“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?
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?
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
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.