This research based learning experience in the Information Learning Nexus unit has opened my eyes to the theory and practice of inquiry learning. Working as a team in the ILA allows us as educators to help our students enter the new learning paradigm as described by Ken Robinson. Gilbert recognises that one defining feature of this change is that of the new and different ways of thinking. This change is can be seen by moving from a point of knowing to a focus on understanding and application of this new learning. Even though inquiry activity contrasts with traditional education methods, information literacy should be a part of inquiry learning because evaluating the quality of information is important in inquiry-based learning and students use”real” questions in their inquiry-based learning. This view is supported by Treadwell who sees the development of inquiry learning as a “core capability in developing lifelong learning capability within the move to the emerging education paradigm” (2008, p.75).
Information Literacy (IL) is an important process where locating, searching, selecting and organising information is essential. Throughout this ILA reference was made continually to the Model of Information Search Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari, 2007, p.19.) and the stages that we were entering. Although the INITIATION stage was teacher guided there was freedom within the student body to make individual topic SELECTION. The EXPLORATION stage was a strength in this action research. However, recommendations will be made for improvements in the FORMULATION stage. Moving from the COLLECTION to the PRESENTATION stages were also easily achieved. ASSESSMENT was teacher driven and could include self and peer reflection in the future.
The Guided Inquiry process that I utilised was that of the collaborative, team approach described by Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2012). After discussing the ILA with class teachers it became evident that we all supported the features of an inquiry learning classroom as outlined by Harada & Yoshina (2004) where features included questioning, negotiating, social interaction, constructivist approaches and problem based learning through out the inquiry process. The table below demonstrates similarities between Harada & Yoshina (2004) and Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) helping to ensure all involved in this process shared 21st century learning skills.
The consideration of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) Creative and Critical Thinking F-10 Continuum and the Science Curriculum was utilised in order to connect curriculum with the students world. There is reference to a clear inquiry process in the ACARA documentation and strong similarities to the AASL standards for the 21st century leaner were previously documented. The strong links to meta cognition are documented as a series of four steps;
- Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas.
- Generate ideas, possibilities and actions
- Reflecting on thinking and processes
- Analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoonging and procedures
More and more often the ACARA content was covered by the class teachers and I was increasingly responsible for the critical and creative thinking. The table below illustrates comparisons between Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process, The Information Process (ISP NSW DET Model) and ACARA Creative and Critical Thinking F-10 Continuum.
The idea of utilising the “third space” as described by Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2007) students were taking part in a learning centered world where the content became secondary due to the fact that each group was learning about something they were passionate about. The inquiry skills had a renewed focus. Overall there was a general increase in all areas between questions and this can be attributed to the ISP where students move to the Selection and Explanation stages of Kuhlthau’s ISP Model. The sheer increase in response quantity requiring extra pages and an explanation of the acronym P.T.O (please turn over) demonstrates an increase of higher order thinking. The mandated Science Understandings were easily achieved in this ILA and there was a targeted times where Science Inquiry Skills were taking the main stage.
Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy
During the action research conducted during the ILA consideration of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy was used. The simplistic remembering layer was not required. Rather students were needing to understand and explain their concepts and apply this new knowledge in order to make analytical connections between the scientific concepts of living and non living and the properties of associated materials and their influences. This culminated in the creation of a variety of works such as speeches, models, experiments (some that failed three times) persuasive brochures adn dramatic plays. All groups generated new ideas or products.
Information Literacy has been described by Lupton and Bruce (2010) as a Generic, Situated and Transformative (GeST) paradigm. The three windows are seen to have an inclusive relationship where literacy is seen as;
- a set of generic skills (behavioural)
- situated in social practices (sociocultural)
- transformative, for oneself and for society (critical)
These perspectives can be seen to be nested inside each other and in this ILA a variety of windows were achieved by different groups. The students who stayed in the generic window were generally working by themselves and saw their inquiry as finding answers to questions and presented their learning via powerpoint presentations. The skills of finding, locating, selecting and organising information were challenging and further guidance to “examine currency, bias, authority, provenance” (Lupton and Bruce, 2010, p. 12) would have benefited this group. Alternatively revision of how to evaluate internet sources would have been timely. The majority of groups were operating in the situated window using many information search strategies and solving personally selected inquiries in a social setting. This too was problematic as some groups had trouble staying on task and kept going back to the defining stage.
It is my personal aim to strive towards the transformative window where the “skills and processes of the Generic window and the authentic social practices and personal meaning” (Lupton and Bruce, 2010, p.13) are coupled together with deeper reflective critical thinking taking into consideration the social influences. One group did make transformational change as their learning led to transformational thinking where the depth of their knowledge specifically on koalas inspired them to publish a brochure to help others understand the issues and seek change. This group inspired the class during the presentation stage to become active environmentalists. The success of this group was seen by the deep convictions held and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
Best practice can be seen to based on social construction, where learning occurs through interaction. The teachers were learning about guided inquiry and the students were engaged and motivated throughout this ILA. The Six Principles of Guided Inquiry all share these aspects and when coupled with higher order thinking skills such as Habits of Mind make for transformational learning opportunities. “Guided Inquiry is based on the premise that deep, lasting learning is a process of construction that requires students’ engagement and reflection” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari, 2007, p. 25). Together with ACARA standards and competencies, questioning models and information search processes the inquiry process with will give learners the essential tools required to emerge from our schools with the capacity to be independent lifelong learners, empowered to question and solve problems and issues creatively.
Harada, Violet and Yoshina, Joan. (2004). Chapter 1 : Identifying the inquiry-based school in Harada, Violet and Yoshina, Joan, Inquiry learning through librarian-teacher partnerships, Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Publishing
Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007) Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century, Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A.K. (2012). Chapter 1: Guided Inquiry Design: The Process, the Learning, and the Team. In Kuhlthau, C. C. ; Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A.K. Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.
Treadwell, M. (2008). The Conceptual Age and the Revolution School v2.0. Hawker Brownlow Education. Heatherton.
Lupton, M., & Bruce, C. (2010). Chapter 1 : windows on information literacy worlds : generic, situated and transformative perspectives, in Lloyd, A., & Talja, S., Practicing information literacy: bringing theories of learning, practice, and information literacy together. Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, 3-37.