There are many challenges to teachers implementing guided inquiry lessons into their teaching and learning. They include among others; a misunderstanding of what inquiry learning is; inability to implement their own teaching activities; inability to collaborate with colleagues, lack of time and fear.
The first reason is that teachers (not teacher librarians who know better!) often confuse guided inquiry learning which is deep in knowledge, rich in skills and meaningful to the student, with a superficial regurgitation of facts that accompany a traditional research task (Maniotes & Kuhlthau, 2014). Students are exasperated, teachers are frustrated, yet the loop of insanity continues from kindergarten to year 12. Maniotes & Kuhlthau (2014) says STOP this insanity!
Freedom to implement authentic teaching and learning practices is often hampered by the hierarchy within schools. Whilst many teachers are given the flexibility to plan their own lessons and thus choose their pedagogical practices, they are often bound by the school and departmental parameters in regards to timelines and assessment (Templeton, 2019). This is very evident in high schools where there are department heads and year level coordinators that manage assessments and their timelines for historic reasons, often completely unknown to anyone in this century. These obstinate teachers are unwilling to adapt and or modify their teaching practice with the advent of an information society. The adage, “but we’ve always done it this way”is a common theme (Templeton, 2019 & Maniotes & Kuhlthau, 2014). These parameters translate to an inability to structure longer guided inquiry units of work as teaching hours are crammed with explicit content instruction aimed at superficial tests and mindless research tasks that no one wants to do and even fewer want to mark.
Lack of collaboration is often blamed for ineffective teaching practices by both teachers and teacher librarians. These intransigent educators are reluctant to participate in collaborative practice and balk at co-creating teaching and learning activities (Ezard, 2019). Often these stalwarts of inflexibility are also the ones that struggle to hand over the reins of learning to the students and or willing to practice team teaching. This loss of controlling the learning is often translated as loss of control of a class, which is a complete contraindication of what a guided inquiry unit is. A vibrant class that is engaging with learning task is going to be noisy as noise usually is entwined with social discourse. It does not mean that the students are disrespectful, nor does it mean that there is disharmony. Learning is a social construct and students learn better when engaging with their peers (Kools & Stoll, 2016). Teacher librarians need to understand that the resistance to guided inquiry is often due to the unwillingness of collaborative practice and not themselves as individuals (Ezard, 2019).
As mentioned previously time is an issue in schools. Teachers lack the time to collaborate with their peers to co-create inquiry tasks, and they often also lack time to allow actually put a guided inquiry into practice. But what teachers often forget is that guided inquiry does not have to be a long unit of work that ends in a presentation. Guided inquiry can be as long as a term or as short as a week. Ideally, the practice does require time to build and teach skills, but the flexibility of the framework allows the teacher to guide the lesson as much as the students require. The true point of a guided inquiry task is to TEACH the skills, not the content. Learning of these skills is a cumulative effect that requires constant practice across all classes and year levels.
The last reason that inhibits the implementation of guided inquiry is fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of rebelling against the system; fear of unemployment due to the previous rebellious behaviour; fear of losing control of a class; fear of failing to meet expectations; fear of not achieving learning outcomes; fear of trying something new; fear of failing.
Ezard, T., (2019) Leading the Buzz in your school. ASLA 50th Conference. Canberra
Kools, M. and Stoll L. (2016), “What Makes a School a Learning Organisation?”, OECD Education Working Papers. No. 137, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlwm62b3bvh-en
Maniotes, L.K, Kuhlthau, C. (2014) Making the shift. Knowledge Quest. 43(2) 8-17
Templeton, T., (2019) Rantings of an emerging teacher librarian. I lost my mind 3 children ago. Retrieved from … lost weblink.