is to encourage the children to keep on questioning….come up with new and improved directions in their thinking. By practising “questioning and listening skills” we are guiding the children in “the art of asking good questions” (Youth Learn, 2016). It is intended the teacher will be very much a part of this process, modelling their own questions and providing the time for this reflection on these questions to happen within the unit.


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016

The re-design also allowed for a more directed approach in the planning of more Evaluative Science Questions, to accompany the STEM activities that the students will be exploring. This is ensuring another range of questions are incorporated, taking into account the Science Standards that are required to be covered within this unit.


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016


In the re-design I attempted to place more accountability on the types of questioning included in the unit. As Lupton (2016) suggests, we need to “facilitate students’ skills and agency in asking their own inquiry questions”. Therefore in my re-design I have endeavoured to allow students to be guided through the questioning process to learn and understand “good” questions and then they should be provided with the time to implement their learning. The table below shows how these new elements have been incorporated into the questioning process in the Unit Re-Design.

Questioning Frameworks How they are Implemented into the Re-Designed Unit
Generative The implementation of using Barell’s (2008) KWHLAQ questioning framework. This is to be started at the beginning of the unit and then has been obviously put into the planning to be re-visited and the cycle added to throughout the inquiry, thus allowing for using “the model to ask the questions at a number of different stages of the inquiry process” (Lupton, 2016).

Guiding the students through reflective questioning when they are creating and have created their machines. e.g. How did you feel about your design? Is there something you would change? What could I improve?


Essential Key Inquiry Questions – Teacher “Big Idea” question that will be referred to throughout the unit – How do Simple Machines work?; How do simple machines make work easier?; What are force and work?  Along with the Key Concept questions: Function – How does it work? Causation – Why is it like it is?

Implementation of Jackson’s (2013) “Research Wonders”. The children will be encouraged to identify these when they are completing their Wondering Wall in the first week of the inquiry.

Process More emphasis in the planning document on Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle and the implementation of Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design (2012). It is suggested that the teachers may try this process to help guide the inquiry…seems more relevant to the subject matter being implemented.


Evaluative Evidence now in the planning document of the Scientifc questions that could be implemented to correlate with the Science Standards.

Using Lupton’s  (2016) GeSTE Windows to critically evaluate Information Literacy also allowed for some changes and implementation to the current unit. It was noted in the analysis that the Generic and Situated Windows were well represented in the original unit plan. There was an element of the Expressive Window with no clear representation in the Transformative Window. The image below shows the areas from the plan that the GeSTE Windows are represented. These are highlighted after analysing Lupton’s GeSTE Windows for information literacy.



Author’s use of the GeSTE Windows in relation to the implementation of the Unit Redesign. (2016)


Finally, after having taught this Unit of Work previously I am excited about the new directions that the actual process of ‘questioning’ might take the unit. It has always been intended to be a unit where the students drive the learning, and slowly each year changes implemented have allowed this notion to become a reality. As I will not be a part of the teaching process for this unit this year, I am hoping the idea of ‘guiding’ stronger questioning might take off with this year’s group of teachers (who are willing to take on my recommendations). I will be available as the librarian, so I will be able to take on the suggested library lessons to model how to search for relevant text and database information to allow more information building. It is also intended that the students will be involved in critically analysing information to ensure that it is relevant to their inquiries. Another area of excitement for this unit is the notion of the students having more ‘freedom’ as to the machine they design. Many students last year, actually chose this tangent and as their teacher I just went with what they were wanting to achieve, asking questions along the way. I am looking forward to seeing what the students this year question and create.


Barell, J. (2008) From Lupton, M. (2012). What is Inquiry Learning.

Dunkhase, J. (2000) in Martin-Hansen, L. (2002), Defining Inquiry. The Science Teacher; Feb 2002; 69, 2, p.34-37

Gourley, B. (2008). Inquiry Circle. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2016)  Inquiry Learning

International Baccalaureate Organisation. (2009) Making the PYP happen: A Curriculum framework for International Primary Education. Revised edition. Anthony Rowe Ltd, United Kingdom.

Jackson,S. (2013)  Helping Students Develop the Ability to Ask Good Questions.Scholastic Education. Canada

Kuhlthau, C. Maniotes, L,K. Caspari, A,K. (2012) Guided Inquiry Design. Rutgers School of Communication and Information.(2016)

Lupton, M. (2016) Inquiry learning: A pedagogical and curriculum framework for information literacy. In Sales, Dora & Pinto, Maria (Eds.) Pathways into Information Literacy and Communities of Practice: Teaching Approaches and Case Studies.Chandos Publishing.

Lupton, M. (2016)

Lupton, M. (2016)

Lupton, M. (2016)

Murdoch, K. (2010). Phases of Inquiry

Ogle, D. (1986) KWL. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2012) What is Inquiry Learning.

Pohl, M. (2000).  Blooms Revised Taxonomy. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2016)  Inquiry Learning

Youth Learn © 2016 Education Development Center, Inc.








Analysis and Recommendations


Image by Author, 2016.

The unit of work being presented is one that I have been involved in teaching for the past two years. I have had an active part in reshaping this unit as it was a unit that was once VERY teacher driven with not much hands on inquiry. It has been transformed a little already, with room for further improvement, and the direction of delivery, and thus inquiry always changes in relation to the students and teachers involved.

The unit – Simple Machines, is a “Unit of Inquiry” planned using the Primary Years Programme, a part of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum. It is in the Transdisciplinary Theme of “How the World Works”. Intertwined in the unit are also American Standards that need to be covered in relation to Science and Social Studies.

Simple Machines is a 5 week unit for 2nd Grade students.

It’s central idea is that the students understand that “Simple Machines play a role in our everyday lives”. The Primary Years Programme key concepts; lines of inquiry; and teacher provocations help guide the inquiry of this unit. The students are involved in identifying what a simple machine is; exploring and playing with different types of machines; seeing how they work; identifying what they can do with a simple machine; applying the knowledge to different situations and constructing mini machines; then creating their own machine for a problem.

The summative assessment has gone through some significant change in the last two years. The original summative assessment involved the students “choosing an already made machine at home to write clues about, and then get others to guess what they thought the object was”…..where now the students create their own machine, linked to scenarios to help guide them in the types of machines that they will construct out of recycled materials. The students present their machines to the parent and school community peers on a sharing morning arranged by the teachers.

The links below provide access to the Unit document and the Weekly guides for plans.

How the world works Simple_Machines Unit Planner

Simple Machines Unit Lesson Sequence

The Process

When commencing a unit of work it is always good to revise its ideals and to spend time reframing it to ensure it suits the students within the learning classroom it is intended. Time is spent by teachers reviewing these notions and in our situation ensuring that “inquiry” is always a part of the process. This analysis aims to review a unit and provide recommendations to enable more “inquiry” into the planning. Suggested questioning frameworks and more open-ended approaches will be intended to be provided in this process.

Inquiry Approach

“Inquiry learning involves learning to inquire in a formal educational environment.”

(Lupton, 2016.)

As the unit being critiqued is written using the ideals of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum, the students involved in this unit should experience “many different forms of inquiry based on the student’s genuine curiosity and their wanting and needing to know more about the world” (p.30, Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education, 2009). The unit documentation shows that there are many practises in place around this inquiry approach, however there is room for more “inquiry” processes to be implemented to keep the spirit of inquiry alive. A unit with standards to cover, often requires a certain amount of teacher directed, guided instruction to ensure that the learning is covering what is expected to be learned. Martin-Hansen’s (2002) description of “coupled inquiry” (Dunkhase, 2000) (See Figure 1) where you combine an open inquiry with a guided inquiry,  I think is a very relevant term for the type of inquiry that is evidenced throughout this unit. There are certainly areas of this notion that are documented in the unit outline. There is evidence of student-centred approaches when the children are involved in STEM activities in Week 3 and in the creation of the summative in weeks 4 and 5. The other weeks 1,2 and some parts of 3 are very much the guided inquiry approach where the teacher is trying to explore specific skills and asks specific questions.


Figure 1: Created by author, 2016. based on Dunkhase (2000) in Martin-Hansen’s article information (2002)

It is noted that the first 2 steps and final stage are explicitly completed with the students in this unit very well, however steps 3 and 4 could be more student involved, getting the students be more apart of the questioning process, investigating their own questions and planning from there. Student questions and the development of “new” questions throughout the process would be more beneficial to maintain effective inquiry for the individual.

Other inquiry approaches identified as being used in some format in this unit are analysed in the table below. I have chosen to highlight the areas noted below to established what elements of inquiry are evident (or not) in the unit presented.

  • Level of Inquiry – is used to identify how student oriented the unit of inquiry is.
  • Inquiry Model – helps us see what style of inquiry learning is being followed – one particular model or a blend of models.
  • and Lupton’s  GeSTE Windows (2016) – these windows are enabling us to view whether there is inquiry learning and information literacy in the unit of learning.
  1. Generic Window identifies skills and processes.
  2.  Situated Window works with the Generic and can involve a particular area of learning – e.g. science, history
  3. Transformative Window works with the Generic and Situated but can involve a political view or some sort of social action.
  4. Expressive Window can also work with the Generic and Situated and is encouraging learners to be reflective and express themselves.
Which Approach is Identified for this unit Where in the Unit Analysis / Recommendations
Level of Inquiry Teacher and Student Directed From the beginning to the end it is clear that the teacher is guiding in some way. Week 1 / 2: The teacher is guiding the research, based on teacher questions. The resources are mainly teacher chosen. The students are completing the procedures with limited times to ask their own questions. Week 3: The stem activities are ones found by the teachers for the students to complete. The unit aims to have a very student driven approach however due to the age group and concepts there seems to be more teacher direction to ensure that the children are able to explore all the options to create a competent machine. It is suggested “that more time is allocated for Student questions to be asked and explored”, be implemented throughout the unit.  A thought would be that this could happen right from the start of the inquiry.
Inquiry Model This unit aligns with Kath Murdock’s (2010) Inquiry Model and Gourley’s(2008) Inquiry Circle. The classrooms in the school all have inquiry circles of some sort displayed in some form to help guide the students and teachers through the inquiry process.  The “Process” Questions associated with the Inquiry circle help guide the questions.

Another approach identified however not explicitly implemented at this stage is Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari’s(2012) Guided Inquiry Design: Open; Immerse; Explore; Identify; Gather;Create; Share; Evaluate

Not clearly identified anywhere in the unit. There are Teacher Questions in the main unit document that are a guide but any other questioning is not provided.



It is an expectation that the inquiry cycles are displayed in the classroom in some format. It is recommended that the Inquiry Circle process be added to the main unit plan to help identify the stages with which each week is in. This would also help the teachers use guided questioning that is helpful to the students.

Introduce the idea of “Guided Inquiry Design” and its relevant wording to the PYP Curriculum Coordinator and the teachers involved as a way to guide the inquiry? This may not be the chosen way to guide inquiry in the current setting however its wording and ideas are similar to the processes currently followed.

GeSTE Windows (Lupton & Bruce, 2010) This unit sits in the

Generic Window

Situated Window

Expressive Window

Generic Window – skills and processes are completed and practised, throughout the whole unit.

Situated Window –authentic scientific practises happen within the STEM experiments; Week 3-5

Expressive Window – Children design, create and reflect on a machine that they have made – weeks 3-5. Mini reflections are made on the iPad for student private blogs throughout the unit.

It is nice to discover that this 2nd Grade unit of work essentially sits well in the GeSTE windows. It may be a little too focussed in the Generic area with a recommendation for more focus to be placed in the Situated area. This could be through more problem solving tasks linked to the students asking more of their “own” questions related to the topic.

A suggestion is to add in the Transformative Window from the angle of considering different ideas – Who would benefit from your machine? What else could be added to your machine to make it do something else?…..This could happen by making the summative assessment more open ended and not to a set scenario. The students have more control of their machine and ideas to complete this area of the windows.

By looking at the unit through a Blooms Taxonomy lens it is revealed that the unit, whilst containing some higher order thinking skills, still remains in a mostly teacher led, remembering and understanding level of inquiry.

The diagram outlines the levels of each of the activities in the unit by colour coding as follows:


Based on Blooms Revised Taxonomy (Pohl, 2000), re-created by Author, 2016


Unit of Work Lesson details, written by Author (2015)

Overall, it is nice to see that this unit sits in each stage of the revised Blooms Taxonomy in some part. A move to more student driven applying, analysing and evaluating  around the big idea will be the aim for the future unit design.


Upon reflection after reviewing these approaches I have some suggestions of how to implement some aspirational notions to this unit. This unit follows some relevant Inquiry approaches and aspires to provide students with more freedom to inquire. As the Youth Learn document (2016) stated, “asking questions is at the heart of inquiry-based learning”. It is recognised that the aim of the teachers involved in this unit is to guide the children however a new direction of techniques implemented to do this may allow “the educator’s role to be different and encourage the projects to be student driven” (Youth Learn Document, 2016).

* It is suggested that the unit start with more explorations rather than content.

*It is suggested and encouraged that more student driven questions be implemented and explored throughout.

* That the students get to drive more of the investigations.

A variation on the summative be considered – maybe no scenario; considerations of who would benefit from the made machine.

The inquiry model should be outlined (the stages) with the plan to be clear to readers of which stage each part is in.

*Show how Guided Inquiry Design can be fit into this unit to the Coordinators and Teachers involved.

Development of Inquiry Skills

This unit has been written in the context of the Primary Years Programme Curriculum, Transdisplinary Theme – How the World Works – Simple Machines. It is a curriculum that states in its documents that “the PYP has been infused with the spirit of inquiry……..framed by means of questions such as ‘What do we want students to understand and be able to do?'” (2009,Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education,p.28). This understanding is what drives our thinking as teachers, when working through these units with our students. The Science strand (p. 93-102,Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education, 2009) suggests:

  • ” there should be more hands-on learning rather than teacher demonstration;
  • being exposed to more than one approach;
  • challenging students to find out more;
  • take on actions etc.”

There is evidence in the Unit Weekly plans that there is thought to the above ideals however, the evidence of this open hands-on learning and providing the children with time and opportunity to challenge their thinking to find out more, is not clearly available.

Another element of the PYP in this unit are the key teacher questions:

  • What are force and work?
  • How do simple machines work?
  • How do simple machines make work easier?

These are used to guide the students through the inquiry process to help tune them in to find out more, and stay involved in this inquiry thinking process.

This unit is also designed to be aligned with the American AERO standards in Science and Social Studies – these are identified at the end of the passworded document and are set.  It is noted that they have to be covered.

Many when thinking PYP inquiry think about Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Model (2010) and this is part of the development of inquiry in this approach, however, from being a part of the “teaching” for this unit, I identify now more with Gourley’s (2008) questioning model when presenting and working through this unit with students. There is evidence that there is some sort of inquiry cycle happening throughout the learning process to help the children develop their thinking.  This tool is utilised and displayed in the classroom and the children and teacher refer to this as they are working through the cycle to help understand where we are in our thinking.

There is evidence of “inquiry wording” throughout the written planning document: analysing, interpreting, engaging, describing, drawing conclusions, connecting, creating, understanding, lines of inquiry, wondering, teacher questions – notice there isn’t an area identified explicitly on the plan “Student questions”. The thought process here is that by using this language with the students we are engaging them, and exposing them to the language used in inquiry learning.

The unit overall has elements of the inquiry skills displayed. It would be beneficial to define areas more explicitly and provide more examples.


*More hands-on learning opportunities rather than whole teacher demonstration.

*Setting a range of challenges to guide students to explore further. 

*More explicit use of inquiry cycles within cycles.


 “The questioning process is crucial to all stages of inquiry” (Lupton, 2016) as it helps guide the inquirer through the process of analysing their information and what they want to know more about. We encourage students to constantly want to find out more and to delve further based on what they have discovered. It enables them to learn more about their own wonderings rather than those just prescribed by others. Modelling and guiding students through good forms of questioning helps develop their inquiry skills to always delve deeper to find out more. The more I spend time on analysing this unit the more I seem to identify that it is a little lacking in the development of the “questioning” department, to help drive the instruction. There is evidence of some questioning techniques but it is an area that could be developed more in the sense of the student. The following table shows the styles of questioning evident in the analysed unit. It is obvious that the questioning is mainly directed by the teacher. There are questioning tools and strategies being modelled however in a very directed manner.

Questioning Frameworks Evidence Recommendations
Generative Key questions asked throughout the general inquiry of the unit. Many just factual retrieving questions, with the knowledge that the teachers are aiming to branch out with their questioning style.

Many chances for “wondering” questions throughout the unit. The students complete some Visible thinking strategies (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison,2011) related to wonderings.

More “what if” questions or “Why” being effectively driven.

Use a visible thinking tool at the absolute start of the unit with some random machines /parts etc. to encourage the students to begin their own questioning process – this is mentioned to complete but is done after other activities and would be a good beginning to start the questioning process.

Have the wondering wall displayed (like in other units of inquiry)

Suggestions that there be more time and guidance given to the students to generate their questions using some more structured frameworks – for example the inquiry cycle guide questions.

Essential The unit being PYP is based on a Central Idea; posing teacher questions and provocations. There are key concepts that drive the inquiry – for this unit Function and Causation questions “How does it work?” and “Why is it like this?”

The teacher questions in the unit plan are “big idea” questions designed to help students make sense of important but complicated ideas, knowledge, and know-how – findings that may be understood by experts.” (Wiggins, 2007). The main central questions above drive the inquiry.

Ensure these questions are being displayed somewhere in the room to help the children refer to them. This will enable the inquiry to keep on track and help drive the inquiry. Or come up with one BIG idea to allow the mini questions to drive off this main investigation.
Process Gourley’s (2008) Inquiry Cycle is what the teacher uses to move through the inquiry learning process. These are displayed in each classroom and used as the teaching is moving through the unit of inquiry.

Minor “KWL” (Ogle, 1986) strategies are modelled with the students at the start however not really evident in the planning as it is completed incidentally.

After researching questioning the idea of KWHLAQ (Barell, 2008) would be more beneficial to the students in the inquiry process as it can be completed, at the beginning of the cycle process, throughout and at the end…..establishing a “true” cycle of inquiry.
Evaluative When the students are completing the STEM activities the questions are based on scientific questions e.g. “What is an incline plane?”and “Why does the incline plane help the toy car travel a further distance?”“If I add this simple machine to my complex machine, what will it help it do?” These are not clearly shown in the lesson plans. Show more examples of these in the lesson outline.

It is thought that maybe using more explicit questioning models throughout the inquiry process may help these younger students become more proficient “questioners” in “their” inquiry of the bigger ideals within the unit. Another thought is the idea of having “a compelling or rich QUESTION to drive the inquiry” (Murdoch, 2012) to run alongside the ‘Big’ idea that the unit is inquiring. This would enable us to help the children see that these compelling questions invite us to “ask more questions to investigate and explore our inquiry.” (Murdoch, 2012). The thinking is that they will then see that the questions they have are useful to their own thinking….thinking about something rather than just fact finding.

Lupton’s (2016) GeSTE windows are used to critically evaluate information literacy and learning processes in inquiry. They use a hierarchy idea to to show the degrees of sophistication. Exploring this unit the students are encouraged to evaluate information but on a very Generic/Situated scale. There is evidence that they also express their findings in the Expressive window, through the construction of their own designed machine.  The table below displays how the GeSTE windows can be used to evaluate the unit provided.

Using the GeSTE Windows to Critically evaluate this Unit of Work – Simple Machines.

Information is… Information Sources…. Information is evaluated by examining….. Outcome Key Questions
Generic Supplied by others

Prior knowledge

From teacher; books; websites; videos Managed; organised; purpose Using what is shown; reading My teacher found so must be worthy?
Situated Supplied by others, Prior knowldge and Own thoughts Own knowledge and experiences; opinions; ideas Lots of different tools; Lots of information provided; Seeing how things work. Playing with the machines Why does this happen?

How does it work? Where is it used? Who uses this item?

Transformative  ————  ———–  ————-  ————  ————
Expressive From self Thoughts; ideas; own experiences; Making meaning from information; reflecting on understandings. Designing a machine;

Making a machine; Self expression

Does this show others my thinking?

Am I proud of my design? How did I feel throughout this process?

From the above analysis it can be seen that this Unit mainly sits in the Generic and Situated windows, with elements being explored in the Expressive Window. There are avenues that can be explored in the Transformative window to help bring about a societal view in this area of thinking.


*A way that the Unit of Inquiry could incorporate more inquiry type questioning is using KWHLAQ  charts in this unit right at the beginning.  

*Need to ensure that the cycle of inquiry is happening, questions are being asked and reasked.

*Experiences and teacher guidance is provided to allow these student questions to be explored / tested out.

*More directions in framing good questions or problems (Jackson, 2013)

*More than one approach should be exposed to the children when working with simple machines.

*Visible Thinking Strategies (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 2011). This particular unit has more standard questioning techniques driving the inquiry.

*Try to incorporate the Transformative Window of the GeSTE windows through getting the students to think about “who may benefit from their machine?” – a more societal view or challenging themselves to add more elements to their machine to enhance it.

My overall thoughts after completing this process is that the unit is a “coupled inquiry” (Dunkhase, 2000) however there is a chance to expand more student driven elements. It is an inquiry that is appropriate for the age group it is intended. There are many opportunities to add in more effective questioning techniques and more student interest to the investigations. At the moment it seems very much that the students are “‘doing’ a topic rather than investigating” (Murdoch, 2012) it. There is evidence that this investigating is the way that is intended however more elements need to be put in place to effectively achieve this outcome.


Barell, J. (2008) From Lupton, M. (2012). What is Inquiry Learning.

Dunkhase, J. (2000) in Martin-Hansen, L. (2002), Defining Inquiry. The Science Teacher; Feb 2002; 69, 2, p.34-37

Gourley, B. (2008). Inquiry Circle. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2016)  Inquiry Learning

International Baccalaureate Organisation. (2009) Making the PYP happen: A Curriculum framework for International Primary Education. Revised edition. Anthony Rowe Ltd, United Kingdom.

Jackson,S. (2013)  Helping Students Develop the Ability to Ask Good Questions. Scholastic Education. Canada

Kuhlthau, C. Maniotes, L,K. Caspari, A,K. (2012) Guided Inquiry Design. Rutgers School of Communication and Information.(2016)

Lupton, M. & Bruce, C. (2010). Chapter 1 : Windows on Information Literacy Worlds : Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives in Lloyd, Annemaree and Talja, Sanna, Practising information literacy:bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, p.3-27.

Lupton, M. (2016) Inquiry learning: A pedagogical and curriculum framework for information literacy. In Sales, Dora & Pinto, Maria (Eds.) Pathways into Information Literacy and Communities of Practice: Teaching Approaches and Case Studies.Chandos Publishing.

Lupton, M. (2016)

Lupton, M. (2016)

Lupton, M. (2016)

Lupton, M. (2016)

Lupton, M. (2016)

Murdoch, K. (2012) Walking the world with Questions in our heads…..

Ogle, D. (1986) KWL. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2012) What is Inquiry Learning.

Pohl, M. (2000).  Blooms Revised Taxonomy. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2016)  Inquiry Learning

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible – How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for all Learners. Published by Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, USA

Youth Learn © 2016 Education Development Center, Inc. 

Wiggins, G. (2007) What Is an Essential Question? Big Ideas An Authentic Education e journal. Authentic Education.

Reflecting on my Inquiry Journey!



FitzGerald, B.(2015). “The Great Wall”, Beijing. CC by 2.0

The journey I have been on has been an up and down road. I started with a little knowledge of inquiry and how it should be, but still queried whether my teaching practice was truly there. The process from the beginning, and the initial questions I raised have come a long way. I gained some answers and developed many more questions. I started out with:

What is true Inquiry?

How should a library be involved with all classes in their inquiries?

How does the natural curiosity of early childhood change throughout the formal school years?

As my searching took place each of my questions sort of evolved along my journey – even though my main searching question was:

How should a library be involved with all classes in their inquiries?

There were many interesting articles found and they led me on different paths, my thoughts have been expanded, confused, frustrated and enlightened. My brain at times has been very full. I have been on my own inquiry cycle. Kuhlthau, (2010) has an Information Search Process model that she suggests helps guide students in the inquiry process.


Author created. Adapted by Kuhlthau’s model (2004)


At the beginning of this process I read an article by Carol Kuhlthau, (2010), Guided inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century and right from the start I enjoyed what I was reading. I was intrigued by Kuhlthau’s thoughts…..I had never read any of her work before. I reflected on my students of the past and present, and could identify these elements from the Information Search Process model, in what I had observed in the classroom.

Then I actually began my journey and there was definitely moments along the way that also reflected what has been documented.

At the start (the Initiation) I was very uncertain of what areas I should explore. Everything was a big deal for me as I was returning back to university and this was my first subject, and surely I was okay as I teach in an inquiry school……..but was I really on top of this concept inquiry? I was actively looking for anything and everything inquiry. I attended discussions and listened with interest to establish what I should be looking for. The move into a new library job as well as completing a research journey enabled me to establish questions from a very personal point of view.

Then as I read more, listened more, and followed the discussions, I became more optimistic (the Selection). I formed my questions, had outside discussions with peers and thought I had a handle on everything. As the blog process started to take effect and the initial posts were complete I was thrown into a spin as I entered the world of Search Engines with Boolean Operators, AND, OR, truncations and the like, (the Exploration). I was frustrated and overwhelmed by the whole process. I tried and tried, explored and explored. There was a point where I felt like I was running on the spot in a circle……one I wasn’t enjoying! Wasn’t this meant to work….I was following and reading the directions provided, listening to my peers and seeing what they were achieving, using all cues possible….it was feeling impossible! Clarity started to creep in (the Formulation), thank goodness for the community around me….my guides along the way. I was starting to move on the right track. Many new questions were popping up…I could’ve changed tangents so many times……however I was now gaining direction, (the Collection) and I was growing in confidence of how to work the allocated search engines to my advantage. I was excited by what I was finding and my head was again getting full …….with information that was fulfilling, questioning, providing me with uh-huh moments. There were so many articles to explore around my question (and other questions I had formed). I was utilising tools such as critical evaluation models to decide which I would share with the digital world, ones that I thought useful to ponder over and consider.

Then another mini inquiry into how to create a curated collection occurred and days of frustration and overwhelming feelings appeared again as I learned another new process. I was thrown back into confusion (the Exploration) and again the community around me helped guide and support me back on my journey.  Direction was once again established and the road to the journey’s end had finally arrived. Having said that, my journey is on-going. I have found some clear guidelines to the librarians role in an elementary school community however, I feel, I have more questions to explore, unfinished tangents and queries to delve into.

It is clear to me at the end of this process that I have gone through Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry. In her article Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century, Kuhlthau describes “Guided Inquiry as enabling students to learn how to learn by becoming aware of their learning process. Each time they work through the stages of the Information Search Process (ISP)– initiating, selecting, exploring, focusing, collecting and presenting–they learn the process of inquiry as well as how they personally interact within that process. Guidance is provided at critical intervention points to teach strategies for learning from a variety of sources of information.”  (2010, p.7) I can now really see how important this “guiding” process is to a student going through the inquiry process. I valued the support networks I had helping me along the way, checking in to see how I was going and providing feedback throughout. It has made me consider and reflect how to do this more for my own students.


So I have reached the end of this first module on my Inquiry Journey. I am satisfied (the Presentation) with what I have achieved on this journey. I know that I will continue finding out more as I delve into the best practice for a librarian of the 21st century and then work on how to maintain this to the best of my ability. I am excited to share my new found information with my fellow teaching peers, and then to establish a more collaborative guided inquiry process for our students. It is an exciting journey to be on.

My Next Question:

I am still interested and wanting to know more about – Curiosity and Learning. So I suppose I want to know:

How can we foster curiosity in the library environment?




Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Retrieved from











I have been travelling on an inquiry journey in education for many years. I have stopped along the way and explored different approaches and now my exploration has taken a new path. I am stepping into the role of librarian in a PYP (Primary Years Program) school. I still have many questions about the most effective way to guide the students in my care along their learning journeys. I want to ensure that the time they spend with me allows them to maintain their natural curiosity, and yet still provide them with the tools they need to be 21st century learners. Hence my question: What is the Librarian’s Role in the Inquiry Classroom?

Kuhlthau, (2010) discusses inquiry in the form of “an innovative movement in education that advocates acquiring essential skills and knowledge through an inquiry approach to teaching and learning.” We as educators need to consider what it is our students need to acquire to help drive their own learning. We are their guides and our role as educators is to “equip students with abilities and competencies to meet the challenges of an uncertain, changing world.” (Kuhlthau 2010) We have the resources, however as educators we need to also keep learning and questioning ourselves, to be useful guides in the inquiry process.

The school library is the place that “we see a need for students to develop a broader repertoire of meanings ………with stronger links to intellectual interaction in the pursuit of understanding the world.” (Limberg,Alexandersson, 2003). It has come to my understanding after reading a range of articles that the school library of today needs to change. It can’t just be seen as the room of books. We need to instil in our students and school community that this space is one for learning, exploring ideas, creativity and much more. There is so much that a library space can provide to today’s community of learners and it is educating and collaborating with other educators, that the real potential of a library space for its learners can be achieved.

School libraries have standards to deliver to students. The American Association of School Librarians (2013, p.43) suggests “the school library program models an inquiry-based approach to learning and the information search process.” That librarians should be supporting classroom programs and helping build learner’s prior knowledge to help them understand what they are learning. My understanding from reading this text and other articles is that a librarian is part of the guiding role. Kuhlthau, (2010) suggests that “guided inquiry enables students to learn how to learn by becoming aware of the learning process.” The goal of a collaborative team in this approach to guiding students, is a big focus, that the team works with the students, using planned, targeted mediation when required to help students achieve their learning goals.

I hope that the Curated Collection I have created helps other librarians think about their role in a collaborative team, for an inquiry classroom. Personally, as a result of my research, I have gained new ideas and perspectives, to be more effective, and directed in delivering inquiry learning in a library space.



American Association of School Librarians. (2013). Empowering Learners : Guidelines for School Library Programs. AASL Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Retrieved from

Limberg, L., Alexandersson,M. (2003). The School Library as a Space for Learning . School Libraries Worldwide Volume 9, Number 1, 1-1 5. Retrieved from