One of the many roles of the Teacher Librarian as stated by The Australian School Library Associations (2004), is that they build programs that support and assist students in becoming lifelong learners. Guided Inquiry is a key tool with which Teacher Librarians can achieve this outcome.
Guided Inquiry is a team facilitated approach to guiding students through the Information Search Process. Students are exposed to research projects and hypothetical situations that relate to experiences in the real world. The aim in providing these learning experiences is, as (Scheffers, 2008, p. 34) states, to build students deep knowledge and understanding on curriculum topics and gradually increase their ability to learn independently – in other words, to become lifelong learners.
As a model, Guided Inquiry requires planning and structure before it can be effectively implemented. The Australian School Library Associations (2014) statement on Guided Inquiry highlights the relevance of the library and Teacher Librarian role in this process, stating that “the school library is an active learning environment where information literacy is taught through carefully planned, closely supervised and targeted intervention by an instructional team which includes the professional contribution of the teacher librarian.” The instructional team generally consists of a subject area teacher, the teacher librarian and a second teacher or specialist to combine expertise in planning for student research tasks. Initially the team must collaborate to identify the various learning objectives to be undertaken. They must then analyse the difficulties students will face throughout the research process and identify the best means of intervention at the crucial moments in student learning (Hay & Todd, 2010, p. 35). Once this has been established, the various levels of community expertise available to assist in the process need to be determined, as well as how best to utilise these (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2010).
Some examples of how the TL can assist throughout the research project are suggested by Fitzgerald (2011), in particular helping students select their topics and develop their focus questions, and integrating new information with existing knowledge. At the various stages, the TL assists in providing quality resources to meet students requirements, and instructs them in their use.
The TL along with the whole team, shares the responsibility of observing student development and social interaction and comparing notes along the way, to assist with the assessment of student learning (Sheerman, 2011). Sheerman also suggests that the TL should take the lead in collating the information gleaned from the process and organise for the results to be articulated to the rest of the school.
In summary, the overarching role of the Teacher Librarian in the Guided Inquiry process is as Mitchell & Spence (2009) state; to help build a culture of inquiry in the school and take on a ‘networking role’, linking teachers, students and resources. It therefore falls to the TL to advocate Guided Inquiry as a highly tangible and practical development in constructivist theory that empowers teachers to impact learning in ways they might previously have thought unattainable. Guided Inquiry demonstrates a clear perspective on learning and highlights the importance of leaning on the most valuable of resources available to us; teachers, librarians and community experts whose knowledge is readily available and easily utilised within the classroom. When information and student learning is the focus, other elements such as technology are put into perspective and teachers immediately become more effective in their practice.
Australian School Library Associations (2014). Statement on guided inquiry and the curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/Guided-inquiry-and-the-curriculum.aspx
Australian School library Associations (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/Policy/standards.aspx
Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41
Hay, L. & Todd, R.J. (2010). ‘Research columns one, 2010: School libraries 21C: the conversation begins’, Scan 29(1), pp. 30-42.
Kuhlthau, C. K. & Maniotes, L.K. (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18.
Michell, P. & Spence, S. (2009). Inquiry into Guided Inquiry, ACCESS, Vol. 23(4), pp. 5-8.
Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided inquiry: A learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42.
Sheerman, A., Little, J., & Breward, N. (2011). iInquire… iLearn… iCreate… iShare: Guided Inquiry at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(1), 4-5.