Guided Inquiry: Engaging Learners in the Information-to-Knowledge Experience

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  • Guided Inquiry:
  • Engaging Learners in the Information-to-Knowledge Experience
  • Dr Ross J Todd
  • Director, Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries
  • Director, Master of Library and Information Science Program
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Today’s Agenda

  • 9.25 am Guided Inquiry: Engaging learners in the information-to-knowledge experience.
  • Review; The Instructional Imperative; The Pedagogical Imperative; the Collaborative Imperative
  • 10.30ish am: Morning Tea
  • 11.00 am: Designing Guided Inquiry Research Units: Models of meaningful research tasks
  • 12.30 pm: Lunch
  • 1.15 pm: Zones of Intervention and Instructional Strategies; instructional exemplars
  • 2.45 pm: Afternoon Tea
  • 3.00 pm: Guided Inquiry at Work: Planning Activity; Questions

An age is called "dark," not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.  ~James Michener

  • An age is called "dark," not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it.  ~James Michener


  • SUBCHAPTER 2.  STANDARDS-BASED INSTRUCTIONAL PRIORITIES 6A:13-2.1 Standards-based instruction (h) All school districts shall provide library-media services that are connected to classroom studies in each school building, including access to computers, district-approved instructional software, appropriate books including novels, anthologies and other reference materials, and supplemental materials that motivate students to read in and out of school and to conduct research.  Each school district shall provide these library-media services under the direction of a certified school library media specialist.

What is Guided Inquiry?

  • A framework for quality teaching and learning through the school library
  • An inquiry approach to learning is one where students actively engage with diverse and often conflicting sources of information and ideas to discover new ones, to build new understandings, and to develop personal viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Carefully planned, closely supervised, targeted intervention(s) of an instructional team of teacher- librarians and teachers to guide students through curriculum based inquiry units through the school library that gradually lead towards deep knowledge and understanding.

Guided Inquiry

  • Deep Knowledge
  • Deep Understanding
  • Problematic Knowledge
  • Higher-order thinking
  • High Expectations
  • Student Direction
  • --------------------------------------------------------------
  • It is underpinned by stimulating encounters with information – encounters which capture their interest and attention, and which motivate and direct their ongoing inquiry.

Central Dimensions of Guided Inquiry

  • As a framework for teaching and learning through the school library, it goes beyond simplistic, generic lists of information skills or information processes
  • Founded on research that has modeled the information-to-knowledge experience of learners
  • The information-to-knowledge experience encompasses cognitions, behaviours, and feelings
  • Focus on knowledge-based outcomes; constructivist
  • Transformational rather than informational role of the school library

The School Library as a Learning Commons

  • Learners actively searching for meaning and understanding
  • learners constructing knowledge rather than passively receiving it
  • learners directly involved and engaged in the discovery of new knowledge
  • learners encountering alternative perspectives and conflicting ideas
  • learners transferring new knowledge and skills to new circumstances
  • learners taking ownership and responsibility for mastery of curriculum content and skills

Why should we think and act differently? Teachers

Why should we think and act differently? Teachers

  • Rarely guided and sustained throughout the research project
  • Rarely equip students with the range of information, technical and critical thinking competencies necessary for developing deep knowledge
  • Focus on product construction rather than knowledge construction
  • Erroneous notion that more facts = deep knowledge and deep understanding
  • Foster mediocrity
  •  Move from TRANSPORTATION to TRANSFORMATION of information: from stockpiling of facts to engagement and transformation of facts into deep ideas

Why should we think and act differently? Teacher-Librarians

Why should we think and act differently? Teacher-Librarians

  • Accomplices to mediocrity
  • Need to school library practice on existing research: Evidence-Based Practice
  • Move beyond advocacy of a myriad of simplistic models of information access and use which have no foundation in systematic research and validation
  • Typical instructional practices in the library put emphasis on the “found”: locating, accessing, finding and evaluating “stuff”; Little attention to doing something with the “found stuff”: the complex cognitive processes required to transform information into deep knowledge

Why should we think and act differently? Teacher-Librarians

  • Scope and sequence models of Information Literacy (akin to “fixed schedules”) are problematic in a constructivist framework
  • Simplistic models of information research / information processes advocated by libraries are inconsistent with how disciplines build deep knowledge and deep understanding
  • Disciplines have different (and complex) ways of “coming to know”: how knowledge is gained in a subject, and how it is validated varies form discipline to discipline
  • Different methods of inquiry, for creating new knowledge, and for validating claims to new knowledge

Why should we think and act differently? Teacher-Librarians

  • Many different conceptions of the information-to-knowledge process
  • There is no one-size-fits-all model of information literacy
  • Need to rethink our approach to mediation and instructional interventions in relation to information literacy
  • Guided Inquiry incorporates multiple dimensions that educational research demonstrate have a strong effect on student achievement

EMPIRICAL BASIS FOR G. I. Information Search Process

  • Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. 2nd edition. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Qualitative exploration of search process of high school seniors (1983)
  • 2. Qualitative study of original sample after 4 years of college (1988)
  • 3. Longitudinal study (1988)
  • 4. Qualitative and quantitative study of high, middle and low achieving high school seniors (1989)
  • 5. Validation Study: 385 academic, public, and school library users in 21 sites (1989)

Information Search Process

  • Information Search Process
  • Tasks Initiation Selection Exploration Formulation Collection Presentation
  • ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------→
  • Feelings uncertainly optimism confusion clarity sense of satisfaction or
  • (affective) frustration direction/ disappointment
  • doubt confidence
  • Thoughts vague-------------------------------------→focused
  • (cognitive) -----------------------------------------------→
  • increased interest
  • Actions seeking relevant information----------------------------→seeking pertinent information
  • (physical) exploring documenting

Many empirical studies have confirmed that the individual teacher is the major in-school influence on student achievement.

  • Many empirical studies have confirmed that the individual teacher is the major in-school influence on student achievement.
  • Resulted presented at the SLAV Professional Development Program June 19, 2008, by Professor Stephen Dinham Research Director – Teaching, Learning and Leadership, ACER
  • Over 750 Meta-analyses of over 50,000 international studies
  • Hattie, J. (2007). ‘Developing Potentials for Learning: Evidence, assessment, and progress’, EARLI Biennial Conference, Budapest, Hungary.
  • The Importance of the Teacher

Note on Effect Size

  • Effect size (ES) is a name given to a family of indices that measure the magnitude of a treatment effect. Unlike significance tests, these indices are independent of sample size.
  • ES measures are the common currency of meta-analysis studies that summarize the findings from a specific area of research.
  • The larger the ES, the greater the influence of the treatment effect.
  • As a guide, ES < 0.0 negative impact; 0.0 > 0.2 no/weak impact; 0.2 – 0.4 small, possibly significant impact; 0.4 – 0.6 moderately significant impact; > 0.6 large, significant impact

Student Achievement

  • Influence Effect Size
  • Ability grouping .11
  • Teacher training .11
  • Diet .12
  • Teacher subject knowledge .12
  • Gender (boys-girls) .12
  • Multi-media methods .15
  • Problem based learning .15
  • Home school programs .16
  • Extra-curricular programs .17
  • Family structure .18
  • Co-/team teaching .19
  • Learning hierarchies .19
  • Aptitude/treatment interventions .19
  • Individualised instruction .20
  • Charter schools .20
  • Religious schools .20
  • Influence Effect Size
  • Mobility (shifting schools) -.34
  • Television -.14
  • Summer vacation -.09
  • Open v Traditional .01
  • Multi-grade/age classes .04
  • Inductive teaching .06
  • Reading: whole language .06
  • Perceptual-motor programs .08
  • Out of school experiences .09
  • Distance education .09
  • Web based learning .09

Student Achievement

  • Influence Effect Size
  • Inquiry based teaching .31
  • Simulations and gaming .32
  • Reading: exposure to reading .36
  • Bilingual programs .37
  • Teacher positive expectations .37
  • Computer assisted instruction .37
  • Enrichment on gifted .39
  • Integrated curriculum programs .39
  • Adjunct aids .41
  • Hypermedia instruction .41
  • Frequent/effects of testing .46
  • Early intervention .47
  • Motivation on learning .48
  • Small group learning .49
  • Influence Effect Size
  • Class size .21
  • Teaching test taking .22
  • Finances .23
  • Competitive learning .24
  • Programmed instruction .24
  • Within class grouping .25
  • Mainstreaming .28
  • Desegregation .28
  • Exercise/relaxation .28
  • Audio-based teaching .28
  • Home visiting by teachers .29
  • Reducing anxiety .30
  • Principals/school leaders .30
  • Ability groups gifted students. .30
  • Homework .31

Student Achievement

  • Influence Effect Size
  • Socio-economic status .57
  • Home environment .57
  • Providing worked examples .57
  • Reading: Comprehension programs .58
  • Direct instruction .59
  • Time on task .59
  • Study skills .59
  • Acceleration of gifted .60
  • Problem solving teaching .61
  • Teacher professional development .64
  • Reading: Repeated reading programs .67
  • Reading: Vocabulary programs .67
  • Meta-cognition strategies .67
  • Teaching students self-verbalisation .67
  • Creativity programs .70
  • Formative evaluation to teachers .70
  • Influence Effect Size
  • Questioning .49
  • Cooperative learning .49
  • Play programs .50
  • Visual based teaching .51
  • Outdoor programs .52
  • Concept mapping .52
  • Peer influences .53
  • Reading: Phonics instruction .53
  • Reading: Visual-perception program .55
  • Parental Involvement .55
  • Peer tutoring .55
  • Goals – challenging .56
  • Mastery learning .57
  • Social skills programs .57

Student Achievement

  • Teacher .50
  • Curricula .45
  • Teaching .43
  • Student .39
  • Home .35
  • School .23
  • Influence Effect Size
  • Feedback .72
  • Teacher-student relationships .72
  • Prior achievement .73
  • Reciprocal teaching .74
  • Quality of teaching .77
  • Classroom behavioural .80
  • Absence of disruptive students .86

Putting it Together: The Student Success Triangle


Guided Inquiry Explicitly Incorporates ….

  • High Effects Dimensions that Contribute to Student Achievement
  • Co-/team teaching .19
  • Inquiry based teaching .31
  • Integrated curriculum programs .39
  • Reading: exposure to reading .36
  • Early intervention .47
  • Motivation on learning .48
  • Questioning .49
  • Concept mapping .52
  • Goals – challenging .56
  • Mastery learning .57
  • Providing worked examples .57
  • Reading: Comprehension programs .58
  • Direct instruction .59

Guided Inquiry Explicitly Incorporates ….

  • High Effects Dimensions that Contribute to Student Achievement
  • Time on task .59
  • Study skills .59
  • Problem solving teaching .61
  • Teacher professional development .64
  • Reading: Repeated reading programs .67
  • Reading: Vocabulary programs .67
  • Meta-cognition strategies .67
  • Feedback .72
  • Teacher-student relationships .72
  • Prior achievement .73
  • Reciprocal teaching .74
  • Quality of teaching .77

Powering Up …

  • Educational Leadership (March 2008, Vol 65, No. 6)
  • Marc Prensky “Turning on the Lights” P. 40 - 45
  • Powering down in school – not just devices, but brains
  • “It’s their after-school education, not their school education, that’s preparing our kids for their 21st century lives – and they know it” (p. 41)
  • “When kids come to school, they leave behind the intellectual light of their everyday lives and walk into the darkness of the old fashioned classroom” (p. 42)

Key Studies

  • Pew / Internet – American Life Project (2006)
  • Telephone interviews of a randomly generated sample of youth 12-17 and a parent or guardian, and involved 935 parent-child pairs.
  • National School Boards Association 2006: Creating and Connecting: Research And Guidelines of Online Social and Educational Networking
  • Online survey of 1,277 9-17 year olds; Online survey of 1,039 parents; Telephone interviews with 250 school district leaders
  • Rowlands, I. & Nicholas, D. (2008). Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. A CIBER Briefing Paper. Commissioned by British Library & Joint Information Systems Committee. Centre for Information Behaviour & the Evaluation of Research (CIBER), University College London (UCL), 11 January. Retrieved 2 February 2008,

The Google Generation: Research tells us …

  • Using libraries less since they first began using internet research tools
  • Search engines are the primary starting point for information searching
  • Low levels of starting search from a library web site
  • Horizontal information seeking: skim viewing a small number of pages then ‘bounce’ out, often never to return
  • Spend very little time on e-book and e-journal sites, and databases in school libraries
  • Engage in “power browsing”: kind of reading of scanning rapidly targeted to quick decisions and rapid authority assessment and retrieval, clicking extensively
  • Make little use of advanced search capabilities
  • Squirreling behavior: stockpiling content in the form of downloads

Gen Y VS Gen X Very Little Difference

  • Persistence of behaviors that predate the web: very little evidence that the Google generation is fundamentally different to who came before
  • Little improvement in information literacy capabilities
  • - evaluating the relevance, accuracy, authority of sources
  • - effective search strategies
  • - preference for natural rather than controlled language
  • - tendency to use simple search strategies
  • - unsophisticated mental map of the Internet
  • Pre-internet research also shows that young people did not review information retrieved from online databases for relevance and undertook unnecessary supplementary searches when they had already obtained the information required

The IT Imperative for Guided Inquiry?

Shaping of Social and Intellectual Practices

  • Web 2.0 is a platform that moves beyond the selection of information, to facilitating the creation and production of ideas; Users generate content rather than consume content
  • Extensive engagement with microcontent: “posts” and “discussion threads”, streams of conversation, and moving content (eg podcasts shuffled between websites)
  • Participants constantly building microcontent into new content forms
  • Shift in focus from finding locating and evaluating information to one of using information, creating knowledge and sharing of ideas.

Use of Online Communities

  • 90% of social network site users have online profiles
  • 48% teens visit social networking sites daily, 22% visit several times daily
  • 41% of 12-13 year olds report posting a profile to an online social network
  • Older teens, particularly girls, are more likely to use these sites (70% older girls compared to 54% older boys)
  • For girls, social networking sites are places to reinforce pre-existing friendships
  • For boys: the networks provide opportunities for making new friends

Interactive Communities

Use of Online Communities

  • Enormous growth eg. Facebook has grown considerably by 270%, from 14,083,000 unique visitors to 52,167,000 unique visitors.
  • Rich picture of teens’ and adults’ engagements with Web 2.0
  • For teens, online activities are deeply embedded in their lifestyles, and rivaling television in terms of time commitment.
  • 90% of teens with online access using social networking technologies, such as chatting, text messaging, blogging and visiting social network sites, with many visiting such sites on a daily basis
  • Majority of online teens have created a personal profile online

Use of Online Communities

  • 41% of 12-13 year olds report posting a profile to an online social network
  • Girls dominate the blogasphere; boys dominate in video watching and video sharing
  • For girls, social networking sites are places to reinforce pre-existing friendships
  • For boys: the networks provide opportunities for making new friends
  • Use sites to stay in touch with friends they see frequently and to stay in touch with friends they rarely see in person; make plans with friends; make new friends
  • 17% of all social networking teens use the sites to flirt (29% older boys; 13% older girls)

Active, not Passive Involvement

  • Increasing engagement in content creation
  • Go beyond basic actions such as downloading and uploading music, photos and videos and updating personal profiles
  • Engaging in highly creative activities :
  • - Blogging
  • - Posting messages
  • - Creating and sharing virtual objects
  • - Remixing content into their own creation
  • - Participating in collaborative projects
  • - Sending suggestions or ideas to Web sites
  • - Submitting artistic and creative works such as artwork, photos, stories, videos to sites
  • - Creating polls, quizzes or surveys

What do they talk about?

  • Most common topic of conversation on the social networking scene is education and school work (59%)
  • 50% talk about school work
  • careers / jobs, choice of university, politics, religion or morals,, learning outside school work (sharing / discussing about personal interests)
  • 21% post comments on community message boards daily; 41% do this weekly
  • They share and dialogue about their projects

Online Nonconformists

  • Step outside of online safety and behaviour rules: 31% report breaking one or more online safety or behaviour rules
  • Have extraordinary set of digital skills, including communication, leadership and technological proficiency, but typically report lower grades in school
  • Experimental behavior / engagement/ ideas / creative imagination making with peer groups and online spaces
  • Very active on chat-vines; share new “stuff’ very quickly (websites, games, simulations, tech products)
  • Learn new software and teach others; promoters; recruiters (getting others to visit their sites); organizers of online events; very active networkers

And the school’s response?

  • See the potential for social networking to play a positive role in students’ lives and recognize educational opportunities
  • Small number of schools use social networking for professional purposes – collaborative projects; wikis for ideas sharing and collaborative development of documentation
  • Stringent rules against nearly all forms of social networking during the school day: block inappropriate sites; limit or block access to social networking sites, chat, IM, bulletin boards, blogs
  • Prohibit or restrict access to digital environments, apart from what Hartley calls “walled gardens under strict teacher control”
  • Do we only give our kids “good” websites? How do they learn about misinformation and disinformation?
  • Younger generation has learned very little of its digital literacy from schools (Hartley)

Web 2.0 and Guided Inquiry?

  • To make kids digitally literate? Information literate? Critically literate?
  • To help students become thoughtful caring citizens in a collaborative and networked society who might be creative enough to figure out how to change the status quo rather than maintaining it – yes, even by breaking the rules?
  • How do we use the digital environment for developing intellectual agency, intellectual inquiry and the development of deep knowledge and understanding;
  • but to protect them from online predators and inappropriate content?
  • Both students and parents report fewer recent current problems: cyberstalking, cuberbullying, unwelcome encounters than schools fear and policies seem to imply

These studies suggest that kids are …

  • actively searching for meaning and understanding, not necessarily about that which we as educators convey that is important
  • constructing knowledge rather than passively receiving it
  • directly involved and engaged in the discovery of new knowledge
  • actively encountering alternative perspectives and conflicting ideas
  • transferring new knowledge and skills to new circumstances
  • taking ownership and responsibility for mastery of topics of interest and vast range of technical skills

Why do school work, especially when …?

  • I have to pick another “bird”, “dinosaur”, “planet” “animal”, “disease” and do a 1000 word essay?
  • I can go on to: or or and get the essay I want?
  • I fill out another worksheet, fill in the blanks, do another 5 para essay, perhaps a diorama
  • Preparation of the drones? (Hartley)

What is a School Library?

  • The school library is the school’s physical and virtual learning commons where inquiry, thinking, imagination, discovery, and creativity are central to students’ information-to-knowledge journey, and to their personal, social and cultural growth.

Rethinking Pedagogy

  • Kids investigate and analyse their lives and the world in-depth with authentic resources and tasks
  • Meaningful Inquiry: learn to ask questions, seek knowledge, understand multiple perspectives, and wonder about the world, draw conclusions, state viewpoints, argue positions, to create solutions and solve problems, and to use the IT tools and resources to create, share and use knowledge
  • Moving beyond reading as a laborious “school thing” Kids are running home to open MySpace and other spaces and read and react and provoke and argue: intellectual scaffolds that awaken the creative spirit, to inspire and to wonder, to connect with diverse social consciousnesses

Core Values

  • Community
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

Effective Inquiry The research tells us…

  • Connect with students’ existing knowledge and interests to establish relevance
  • Engaging in and solving real world problems
  • Strategies which build engagement; develop curiosity and motivation for their topics
  • Give opportunities to build background knowledge: Lots of descriptive facts does not equal deep knowledge
  • Strategies which deal with the affective dimensions: doubt, uncertainty
  • Formulating relevant focus questions and engaging with complex information sources pertinent to focus questions
  • Negotiating and formulating personal knowledge outcomes
  • Negotiating representations of knowledge that reflect the way the real world does it

Effective Inquiry The research tells us…

  • Applying critical thinking skills to identify, interrogate and construct ideas so that personal understandings emerge
  • Engage students in dealing with conflicting information
  • Use of a variety of analytical methods to sort, organize and structure ideas cause/effect; pro/con; error analysis; compare/contrast;
  • Building and verifying new knowledge through arguments, evidence, reflection; Teach students to build arguments and evidences, counter arguments and counter evidences
  • Structuring and organizing and representing new knowledge in meaningful and appropriate ways
  • Generating meaningful conclusions, imaginative solutions, action plans, predictions and actions
  • Establishing evidence-based points of view and perspectives
  • Understanding how to build and represent new knowledge in safe, ethical and responsible ways

Instructional Collaboration Study

  • 130 of 340 who participated in SL-CT collaboration training program (38% response rate) in Ohio 2004-2006
  • 85 school librarians (65%) and 45 teachers (35%)
  • To develop a deeper understanding of classroom teacher-school librarian (CT-SL) instructional collaborations:
  • - their dynamics, processes, enablers, barriers, impact on learning outcomes
  • - their role in continuous improvement and school change

What participants hoped the students would gain through the collaboration

  • Teachers
  • students to learn curriculum content
  • increased information literacy
  • Increased depth, better quality of learning
  • School Librarians
  • students to develop information literacy
  • students to develop a better perception of the library and the librarian
  • Mutuality of Intent?

Björk “New Worlds” in “Selmasongs” album

  • “If living is seeing
  • I’m holding my breath
  • In wonder – I wonder
  • What happens next?
  • A new world, a new day to see”

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