Information literacy skills, abilities and techniques are imperative that students can access and use information effectively in learning (Herring, 2010). Scaffolding inquiry learning offers teachers, teacher librarians (TL) and students a series of practical steps to follow in attaining these lifelong learning skills. Guiding students through a scaffold supports them, rather than overwhelming them, particularly in a field that has been taught stagnantly for so many years prior (Maniotes & Kuhlthau, 2014). The same can be said for teachers and TLs, as in my personal experience the process of undertaking research has been unchanged in my mind from when I was told to look up and report on an animal/plant/disease/novel/etc. as a student myself. It has been with the introduction of information literacy (IL) models that the existence of any different way to conduct research – and keeping that research student centered – has been realised.
With the advent of this new way of thinking about, teaching, and ‘doing’ information literacy (especially over the course of this assignment), the need to scaffold inquiry learning in schools is obvious. As was discussed in ‘Animal Farm’ (Jeffery, 2017) TLs are required to be specialists in what they do, and IL is one such domain. As IL is largely overlooked on the part of the classroom teacher it falls to the TL to implement the learning of how. How to question, how to inquire, how to promote curiosity in learning (Coatney, 2013). The role of the TL becomes imperative if students are to be encouraged to question not only what they already know (particularly in the domain of researching and accessing information) but also to question what they are learning so as to remain engaged and ‘take away’ as much from that information as possible.
Due partially to the overwhelming abundance of useful practitioner information available on the Guided Inquiry Design (GID), and also because of the colourful icons, I chose Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari’s 2012 IL model as the basis of my unit of work. Having tangible examples of GID provided on the Guided Inquiry in Australia website (http://guidedinquiryoz.edublogs.org/) allowed my own journey through the ‘explore’ phase of this assignment to be an easy one. GID, and its eight verbs, is set out in a logical way (a ‘user-friendly guide’ according to Garrison and Fitzgerald (2016)), that resonates with my own inquiry learning experiences. This ‘lived knowledge’ was another predominate factor in choosing this literacy model for the unit overview. I was able to identify my own learning in the model, and transfer and adapt this knowledge to unit planning.
The theory underlying GID is to readjust instruction and guidance in the learning sequence so that deep learning occurs (Maniotes & Kuhlthau, 2014). Grounded in a constructivist approach, GID revolves around student centered learning; student autonomy, interest based, reflection and self-regulation (Garrison & Fitzgerald, 2016). Guided inquiry (GI) embodies the idea of teachers and TLs being the ‘guide on the side’, with Kuhlthau et al. explaining that the only ‘going it alone’ a student should be experiencing in GI is making personal connections to what they find important and interesting (2012). Designed to allow student confidence and interest to flow through all phases of the GID (Kuhlthau et al., 2012), this student driven IL model most closely aligned with my own pedagogy of learning ‘sticking’ more if you are invested, interested, and having fun.
One particular article by Maniotes and Kuhlthau (2014) phrased the practical implementation of the GID in terms that were, quite simply, irresistible. “Students engage in discovery, ask real questions… and are interested to learn more and to share with others.” Despite not having any real-world experience with implementing GID, being able to identify with the eight phases on reflection of my own learning has allowed me to understand the importance that a carefully and intentionally designed (Maniotes & Kuhlthau, 2014) inquiry unit has in classroom programs. The practical implementation of a GID lays out inquiry learning in a format that students will be able to easily transfer and adapt to other areas of their learning. I even found myself following the GID (albeit not in nearly as neatly an organised manner) to complete this assessment task!
Herring (2010) notes that GI needs to be a collaboration between the TL and classroom teacher to encourage IL. This sentiment is echoed by Kuhlthau, Caspari and Maniotes (2015) who lay out ‘collaboration catalyst’ as one of the roles of a TL, alongside the roles of resource curator and IL specialist. In designing this unit overview for the assignment, I interacted with the Australian Curriculum’s ‘general capabilities’ more than I had previously. This enlightened me to a further aspect of the TL role, in having a strong understanding in the general capabilities of the curriculum. Having limited unit planning experience in general, and even less so in the role of TL, chances to practice using areas of the national curriculum such as general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities makes me notice how little I knew about them previously. Despite having not purposefully met any general capabilities in previous lesson planning, knowing of their existence and having some intentionality in using them in GID has reinforced their importance in my mind. As a TL, and as an inquiry learning expert (to be!), strong knowledge of application and use of these more hidden areas (but certainly no less important) of the curriculum will increase my opportunities to lend more to the school environment as a TL.
The role of the TL in IL can be looked at from another perspective, if module forums and my own experience are anything to go off, in that the TL needs to be the expert in GI to introduce the models to schools. GI is left entirely to the TL in schools of some from my cohort (Bedingfield, 2017) which is also seen in Garrison and Fitzgerald’s 2016 study where none of the teachers implementing GI had any prior experience with the design. This alludes to a need for collaboration between TLs and teachers, and further training in GI on the part of the classroom teacher (Garrison & Fitzgerald, 2016). Encompassing this training of teachers into the role of the TL will allow GI to flourish in schools and for students.
Bedingfield, K. (2017, September 5). RE: Forum 5.3_2 [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&course_id=_26671_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_45051_1&forum_id=_91605_1&message_id=_1324951_1
Coatney, S. (2013). Zeroing in on inquiry. School Library Monthly, 29(4), 5-8.
Garrison, K. L., & Fitzgerald, L. (2016). “It’s like stickers in your brain: Using the guided inquiry process to support lifelong learning skills in an Australian school library. International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the … Annual Conference, 1-18.
Herring, J. E. (2010). Improving students’ web use and information literacy a guide for and teachers and teacher librarians : a guide for teachers and teacher librarians. London: Facet Publishing.
Jeffery, R. K. (2017, July 27). Animal farm (Are school librarians an endangered species?) [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rebekahandreading/2017/07/27/animal-farm-are-school-librarians-an-endangered-species/
Kuhlthau, C. C., Caspari, A. K., & Maniotes, L. K. (2015). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, 2nd Edition: Learning in the 21st Century. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2012). The research behind the design. In Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school (pp. 17-36). Santa Barbara, California : Libraries Unlimited.
Maniotes, L. K., & Kuhlthau, C. C. (2014). Making the shift: From traditional research assignments to guided inquiry learning. Knowledge Quest, 43(2), 8-17.