Guided Inquiry Design & Curriculum Reform in Croatia (3)

Photo by, Mario Fajt (sobrecroaCia.com.)

 

School librarians in Croatia are interested in Guided inquiry. One of our leading experts in information science, Prof. Stricevic I mentioned before, advocates for it at our professional education events. She keeps saying that GI is the model of learning that best suits the needs of contemporary students. Guided Inquiry is recommended in IFLA-s guidelines for school libraries as well. So, why do we not use GID more?

The problem in Croatian education system is that we are stuck in our curriculum reform. Most teaching in our schools is traditional, there is no real collaboration between teachers, not to mention that teachers are not satisfied with their social status and many of them are not motivated to learn new things. The fact is, with traditional method of teaching, where teachers are lecturing and students are reading just their textbooks, there is no actual need for information literacy. If the only goal of teaching is that a student remembers what a teacher says to him, there is no need for collaboration between a teacher and a school librarian.

So, the question is – what kind of schools do we want? How do we prepare our students for their future life? Two years ago, it seemed that serious improvements in Croatian education system are to be made, but the change of political power stopped that. A New Committee for curriculum reform was appointed, but we still do not know any concrete results.

So much time and money is lost in the political struggle. Unfortunately, our students cannot wait, they are left at the mercy of their teachers. There are excellent schools, libraries, teachers, but they are excellent despite the system, not because of it. That is why, on the average, our students do not perform well on international testing (like PISA, PIRLS, ICILS….) nor do they achieve splendid results at their final high school exams.

We desperately need GID in our schools. We should have the books available in Croatian. We should educate teachers and librarians to apply it. There is no straightforward way to do this, I am aware of this. But, however futile it seems sometimes, we librarians, have our duties to perform no matter what are the circumstances. I have seen that GID works in my school. Students love learning through Guided Inquiry. I am aware that my colleagues and I made mistakes in our first attempts at it. But, the change in the classroom is enormous compared to traditional teaching. Students are motivated to work, they do not notice the bell ringing, and everybody is active, not just a few designated to answer all the questions. The students are learning, thinking, making conclusions based on evidence. Therefore, at the beginning of this school year I am going to ask my colleagues to join me in planning and preparing more GI units. I think this is my humble contribution to education winning in the race with catastrophe.

Best,

Gordana Sutej

Duga Resa, Croatia

Irrational Perseverance and Our Unit on Children in Wartime (2)

Irrational perseverance

You will need a good dose of irrational perseverance to stick to GI” and implement it in your curriculum,” say the authors of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21 Century. After seven years of trying, I must say it is perfectly true. You need perseverance to learn all the time, perseverance to endure futile tries to convince your colleagues to collaborate with you, but most of all you need perseverance to monitor you students and make changes in your practice when you see that what you are doing is not helping them learn. But perseverance I have, because I believe Guided Inquiry is the best model of learning we, school librarians, can use to help students grow.

Guided Inquiry is in accordance with my personal mission to do everything I can to sustain children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. Have you ever seen a small child who is not eager to learn? It breaks my heart when I see how this eagerness withers as children grow older, and by the middle school they end up hating school because it is boring. The answer is, I believe, in constructivist approach to learning. Guided Inquiry is the answer. D. H. Wells once said that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. Guided Inquiry is such a powerful tailwind for education. It makes learning meaningful for students, gives them skills to use for further learning, it helps them to gain deeper understanding of the curriculum.

After carefully reading and rereading and studying the books (one mentioned before, Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School and Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School) attending free webinars held by Leslie at EdWeb, I gradually started applying GI in my teaching.

First, I applied some of the tools in our ongoing school projects. I talked about GI at our school staff meeting. There was a language teacher who proposed that we give it a try together. We asked history teacher to join in for our first GI unit. My colleagues did not read about Guided Inquiry, so it was my responsibility to explain the concept to them. They were familiar with KWL framework and project based learning which made me easier to explain GID. However, it took a lot of patience and persistence from all of us.

I was grateful to them they were willing to try something new and I took care not to make them feel uncomfortable in the process. Our first GID unit was not perfect, but I think we did excellent job. We connected literature (Bruckner: Sadako wants to live – this is obligatory book for 8th graders which most of them never really read), history curriculum – WWII, and civic education (Human Rights).

Photo -3rd grade students preparing for sharing what they learned about healthy food and habits.

Our big question and concept was: “What happens to children in wartime?”

The Open session was rich. It took place in the library. We managed to acquire beautiful posters and brochures about contemporary Japan from the Japanese Embassy. After discussing that we watched two minutes video from Hiroshima Memorial Museum and an excerpt from a documentary about atomic bomb survivors. Our discussion helped students to better understand the book, which was the task for Immerse.

Deciding what is important to share with the rest of the class

In Explore sessions they had a lot of material, both print and digital to go through. After that they had to pick a role to prepare for, because the create and share phase were preparation and staging of a mock trial in which all the children had to play a role of a character in a book or a role of a court official (judges, attorneys etc.). Students were engaged and motivated during the process. There was so much to talk about. They studied the period described in the book to the detail, but they also draw connections with current affairs. Unfortunately, the topic of war is familiar to them. Although they are the generation born after recent wars in our part of the world, they hear it discussed in their homes, in school and in the media.

Next school year, I made another presentation about GID for my colleagues in school, presented the concept again, together with our last year’s experience. I asked for volunteers again. There were more teachers who were interested this time. Next year, a few more. My goal is to enable every student in school to experience Guided Inquiry. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I had several opportunities to share the experience in GID with my follow librarians at the district, but also at the national level. The last one was a workshop at our Spring School in Trogir in April 2017 which was very well received.

Gordana

How I Fell in LOVE with Guided Inquiry Design (1)

Hello!

My name is Gordana Sutej and I am a teacher librarian at Ivan Goran Kovacic School, an elementary school in Duga Resa, Croatia. I am honored by the opportunity to share my thoughts about Guided Inquiry with colleagues around the world and grateful to Leslie K. Maniotes who encouraged me to write for this 52GID blog. I am enthusiastic about Guided Inquiry and trying to implement it in my school (it is K8 in US terms) and to spread the word about it to my colleagues in the district where I live and at the national level whenever possible.

Let me say a few words about Croatia, first. It is a country in Southeastern Europe with national territory of 56 594 km2 (there are probably farms in Texas bigger than that 😊). Although a small country, Croatia boasts with diverse and beautiful landscapes and numerous historical monuments.

Photos of Zagreb and Croatian landscape by, Mario Fajt (sobrecroaCia.com.).

We have a population of 4 million people. There are some 1200 school libraries here. Every school must have a library according to law. There are standards for school libraries, but government, who impose those standards do not secure financial means to fulfill the standards. Therefore, we have varied school libraries, ranging from excellent – spacious, well equipped with all sorts of resources and devices, to small ones lacking books, computers, and almost everything.

School library where I work is a small one (70m2) with 4000 books, 3 computers, LCD projector and a smartboard. Although not big, it is comfortable and appealing space, and everything in it is selected with love and care. The school has 410 students and 50 teachers and other stuff members. Both students and teachers visit and use library often. I am happy that they enjoy spending their free time there, but they also like having lessons in the library. We have many extracurricular activities in school which are very popular with the students. I lead school journalist, a book club, library helpers and poetry academy groups.

I started working in a school library in 1999, after seven years spent in a small public library in my home town. Discovering what are the possibilities of school library to help students become readers and critical thinkers was interesting, but not always easy. I wondered for a long time how can I accomplish to fulfill my responsibility for fostering information literacy in school if I do not give assignments to students and do not participate in evaluating their work.

The answer came to me in a lecture by prof. Ivanka Stričević at our PD, Spring School, as we call it, in 2010. Prof Stričević said: “Kuhlthau says there is no point in teaching information literacy without context, it should be integrated into school curriculum and carried out through Guided Inquiry.” I did not know how to spell the name, Kuhlthau, at that time, but I managed to find it on internet, and since that day, I did not stop searching, discovering, learning about Carol C. Kuhlthau, her research, ideas, concept of Guided Inquiry she developed together with her daughters Leslie K. Maniotes and Ann K. Caspari.

Their work Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century is not translated to Croatian, it cannot even be found in our National Library. The only way to get it was to order the book from USA. What a thrill it was to read it. I believe you know the feeling when you read astonishing text and you cannot believe afterwards that the world is still the same. You ask yourself, why does not everybody read it and take it seriously? Why do we not transform our schools according to Guided Inquiry Design? It is so clever, so logical, so true! How cannot everybody see it? Anyway, I made a pledge to do everything I can to make it work in my school.

Gordana