One of the many roles of the 21st century teacher librarian (TL) is implementing a Guided Inquiry (GI) approach along side classroom teachers. TLs initiate, implement, collaborate, perform, and assess, as well as many other juicy verbs, in this role.
What is it?
Guided Inquiry consists of a team (teacher, TL and other expert or professional) guiding students through curriculum based inquiry units with monitored targeted intervention which gradually build students’ deep knowledge and deep understanding, as well as independence and ownership (Todd, Kuhlthau, & Heinstrom, 2005, p.8). GI is based on Kuhlthau’s (2004) extensive research into the Information Search Process (ISP) and is a constructivist approach to learning, both of which are highly emphasised in 21st century pedagogy. The ISP consists of seven stages – Initiation, Selection, Exploration, Formulation, Collection, Presentation, and Assessment. In working through the stages, which is often not a linear progression (Thomas, Crow, & Franklin, 2011, p.38), students’ feelings, thoughts and actions vary greatly and teachers and TLs can intervene depending on the individual students’ needs, thus giving the name ‘guided’ inquiry.
Why implement it?
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA) identified in their Statement on guided inquiry and the curriculum policy that the adoption of GI “helps students to construct meaning, think creatively and solve problems” (2009) and fosters engagement and reflection throughout the learning process. Higher order thinking, social interaction and collaboration also contribute to learning and the development of lifelong learning skills (ALIA/ASLA, 2009).
What is the TL’s role in GI?
In schools that haven’t already adopted a GI approach, the TL is often the initiator for its adoption in schools and must ensure it is woven into the fabric of the school learning environment, not simply seen as an “add-on or slightly peculiar librarian thing” (Fitzgerald, 2011, p.40). After it is adopted and collaboration has taken place alongside a classroom teacher, the TL provides information-learning knowledge on how students seek and use information through expertise in the Information Search Process (Todd et al., 2005, p. 12). Integrating this information knowledge with the classroom teacher’s curriculum knowledge ensures the development of meaningful inquiry units and skills integration. Kuhlthau & Maniotes (2010) recommend the TL be apart of the “core team” (p.19), along with the classroom teacher and one other member with expertise, and be present “from beginning of planning (conception) to end reflection (completion)” (p.19).
Example in practice
Scheffers (2008) gives an example of the TL’s role in implementing a GI unit with five Stage 3 classes at Caddies Creek Public School in NSW. She describes the TL (herself) first being part of several planning meetings, then being responsible for explaining and guiding the teachers involved on the concepts of GI and its implementation. The TL also recommended a version of the SLIM toolkit (Todd et al., 2005)- a simplified version called the Skinny toolkit – that was subsequently adopted for the GI unit. The TL was also responsible for the setup of a blog that the students would use during the unit. This proactive TL (Scheffers herself) took this a step further by partnering up with another primary school doing a similar GI unit also using blogs on a similar topic. This shows the benefit of a proactive and information-savvy TL being a part of the GI team to further enhance students’, and teachers’, excitement, motivation and information use in a unit (Scheffers, 2008, p.35). During the GI unit the TL was co-responsible for student intervention, ISP instruction, overseeing blogs, assessment overview, and results discussion.
–>For more examples of GI units in practice see Sheerman (2011) featuring a Year 10 Commerce class, Fitzgerald (2011) featuring a Year 11 History class, and Kuhlthau & Maniotes (2010) featuring generic examples for primary school, middle school, and secondary school students.
After reading about implementing GI units, it is hard to imagine how it can be achieved without the vital role of the TL in all aspect of the units. From start to finish GI is a collaborative process maximising the expertise of all involved for the benefit of the students.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009). Statement on guided inquiry and the curriculum. Retrieved August 30, 2012 from http://www.asla.org.au/Policy1/Guided-inquiry-and-the-curriculum.aspx
Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: guiding students inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking Meaning: A process Approach to Library and Information Services. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 17-28.
Kuhlthau, C. C., & Maniotes, L. K. (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18-21.
Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided Inquiry: a learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42.
Sheerman, A. (2011). Accepting the challenge: evidence based practice at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(2), 24-33.
Thomas, N. P., Crow, S. R., & Franklin, L. L. (2011). Chapter 3: The Information Search Process: Kuhlthau’s legacy. In Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the 21st century school library (3rd ed., pp. 33-58). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.
Todd, R. J., Kuhlthau, C. C., & Heinstrom, J. E. (2005). SLIM a toolkit and handbook for tracking and assessing student learning outcomes of Guided Inquiry through the school library, Centre for International Scholarship in School Libraries at Rutgers University. Retrieved August 30, 2012 from cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/slimtoolkit.pdf