Posts Tagged ‘Guided Inquiry’

ETL 504 Part B – Reflective critical analysis.

In my first forum posting in this module, when describing my understanding of leadership I stated “I understand leadership in terms of motivating people to work towards common and shared goals. Leadership involves setting high expectations for these goals and providing the environment and management structure for these to be achieved throughout an organization. For leadership to be effective in a school it needs to be shared following a distributed leadership model. In order for this to work, clear guidelines of roles and responsibilities should exist” (Riddle, 2014). While I had an overarching idea of what leadership could and should look like I had not up to this point considered seriously my own leadership capacities in my role as teacher librarian.

Working through the module I gained a greater depth of understanding of the scope of leadership possibilities and was able to reflect on areas where I needed to develop. I began to see far more clearly the distinction between managing and leading and started to understand that an efficient leader needs to have a clear vision that colleagues are motivated and inspired to work towards (Kotter, 2013, para. 8.) but must also take on the role of ‘manager’ overseeing operational responsibilities. I feel that the key to success as a teacher librarian is balancing both aspects.

I had a clear idea on ‘manager’ responsibilities within the role. In my blog I stated “In terms of managing, the TL has responsibility for managing a budget, sourcing and ordering appropriate materials, timetabling, running inventories, cataloguing, processing and analysing data as well as managing staff and volunteers”. However I hadn’t considered leadership in terms of leadership for learning and what can be described as instructional leadership, (Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005, p. 18) leading elements of teaching and learning across the school. It became clear when working through the module about strategic planning and change management that the teacher librarian has the potential to play a pivotal role in implementing educational change by working in collaboration with a hierarchy of personnel throughout the school.

Don Tapscott’s video made me reflect on the teacher librarian’s role on leading technological change and the idea of sharing in relation to the collective good of society. I stated in a blog post that “It’s important to remember that the idea of sharing information and ideas globally and instantly was the primary driving force behind Tim Berners-Lee’s pivotal development of the world wide web in 1989 and the internet protocol HTTP system that drives it. Berners-Lee’s genius was putting together several already existing strands of computer/information technology and creating – and giving away, the Internet to the world” (Riddle, 2014, para. 5.) This ties in with how users’ expectations and behaviour have changed, which teacher librarians need to plan for and accommodate.  In my school, one way in which children are being encouraged to share their work in different ways is through the website ‘Lend me your Literacy” (LMYL). This is an interactive site where children become published authors and share their work with the world. Children receive feedback on their work via comments from other children and adult guest commentators.

It was with the focus on technological developments, educational change and the physical learning space that I really began to reflect on the next steps in the library’s development. The strategic planning assignment was a very real and practical exercise for me and something I thought deeply about. It is extremely relevant to my current situation in my school as we are planning to move to a purpose-built library space in two years. However, meanwhile we need to adapt the current library space and curriculum to become more relevant to the changing needs of the school as a whole.

One of the major changes recommended in my report was regarding the implementation of a coordinated approach to the teaching of information literacy and  inquiry-based learning. This directly linked to a school priority of embedding guided inquiry, the need for which was highlighted by our most recent school government inspection. Another change I recommended was regarding the creation of a virtual learning environment (VLE). The school is currently creating this for classroom teachers, students and parents and it is a logical next step to include the library in this space. Inspiration for how this could be used came from looking at the existing structure in school. I gained ideas of potential format, content and functions by visiting other library websites.

The future library involves a visionary, adaptive and flexible approach to realising a learning space that supports the needs of 21st century learners. It follows the Learning Commons Model which is described as a “physical and virtual space that helps today’s learners engage in more meaningful ways through exploration, experimentation and collaboration” (Koechlin and Loertscher, as cited in Kindschy, para. 3).  Creating an environment conducive to learning involves strong leadership skills and a clear vision to ensure the school community is striving towards a common and shared goal of student success, achievement and wellbeing.



Kotter, J.P. (2013, January). Management is (still) not leadership [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Kindschy, H. (2014, September). Five things you need to know about the Learning Commons Model [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. In School leadership that works: From research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Riddle, K. (2014,  July 15). What is your understanding of leadership? [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from

Riddle, K. (2014, August). A reflection on Don Tapscott’s Tedtalk [Web log post].  In Kate loves books. Retrieved from

Tedx Talks. (2012, June, 28th). Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world . Retrieved from

Implementing a Guided Inquiry approach

There is an increasing pedagogical shift towards Guided Inquiry (GI) in schools (Collins et al., 2008, p. 1). In this type of learning, children are encouraged to work at tackling questions in depth through a cycle of hypothesis, exploration and reflection. When children work in this way they benefit from support and resources beyond the classroom (Stripling, 2008, p. 2). When inquiry is central to a school’s curriculum, librarians play a pivotal role in helping children extend and make connections with their learning by working in collaboration with teachers on research projects and investigations.

The role of the teacher librarian in implementing a GI approach very much depends, I think, on the culture of learning and the curriculum in a particular school. I have worked in a fully accredited International Baccalaureate school within the Primary Years Programme (PYP) where a culture of GI was an expectation and was fully embedded into the curriculum.  High standards and expectations were set and an enabling framework existed in the school to ensure this happened.  Year groups and specialist staff had planning time set aside at the beginning of every ‘unit of inquiry’, and planning templates included cross-curricular links and highlighted transdisciplinary skills. Staff also met at the end of a unit to reflect and, if necessary, to adapt planning documents. Teachers guided children through the inquiry process and worked in collaboration with other specialist staff including the teacher librarian. In this context, the teacher librarian’s input was planned for and they worked collaboratively with teachers and all year groups across the whole school. Challenges can exist in schools where this approach to learning is not embraced.  Indeed, Gordon (2010) highlights that difficulties can arise because inquiry learning ‘contradicts a culture of teaching that can be isolationist and individualistic’ (p. 80). While challenges may exist, Stripling (2008) believes the teacher librarians, by working in collaboration with school staff, can play an important role in ‘restructuring the curriculum so that inquiry and problem solving are integrated into all subject areas’ (p. 2).

GI has been developed from Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process  (ISP) model  and is based on a constructivist approach to learning (Kuhlthau, & Maniotes,  2010, p. 18) (Fitzgerald, 2011). In order to implement the GI approach effectively, Kuhlthau encourages the use of open-ended questions as the starting point for a research project (Thomas, Crow, & Franklin, 2011 p. 41). This means that teachers need to model and use a range of questioning strategies in order to encourage children to formulate and ask questions.  This is just one of many specific teaching skills and strategies for inquiry which are grounded in extensive research. In order to effectively integrate inquiry in schools there needs to be a solid educational understanding of the theories and models surrounding GI and for educators to see for themselves the benefits to the GI learning approach. Indeed, the advantages of a GI approach are very evident when you walk into a school and see children who are enthusiastic, productive independent learners achieving success! I have seen children who have been in a school following this approach for many years to the point where they speak the language of inquiry themselves and take full ownership of their learning.


Collins, Trevor., Gaved, Mark., Mulholland, Paul., Kerawalla, Cindy., Twiner, Alison., Scanlon, Eileen., Jones, Ann., Littleton, Karen., Conole, Grainne and Blake, Canan (2008). Supporting location-based inquiry learning across school, field and home contexts. Proceedings of the MLearn 2008 Conference, 7 – 10 Oct 2008, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, UK. Retrieved from

Gordon, C. A. (2010). The culture of inquiry in school libraries. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 73-88.

Kuhlthau, C. K., & Maniotes, L.K.  (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18.

Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41

Stripling, B. (2008). Inquiry-based teaching and learning – the role of the library media specialist. Retrieved from

Thomas, N. P., Crow, S. R., & Franklin, L. L. (2011). Chapter 3: The Information Search Process: Kuhlthau’s legacy. In Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the 21st century school library (3rd ed., pp. 33-58). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.