Heading photo credit: Peter Thoeny, Red the light and dark the night, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 License
My inquiry questions – growth and change
The inquiry questions I posed in initial post were:
- What is the primary goal of Inquiry Learning, in terms of outcomes for students?
- How do the pressures on schools and teachers interact with the goals of Inquiry Learning?
- How is the effectiveness of Inquiry Learning measured?
On reflection, my decision as to which inquiry question I pursued came quickly. As such, the first and last questions in the list above remained largely unanswered. I feel that whilst the second question evolved through the inquiry process, the answer I found satisfied the uncertainty that motivated the formulation of this question in its initial iteration.
As I moved through the expert searching process, the questions that emerged from and shaped the refinement of my primary inquiry question included:
- How has the implementation of the Australian Curriculum impacted on the use of Inquiry Learning in schools?
- What are the main concerns of teachers engaging with Inquiry Learning?
- What are the arguments against Inquiry Learning?
- How do scaffolds and models for Inquiry Learning address teachers concerns regarding implementation and outcomes?
These questions were vital to narrowing my focus and working out exactly what it was I wanted to understand. They allowed me to re-work my initial inquiry question, giving me a clearer way to express my intention. This is consistent with the description given by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (2016) of the fourth stage of Kuhlthau’s information search process (ISP). As I was better able to clarify where I was heading, I also experienced a greater confidence. This is an affect predicted by the ISP.
The information Search Process and my own inquiry learning process: friends or foe?
My own inquiry learning process was consistent with the six stages of ISP, both affective and cognitive, as formulated by Kuhlthau.
The task initiation stage of the ISP (stage 1 of 6) is characterised by feelings of anxiety and apprehension (Shannnon, 2002, p. 20). In my inquiry learning process, the task of exploring my understanding of inquiry learning, in order to write my initial post, left me with a clear sense of the gaps in my knowledge about inquiry learning, including its implementation in the classroom. From this, my primary inquiry question emerged (with two other potential inquiry questions).
As I began ‘experimenting’ with expert search strategies on Google, the swiftness of my decision to concentrate on the second of my three inquiry questions reflected a moment of optimism and focus that was consistent with the selection phase within the model of the ISP. However, as predicted by Kuhlthau’s model, these positive and confident feelings quickly dissipated.
As my research journey began and I delved into Google and Google Scholar, the sheer volume of scholarship that I was met with left me with a growing sense of uncertainty and concern. This sense of frustration is typical of researchers in the exploration phase of the ISP (Shannon, 2002, p. 20). I found that as the amount of information I uncovered grew, the more anxious I became that I would never be able to find the needles in the haystack I was looking for. Whilst I found a very large amount of information about the implementation of inquiry learning that was close to answering what I wanted to know, and my knowledge of the topic generally increased, it felt at times like nothing I was finding was focussed in quite the ‘right’ way to satisfy my questions.
As time passed, however, I entered the formulation phase. The “J” curve I felt I was on (plotted against a Y axis that measured “confidence” (or decreasing levels of panic, to be more precise) and an X axis that represented increasing “knowledge levels”) was finally providing me with a growing sense of purpose. I was able to reflect on where I had been and what I was discovering, and use this both to shape where I was going, and better navigate there. The confusion and slight terror I experienced as I researched and re-searched in Google and Google Scholar was slowly being replaced with a growing optimism.
As I moved through ProQuest Education, and into social media channels, I found I was growing more and more confident in the sources and research I was collecting. I felt my “hit rate” was finally starting to reflect my supposed ‘expert searcher’ status. I was finding information that was getting me thinking about answering my inquiry question. I had entered what Kuhlthau’s collection phase. It was a satisfying phase to be in.
Entering the presentation phase of my inquiry process left me with a feeling of satisfaction. I feel I achieved what I set out to when I formulated my, in hindsight somewhat messily worded, second inquiry question. I feel my research not only brought me to a deeper understanding of the research/re-search and inquiry processes, and tools with which these processes can be conquered, but also gave me a deeper understanding of inquiry learning that will help me to be a better teacher librarian.
As I find myself reflecting on my inquiry learning journey, I am looking to where I would like to go from this point onwards. Moving forward, I would like to continue my learning by investigating the following series of interconnected questions:
- How can teachers’ concerns about the implementation of inquiry learning in the classroom be allayed? What models exist? How have these models been received and what evidence is there of the efficacy of such models?
Understanding this next ‘part’ is where I look to now, and something I feel is the next natural step to improving how I, as a teacher librarian, can assist teachers in the implementation of inquiry learning in the classroom.
Rutgers, The State Univeristy of New Jersey. (2016). Information Search Process. Retrieved 16 September, 2016, from http://wp.comminfo.rutgers. edu/ckuhlthau/information- search-process/
Shannon, D. (2002). Kuhlthau’s information search process. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 19(2), 19-23, retrieved from http://www.abc-clio.com/ LibrariesUnlimited.aspx