Reflecting on my Inquiry Journey!

 

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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.

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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?

 

Reference:

 

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Retrieved from http://wp.comminfo.rutgers.edu/ckuhlthau2/wp-content/uploads/sites/185/2016/02/GI-School-Librarians-in-the-21-Century.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Response

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.

 

References:

American Association of School Librarians. (2013). Empowering Learners : Guidelines for School Library Programs. AASL Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/qut/reader.action?docID=10751717

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Retrieved from http://wp.comminfo.rutgers.edu/ckuhlthau2/wp-content/uploads/sites/185/2016/02/GI-School-Librarians-in-the-21-Century.pdf

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 http://hb.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:870341/FULLTEXT01 

 

 

Expert Searching

 

 

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Image created by author. (2016)

 

So I am far from an “Expert” researcher. Google is my friend, but to be totally honest Google Scholar, A+Education, and ProQuest Education feel like a maze that I am about to feel my way through. I have dabbled with Twitter and have educational/library feeds on Facebook that I follow and read with interest. I am working my way into becoming more savvy in the world of re-search.

After spending a week exploring I am really excited about the new tools I have been exposed to whilst viewing many information websites. I have watched each “little pathway of blue”, and become more in awe and excited about the prospect of trying out Boolean Operators; define: ; wildcards; brackets; synonyms etc. I then enjoyed exploring – “playing” with my inquiry questions and seeing quite quickly that my original Google searches were giving me less of what I was REALLY looking for. And I have already learned how to get to “what I am REALLY looking for” in a more efficient manner.

It is time now to really get into the re-search process. To become an “expert” searcher, and utilise these new tools. To find out more about Inquiry and hopefully come across information that I haven’t known or considered before. (I also have a plan to be proficient enough at this so that next May when the older students in elementary come through the library doors, searching for information for their exhibition topics, I will be able to guide them in some time efficient, quality information searching techniques.)

So after exploring all the link pages and learning some really cool things I decided to make a mindmap of the key words I could think of from my initial questions.

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FitzGerald, B. (2016) Created using bubbl.us

These will help guide my re-search. After some initial exploration, I can already see that I am going to have some interesting results, leading to further questions.

Let the searching begin………..

Google

Google Scholar

A+ Education

ProQuest Education

Social Media

 

 

 

 

Initial Post – What I Know! What I Want to Know!

I am on a Journey!                    We are all on a Journey!

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

My teaching journey began around 18 years ago when I entered a Primary Preschool Classroom in an independent school on the Gold Coast, Australia. Since then many opportunities and educational ideas and passions have crossed my path, changed my journey or started me on a new life-learning cycle.

I believe that we are all on our own journey of learning as a result of the passions we have, the opportunities presented, and the risks we take – inquiries we choose to ask and follow. This blog is about my questions surrounding the Inquiry Journey – the pedagogy, the approaches; the understandings of myself and others. I endeavour to ask these questions about inquiry, and to search effectively for different viewpoints to help me discover more about this style of educational delivery.

My first exposure into Inquiry began around four years ago after having professional discussions with friends who worked in PYP – International Baccalaureate schools. The IB system is well known around the world and for some a highly sort after education. The idea of “…an authentic and active approach that draws upon student’s natural curiosity” (Lupton, in press 2016, p.1) was appealing to me. As a Prep teacher for many years I enjoyed the spontaneity of this age group and loved seeing the changes in my daily plan from morning till afternoon. As I began to teach older age-groups, I often wondered as to when in school life this spontaneous curiosity becomes more structured. The system I was in (at that time) was a very inflexible curriculum whereby the same themes were rolled out year after year. The questions I had back then about this process were always shushed as a result of the fantastic results the school received in all state standardised testing – why would we do anything different?

Yes, Why?!

Whilst I continued on in this system for many years, I believe that my individual teaching style did allow inquiry to slip through the doors of my room daily, as the questions asked by students, and their natural curiosities, always allowed for interesting tangents to be followed….to a point. I eventually moved away from the yearly themes and ventured into the world of International Teaching whereby it was mainly PYP schools that I sought work. I wanted to know more about this teaching program. Test it out! Find out more.

And here I am today, two years later working in an international school in China that is an IB school. Am I a true inquiry teacher yet? Have I mastered all ways inquiry? The simple answer is – No! I have attended, “Making the PYP Happen”, and sat in on other PD days of learning how to deliver inquiry. I have watched my peers plan and introduce ideas, and I have observed the child inquirers in my classroom who are openminded and use their knowledge to build on their understandings and take action. I have been a mentor to Grade 5 students completing their Exhibition (a large student led inquiry project). I still ask lots of questions. I wonder about whether we are creating a true inquiry atmosphere in our classrooms and I wonder how to make inquiry teaching/learning better in this fast-paced, informational tech world. I now step out of the mainstream classroom this year into our Library. My new challenge is to take our library to a place that is more inquiry based and to establish a more collaborative team approach in the delivery of this. I am on my Inquiry Learning journey.

What do I know?

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Image created by Author. (2016) CC by 2.0

I know about Inquiry from what I have been exposed to via the school system I teach in, my experiences as a learner, my experiences as an observer and from what I choose to research to find out more. I know that Inquiry Learning is a teaching approach that is viewed worldwide as a system that works. First and foremost the system I am exposed to is that based on the Primary Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate, however as teachers on our staff share and compare we bring in Kath Murdoch ideas, and our own views and perceptions, and cultural understandings. For example, I work under the American system so even the way we pronounce the word “inquiry” is different. One of the ways we deliver our inquiry unit cycles is as the chart below: Choose a topic; Access our background/prior knowledge; Ask questions; Explore research methods; Collect information; Synthesise the information; and then Reflect and celebrate what has been learned. These types of formats are followed in our rooms to help the inquiry cycle flow.

AISG Inquiry Cycle

AISG Inquiry

FitzGerald,R. (2014) Posters.Permission to use. Cycle Image created by Author. (2016) CC by 2.0

I think, like others that “inquiry is something that we do naturally” (Lupton, in press 2016, p.2). At this stage in my re-search I think that as a teacher my role is to help guide my students in their inquiry and be their ‘director’ to help them find out more. This however, is not always the way. I have standards to ensure are covered and I find that once an inquiry unit is covered we move onto the next and I wonder how the cycle can continue for those that have more questions.

What I want to know?

So as I begin this re-search process I have begun reading many articles. I have enjoyed seeing in print:”Keywords: inquiry learning, inquiry-based learning, research-based learning, pedagogy, information literacy, multi-literacies” (Lupton, in press 2016, p.1) and realising the many terms used by some in this area of learning. And, I particularly like the Kuhlthau idea of “The Information Search Process” (as cited in Kuhlthau, C,C. 2010, p.4)……I am in this process….and it has made me reflect on how the students in my classroom may have been feeling at the beginning of a Unit of Inquiry. I am certainly in the ‘Initiation’ phase.

So upon reflection and further readings I have come to the conclusion that I have many questions. How to bring these down to just three for now was a little tricky. I thought I’d use the “Key Concepts” ( PYP, 2009,16-20 ), – a guiding tool that we use in the PYP to help our students along their inquiry journey, to help me explain a little my reasoning for these questions.

My Questions

  1. What is true Inquiry? This is based on the Form concept as everything can be organised and described in a certain way and as I have established that there are many key words in this re-search area I wonder do I really know what is true Inquiry. Is the way I have been professionally developed “the way” or is there a better option?
  2. How should a library be involved with all classes in their inquiries? This is based on the Change concept as I move from being a classroom teacher to an Elementary librarian with 40 minute library sessions, with each class a week. I want to know what the expectations of my new space could be.
  3. How does the natural curiosity of early childhood change throughout the formal school years? This is based on the Causation concept as I wonder if more years of formal schooling and the relationships made along the way, have any affect on this natural inquiry.

Let the Inquiry Learning Journey begin!!!

References:

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

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004) Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services, 2nd ed. SantaBarbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

 

Lupton, Mandy ( in press 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.