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Updated by Fiona Sharman on Sep 05, 2015
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Inquiry Learning - A Journey into the Unknown

Here are a number of resources that have helped with my investigation into the intellectual and educational merits of inquiry learning, specifically a Guided Inquiry approach.

This journal article from Adolescent Literacy Learning furthered my understanding of the connections between inquiry-based pedagogies and the concept of 'deep learning' in students. In the article, the author explicitly states that "one of the goals of inquiry is to engage students in deep learning and understanding", which directly assists with my particular investigation.

Furthermore, this article systematically links student's development with a need to express growing curiosities about our world, as well as with the extension of literacy outcomes. It also suggests connections between inquiry-based approaches and the development of social justice awareness, making inquiry learning a 'transformative' pedagogy.

The article also clearly walks teachers through the basics of how to incorporate an inquiry approach and links to the research on 'mindsets' of renowned psychologist Dr Carol Dwerk. For example, "inquiry [can be used] as a way to foster growth mindset".

Guided Inquiry

A concise overview of Kuhlthau's Guided Inquiry model for learning that charts the intellectual and emotional journey of students. Kuhlthau's findings are underpinned by research in Constructivist theories of learning and from evidence-based findings. Her work on inquiry learning is widely respected and her particular model of a Guided Inquiry approach is the preferred model at my SSP Site.

This slideshow directly relates to my own investigation with its focus on unmasking the processes which lead to 'deep learning' through structured and supported student tasks.

Lee Fitzgerald's article for the Australian school library journal Scan was very useful in my search for evidence-based links between Guided Inquiry research models and the concept of 'deep learning' for secondary students. I particularly liked the fact that her action research project was based on the work done in Sydney schools in close proximity to my school employer as we are delivering the same curriculum outcomes and have very comparable students. Fitzgerald's article draws close links between specific aspects of Kuhlthau's ISP model and her own research. Her depiction of her experiences is clear, logical and well-supported with detailed evidence. I found her work very useful to my studies.

Accepting the Challenge: Evidence-based Practice at Broughton Anglican College

Similar to Lee Fitzgerald's action research article on Guided Inquiry (GI) for Scan Alinda Sheerman found from her own teaching experiences and reflections that a GI approach does indeed lead to students experiencing 'deep learning'. Sheerman explicitly walks readers through her research project, her use of Kuhlthau's ISP, the SLIM Toolkit and provides specific examples of students' final evaluations and reflections. This article was useful to me both as a model for how to implement GI learning and as evidence of GI's effectiveness in developing deep learning in students, which is the specific focus of my investigation.

Inquiry learning Info graphic

While this info graphic is not providing evidence of 'deep learning' in and of itself, I chose it because it is sufficiently complex enough to convey the deep nature of an inquiry task whilst also being practicable and student-friendly. I would like to see a greater focus on reflection and re-formulation but I thought that this would make a great visual display in a library to support the establishment of inquiry learning as 'natural' way of thinking critically.

Guided Inquiry chart that shows the strong correlation between learning new content and students' emotions

This ISP chart was chosen as it brings to the fore Kuhlthau's central focus on the connection between academic inquiry and human emotions. In particular, it is a useful and clear tool for reminding teachers and students alike that confusion, doubt and frustration are not only normal responses to difficult challenges but that they often proceed great break-throughs in understanding. From my research and readings Kuhlthau's GI model was primarily unique because it mapped the correlation between academic progress and emotional states induced by fear and discomfort when learning new content and ideas.

While Stephenson's article is about 8 years old now, it is a very clear and useful starting place for educators who are new to inquiry learning and its value to developing critical thinking skills in students. His article also directly engages with the notion of 'deep learning' as an outcome of inquiry pedagogies, which was significant to my investigation focus. In particular, Stephenson claims that "the power of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding". As part of my broad research this was a useful resource that focused on my chief inquiry question and could be effectively corroborated with the action research reflections of Fitzgerald and Sheerman.

Guided Inquiry at Gill St Bernard's School

In this 19 min Youtube video, Professor Ross Todd looks at the implementation of Guided Inquiry being supervised by Randi Schmidt at Gill St. Bernard's School, Gladstone, New Jersey. I was surprised to hear from the students involved in the project that they found their GI research project "easy" and "accessible" due to its highly structured, supported and well-paced nature. They were senior students, on the cusp of going to university and were clearly able to articulate what they learned and how they improved as learners.

I found the combined statement by ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) and ASLA (Australian School Library Association) an important resource to use for my investigation into Guided Inquiry because I'm an Australian secondary teacher working within the guidelines of these professional bodies. In particular, the stated purpose of GI to encourage the construction of meaning, development of creative thinking and problem solving skills fits neatly within my understanding of 'deep learning'. The claim that "Guided inquiry is a planned, supervised and targeted intervention" also reinforces what I have learned about Kuhlthau's model and from the research of Alinda Sheerman and Lee Fitzgerald. Explicitly, this has included an emphasis on the importance of scaffolding and supporting students at targeted times during their research to ensure the best education outcomes.

This site again draws a distinct connection between my investigation into Guided Inquiry pedagogy and my immediate context as an Australian secondary school teacher. In particluar, "the new Australian Curriculum requires students to develop skills and understandings as critical inquirers of their world across a number of learning areas...[leading students toward] disciplinary thinking". Furthermore, the stated focus on developing learning 'partnerships' to enact a well-supported guided inquiry and improve student learning outcomes reiterates the findings of Alinda Sheerman in her experiment with GI at Broughton Anglican College. Blog sites like this are useful in showing the discussions which are occurring in Australian educational circles around Guided Inquiry and served to cement my understanding of the inter-play between GI, team-based staff support, timely intervention and deep learning.