Application of information-learning theories…it’s all about me!

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Mahatma Gandhi

On a bright sunny Sunday afternoon the light globe switched on in my mind…it was finally making sense! Information Learning Nexus was finally something to celebrate. I knew that I was learning about the learning and in my opinion any new learning is challenging. As Gandhi says, we are to learn and learn and then learn some more and after suffering a cold thought I too would die with all of this new learning! Inquiry learning to me was about asking questions and finding answers and this unit has enabled me to see just how powerful this framework can be. Kuhlthau states that “Inquiry is the foundation of the information age school” (2010, p. 2) and describes Guided Inquiry to be a collaborative team approach that enables students to “meet the challenges of an uncertain, changing world” (2010, p.3). This inquiry approach has enabled me to learn; information literacy, how I learn, the course content, improve literacy and even my social skills via Facebook.

Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process (ISP) includes the following seven phases that are commonly experienced by the learner. Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari state that “learning begins with uncertainty and is driven by the desire to seek meaning” (2007, p. 17). Learning is complex and this ISP recognises feelings, thoughts and actions in which I will reflect upon. Other models have been investigated and similarities can be found between Brunner’s Inquiry Process, the Department of New South Wales ISP and The 8 Ws: Information Literacy as seen below.

The stages of these other models will be referred to at the end of  Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process (ISP) reflections.

Stage 1 – Initiation

At the very beginning of this unit my thoughts were fixated upon the spelling of inquiry versus enquiry. I know now that my sleepless nights and anxious mind was just the expected “uncertainty” that is a part of this stage in the ISP. Blogging was challenging and saw me pull out my notes from 2010 where I was first exposed to WordPress, but so much had changed – rather – so much was not really understood back then. The initial thoughts about this unit were broad and encompassed vocabulary such as the following acrynoms that were all new to me; IL, IL, ILA, ISP, KWL, KWHLAQ, GeST. I read as much as I could before the unit began but needed support in order to go forward. The weekly online collaborate sessions would give me just that! Looking back over my Week 1 to do list I can see that I was living in the dark, unfortunately there were nine things to follow up on in just that one session. I was “feeling depressed and bogged down and overwhelmed at the amount of work ahead” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 18).

Brunner’s Inquiry Process – Pose Real Questions

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. – Defining

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Watching and Wondering

Stage 2 – Selection

Feeling like a mushroom, I thought I was missing something. I was doing all of the readings and I was attending the online collaborate sessions but in my state of confusion I was disabled. The to do lists were growing but my ability to stay on top was zero. There were so many other things to select from and school events such as Science Week and Book Week took priority and prevented me from focusing on this topic or my ILA. This lasted for three weeks for me personally. Faced with a new topic, new concepts, new terminology, new lecturer, new work format (blogs) and new web 2 tools that were to be integrated the question of where to start was real and the uncertainty seemed to grow. After finally selecting a middle primary class to make links with, my focus changed and I felt I was getting on top of things and felt my optimism rising only to discover just how much work there was now to do.

Brunner’s Inquiry Process – Find Resources

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. – Locating

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Webbing

Stage 3 – Exploration

The exploration stage was difficult for me as my time was poor. I felt that there was so much out there to research and that narrowing it down was too hard. Often my search strings gave millions of hits and then using that same search string in another data base I would get nothing. Confused by what would and would not work soon became a frustration. This is demonstrated in my initial use of the A+ Education data base where the search string used in Google Scholar found zero results. I was “working through my own ideas and constructing new knowledge ” (ibid., 2007, p.18) and it seemed that I was now in the middle of the mushroom wondering which line of inquiry to select.

Brunner’s Inquiry Process – Find Resources

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. – Locating

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Webbing

Stage 4 – Formulation

This stage occurred while writing the Annotated Bibliography for this blog. I was so focused on my readings and summarising the main ideas and arguments that the light was not able to shine. After evaluating so many articles for their objectivity, reliability and bias I found myself using Kathy Schrock’s Five W’s of Web Site Evaluation and the CARS model when evaluating information. Thinking this is exactly what my middle school students need for my ILA I too felt I had a renewed sense of direction. When I had finished synthesising my ideas the light came on, there was renewed clarity. I was researching information on Guided Inquiry using the Guided Inquiry process. How clever!

Brunner’s Inquiry Process -Interpret Information

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. – Selecting

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Wiggling and Weaving

Stage 5 – Collection

Feeling some what relieved that the Annotated Bibliography was complete I was ready to collate my findings and write the essay. Again the complex nature of learning with the world at our fingertips was evident. I was able to break my information into three areas in order to explain the information search process that I undertook. I was suddenly writing about questioning frameworks, the search process and the ability to reflect upon the learning in a collaborative and supported environment. There was renewed confidence in myself, I knew the topic. This transpired into allocating precious time to dedicate on this blog. This increased my sense of ownership and the blog began to grow both in content and readership (albeit family and friends) I felt I was “developing expertise”(ibid., 2007, p.20) and wanted to share this in my ILA at school.

Brunner’s Inquiry Process -Interpret Information

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. -Organising

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Wrapping

Stage 6 – Presentation

This is where I find myself right now – in the Presentation Stage. I am at the end of the Guided Inquiry ISP and am now ready to share my ideas with others. The feedback from my peers has been meaningful and seeing the blogs of others grow has been both elating and deflating. As I work full time and study part time there is a part of me that is disappointed in what I have not achieved after seeing some excellent online work. This is again articulated by Kuhlthau (2007) when she describes the aspect of reflection and self assessment. My peer reviews coupled with my own desire to improve saw me edit some posts in order to better present my inquiry findings. This leads me to the success or failure image and takes me to the last stage of the Information Search Process.

Brunner’s Inquiry Process -Report Findings

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. -Presenting

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Waving

Stage 7 – Assessment

This learning process is complex and very personal and all educators know the importance of assessment. I feel that what I now know about Guided Inquiry will benefit me in my teaching. As a inquiry learning  facilitator I will be able to help others become life long independent learners. There is a “sense of accomplishment” (ibid., 2007, p.19) in seeing my work online, published to the world but with this comes an increased critical awareness where credibility, accuracy, reasonableness and support can be questioned. This Inquiry learning process has enabled far greater engagement in an authentic real world context. Success or failure is not important rather that I have been engaged in higher-order thinking processes and have been empowered to translate this into my ILA where my students and I will be transformed.

Brunner’s Inquiry Process -Report Findings

N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P. -Assessing

The 8Ws: Information Literacy – Wishing

Table 1 - Comparison of ISP Stages

Table 1 – Comparison of ISP Stages

This table demonstrates the similar Information Search Process stages based on Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process (ISP) and have been compared with Brunner’s Inquiry Process, the Department of New South Wales ISP and The 8 Ws: Information Literacy process. There are many similarities across the processes. They are all cyclic in nature, strong in questioning and all have an aspect of assessment or reporting included. The Brunner Inquiry Process has classroom display appeal and would make an excellent visual reminder in any classroom. It seems to suit primary levels as it has a simple four level approach with simple questioning embedded into each stage of the inquiry process but lacks consideration of feelings, thoughts and actions that Kuhlthau’s model includes. The Department of New South Wales ISP also gives clear steps in the process and includes questions to support this inquiry. Consideration of the information skills used makes this model a preferred model for my middle primary students. This model focuses on quality teaching and would support formative assessment which complements cyclic learning processes. As much as I like the alliteration of the 8 Ws: Information Literacy process the renaming of the verbs to a “w” word seems counter productive and could suit junior secondary students. The roles suggested for students, teachers and technology make this a similarity between the N.S.W. model and something to consider in the ILA. Overall these models list valuable verbs and processes that will be utilised in the information search process.


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

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.

Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A, (2012). Chapter 1 : Guided Inquiry Design: The Process, the Learning, and the Team. In Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A, Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school, (pp.1 – 15). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.