Take care of the seeds and they will grow…

growing-seeds

Image credit – http://flolly.com/how-to-grow-seeds/

Now, in the summer of 2016, I have a year of teacher training behind me. Ten teachers chose voluntarily to attend in service training in Guided Inquiry here in Sweden. I have re-read Guided Inquiry Design and have tried to put the teachers in the position of the students. I have tried to model, encourage and listen. We had some kind of a crisis at Explore – believe that most of them had the intention of start skipping class and blaming me and their fellow group members for the fact that we were not getting anywhere, neither individually nor as a group. But we hung in there and at Share and Evaluate our principal was attending – of course by coincidence, but what would we be without it? And I had “a sense of completion suited to the audience.” And also a sense of pride in the room.

I am at this point invited into a number of teams, in school and at other schools. The most important aspect for me right now is that I have stayed true to my vision and my method, what suited me and that it worked for us. We don’t know if and in that case how it will spread but we feel confident that something is achieved. We have taken care of the seeds and some of them are definitely thriving.

I have seen myself as a half. I believe I know certain things and the teachers believe they know certain things. When we meet we learn both about what we thought we knew but also about what the others thought they knew. The difficult part is to get the meeting. Me being the person that has taken every single initiative also tends to put me in the position of the one who is supposed to know. So to have the courage to back off from those expectations but keep the teachers in the conversation is an advanced assignment.

So far I have been the one telling stories. Like the one you’ve just read. The story of me and my journey with ISP/GI, the story of third space, the story of student voices from evaluations and now the voices of teachers’ evaluations from their journey this year. I would like to move on from there. And I believe I am.

A couple of colleagues from another school were so inspired by my stories that they applied for and will attend the summer school at Rutgers this summer, my much younger colleague here at my school is involved in all the digital tools projects that exist here, a couple of teachers are in charge of a full day programme at an in service training for teachers in our region and another teacher is including GID material in an educational website that she’s creating for the Swedish National Board of Education. There will be a chapter about us in the book about the varieties of inquiry across the globe by Lee Fitzgerald coming… sooner or later.

So, I thank you so much for having me on this blog and if anyone would like to get in touch for asking questions of any kind, please do. my email – Lena.Fogelberg-Carlsson@linkoping.se

I wish you all the strength, imagination and persistence to keep on giving young people the best education in the world.

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson

Keep Going! – Change the culture of schools to develop conversation

My journey continues…

Between 2000 and 2010 I told teachers and students about ISP. We tried in all kinds of ways to adapt what we learnt from it in our information seeking instructions, in our supervision and in the instructions that the teachers gave to the students. We were convinced that it should inform our practice. We made many mistakes. We thought we knew, over and over again. But since the students kept getting more or less impossible assignments and I knew that they wanted us to be kind and needed us to understand their “non-library” questions we learned and learned and learned.

In 2010 I got the chance to get to know Randi Schmidt. The story is long about how this meeting came about but it contains my story with ISP as you’ve read it above, people in Sweden whom I had found and networked with, coincided with financial possibilities and Randi´s and my conviction that ISP/GI really had it. I don´t know if Randi is known to you but my short version of her goes like this: When she found out about ISP she decided to create a program at her school (Gill St. Bernhard, Gladstone, NJ ) that would fully implement the findings of the research – her practice should be based on research. And that she did.

Ten years later I walked into that library. I came as prepared as I could and the ten days that I spent with her, her colleagues, students, teachers, researchers at CISSL and the colleagues that I travelled with from Sweden equipped me with a massive experience. It was just as holistic as the voices I heard from my informants only that the web was getting even more complicated. But there were connections, there were methods, there were forms to be filled in and reflection sheets, structured lessons and instructions and there were questions answered and I saw it all, it wasn’t just talk but also walk.

During my visit I asked myself: what am I going to do with this when I come home? I just thought it would be so sad if I would plant the seeds but then fail to make them grow and flourish. It would be so sad. I wanted so badly to be part of a listening and encouraging culture that would help both grownups and teenagers to create deep knowledge.

So I asked for advice and thought and read my own notes from the trip and the ISP/GI texts over and over again.

I decided to trust conversation and discussion.

I don’t think that we have that as a natural part of our culture in my school when the intention is to develop professional knowledge in the staff.

And I decided to challenge that.

I decided that it was the only way to go and that I knew that I had to be patient and firm. If I or the teachers assumed that we were getting nowhere, nothing was happening I had to remain in the position of a discussing, conversing person. If that didn´t work, nothing else would.

I started by talking to my principals and somehow they must have experienced that there was something – not clear what – of quality in my sayings and doings and a year later I had a full time job. Still unclear what I was doing or should be doing, but there it was.

My vision was not to become a star school librarian but to teach the teachers and then work together with them. In 2013 I had evaluations from teachers, their voices and student voices from six projects, involving about 200 students and six teachers and I was invited to present as a practitioner at the CISSL Symposium celebrating the 30th anniversary of the dissertation of Dr. Carol Kuhlthau.

I flew to the US to talk for 15 minutes. It’s kind of funny to think of it that way, but of course there was so much more to it. I was back at Gill with Randi, I met with new people, learned that my presentation and the result we had was worth something – we were on the right track – and that there was interesting stuff going on in Australia as well. So, going back home again, what next?

I went back and told my school and anyone else that was interested that those who know say that we’re on the right track. We don’t really know what we’re doing but people who know say: keep going. So we did.

Lena

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson in her library

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson in her library

Guided Inquiry in Sweden! My Long Journey Begins here…

I am Lena Fogelberg Carlsson from Sweden!

My very first encounter with the theory of the Information Search Process (Kuhlthau) was when I started my education to become a librarian in 1997. One of the first lectures that I attended was performed by Louise Limberg. Today she´s professor emerita but at that point she was just about to present her doctoral thesis in library and information science. She had examined the relationship between the perception high school students held of information seeking and the quality of their papers as evaluated by teacher and librarian. In her lecture she introduced the research of Carol Kuhlthau. When I heard that research existed where the feelings, thoughts and actions of teenagers were considered interesting and valuable stuff, I was hooked. And not only that, but the reason why someone was interested in this was because it seemed like a good idea to find out more about the difficulties that teenagers experience when they are trying to achieve deep knowledge. I was baffled. It was the most pedagogical statement I had ever heard.

At this point I was a high school teacher drop out. I had dropped out of school a number of times and thought I would never go back again. But this made me change my mind. Someone more than me wanted school to be interesting, fun and real and thought that there could be valuable findings in texts by young adults.

My master thesis in library and information science was a survey conducted among a group of young adults examining their opinion of libraries with the starting point in the fire of the city library of Linköping. The public library had burnt down and I thought that it would be really interesting to find out what it was that had burnt down to a number of 15 year olds. Asking these kids a lot of open questions where they could formulate themselves in writing about among other things the fire as such, the value of a library in a society, their school libraries, libraries as rooms, reading, information seeking and their strategies after the fire gave me a very complex picture. Not a very good paper, no proper research question. I wanted to get the whole picture. A number of corner stones have stayed with me ever since 2000 when the paper was completed:

Libraries can hold an existential value for teenagers. They can care enormously about what the books represent, they care about if the room is beautiful and if the librarians are kind and understand teenagers that do not know how to ask “library questions”. They can formulate that libraries hold different values at different times in a person´s life: when they were kids, when they will be students, when they become parents and when they grow old.

I was very surprised.

I had never liked libraries myself, boring places that never managed to invite me in and that seemed to have a qualifying system of which I never cracked the code.

I had loved to read since I was five but book stores were my places.

There were also students in my investigation that didn´t have a relationship to libraries at all. They didn´t like to read, they wrote. Libraries do not have anything for me, they wrote. But they also wanted to put forward that libraries can hold a value to others.

The way they – all 111 of them, no matter if they loved libraries or couldn’t care less – answered my questions –– made a great impact on me. A stranger asks them questions about libraries, but they answered and I heard honest voices. I decided that they shouldn´t have done that in vain. I decided to use what they had taught me when I started to work as a school librarian. Trying to give them beautiful rooms, trying to be kind, trying to find out as much as possible about their questions and ways of asking, or not asking. For those who do not have a relationship to libraries – will they allow me to get to know them? I didn´t know but was willing to try.

It was also apparent to me that to be able to create the best library ever to young adults it took adults to do it. Professional adults. I remembered my primary school teacher whom I thought of as an adult who didn´t need us. She was there for us no matter who we were, she knew what she was doing and you could trust her. I remember liking that.

In my background reading for my thesis I touched upon so many disciplines that seemed relevant that I was absolutely overwhelmed. The kids gave me such a multi-facetted picture of the potential of libraries that I thought that it could only be possible to achieve that in a cross disciplinary culture. A sociologist once described the wise meeting between professional grown-ups and young adults as a “practical art”. I couldn´t agree more. And the practice informed by a scientific approach, of course.

So, I headed back to school and came to Katedralskolan, where I still am, in 2000. A drop out high school teacher who didn´t like libraries was to become a school librarian. Part-time for many years and since 2011, full-time. I had Kuhlthau in my hand and heard the voices of my informants in my head.

Now, Katedralskolan is a highly prestigious, traditional high school so I knew that the odds for me of finding myself at home was truly low. A long journey started.

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson

Using Guided Inquiry to create innovators and make global connections

 

One of the goals of the 21st century teacher librarian, is to develop 21st century skills. This requires an innovative spirit and a sense of connectedness in the world around us. Being willing to encourage students and teachers to step outside of their comfort zone and reach beyond the borders of their school can be difficult, but incredibly rewarding.

My first Guided Inquiry Design project was the perfect platform for creating globally connected students

My first Guided Inquiry Design project was the perfect platform for creating globally connected students

My first project was the perfect opportunity for innovation and global connections. Students were being asked to research and compare environmental problems in Sydney and Taipei and create a video which would convince others of a solution that they have identified. Thankfully, we now have fantastic tools to assist us in connecting with others on a global level in the inquiry process. However I really resonated with the words of George Couros who says innovation is:

….less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.”

Guided Inquiry provides us with the model to ensure that we are not using those tools just because. Rather, we are using those tools to fulfil the nature of each stage in the inquiry process. The slides below demonstrate how we use the tools:

Google products were central to our ability to collaborate on a global level. Students used Google Docs in small inquiry circles to collaboratively edit the Inquiry log and Inquiry journal during the EXPLORE and GATHER phase. In IDENTIFY, MindMeister (which is linked can be a Google Add-on) allowed students to brainstorm their findings from the EXPLORE phase and develop both a central question as well as additional questions that will be sent to a school in Taiwan. We then used Google Docs which was edited by each inquiry circle and then shared with the Taiwanese school.

One of the issues that the students were presented with in the inquiry process was their inability to read much of the scientific research and statistics relating to environmental issues in Taipei (largely due to language – Google translate is great, but not perfect!) Therefore, our sister school in Taiwan played a very important part in the inquiry process because they would have access to information that we did not (or rather, we could not understand it!)

Additionally, we used Line, a social media platform which is widely used in Asia to communicate and plan with teachers globally. Once the students in Taiwan answered the questions, we used our multimedia room to Skype with the school. This added an element to the task and was probably the highlight for students on both sides. It also allowed us to develop skills in communicating using technology and across cultures, a skill that would useful beyond this particular project and arguably a 21st century skill.

As you can see from the student reflections, the feedback was positive and I think the students felt that the choice and connections that they developed made the project much more relevant and interesting than their usual inquiry projects.

If you would like any additional information on the use of technology to collaborate, please do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter. @ezpatel

References

Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. p. 20

The Passion Project: choice and flipped learning using Guided Inquiry Design

Some student work from the Passion Project that was shared in the library

Some student work from the Passion Project that was shared in the library

I don’t like to play favourites with my projects, but the Passion Project was definitely one of the highlights of my Guided Inquiry journey this year. The project was the idea of two Religious Education (RE) teachers who wanted to bring a greater level of choice to their students’ learning, thereby providing a more meaningful and deeper experience in the classroom. They came to me after one of the teachers had collaborated with me using Guided Inquiry in a science project and she thought that the principles could be applied in RE.  Religious education in Australia is not tied to the curriculum constraints of other subjects, but is considered a very important part of our school curriculum. Therefore, we had a lot of freedom in our project design…and that made it so much more fun.

The Passion Project asked the students to choose what they would like to focus their study on for Term 3 in relation to Christianity and faith. It asked, “what are you passionate about?” and provided the students with the freedom to ask the big questions related to faith, religion and spirituality. We emphasised that there will not be one answer to your question which was something that some students found challenging and others found exciting.

We opened the project with a number of games which were designed to get the students brainstorming the kinds of things they were passionate about, whether it was Game of Thrones, Justin Bieber or animal cruelty. We used chatterboxes to get conversations started and students worked in partners and small groups to support each other in the creation of a mind map which would form the basis of their Explore phase.

This page of resources held sources for students to explore as well as videos which were allocated to each stage of the Guided Inquiry process

This page of resources held sources for students to use in the EXPLORE phase. Each of the four tiles (e.g. Using the inquiry log, etc) had Youtube videos that I personally created to model information literacy skills.

As we only had one lesson to spend with the students per week, I decided to implement a flipped classroom approach. Students used the learning management software to access videos and instructions on various stages of Guided Inquiry. They also accessed their Inquiry Log and Inquiry Journal for the EXPLORE and GATHER phases. This enabled teachers to spend less time at the front of the classroom teaching skills, and more time for student inquiry and teacher interventions as required. We implemented EVALUATION throughout the process and the classroom teachers used reflections using Google Forms at the beginning of each lesson to gather important information to inform whether the student needed additional support. This also provided valuable feedback which informed whether the students needed more or less time at each stage of the inquiry process.

This is me recording the flipped classroom videos in our very own soundproof recording booth at school! It took many, many takes. Note to self...write a script!

This is me recording the flipped classroom videos in our very own soundproof recording booth at school! It took many, many takes. Note to self…write a script!

I cannot emphasise enough how important the reflection component was to this task. I have found that the inclusion of reflection is something that requires a bit of persuasion on the part of the teacher librarian or Guided Inquiry practitioner for a number of reasons: there is little time, does it add value, I’m not sure how to do it, etc. Reflection is something I strongly believe in as a teaching tool because it encourages reflective practice both in students and teachers. It encourages us to question how we go about our teaching and learning and provides valuable insight into our students and how they are feeling/thinking/behaving at each stage of the project. It also provides valuable evidence of the impact of teacher librarians – something that we do not always have access to if we are not assessing, reporting and providing formal feedback. In this case, the RE teachers were big fans of reflection and were quite happy to use it to ensure the students were properly supported throughout the project.

I had many interesting discussions with students in the beginning stages of the project. The ISP emphasises the fact that students will go through periods of doubt and uncertainty, and this was true for our students. A couple of students begged me to “just give me a question to answer!”, which only confirmed that the process of making choices is essential for improving information literacy and skills that will help them become lifelong learners throughout their life.

It took the girls 6 weeks to get to the stage where they could begin to plan their creations. This was also a valuable lesson to those who like to jump right in and create before they have a deep understanding of the subject (often this leads to a lot of copying and pasting in my experience). Like the choice of subject area, they were able to choose their method of sharing their findings. We gave the students physical and digital platforms for sharing and this led to many amazing creations. Examples included:

  • Youtube cooking videos exploring food and religion;
  • Infographics which visually compared characters in religious inspired films compare to the Bible or discussing Harry Potter and Religion;
  • Google Slides on Christianity in Sport;
  • Artwork and collages on various topics;
  • Poetry and short stories;
  • Instagram posts;
  • Vlog posts; etc

In all, the Passion Project was valued both by teachers and students. Using the Guided Inquiry Design model provided the structure and scaffolding needed to properly ensure that the knowledge that the students gained would be personally meaningful. It also personally allowed me to get creative with my own pedagogy and play around with technology to improve the learning experience. I particularly enjoyed recording the flipped classroom videos. Although this was time consuming in the planning phase, it was worthwhile in the learning phase. All in all, the project was a huge success and will be repeated next year.

Erin Patel

Hello from Australia

Erin Patel

Erin Patel @ezpatel

Hello everyone. My name is Erin Patel and I am a teacher librarian at Kambala Girls School in Sydney, Australia. Kambala is an Independent girls school which provides for students from 6 months to 18 years. My role focuses in the senior school library, from year 7 to 12. Although I have been a classroom teacher since 2008 and a teacher librarian for almost three years, this is my first year at Kambala. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with inspirational teachers and students, as well as having access to an innovative IT team which has implemented technological tools which enable me to get creative with Guided Inquiry.

In fact, although I have used Guided Inquiry and the ISP to guide my teaching in the past, Kambala has really embraced the model as a tool for improving student learning and therefore has been central to the approach I have taken in undertaking collaborative projects at Kambala. Having only recently graduated with a Masters of Education, Guided Inquiry was the focus of much of our training. I connected with the constructivist nature of Guided Inquiry which specified that students come with their own experiences, understanding and interests and in order to deepen their understanding, we need to find a way to connect this with the content and skills (and creating a third space in which this learning is extended), while we guide and intervene as necessary.

Having the space to explore Guided Inquiry in my teaching has been a very positive experience. Not only has it enabled me to make connections with teachers through collaborative projects, it has allowed for the building of information and transliteracy skills across a year group. I have collaborated on three projects this year alone, which built upon transliteracy skills on a single year group of  Year 9 students. What began as a new process, became almost second nature and largely independent by the third project. This enabled me to measure my own impact upon the learning of students (often a difficult task for teacher librarians who may not be involved in the formal assessment process). With each project, I adapted my approach according to the time constraints. For example, the first project was run over two weeks of five lessons per week. This required a different approach to the second project which was over ten weeks with only one lesson per week. In the second project, I implemented a flipped classroom approach to ensure that the students could make full use of the classroom time to work on their projects and provide one on one support, whilst also allowing students to work at their own pace.

This collaboration has had an incredible impact upon the relationships I have built with subject teachers. Implementing a model that is based on best practice and research improved my credibility as a teacher. This is a very helpful way to advocate for your library. In fact, one project turned into another and before long, I was working with various faculties and teachers on vastly different projects, but all modelled on Guided Inquiry.

This week I would like to share my experiences using Guided Inquiry. I hope we can all learn from each other in this community and that I can contribute something that may trigger ideas for others, as others have contributed to my own understanding of Guided Inquiry.

Erin Patel

Twitter: @ezpatel

Breaking the Rules

Instructions for this blog are to post three entries during the week. I guess in addition to being risk adverse I am also a rule breaker. While preparing for this week, I was totally unable to put my thoughts into three entries. So, if this has been too much, my apologies. My interest in this topic is robust.

The next week of the adventure was spent in the library, five days, one period a day spread across the four areas of study. Each classroom teacher gave up one day of instruction with the English teacher giving two. The students spent that period in the library using print and electronic sources to gather information, take notes, and record citation information. The library space is flexible with moveable tables, quiet study carrels for individual work and open access to myself for one-on-one discussion. This provided independent time to search for, select, and use information with guidance from myself and the classroom teacher.

At the end of this week, we provided opportunities during study hall and free periods for students to seek help from the librarian for source help, the English teacher for writing and citing help, and the topic content teachers for content help. In addition, as the time progressed, students worked on rough drafts with parenthetical citations and practiced peer editing during English classes. The total project covered six weeks.

The final step of Reflection took place through at short online survey shortly after the due date. We asked the students to reflect on these five questions:

  • How did your expectations of the process and tasks match your actual experience?
  • Which type of sources were not useful to you during your research?
  • Which experiences with the librarian were most beneficial to your experience with this project?
  • Please give your thoughts on eBook sources(s).
  • What questions should the English teacher and the librarian have addressed earlier in the process?

The responses are as varied as the students yet there did not seem to be any extremes. Many students felt that the experience was much less difficult than they had expected, many commented positively on the guidance they received from both instructors including the ability to come to us during their free time for one-on-one help, and the variety of sources they found most useful covered the entire spectrum. The final question produced some very insightful comments which we will take into this year’s project.

As we instructors debriefed while mulling over these comments, we noted that we observed great improvement in the quality of the work done throughout the process and as a result great improvement in the quality of the final product. One conclusion we immediately found was that waiting until January to start instruction in the process is too late in the year so we have made changes to begin this year with a smaller inquiry project in the World Geography course. Students began this in August with instruction on ISP and different types of resources and their uses.

We also use the T.R.A.I.L.S (Tool for Real-Time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills) tool from Kent State University Libraries to assess the success of our teaching and projects. Improvements within the freshman class over the school year were an average of 8.2% over the five categories with the largest gains in the areas of Develop Topic and Evaluate Sources and Information. These are the largest gains we have seen since we began using this tool. We believe that the improvements we made to this project and the adding of smaller projects to practice the process during the school year resulted in these gains.

As a result of this collaborative project and the success we all feel is evident, I brought this information to the Middle School and Lower School  librarians. After showing them what we had done, how it came to fruition, and the positive results, together we came to the realization that using Guided Inquiry at every grade level was the perfect next step in the evolution of our curriculum. I ordered copies of all the professional books and compiled a collection of professional articles for each librarian and we spent the summer reading and thinking. Our department goal  is to re envision existing research projects at all grade levels with the goal of moving them to Guided Inquiry and change one or more during this school year. A big job which we feel will reap real rewards for our students, teachers, and libraries.

Jean Pfluger

Exploration to Formulation

One clarification for yesterday’s post, once the girls had their questions and understood that the homework would be exploring for information, time was spent introducing library resources for this task. We use EBSCO Discovery Service as our gateway to the library collection and databases. Since this type of search is new to most freshman students, instruction was specifically how to locate research starters and e-reference collections.

Day Two was very successful. The freshman were prepared with their handout completed and each had learned something about their topic identifying interesting, surprising, and unusual information. They identified questionable or controversial information and aspects they might still not understand. The final task on the homework had them identify two questions they might pursue as they continued their research.

The rest of the instructional period was spent practicing the development of key terms and using them in searches interspersed with instruction on narrowing search results using the database tools. By doing this within the class time, I was able to assist, reteach, and feel confident that the students were heading down a successful path. They practiced using synonyms and suggested subject terms from the database. We also reviewed the use of Boolean terms and other search strategies for the students with a limited amount of search experience. They used a handout to record their results using a concept cloud and by the end of the session had developed 2-4 successful key words with which to continue their Exploration. For myself and the classroom teacher, it was a time to work one on one with students and to identify where additional instruction/practice might be needed. Students were asked to complete this practice for homework and begin reading with the purpose of narrowing the concept/ topic to answer the questions they had formulated on the first handout the previous night.

The next day, Day Three, we moved on to the first phase of formulating a focus with a demonstration. Taking my own topic of interest, I modeled the next step of narrowing the concept/ topic to a focus. After listening to and watching me work, the girls were put into pairs and given time to “talk it out” with their partner. In an all-girls school, talking is a very successful strategy as there are not many girls who do not like to talk.  As the teacher and I listened in, we heard the student actively engaged and reflecting, building on what they had learned, and genuinely interested in continuing learning.  While they did not all come away from this exercise with a focus many of them understood what they needed to do next. We also observed a sense of stress release among them as they realized that each was in the right place and were not alone.

Upon completion of the “talk it out” exercise, we reviewed the next phase of Collection and how it would be a different sort of search and gather pertaining to the focus. We also reiterated relevance and redundancy as closure tactics. This ended our three days of instruction/practice on a Friday so that the students would have the weekend to absorb and maybe even reflect.

Next: A Week of Collection

Change is Difficult but Possible

I am the first to admit that I move slowly when starting something new. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, spoke to our community last week and I realized, very late in life, that I am sometimes scared to take a risk. This is very enlightening since I just celebrated a later milestone in the aging process and thirty years ago would have scoffed at anyone who told me that I was risk adverse. So, I will assume as a result of this new revelation, it took me over a year to absorb, plan and implement GI into my teaching strategies. I mulled, ordered all the books and read, I read more, and I searched for enlightening commentary on the internet, and after some time decided to approach the freshman class teachers to rework the Tangled Web project that was in existence before I took over this position.

While I knew this was a step in the right direction, from experience I know that in order to facilitate change I need to approach teachers thoughtfully. Change is difficult in the teaching world so I have developed a strategy whereby I present a change as an improvement not just change for change sake.

The Tangled Web project is a cross-curricular adventure in research during the second semester of the freshman year. It provides a venue for research skill instruction from the librarian and writing instruction including MLA style from the English teacher. Making it cross curricular gives the girls opportunities to have a topic that can fall under any of these areas: biology, religion, world geography, and English literature. Topics are drawn from a hat; the content is graded by the subject teacher and the writing/MLA is graded by the English teacher. At the time of my intervention, biographical in nature, the research was not challenging and the products quite boring. Students may learn how to navigate databases and resources, take notes with annotated bibliographies, write and footnote in MLA style but they never really enjoyed it and I felt they did not really learn anything.

I start my classes on research with this quote from Carol Kuhlthau. “Uncertainty is the beginning of learning.” So after a few years with this project, I realized that the students were not experiencing uncertainty. They already knew how to write a biographical report and even with the “how has this person influenced the world?” question, were not challenged to think. Joyfully, I found that these teachers felt the same and in addition were terribly tired of reading the same boring papers year after year. Note to self, approach change from that perspective. “You must be so terribly bored reading the same papers year after year so let’s shake it up.”

We started shaking it up a year ago when we began brainstorming this change. We began by ditching the biography approach and looking for authentic learning that would require the girls taking a risk with exploring the unknown. I began a search for concepts in each area of study and after planning sessions with the teachers we decided on the following:

English Literature – Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, Homer, and French Revolution
World Geography – Control of Kashmir, Maori of New Zealand, Cambodia/Pol Pot regime, Keystone Pipeline, and South African Apartheid
Biology – HeLa cell discovery, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, equilibrium between inhabitants of ecosystems, exotic species, and emerging infectious diseases
Religion – Process of beatification, Wall separating Bethlehem from Israel, Pope John Paul II and communism, Anti-Catholic sentiment in US and the rise of Catholic Parochial school system, and Growth of monasticism during the Roman Empire

With these concepts and some very broad starting questions, we launched into the process with an ISP lesson, introduced the broad questions and the students drew from the hat, and then began Exploration with the assignment to take these conceptual questions and explore them for homework and return the next day with the first wave of developing broad search terms and keywords. The best quote of the whole lesson was when one student drew her question, read it and exclaimed, “What is Pol Pot?”.

Jean Pfluger

Tomorrow: Exploration to Formulation

It is Still Hot in Texas

DuchesneHeart_Master_2718Writing from Texas this week, I am Jean Pfluger, Upper School Librarian at Duchense Academy of the Sacred Heart, Houston’s only all-girl college preparatory school PK3 through 12th grade. I am responsible for the guidance and growth of 242 9th – 12th graders as they navigate the world of information within their courses. As the chair of the Library Department, I am responsible for facilitating the creation of a vertical curriculum for grades PK3 – 12th grade with three other librarians in two physical spaces.

My career path is fairly unique. As a child/teenager, I had two passions; sports and reading. I was the volleyball player who read a book on the bus to away games. My first career was as a physical education teacher and lasted twenty years. At that time in my life I realized that I wanted to contribute to the education of students in another way and the opportunity to become a librarian sort of just fell into my lap. After the first three years, I knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree so I enrolled and graduated from the University of North Texas with a Masters in Library Science. Since then, I have been a librarian at every grade, PK4 – 12th.

I have used Carol Kuhlthau’s Seeking Meaning: a process approach to library and information services with the ISP process as the framework for research in Upper School for the past six years. Having been a Big Six advocate from its inception and a local workshop presenter on the method, changing to Kuhlthau’s ideas required a real forward shift in my thinking. Yet, as I muddled through those first few years, I realized the advantages of the affective aspect of information seeking and use with the cognitive and physical. So, when her work with Guided Inquiry emerged, I jumped right in and begin reading. The rest is history and as this week progresses, I will share my journey.

Jean Pflüger