The task to limit questions to just three questions at the commencement of CLN650 was a daunting task because it meant eliminating so many important questions. Now at the end of the course, reflecting on the chosen questions discloses to me the subtle effect the course has had on me. The questions are answered but, in true Inquiry mode, they have created new questions and pathways of discovery – “ideas from new information” (Kuhlthau, 2007. p.22). The revisit has produced the following reflections:
Question 1: How do I control/limit distraction a student may experience in the excitement of discovery?
Patience and preparation are necessary for any inquiry learning, no matter how exciting the topic may seem. There are many models of information searching to choose from. Inquiry models vary and it is best to consider them and their terminology to apply to the particular students. Although the terminology is different, the construction is similar beginning with discussion and brainstorming to familiarisation of the student with ideas of the topic and development of a focus. For example, Follett’s Pathway of Knowledge starts with “Presearch” which provides searches with strategies to clarify their focus and this is similar to Kuhlthau’s Stage 3 “Prefocus Exploration” which seeks focus after brainstorming and discussion, and Lamb’s 8Ws which starts with “Watching” and “Wondering”. If students can determine a focus at the commencement, it will be easier to steer a student back to that focus if distractions become too great. This attention back to the focus also needs to be done through the student’s thinking processes not by instruction from a teacher. A series of questions relating back to the focus will be much more beneficial and better for lifelong learning. These questions will be similar to those used for intervention in Figure 2.
Focus formulation calls for reflective thinking about the information encountered in the exploration stage of the ISP. Reflection is essential in the process at all stages. Of the models I examined, only the Alberta model explicitly set it as a requirement at every stage. Most implied it. TELSTAR, a model provided by Queensland Education, used different nomenclature but required reconsidering consequences and outcomes of each of the phases.
The use of a program such as Evernote can be used in conjunction with a student’s research to organise what they are researching at the time plus store the extraneous material that they found interesting and distracting so they can revisit it another day to extend their personal learning.
Question 2: How do I recognise when intervention and instruction are essential?
Recognition of the need for intervention also needs consideration of the kinds of learning that need intervening in, and the type of intervention which will best serve the learner. Figure 1 succinctly summarises this.
From the table, one can interpret that if a student is having difficulties working in a group and, because of this, is withdrawn and not engaging in the task, then intervening, for example, with help using Google Advanced would not be appropriate. The lack of participation has a source in social skills and the intervention must reflect this. Someone who is still in the learning to read stage would be having difficulty reading to learn so intervention might be to find facts that require less reading of text such as video, images, graphs and the like. Figure 2 indicates questions that could be used for intervention. They are ranged in low to higher order intelligences shadowing Bloom’s Taxonomy. (View Bloom’s Taxonomy and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy in graphic form or in text form )
Kuhlthau reports on the analysis of a study by librarians which assessed student learning by observation, their performance and the final product. Figure 3 elaborates upon this.
This is a very easy method and seems effective. If used with the form in Figure 4, teachers could have a cumulative record of student learning from topic to topic within a subject discipline and even across the curriculum. Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process is one of the few models which incorporates the searcher’s feelings at each stage of the process and Kuhlthau informs that when students are “uncertain or confused”, it is “a cue” for a “specific intervention” (Kuhlthau, 2007. p. 140)
My original question was concerned with the recognition of the need for intervention and instruction but my answer has extended that to responses which is of much more use to me.
Question 3: How do I refrain from being “instructivist” when that was my initial training and sometimes old habits die hard even when you can see great benefits in alternate ways?
This was possibly the easiest of the three questions to answer. When the Guided Inquiry was in progress according to as many of the optimum requirements as possible, even the urge to be instructivist dissipated. The need was no longer there. Sometimes students asked a question and saw me as a resource just like a book or a website. It was their choice to use me as a resource and their choice which questions were asked and when they were asked. They could stop me when they had reached the limit of the information they required.
Reflections on my own learning
My own reflections on my learning in the course reveal that, most of all, I enjoy the choice Guided Inquiry affords the learner. It is in choosing that the learner takes control of their own information seeking process – “choosing a topic, choosing sources, choosing ideas in the sources, choosing what to pursue, choosing what to leave out, choosing what is enough” (Kuhlthau et al. 2007. p.138). In the searches, many new avenues of thinking were travelled. New ways of communicating were explored, for example, screen casting. Skills to be manipulated and reused have been developed. All this has amalgamated to create a learning confidence for my own learning and for sharing learning and teaching skills to others.
Many years of teaching have strengthened the pragmatist in me and I know that even with all the optimism of the intrepid explorer, theory and reality do not always mix. We can just do our best with what we are given and every advancement in learning in any child is a plus and we celebrate that learning until it becomes infectious. Kuhlthau’s premise for Inquiry Learning is that there is a Teacher librarian there for the zone of intervention where a “locator” is required. The reality in some schools is that there might be eighteen hundred students and only one teacher librarian. Some schools (and these numbers are on the rise if teacher librarian network listserves are to be believed) do not even have a trained librarian. The reality is that there may be many students in a class who require Zone 5 intervention (“guiding not simply on the sources, but also on the overall process, through a continuing interaction with the user” [Wilson. 2004. n.p.]). Support Teacher assistance in this is not always available. If, as would be optimal, the whole school operates a Kuhlthau style Guided Inquiry pedagogy, then many specialist staff would be required which would be a financial challenge. Recent debates in Australia in regards to federal funding of education give example to this challenge. Nevertheless, it is the 21st century and the benefits of inquiry learning have been lauded for decades now. The pro-activity of teacher librarians may swing the pendulum.
Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century, Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited
Kuhlthau, C.C. (2013 update) Information Search Process accessed 30/10/2013 from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
Pappas, Marjorie L. & Tepe, Ann E. (2002). Pathways to Knowledge. Accessed 20/10/2013 from http://virtualinquiry.com/inquiry/pathways.htm
Tsai, M., J., Liang, J. C., Hou, H. T. & Tsai, C. C. (2012). University students’ online information searching strategies in different search contexts. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (AJET), 28(5), 881-895 Accessed 02/09/2013 from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/tsai-mj.pdf
Wilson, T.D. (2004) Review of: Kuhlthau, C.C. Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd. ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. Information Research, 9(3), review no. R129. Accessed 28/10/2013 from: http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs129.html