Recommendations – the future of information-learning

“The creative process involves getting input, making a recommendation, getting critical review, getting more input, improving the recommendation, getting more critical review… again and again and again.” Unknown

The action research conducted in this ILA has offered me the opportunity to really understand the relationship between information and learning. I now appreciate the interconnected nature of information literacy (IL) and inquiry based learning and acknowledge that the real area to develop is that of questioning. “By combining the underlying concepts of information literacy with major subject area curriculum standards, Guided Inquiry prepares students” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 91) to collaborate passionately in order to transform their learning. The introduction of an information search process has given this action research direction.

The ILA Team Approach

This ILA was led by a three-member instructional team. We enjoyed the “synergy for sharing ideas and creatively planning and solving problems” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 48) collaboratively. I had initially shared Dr Cornelia Brunner’s Inquiry Process Model where the questioning framework was felt to be naturally imbedded. The use of some templates that were offered on this website enabled the students to feel more confident in their initial musings on the topic. This team approach is something that I recommend and in this ILA demonstrated to the students that we were collaborating effectively and respectfully which is seen to be a vital component to 21st century teaching and learning.

The Use of Formative Assessment

After each session that has since become known as “Peer Mentoring” across the Year 3 and 4 teams, we were often discussing things that worked and didn’t work in order to refine the inquiry process as we went. We were consciously aware of using formative assessment by “finding out where learners are in their learning, finding out where they are going, and finding out how to get there” (William, 2011, p.45) and again the roles were being refined. I was aware of my role as “resource specialist, information literacy teacher and collaboration gatekeeper” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 57) and see the importance of being able to access information at just the right time as vital.

We were able to see, based on survey 1 results, that there was a specific need to improve web site evaluation. We spent some time deciding what to use (Kathy Schrock, CARS, Brunner ideas) and an explicit teaching moment was led by me. This was a success but workshops in smaller groups would have been more successful, better meeting the specific needs of the individual inquiry topics. This also meant that too much time was spent on finding resources and interpreting information. Another weakness linked to time management was that after getting 3-4 weeks into the inquiry process I anticipated that to do survey 2 and then only one week later conduct survey 3 would not demonstrate an incredible difference and also, more importantly, lose valuable research time. Therefore after consultation with the teaching team decided to spend more time on the I.S.P. as it was observed that the students needed more teacher direction and support in this area. The benefit of utilising the time in this manner enabled students to complete their inquiry before the school holidays benefiting me and the teachers who have been able to begin a new inquiry in collaboration with me in Term 4.

Pre-assessments were not conducted in this ILA and could have prevented declining interest across the inquiry process. The majority of students indicated an elevated interest as seen in the ILA results which can be attributed to the freedom of material choice and the movement within the Kuhlthau’s ISP model from the exploration phase to the formulation phase where more clarity is felt and thoughts were more focused.

Successes…what worked

There are obvious aspects that were seen to be successful in this inquiry and fortunately due to initial discussions the teaching team all shared a “constructivist view of learning, team approach to teaching” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 52) and were enthusiastic about this opportunity to learn more about the inquiry process. There was also a shared understanding of various information seeking processes leading to strong pedagogical discussions. The use of the SLIM Toolkit ensured formative assessment was enacted upon. We were about to teach vital critical literacy skills using the CARS model when we decided that the 5 W’s of Web Site Evaluation supported our student and the Brunner Inquiry process more closely. The introduction of various search strategies was also a highlight and students were excited to be using search engines other than Google. Note taking strategies were also improved in the ILA and this skill has proven to remain strong in recent observed sessions. The collaborative teaching team approach has changed the learning community, strengthened relationships and ensured the achievement of a more personalised learning focus. Students too, were highly motivated and felt supported by working in teams. Wilson discusses this and says “when given the opportunity to choose the focus of an inquiry, students are generally more motivated and ready to keep going when faced with challenges” (2013, p.7) and this was evident throughout the inquiry. The renewed understanding not only of the physical location and use of print resources (such as encyclopedias) but the use of the OPAC was another aspect where the learning environment was personalised.

Improvements…what didn’t work

Image retrieved from Treadwell 2008 p. 204

Image retrieved from Treadwell 2008 p. 204

In this ILA there was a lot of time spent finding resources and interpreting information. Time was considered to be precious as it was a 5 week period of time we were limited to. The overload of information needed time spent on management both of time and data. After reading about how to recognise time-wasting behaviour in Activate Inquiry  by Jeni Wilson (2013, pp. 36-37) I was able to identify the procrastinators, hunters and gatherers, completion avoiders and frequent flyers amongst the class. The teaching team shared many inquiry process models and it would be interesting to visually and explicitly teach one model as we were getting ideas from two different models.(Brunner’s Inquiry Process and The N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P.) Another aspect of improvement is that of using prior knowledge to more specifically inform teachers what the needs of individual  groups are. The use of formative assessment was innate due to the school focus on this area however consideration of self and peer feedback could have been imbedded into the assessing stage (The N.S.W. Department of Education I.S.P.) of the inquiry. Assessment during inquiry learning needs to cover “concepts, understandings, behaviours, skills and dispositions” (Wilson, 2013, p. 74) and this is supported by ACARA who uses the term capabilities. Treadwell (2008, p. 64) discusses learning dispositions to include;

  • being curious, imaginative and passionate
  • to think laterally
  • being meta-cognitive
  • to be aware of the “big picture”
  • being in/inter/dependent, critical thinkers
  • willing to modify and adapt our world view
  • able to provide reasons
  • to act in a responsible, caring manner
  • being capable and willing to be strategic
  • to be persistent

The thinking skills that underpin these dispositions “need to be explicitly taught and reinforced so that they become habits … that are applied … thoughtfully” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 64) and with wisdom. These dispositions can be mapped against the “Habits of Mind” and Bloom’s Taxonomy and if incorporated would have a multiplying effect on learning. This all begins with effective questioning.

Recommendations

Based upon research undertaken during the ILA there are three recommendations that would improve Guided Inquiry in the classroom. The following changes would improve and strengthen future inquiry processes; development of deeper questioning skills, an adoption of an Information Based Learning (IBL) approach and the integration of assessment strategies.

Adopting a questioning model is pivotal to learning how to learn and becoming a lifelong learner. “Questions and questioning may be the most powerful technologies of all” (McKenzie, 2005, p. 15) and coupled with new and transformational digital technologies we are in a unique time of educational change. The use of a simplistic KWL and Wonder Wall had been a great start but looking more deeply into A Questioning Toolkit (McKenzie, 2005, p. 29) in the image below you will see question types. It is strongly recommended that different questioning models be integrated into each year level. Therefore there would effectively be seven models that students would be able to refer to and bring to their learning in the senior years.

Information Based Learning (IBL) coupled with a questioning model creates a strong inquiry model. This ILA has demonstrated clearly the benefits of an inquiry approach towards deep learning. The Microsoft Partners in Learning created a 21st Century Learning Design Rubrics and this describes six important skills that students need to develop to be;

  1. collaboration
  2. knowledge construction
  3. self-regulation
  4. real-world problem-solving and innovation
  5. the use of ICT for learning
  6. skilled communication

Assessment during the ILA was through teacher-student conferecnes, observations and anecdotal records. There is an opportunity to incorporate stronger records that demonstrate evidence of student learning and the use of graphic organisers, journals and concept maps would be beneficial in the future. Checklists could be given to specific team members to record the demonstration of skills, dispositions, behaviours or capabilities that need reviewing. It would be recommended that an assessment strategy be integrated into the IBL approach. Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari acknowledge that there are “five interwoven, integrated kinds of learning” (2012, p. 8);

  1. Curriculum content
  2. Information literacy
  3. Learning how to learn
  4. Literacy competency
  5. Social skills

Through an IBL approach lifelong learning is developed and students are exposed to an engaging and challenging learning environment. The IBL approach has a focus upon social construction (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 27) is collaborative by nature, constructivist and learner centered – what other way is there to go forward into the next teaching and learning paradigm?

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

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

Treadwell, M. (2008). The Conceptual Age and the Revolution School v2.0. Hawker Brownlow Education. Heatherton.

William, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Solution Tree Press, Bloomington

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

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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