“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward
Guided inquiry as defined by ALIA and ASLA is an approach or methodology which allows students to seek and engage with a variety of ideas to increase their understanding in pursuit of knowledge and greater awareness. The truth is that from the time we are born we are inquiry-based learners, trying to make sense of the world through exploration, questioning and evaluation.
As a Teacher Librarian I feel it is vital that children are taught the skills to become confident and independent thinkers, able to navigate their way through a digital world, interpreting what they find and presenting it in a personal and meaningful way.
This of course requires some groundwork by me as the Teacher Librarian. Many students at my school have low literacy skills and therefore quite low self esteem when it comes to independent research tasks. Gordon (2009, p.34) suggests that the school library gives students permission to make mistakes, revise their work and assess changes that need to be made.
Allowing students the ‘comfort’ of making mistakes also allows them the ‘celebration’ of success, no matter how small. In my experience Inquiry based lessons have allowed slower students and those with learning difficulties to seek assistance quietly and unobtrusively from teachers without drawing unwanted attention from other students.
The beauty of Inquiry based learning is that assignments can be set which cater for all students’ needs and ability levels. While one group of students will power through the task given, taking notes, discussing findings and formulating ideas, another set of students are able to work more closely with the TL and classroom teacher. These students may not use as many resources and their understanding may be limited, but each time they face a new task they do so with a renewed sense of confidence, taking small steps and building skills enabling them to tackle an information -rich environment.
Guided Inquiry learning is not a one size fits all approach nor is it something that can be achieved in one or two lessons, rather it is an ongoing process of exploration and interpretation which leads students to be critical analysers of the information they find (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark, 2006).
In the Arc of Inquiry, Wilhem (2007) demonstrates 5 stages of inquiry based learning; factual comprehension, interpretive exploration, critical literacy, articulating new understandings and finally applicative understanding. A deepening of the learning experience can be achieved with targeted intervention at these key stages and it is an accumulation of these, which teach children ‘how’ to learn rather than ‘what’ to learn thus producing life-long learners (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007).
The implications for myself and other Teacher Librarians is that we must deliver engaging and relevant opportunities for our students to move along the Arc, not stopping at factual comprehension once the content has been taught. This may take some time to achieve but it is well worth the effort as we are facilitating our students to think for themselves and empowering them to become lifelong learners.
Gordon, C. (2009) School Libraries building capacity for student learning. Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/assets/pdf/Schoollibraries21C.pdf on 6th March 2013.
Kirschner, P.A. Sweller J. Clark, R.E. (2006). Why Minimul Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem based, experiential, and inquiry based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41:2, 75-86
Kuhlthau, C. C., Caspari, A. K., & Maniotes, L. K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In
Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn. : Libraries
Wilhem, D.(2007). Engaging Readers and writers with Inquiry. Scholastic Inc. Teaching Resources. Retrieved from http://direct.teacher.scholastic.com/products/scholasticprofessional/authors/pdfs/SG_Engaging_Readers.pdf