An Essay – a synthesis of the annotated bibliography – the light has been turned on!

The investigation of inquiry based learning was a journey of questioning and has led me use and improve my information searching processes. This search process has demonstrated the complex nature of learning. The nature of inquiry is to question, find answers and then reflect upon that new learning. In this synthesis we see inquiry learning as pedagogy where “any conscious activity by one person designed to enhance learning” (Watkins & Mortimore, 1999, p. 3) will powerfully transform the way deep lifelong learning occurs. Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari recognise learning as a “holistic experience” (2007, p. 27) where there is an opportunity for teachers to differentiate and use multiple intelligences in the process. The sources referred to in the annotated bibliography support the view that an information investigation is a process.  This method involves questioning, information searching and the ability to reflect upon the process. It is a complex method that requires targeted point of intervention support. There are a variety of inquiry models to consider but all seem to have three things in common; questioning, searching and are cyclic in nature.

Guided inquiry models that I have investigated all hold questioning “at the centre of the learning experience” (Harada & Yoshin, 2004, p. 2). The recognition of effective, strong questioning was articulated by Rusche & Jason and reference made to the utilisation of questions “as a sounding board to express an original idea or undeveloped analysis” (2011, p. 340). Brunner’s Inquiry Process begins in the same way where students pose real questions. Importantly “student questions are the building block of engagement” (Rusche & Jason, 2011, p. 340) and provide educators with insight into student learning. Purnell and Harrison (2011) recognise that inquiry begins with questioning but that it is reliant upon the effective use of the process in order to develop student knowledge and skills. Green (2012) reinforces this and refers to the use of personal and authentic questions and the importance of collaborative inquiry where the teacher and student work freely.

The Information Search Process (ISP) is interwoven by nature and requires “guidance, instruction, modelling and coaching” (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2010, p. 18). This is supported by Green (2012) who identifies that inquiry also needs to be collaborative and guided in order to be successful. Sheermann (2011) maintains this and presents findings that demonstrate the learning gains from a collaborative project where the teacher and librarian shared similar goals. FitzGerald (2011) and Shannon (2002) refer to the Kuhlthau Model of the ISP.  FitzGerald (2011) provided detailed descriptions of how students were feeling during the process and makes reference to prior knowledge for formative assessment. Shannon (2002) shared about the inclusion of a constructivist approach where feelings influence the development of learning and that there are stages, intervention zones and mediation levels. The idea that inquiry learning is a cycle is strongly conveyed in these studies.

The readings refer to the inquiry process as a learning cycle and share common ideas of inquiry strategies and the need for teacher support. Green importantly recognises that “inquiry learning is a core responsibility for all teacher librarians. It is often the most challenging part of the role, requiring many skills including intuition, insight, collaboration, flexibility and, at times, enormous amounts of persistence” (2012, p. 19). The recognition of the Middle Years Program model of inquiry adds credence to this due to its “fluid, differentiated and non-hierarchical structure” (Green, 2012, p. 20) where students are able to freely move between awareness and understanding and move to reflection and then action. This is supported by Colburn (2000) who also sees learning as cyclic. Pernell and Harrison (2011) share the same cyclic idea but take this one step further by having a backward design process.

Guided Inquiry learning enables teachers to work collaboratively. There has never been a more important time in education where the complex process of questioning and searching can be targeted successfully through scaffolding and guidance. With a Guided Inquiry model quality learning experiences are achievable because of the targeted point of intervention, giving support for all involved. Students have ownership to produce new learning through authentic situations and teachers gain confidence to be innovators of change. FitzGerald states that “the Information Search Process lies at the heart of Guided Inquiry” (2011, p. 1). This process is essential for developing independent lifelong learners, people who are ready and able to use their creative skills when solving problems and issues. Where everyone involved can make the most of every opportunity presented to them in their life, becoming learners who have the potential to develop innovative new ideas in the future.


Colburn, A. (2000). “An inquiry primer”. Science scope (Washington, D.C.) , 23 (6), p. 42.

FitzGerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Retrieved from:

Green, G. (2012). Inquiry and learning : what can IB show us about inquiry? [online]. Access; v.26 n.2 p.19-21; June 2012.

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, pp.1-10.

Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Chapter 2: The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry in Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K, Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century, Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, pp.13-28.

Purnell, Ken and Harrison, Allan.(2011). Inquiry in geography and science : can it work? [online]. Geographical Education; v.24 p.34-40; 2011.

Rusche, S. N., & Jason, K. (2011). “You have to absorb yourself in it”: Using inquiry and reflection to promote student learning and self-knowledge. Teaching Sociology, 39(4), 338-353.

Sheerman, Alinda. (2011). Accepting the challenge : evidence based practice at Broughton Anglican College. [online]. Scan; v.30 n.2 p.24-33; May 2011. Watkins, C., & Mortimore, P. (1999). Pedagogy: What do we know? In P. Mortimore (Ed.), Understanding pedagogy and its impact on learning. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Shannon, D. (2002). Kuhlthau’s information search process. School Library Media Activites Monthly, 19(2), 19-23.