GIDesign @ BCPS: Our Journey Begins

Hello fellow Guided Inquiry fans!

I’m Kelly Ray, a Library Media Resource teacher with the Office of Digital Learning at the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). I’m so excited to  provide a district-level perspective, by sharing how Guided Inquiry is transforming student research and inquiry in our large public school system!

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BCPS is the 25th largest public school district in the U.S. and 3rd largest in Maryland, with 175 schools, programs, and centers. At the district’s annual Summer Curriculum Workshops, our Library Media team collaborates with content curriculum writers to design standards-aligned research tasks. Since 1998, we have designed Online Research Models (ORMs) which structure the research process, integrating information literacy skills development and content learning for students. You can see our current inventory of Online Research Models (for extended, in-depth research, labeled ORM) and Slam Dunk research models (for brief, focused research, labeled Slam Dunk) here. *Please excuse any broken links in these models; our team will be updating links over the summer. For years our ORMs were structured according to our own process model, which was inspired in part by Dr. Kuhlthau’s ISP. Our original ORM steps were: Scenario, Task & Product, Assessments, Gather & Sort, Organize, and Conclusion. These steps evolved only slightly until 2012.

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In July 2012, I participated (along with our since retired Coordinator, Della Curtis) in the CISSL Summer Institute at Rutgers, where we were introduced to Guided Inquiry Design. At the end of the first day of the Institute, we knew that GID would be transformative for our BCPS ORMs. That very evening, we worked well past midnight (yes, really!) to begin designing a new ORM using GID. The result was An American Student in China, a research model for high school students participating in our BCPS Chinese Cultural Exchange Program. Each year, a group of students spends part of the summer visiting and attending school in China. As part of the program, students must research a topic of their choice related to that experience. We had been asked by our Office of World Languages staff to develop a new ORM for this research task. Part of the reason for their request was that students had been producing low-level “topical” reports on landmarks they had visited, like the Great Wall of China or the Terracotta Warriors— reports with little personal significance or reflection, about topics they could have researched without actually visiting China.

We designed An American Student in China by incorporating the 8 phases of GID with our existing ORM steps. Since this GID-aligned ORM was first launched for the 2012-13 school year, students have been better able to identify a research focus and question that is personally meaningful and relevant to their own interests and experience in China. Office of World Languages staff has reported that students’ projects have been more varied and unique, including topics like Chinese family life, traditions, education, music, and pop culture. *Unfortunately I do not have examples of student research products to post here now, but I will try to get access to some of these to share later.

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After creating that first ORM at the CISSL Institute in 2012, we re-formatted many of our existing Online Research Models to incorporate GID. We’ve paid deliberate attention to Third Space—something that our previous ORMs were lacking. Some of our early ORMs included Scenarios with introductions like, “Congratulations! You’ve been selected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Smithsonian!” (SERIOUSLY? How many middle school students would really relish that prospect?) Since adopting GID, our ORMs endeavor to engage students in the Open phase by making more relevant real-world connections to their lives. In addition, our former research Scenarios typically included only one link to an article or video for building background knowledge and connecting to content. Our ORMs now provide more resources and time for these important activities in the Immerse phase of the process. We’ve worked to provide more resources and choices for students to “look around,” “dip in,” and “explore interesting ideas” in the Explore phase, BEFORE they Identify an inquiry focus/question and move forward into the Gather phase. We’re encouraging our content curriculum collaborators to allow for greater student choice in how they’ll Create to communicate and Share their knowledge with others. And we’ve built into our ORMs the crucial opportunity for student reflection and self-evaluation during the Evaluate phase.

orm_IdeclareSince 2013 we have dispensed with our original ORM steps, and have been using the 8 GID phases exclusively to design research tasks for all grade levels and content areas. See these examples: Act Now! Supplies Limited (Grade 5 Library Media/Environmental Science); Power of the Pen: Writers as Agents of Social Change (Grade 6 GT English Language Arts) and Epidemic Experts (Grade 7 English Language Arts); and I Declare! Founding Fathers Sound Off on Contemporary Issues (Grade 11 English Language Arts). These Online Research Models are included in content curriculum guides, where teachers are encouraged to collaborate with their school’s library media specialist to integrate information literacy skills instruction at identified “zones of intervention.”

Based on feedback from school librarians, teachers and students across the district, we know that Guided Inquiry Design has transformed the student research experience in BCPS to increase their engagement in the inquiry process, helping to facilitate their successful acquisition of skills aligned to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, the Framework for 21st Century Learning, ISTE Standards for Students, and Common Core State Standards … not to mention content standards like the NGSS and C3 Framework.

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Stay tuned for my next post, where I will share some of our team’s professional development efforts and other resources we’ve developed to support the use of Guided Inquiry in school libraries and classrooms across our large district.

Questioning the Journey

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Working with GID for over four years, has allowed me to reflect on the patterns, challenges and successes of integrating the Guided Inquiry Design Process in our high school.

One aspect that overwhelmingly starts out as a challenge for content teachers is student questioning.  Historically, teachers are the questioners – choosing the Essential Question or creating a research project with predetermined questions for students to answer. In this type of research, the students engagement can vary.  If it’s a topic that students have interest in, the outputs are more favorable.  In many cases, the outputs will be surface level instead of a  deep meaning-making process.  Jamie McKenzie, author of The Question Mark, a journal devoted to questions and questioning and a thoughtful leader of technology in schools, writes about research in schools in his educational technology journal, From Now On.  He suggests that real problem solving in research begins when we are stuck.  I think the key to helping kids get “unstuck” is to stay with them through it. But, how do we do this in a way that takes into consideration the time constraints, the comfort of the content teacher and the desired outcomes of the research? This is a question that I am still attempting to answer.

In my years as a library teacher, I have developed strategies and gathered resources to help students understand the question building process.  Within the IDENTIFY phase, I work with small groups of students to create their inquiry questions.  In their inquiry reflections from the previous work through the EXPLORE phase, I ask that students create a list of questions that they have about their topic.  I am intentionally vague with instructions – “As you read through and discover information about your choice topic, write down any questions that come to mind.” – by giving students minimal instructions – they are able to follow this mindfully – without worry of creating a question that will be “wrong”.  We then use these questions in our question building session, along with inquiry tools and strategies, to create a solid inquiry question.  Typically, I will work on the question from the aspect of inquiry and then the students will check in with their content teacher to be sure they are on the right track with content.  The key is to ensure that students are staying rooted in their personal interest.  I also believe that it is crucial to not add content knowledge to the question building process – as this sometimes sways the student to change their topic based on what the content teacher speaks about and most often leads the student away from their core interest. My experience has shown that the personal interest of the student will be the sustaining force throughout the challenges within the research and GID process.

Teachers survive the demands of each new school year by creating routines, developing habits of mind and in some instances – by turning on autopilot. One challenge as the library teacher is to keep the current issues within your community in mind when attempting to collaborate with content teachers. Interestingly, questioning is something that can be viewed as “just one more thing” to add to a project that expands the time necessary to work with students.  In my school, I am grateful that there has always been a culture of a day or two with library resources but it is still a paradigm shift to allow more time for instruction throughout the process.  GID gives the necessary framework that allows content teachers a way to envision the space and time necessary to receive the outcomes desired.  When a teacher is able to let go of the fear of the unknown as well as become able to sit with the initial uneasiness of facilitating over instilling information – the shift for student  learning begins.

As the library teacher, my role with questioning and often with GID,  becomes one of co-teacher, collaborator, sometimes hand-holder, always the visionist, often the only believer – that it will all work out okay and we will all take away a meaningful experience. Many students seem to instinctively know this from the start while others are as uncomfortable with the “not knowing” as their teacher.  Good collaboration begins with trust and one can not discount the role that it plays when planning.  I believe that it’s always best to begin where the content teacher is, in other words, baby steps may be necessary – the goal should be to begin the journey! Even the longest and most difficult journey begins with the first step.

 

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Anita Celluci, Library Teacher, Westborough High School

 

All the colors of GID

One of my favorite aspects of GID is the creativity that is built within the process. I see endless possibility in the ways in which Guided Inquiry Design can be intentionally designed for any discipline.  Like an artist’s pallette, there are infinite colors possible. Looking at the process in this way allows me to really think critically about how the process can help students be motivated to learn, engage in the learning process and develop empathy for other learners.

Over the past four years, I have collaborated to design projects in Science, various English classes, Fine Arts and History.  This past school year, I worked with Academic Support classes and their teachers, Molly Lonergan and Anita Breeze, on a project entitled “Understanding Your IEP”.  Students read and reflected on their individual IEPs and were given activities and strategies that would enable them to read and focus on the parts of the legal document to help them within their daily lives.

As I met weekly with these students, I was able to reflect on the process, their learning, and the barriers to motivation, personal growth and most importantly trust within the classroom.  It was clear to me that before we could engage in research, we would need to create a safe space and the opportunity for curiosity.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that students on IEP’s arrive in the high school in a very different emotional space than is intended.  Many times, these students have not been asked to share their thoughts about their learning, but are often told all about their learning style, the modifications that will best serve them and often – how to think.

Because of these factors, we began the Guided Inquiry design process with activities and lessons based on the habits and attitudes of mind research of Angela Maiers. The GID phases included activities about self-awareness, interest inventories, transition planning, self-disclosure, and crafting personal statements. These activities were done through online inventories and surveys, reading materials to gain knowledge, and self-reflection in the conference room of the library.

The culmination of the project was a Google slides presentation that students were then able to use within their IEP meetings to successfully advocate for themselves as well as a Disclosure statement that can be used post high school.  Students were given the “space” to experience their feelings within this process – GID allows this through the reflective aspect within each phase as well as the ways that each phase acknowledges the emotional aspect of the process.

Like other GID projects at Westborough High School, Inquiry Tools were embedded throughout the project to assist students in moving through the phases, as well as staying organized within the project.  With this group of students, the Inquiry Community became invaluable to the learning as students gained trust with the adults in the room as well as their peers. The collaborative aspect of this learning process was facilitated through the phases of the process.

The  Guided Inquiry Design Process Model was implemented to help students find a course of individual study that would allow them to think about their plans for their post high school lives.  It enabled them to engage in research that is based on their needs and individual growth.

Student work:

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Student Example: One person on a student’s “Dream Team” – Angela Maiers speaks of the importance of creating a personal “Dream Team” of individuals that influence your thinking and who’s behaviors you would seek to emulate.

Student reflections:

  1. Today, I thought that the Inquiry Process ran very smoothly. Unlike most people my age, I enjoy each step of the process and take time to consider each part before writing. Last year, I found that the Inquiry Process was very successful in helping me to boost my curiosity regarding a topic that I had very little interest in. For these reasons, I appreciated and still continue to appreciate the Inquiry Process.
  2. My feeling on my IEP: I really don’t like my IEP. I hate how it has disabilities in it. It makes me feel like I am less then other kids that don’t have them. I do recognize that I struggle a little in some classes but i don’t think i need an IEP. I feel like that an IEP is just stating the problems you have, recognizing what  I lack in classes. I think I have a good memory, my reading skills are getting better. I think it can be helpful sometimes, but other times it’s very annoying. I hate the 50% more time on test and things. I just don’t need it. But I love being able you use a calculator.  I want to be treated like normal kids in normal level classes. I don’t want to get all this special baby treatment on how I need more help then all the other students. If i need help i will find help, I don’t need someone constantly helping me with things I don’t need help with.
  3. My IEP is very outdated and not accurate to who I am now. I am a much better student than the old IEP says that I am.
  4. I struggle most with advocating for myself.
  5. Today in class curiosity was investigated. there are many things that had made me think in the Personal curiosity inventory. But none made me think more than the question about what are my questions.

Working with GID in this way, allowed students to access the curriculum in a way that fit their individual needs while giving them valuable information literacy, technology and the process skills to dig deep into an emotional topic. In our follow up meeting, the teachers and I  decided to move forward with GID next year and continue to add depth to the project.Students gained valuable awareness about their own learning as well as traits and qualities about themselves that are sure to help them through the rest of their school career and post high school plans.

I am grateful that the special education teachers were willing to take the time and put the effort necessary to provide this experience for our students.

 

Anita Cellucci

Library Teacher

Westborough High School

Process to Practice

Hello from Westborough High School, Westborough Massachusetts!

In the early days of teaching, I learned quickly that letting students ask questions – that I didn’t know the answer to – was a sure way to keep curiosity an integral part of learning – for students as well as their teacher.  As a library teacher, I have always looked for engaging ways to infuse this questioning into the research process.  I became very interested in inquiry based teaching strategies that allowed students to delve deeply into a topic of their choice very early in my career.

My true experiential teaching with inquiry began with middle school students on a fixed library schedule.  The schedule gave the opportunity to work closely with these students, their thoughts, and their research journals.  I created “research stations” that moved them through the process of research at their individual pace and ability. I had learned about  Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process, among others,  in a graduate school  and enjoyed putting these processes to the test with my middle school students.

Fast forward a few years, to my current position as Library Teacher at Westborough High School. Again, looking to bring process to the practice of research, I continued to delve into inquiry based teaching strategies and to promote curiosity, engage students in asking questions, thinking critically, and solving problems. As teachers approached me with projects, I probed for projected outcomes and discussed with colleagues about the shift that could happen with this type of learning.  

When the opportunity arose to apply for the CISSL Summer  Institute at Rutgers University, I knew that we needed to try for a spot with a team from WHS.  I was able to gain the trust of Marci D’Onofrio (a science teacher), Kathy Stoker (an English teacher)  and Carol Cavanaugh, (the assistant principal at the time) to apply to become a GID team.  The Institute was instrumental in shaping our pedagogy around inquiry.

And so begins the journey…

 

Anita Cellucci

Library Teacher

Westborough High School

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