Final Reflection…what do you think?

Quote

“Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding. Furthermore, involvement in learning implies possessing skills and attitudes that permit you to seek resolutions to questions and issues while you construct new knowledge.” (Education Broadcasting Association)

Learning is always a time for questioning, interpreting and reflecting. This Information-Learning Nexus Unit has enabled me to engage with a wide variety of inquiry processes and information literacy models, these have reignited my curiosity for learning but this time the learning is in context offering all learners the opportunity for deep, interconnected, passionate thinking and problem solving, preparing “students for work, citizenship, and life in a free society” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 14). As I reflect back to my initial inquiry questions I can appreciate my personal learning journey even more passionately. With renewed energy I feel empowered to be a part of the changing teaching and learning paradigm that the 21st century offers us as educators. “The 21st century calls for new skills, knowledge and ways of learning to prepare students with abilities and competencies to address the challenges of an uncertain, changing world” (Kuhlthau, 2010, p.2). With change we are taking a risk but change with passion brings a chance to make a difference in the classroom, in thinking, in learning, in society and in the world. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?

What is inquiry learning?

This investigation now ends with research from Carol Kuhlthau who initially started me on my inquiry journey, where she explains this process as going “beyond merely fact-finding to personal understanding” (2010, p. 4).  The inquiry method of teaching and learning is “built on the basic desire of the human mind to understand the world that we live in” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 76) and now together with the real and authentic experiences explored through this unit I am excited by this opportunity to show others how to get more out of learning. This journey has enabled me to deeply explore Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) in a scholarly manner.

“Inquiry learning requires a rich information and communication environment that can provide a baseline for connectivity and knowledge …to build new knowledge and new concepts” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 76)
“Inquiry sparks learning in students and …calls on the collaborative expertise of librarians and teachers” (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 3)
“Inquiry learning is a constructivist pedagogy that takes student-posed questions as the starting point for learning” (Lupton,2012, p. 12)
“To inquire means “to ask questions” …so where did the question mark come from? No one is quiet sure, but it is powerful. This mark signals a question, which may begin a search and eventually find an answer…or bring to mind another question or two.” (King, Erickson & Sebranek, 2011, p. 235)

Upon reflection when I contrast this with Bloom’s Taxonomy I no longer just know about the inquiry process but have moved beyond application and analysis to being able to create my own IBL activities in the classroom grounded upon the evaluations made in this blog and my own personal learning. The questions asked initially have helped inform me during the Information Search Process (ISP) where through my own inquiry into IBL connections to these stages were experienced. IBL offers the 21st century teacher and learner the ability to work collaboratively, construct their own knowledge based upon prior learning ensuring motivation is high and that most importantly “learning centered” (Kuhlthau, 2010, p.5). With the ability to undertake five different kinds of learning (Kuhlthau, 2010) simultaneously during IBL this has to be the most effective approach to learning in the 21st century. What do you think?

What does expert inquiry learning look like?

Image taken by self

Image taken by self

I initially questioned what best practice would look like. Kuhlthau (2010) describes Guided Inquiry (GI) to be an inquiry methodology used to gain knowledge and deeper lifelong understandings. My school had used various models such as Hunter’s WE SOLVE It! Cycle of  Inquiry, the Big 6 and the N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. However, we were not implementing any of these well.The further this investigation took me the more reassured I was that it sounded like chaos to those who hadn’t heard about this before.

As the GI team started to collaborate and refine each others roles there was a renewed sense of who was responsible for the different aspects of learning. We had created the “third space” (Kuhlthau, 2007) and I now look forward to working together when assessing curriculum, information literacy, meta-cognition, literacy and cooperation skills where we can “take learning to a higher level – to raise the bar as well as facilitate the sharing of experiences, successes, and obstacles along the way” (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2010, p. 21).

Expert inquiry learning takes into consideration student background knowledge and enables the teacher’s mandated curriculum to be incorporated solving the crowded curriculum conundrum. Having seen the benefits of moving from the Generic window (Lupton & Bruce, 2010) I am excited about the future and aim to help learners become critical thinkers who challenge others and the world around them. The need for information literacy to be seen as transformative will be achieved when “learners are empowered to challenge and question social norms, governments and employers” (Lupton & Bruce, 2010, p. 22) and these are skills that all 21st century learners will need to learn about and practise.

How do we recognise the critical moment when we are to intervene?

Initially I asked how much time would be used to ask the deep and rich questions that stretch research – all at just the right time. This has been a challenging skill as questions “are the most powerful tools we have for making decisions and solving problems – for inventing, changing and improving our lives as well as the lives of others” (McKenzie, 2005, p.15) and to make this even more thought-provoking “questions should always be purpose driven” (Godinho & Wilson, 2004, p. 4). The generation of deep student driven questions enables the teacher to assess meta-cognition and the real understandings that have been achieved.

Some initial questions I can now answer were all pedagogical and will depend upon the learners and the support offered by the team leading the inquiry.

  • What will this time look like?This will be different for everyone, some students will be able to ask big questions and others will need guiding and scaffolding in order to ask higher level questions. Teachers too will need to be aware of thinking about the kinds of questions they are using and develop questions that “involve distilling and synthesising” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 90).
  • How will I know when to do this stretch? As educators we are called to be aware of learning needs and intervene at just the right time. The inquiry process opens the gate to who can support and stretch thinking and enables other experts to offer their opinions and think about their thinking too.
  • How can we guide and not give away the information?This all begins with effective questions, as “without effective questions the most educators can expect is regurgitated learning” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 101) and together with a strong inquiry process the opportunity for deep and transformative learning is achievable.
  • Is there a best search model to follow? The Information Search Process (ISP) that is described by Kuhlthau (2010) offers deep learning and thinking. I have investigated many other models over this unit and will continue to learn about new ones as they are published. In fact Pearson Education have just published a new methodology called the Brainstorm, Define, How? (BDH) as alternative questioning tool that is useful in the Australian Curriculum. Learning and questioning are part of the ISP and this process leads to building an effective, creative,deep thinking, lifelong learner. It is my aim to be a lifelong learner.

After action research on this topic of inquiry, it is clear to me that Kuhlthau, who stated, “an inquiry approach is a most efficient way to learn” (2010, p. 6) is indeed correct! What do you think?

References:

Education Broadcasting Association. (2004). What is inquiry-based learning? Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/inquiry/index.html

Godinho, S. & Wilson, J. (2004). How to succeed with questioning. Curriculum Corporation. Carlton South.

King, R. Erickson, C. & Sebranek, J. (2011). Inquire: A Guide to 21st Century Learning. Hawker Brownlow Education. Moorabbin.

Lupton, Mandy and Bruce, Christine. (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, pp.3-27.

Kuhlthau, Carol. (2010). Guided inquiry : school libraries in the 21st century School Libraries Worldwide, 16 (1), 1-12.

Kuhlthau, C. C.,  Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Chapter 2: The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry. In Kuhlthau, C. C. ; Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A. K. Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited

Kuhlthau, C. C., & Maniotes, L. K. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for 21st-century learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18-21. 

Lupton, Mandy. (2012). Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum Access, 26 (2), 12-18.

McKenzie, Jamieson. (2005). Learning to question to wonder to learn, Washington: FNO Press,

Treadwell, M. (2008). The Conceptual Age and the Revolution Schoolv2.0. Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education. Moorabbin.

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Results from the ILA

The Results, the outcomes and my interpretation…

At the beginning of the Information Learning Activity (ILA) the students were asked to select a material to study and research the living and non living components of it. Using the School Library Impact Measure –SLIM Toolkit (Todd, Kuhlthau & Heinstrom, 2005) as measurement tool I was able to assess and track the guided inquiry process in great detail. I conducted two data collection surveys using the questionnaires were and making a change to the suggested time frame. The outcomes of this unit was tied into the ACARA  Science Curriculum. For ease of interpretation results  for questions 1, 2 and 3 in SURVEY 1 will be green and all SURVEY 2 results will be coloured in red.

Question 1 – What do you know about your topic?

In these surveys students were asked to think about what they were learning about in order to focus their thoughts and to then write down what they knew about the topic. The student responses were analysed individually and responses to question 1 from both surveys was categorised into fact, explanation and conclusion statements as can be seen below in table 1.

Table 1 - Question 1 Survey Results

Table 1 – Question 1 Survey Results

This figure clearly demonstrates an increase in all three areas. However, one difficulty when scoring facts in question 1 was that some of the students were defining the general topic of living and non living things, rather than writing verb statements to describe “what a concept is or how it is performed” (Todd, Kuhlthau & Heinstrom, 2005, p. 7). Whilst recording results for Questionnaire 1 I noticed there was only one explanation and no conclusions made. I was worried that I had not explained the questionnaire correctly or that the students didn’t understand me. Some students wrote “we don’t know” even after the initial topic launch that was conducted voiding their responses. In the image below you will see the response from Student 6 who I decided to track more closely.

Own Image - student response

Own Image – student response

For the purposes of this data analysis, Students 1 to 6 were tracked individually. The various educational, social and emotional needs of these students varies greatly and will be seen in the detailed analysis. Student 1 made one very deep explanation in Questionnaire 1 and as this student is involved in the gifted and talented program I wondered if this would make a difference to the overall outcomes of this survey. Looking at the individuals inspired me to consider the total change in learning. To look at total change in learning I added up all fact, explanation and conclusion statements from Survey 2 and subtracted the total from Survey 1. This gave me a score that was averaged into the two groups of students. Again student 1 ranked the highest across the cohort and is a confident and optimistic person. However, interestingly the scores did not match preconceived learning needs and styles of others.

Table 2 - Question 1 Ranking Sum

Table 2 – Question 1 Ranking Sum

Overall there is a general increase in all areas between questions but interestingly the greatest improvement was seen in an increased factual knowledge demonstrated in Table 3.

Table 3 - Factual Knowledge Comparison

Table 3 – Factual Knowledge Comparison

Question 2 – How interested are you in the topic?

The SLIM Toolkit questionnaire asks students to consider how interested they are in their topic and below in table 4 you can clearly see the increased student interest between survey 1 and 3.

Table 4 - Comparison of interest displayed

Table 4 – Comparison of interest displayed

The pie graphs below enable you to see clearly the changes between each survey and then finally a comparison of grouped individual interest levels based upon changes. The grey pie graph despite demonstrating a 14% decline is representative of only 3 students.

Table 5 - Questionnaire 1 Data - Interest in Topic

Table 5 – Questionnaire 1 Data – Interest in Topic

Table 6 - Questionnaire 3 Data - Interest in Topic

Table 6 – Questionnaire 3 Data – Interest in Topic

Table 7 - Changes in topic interest

Table 7 – Changes in topic interest

Question 3 – How much do you know about the topic?

This question displays student self awareness of topic knowledge. Table 8 depicts the quantitative data of student estimated knowledge on the topic. When surveyed at the end of the ILA some students wanted to make a fifth box entitled “everything”. This question was seen as formative assessment and helped me to prioritise who to track more closely and support. Overall despite the graph showing an increase in knowledge there were six students who scored the same in both surveys.

Table 8 - Demonstrates Knowledge of the Topic

Table 8 – Demonstrates Knowledge of the Topic

Question 4 – What did you find easiest to do?

Due to the age of these students results in this are were less than I expected possibly due to their age and ability to answer these questions cognitively. However the themes of information searching and usage of the internet were common across this research project. Students commonly responded to these questions in dot point and in similar ways as seen in this image. However, there were 6 questionnaires that were unable to be included due to absence during the survey 2 data collection phase. That being the case results could have been significantly higher.

Question 5 - Own image

Question 5 – Own image

The results in table 9 depict the collated student perceptions of the information search process and were broken into six common themes as seen below:

Table 9 - What did you find easy to do?

Table 9 – What did you find easy to do?

Question 5 – What did you find difficult to do?

The common themes of surrounding the information search process continued to be mentioned in the surveys. However, as can be seen in table 10 there were some significant changes that can be contributed to formative assessment strategies and discussion of this can be seen in the analysis. Again, there were four questionnaires that have been omitted in this survey due to absence and their common area of difficulty was in the area of internet usage and the strategy enlisted to elicit answers from Google. This table does not demonstrate the difficulty some groups had on staying on task. There were two particular groups whose topics changed in each session making information selection difficult due to the changing topic questions. The inclusion of work environment will be addressed in the analysis.

This pie graph does not reflect three students decline in interest levels but when looking at the raw data it was interesting to see the answers in question 5 and 6. Student 19 was not interested at all and found “nuthing (sic) hard to do” (SLIM Questionnaire 3) and interestingly stated it was because they “knew efreing (sic)” (SLIM Questionnaire 3). This student’s topic area was a common material that most Victorians study in depth and with parents who find and make holiday links to learning had selected something comfortable.

Table 10 - What did you find difficult to do?

Table 10 – What did you find difficult to do?

Question 6 – What did you learn in doing this research project? (Questionnaire 3 Survey 2)

Survey 2 used The SLIM Toolkit Questionnaire 3 and consisted of two additional questions to be answered. This second survey was conducted in a rush at terms end and enabled me to collect 25 responses. However, two students omitted this question. This question was designed to “generate a student-based summary of their learning” (Todd et.al., p.17) and data collected did not enable me to analyse information seeking strategies rather then main self perceived learning. Answers to this question were brief and tended to fall into the following three categories.

Table 11 - Common Themes and Student Examples

Table 11 – Common Themes and Student Examples

Table 12 below depicts a clear ring with percentages, again the strength in factual information based on the evidence above can be seen.

Table 12 - What did you learn in doing this research project?

Table 12 – What did you learn in doing this research project?

Question 7 – How do you feel about your research?

The ILA ended with a particularly high sense of achievement where the presentation of findings was a whole class celebration. There was a wide variety of materials and an even broader assortment of presentation structures ranging from models, power point presentations, role plays, television news reports, brochures and experiments. When adding the confident and happy responses together there is an overwhelmingly high percentage of 95% of students who are able to demonstrate their new knowledge with passion and assurance. There was one confused student who consistently selected broad questions, displayed and reported ongoing difficulty using the internet who could have benefited from tracking.

Table 13 - How do you feel about your research?

Table 13 – How do you feel about your research?

Outcomes and Interpretations

As seen in the gallery below students were able to “share the product they have created to show what they have learned with the other students in their inquiry community” (Kulthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012, p. 5). A clear ability to distinguish between living and nonliving things was achieved. Students were able to confidently report upon their selected materials describing a range of uses and their specific properties.This ILA was considered successful as we were able to achieve numerous ACARA content descriptors and the inquiry skills consisting of questioning, predicting and communication. Wilson accurately states that “assessment data should be used for planning and to ensure that students are actively involved in all aspects of the learning process” (2013, p. 72) and all teachers were part of the process making the learning journey a success.

References:

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.

Kuhlthau, C. C.,  Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Chapter 2: The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry. In Kuhlthau, C. C. ; Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A. K. Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited

Todd, R., Kuhlthau, C.C. & Heinstrom, J.E. (2005). School Library Impact Measure. A Toolkit and Handbook for Tracking and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes of Guided Inquiry Through The School Library. Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, Rutgers University. Retrieved August 6th, 2013 from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/joomla-license/impact-studies?start=6

Wilson, J. (2013). Activate Inquiry: The what ifs and the why nots. Education Services Australia, Carlton South.

Methodology of the ILA

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Benjamin Franklin

The Information Learning Activity (ILA) implemented during the last five weeks of Term 3 utilised the The School Library Impact Measure (SLIM) toolkit (Todd, Kuhlthau & Heinström, 2005) and “focused on the thinking skills and habits of mind that lead to greater understanding” (Harada & Yoshina, 2004, p. 1) where the characteristics of an inquiry based environment were able to be analysed using information learning theories and especially the Information Search Process (ISP).

The educational context of this ILA is considered formal where face to face interactions take place and I led 5 sessions as outlined previously. The inquiry focus was upon living and non-living materials with a group of 28 Year 3 and 4 students. The pupils completed two surveys throughout this time with 21 completing both surveys (12 girls and 9 boys). The surveys were conducted during my Discovery Learning sessions without the presence of their class teachers.

Data Gathering – the what, why, how and when

The school that this ILA is situated in is currently undertaking a whole school approach towards assessment. As ongoing assessment is one of the goals of guided inquiry the implementation of this project has been the perfect opportunity “for evidence-based practice” (Todd, 2010, p. 24) to be put into action. There were three phases of assessment and data collection as seen below. This was conducted across five weeks and the findings used to analyse and better understand meta-cognition and deep thinking in the inquiry process.

Table 2 - Phases of Data Collection

Table 1 – Phases of Data Collection

Phase 1 was conducted over a two week period where the the initial Questionnaire 1 was conducted with the whole class. During this time students were in the initial stages of their inquiry. Phase 2 incorporated the information search process, observations and student teacher conferences on a group of tracked students that took two weeks to complete. Phase 3 consisted of only one week due to timing of school holidays and affected how many surveys in total were able to be taken. Both Questionnaire 1 and 3 were used in order to seek data and further information on initial knowledge and post learning achievements.

All students had the freedom to present their findings in any way they liked and then orally presented to the class at the end of the term. This enabled the guided inquiry team to reflect upon the learning process and more importantly empowered the students to reflect upon their learning and make connections with the learning process and personal progress. Assessment was ongoing throughout the inquiry process as different skills were required at different times and as educators we had to determine the right time for point of intervention support.

The use of the SLIM Toolkit enabled me “to measure how students’ knowledge of their curriculum topics changed during the inquiry unit and track changes in interest and information seeking” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p.126). The data collected on the surveys was scored quantitatively in order to graph and analyse the findings. Using results from questions 1,2 and 3 comparisons were made between each Questionnaire. Other data was coded in a qualitative manner in order to find common themes around inquiry learning. The answers from questions 4 and 5 were open ended and after collation enabled me to target specific student needs. The results of this ILA have helped me see and appreciate the importance and value of inquiry learning.

References:

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, Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century, Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

Todd, R., Kuhlthau, C. & Heinström, J. (2005). School Library Impact Measure S L I M – A toolkit and handbook for tracking and assessing student learning outcomes of guided inquiry through the school library. [PDF file] Retrieved from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/slimtoolkit.pdf

Todd, R. (2010). Curriculum Integration – Learning in a changing world. Camberwell. ACER Press