Slow and Steady: A long road to GId

Metuchen is a lovely historic town in central New Jersey, at the crossroads of transportation in our state. Metuchen is a small town, encircled by Edison Township. Just how small is it? Even lifelong NJ residents might not know exactly where it’s located! Some people may recognize Metuchen as a stop on NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor line, an exit on the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 1, or Interstate 287.

Metuchen has a walkable downtown, and tons of local character and community spirit – arts & craft festivals, parades, community programs for all ages at the local public library, summer programs at the schools, the list goes on!

Metuchen is proud of its history, and protective of its tree-lined streets graced by historic homes – the tree canopy is even protected by local ordinance. 

Our District has four schools, with Edgar Middle School as home to 750 students in grades 5-8. Edgar School sent a team of four to the 2016 CISSL Guided Inquiry Summer Institute at Rutgers University: Dr. Tiffany Jacobson, then-Supervisor of English & Social Studies; Melissa Kovacs and Kristin Bruno, 6th grade ELA teachers; and Maryrose Little, librarian (me!), with the intention of designing a 6th grade ELA curricular unit to be used in the spring of 2017.

How did we find ourselves at CISSL Summer Institute? The short answer: an amazingly supportive, approachable, and open-minded principal and supervisor. The longer answer: a long and circuitous route that began in 2008, when I first learned about Guided Inquiry Design in the Rutgers MLIS program.

In my mind, Guided Inquiry Design is not a solo act. In my first SLMS position after graduation (‘08), I didn’t manage to find a collaborative partner willing to dip his/her toes into GID with me, so Guided Inquiry lived only in my head and on my librarian bucket list for years. It was kept alive by sessions at our NJASL annual conference, where I listened to other school librarians describe their collaborative partnerships, and how their students benefitted from Guided Inquiry experiences. “Maybe someday”, I thought wistfully, with a touch of envy.

When I moved to Metuchen’s Edgar Middle School in 2014, I looked across all four grades to try to understand how research was taught – from our 5th grade Explorers project to the 8th grade ROGATE program. Over time, I spoke with administrators, librarians at our other schools, teachers, and our Director of Curriculum about how we teach our students to perform research, K-12. Did I mention I love research? Along the way, I read Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school, and peeked in on Dr. Maniotes’s edWeb webinars, where I learned another CISSL GID Summer Institute would be offered in July 2016. Maybe someday was here! But how to make that happen for us?

My principal Kathy Glutz listened patiently and thoughtfully as I described Guided Inquiry, then suggested I reach out to Dr. Tiffany Jacobson, our ELA and Social Studies Supervisor – what better content areas?  Dr. Jacobson invited me to join in curriculum mapping with the 6th grade ELA team, who hadn’t yet mapped their non-fiction text unit, and we continued to talk about Guided Inquiry – what grade, teachers, and content area made the most sense to approach?

Ultimately, Tiffany asked me to describe Guided Inquiry and the CISSL Summer Institute to the 6th grade ELA team during one of our mapping sessions.  I spoke briefly, showed the team this blog (thank you, Leslie and bloggers!), and floated the idea of attending the upcoming Summer Institute. Our facilitator, Deanne Opatosky, hadn’t previously heard of Guided Inquiry, but she immediately recognized its value, and made connections to our locally-developed Metuchen Common Research Cycle used at our elementary school. Of the teachers who expressed interest, two were available during July: Kristin Bruno and Melissa Kovacs. All the stars had aligned in Metuchen, and it looked as if we were heading off to the Summer Institute!

Well, not so fast – there was that pesky little detail of actually applying! We brainstormed to come up with a topic that our students might find interesting. Most of us didn’t know the term “Third Space” yet, but we knew enough to make a start. We thought about Metuchen’s history and current local “issues” – what kinds of things might families be talking about over dinner? What was going on in Metuchen that our students might care about? None of us live in town, which made it a bit tricky, but something we see daily is our school bursting at the seams – there are not enough classrooms for our student body, plus there’s more building going on in Metuchen. Is the lovely little history-laden town going to lose its small-town feel? Is the character of Metuchen, which keeps families living here generation after generation, changing?  We chose ‘Change’ as our idea, wrote our proposal, mailed it off, fingers crossed, and were thrilled to learn we’d been accepted!

CISSL Guided Inquiry Design Summer Institute was an amazing experience – if anyone reading this is on the fence, go for it! We were treated to an opening which included Dr. Kuhlthau’s review of her career and findings, which powerfully set the stage for our learning. Every librarian in the room knew what a treat this was; by the time she’d finished speaking, so did everyone else. We worked hard over our 3 days, and by the time all was said and done, our ‘Change’ theme had morphed into ‘Urbanization’. Additional curriculum-writing time over the summer resulted in a 8-10 week curriculum unit, intended for use by all 6th grade ELA classes. 180 student researchers at once! An ambitious plan for what we hoped would be a powerful learning experience.

Our unit was set for 4th marking period – no pressure, right? Our September and November in-service days were spent with other teachers who were interested in inquiry-based learning – an opportunity to share what we’d learned at the Institute, but had yet to practice in the classroom. But how could we bring the rest of the 6th grade ELA team fully on board with GID and our unit? As marking period 4 approached, we asked for one day to meet to hash out all the remaining details, and give ELA teachers who hadn’t attended the Institute time to wrap their minds around the process and the curriculum unit. At the end of that day, we had well-defined session plans for Open, Immerse, and Explore, including resources to share.

Fourth marking period was then upon us, but 6th grade PARCC testing and spring break caused our 8-10 week long unit to be pared down to 7 weeks. At the beginning of May, we boarded the GI train, each of us feeling various amounts of trepidation and preparedness, but curious to see where the journey would take us.

Details of our adventures in coming posts!

Maryrose Little, Librarian
Edgar Middle School
Metuchen, NJ

Anatoly Sukhanov [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Always Learning

You’re interested in Guided Inquiry Design too? Oh, that’s awesome! You and I have a lot in common already. Hi, I’m Amanda Hurley from Lexington, Kentucky. I am finishing my 17th year in education, my 12th as a school librarian. I’ve been learning and attempting to implement Guided Inquiry Design since 2014. You can read about how I initially learned about GID from my February 2016 post here.

Co-teaching with classroom teachers is one of the things that makes me passionate about my job. That’s why I was thrilled when I learned my district, Fayette County Public Schools, supported 5 teachers to attend the the CiSSL Institute at Rutgers University in July 2016. The three day institute helped us learn more about guided inquiry design, experience instructional strategies to foster student-engaged classrooms and ultimately design a guided inquiry unit from start to finish. It was time well spent and if any of you have a chance to attend a workshop or Guided Institute with Leslie Maniotes, please make every effort to attend.

Since I’ve last blogged, my colleagues and I have designed or tweaked 4 more GID units, most of which were in high school mathematics. That doesn’t make me an expert but my colleagues and I are beginning to feel more comfortable with the process. With each unit, and subsequent revision after reflection, we feel students are owning more of the learning process and are encouraged to find more ways to embed it in our instruction.

If you have time, please respond to this blog post in the comments. I’m always eager to talk about GID! You can also reach me on Twitter, @HCHSLibrarian.


Amanda Hurley, National Board Certified Teacher

Library Media Specialist, Henry Clay High School

Step One of Implementing GID

Guided Inquiry is a concept that I was first introduced to last year.  Our amazing librarian Jenny Lussier arranged for first grade teacher Jessica Loffredo and myself, Carole Sibiskie, to attend the GID Institute.  It was an absolute privilege to be able to participate in the CISSL Summer Institute at Rutgers University last summer.   As someone who has engaged in Project Based Learning for over a decade, it was a curious process to see where GID and PBL overlapped and where they differed.  Through the institute, our team worked on a Social Studies unit to implement with a multi-age first and second grade classroom.  

Jessica Loffredo, Leslie Maniotes, Jenny Lussier, Carole Sibiskie, and Carol Kuhlthau at GID Institute Summer 2016

The Family Heritage unit is one that we have covered in the past, but at the institute we were able to “redesign” with a collaborative inquiry focus.   Our team made changes to fit the unit into the design template and to strengthen the framework.  We extended opportunities for the open.  It was clear that one area that needed to be lengthened was the process of immersion for the students in the content.  The largest change came in adding the explore area.  Prior to our introduction to Guided Inquiry Design, this was an area that was missing in the process. Time was added for the children to develop their own areas of personal interest in a much more meaningful and purposeful manner.  The GID Framework encouraged us to also dig deeper into the phases of identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate. There was so much more to consider than in the past.

The reality of implementing the plan hit during the school year with many celebrations and many challenges.  The biggest challenge was to find time to collaborate.  Snippets of time were found during the day, and there was electronic communication, but it is an effort to find extended amounts of common time.  Also, as the classroom teacher, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to reach out to connect.  We made sure to connect for the important aspects, even though we weren’t always able to be with the kids at the same time.  Additionally, several of the experiences and opportunities moved from open to immerse and vice versa due to time constraints,  connections to other curricular areas, and the lack of large chunks of time to give undivided attention to this work.  It wasn’t exactly the way we laid the plan out on paper, but it worked nonetheless.

The highlights were the moments with the students fully engaged in the process, and they were many!  When we finally found the large block of time to integrate “the open”, a simulated Ellis Island experience in the classroom, the children had already developed a lot of background information related to Ellis Island through read-alouds.  This actually made the experience more relevant to the students as they cheered, “We are at Ellis Island!” upon entering the classroom.  When the first student was marked with chalk, they exclaimed, “Oh, no he is sick.  He might not be let into the country.”  So it seems we had a “soft open”, that enriched the actual open!

One of the most powerful explore areas arose as the students planned a school assembly share.   They decided to represent each of their family heritages through folk music and choreographed invented folk dances.  YouTube was used to select the “just right” songs using democratic practice.  There were many whole class conversations about how music and dance impact a culture and vice versa.  Students studied related flags, texts, and maps as they planned this share.  Students greeted the audience in their “native” languages and danced for each of their countries of origin around the tree they decided to create using photos to represent ancestors on the bottom and generations at the top.  Several of the children had more than ten countries of origin!

Students also worked with resident artist Sally Rogers to write and create a family heritage song and old fashioned cranky to illustrate their song.  The students decided the song would be about immigration.  This process helped them move from the explore to identify phase as they collaborated on this project and found their personal interests in different areas.  Students also had old photos of ancestors which they wrote an invented realistic fiction story which they produced on Seesaw to share with classmates and their families. Their research and information from read aloud texts came through loud and clear in these pieces.

Individual research occurred with much support from families to provide needed background information. The students learned about geography, languages, music, dance, genealogy, history, foods, and numerous other aspects of culture.  Additionally, respect was developed for the diversity and variety of cultures including the 19 countries of origin for these children!

Each student developed an independent project to share their family heritage with the class.  Students used “passports” to reflect upon the learning in the unit.  The students were more driven and clear with their path than prior years. The GID process enabled us to build an inquiry stance where all of our community members developed a more purposeful mindset.  This first attempt at Guided Inquiry Design was far from perfect.  We are building on this experience and are currently rolling out another GID inspired STEAM unit.  Stay tuned…

Carole Sibiskie

John Lyman School

Regional School District 13


Rutgers University the Birthplace of Guided Inquiry Design

It is going to be a very exciting, challenging and transforming week for Guided Inquiry. This week, the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CiSSL) will host the 4th Fourth Residential 
CiSSL Summer Institute: “Guided Inquiry for Student Learning” to take place on the Rutgers Campus from Tuesday evening 19th July to Friday 22nd July.

CiSSL Anticipation

It is exciting for several reasons. First, Rutgers University is the birth-place of Guided Inquiry! Rutgers Distinguished Professor Emerita Carol Kuhlthau’s groundbreaking research over several decades generated the highly cited and acclaimed “Information Search Process” model. This model has shaped a considerable number of research agendas around the world, and is the research-validated basis for “Guided Inquiry Design”, the constructivist approach to empowering and enabling students to engage with information in all its forms and formats, to develop their own deep knowledge and understanding, to think critically, creatively and reflectively, and to be innovative thinkers that empower global, social and cultural wellbeing and change.

Second, Distinguished Professor Emerita Carol Kuhlthau, together with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, who are co-authors and developers of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century and Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in your School will be the Institute leaders! Participating teams will have a wonderful opportunity to engage directly with the experts! Get right to the source, so to speak. It simply does not get better than that!

Third, the Guided Inquiry Institute will be design in action. Participating teams will engage in active, design-based thinking, sharing and critiquing ideas together, reflecting and reporting, shaping and reshaping, building and rebuilding. Having attended previous Institutes through CiSSL, this will be a thrilling and empowering process. I know. Participants will engage directly with the design process as they develop an inquiry unit for their schools. The professional development cycle, for each participating team, will be directly experiencing the process in a richly personalized, attentive and collaborative way.

Fourth, participating teams in this year’s Guided Inquiry Institute will be part of history making at Rutgers University. This year, Rutgers University is celebrating its 250th anniversary, and its theme is “Rutgers. Revolutionary for 250 Years.” On November 10th, 1766, William Franklin, the last colonial Governor of New Jersey, signed the charter establishing Queen’s College, the predecessor of Rutgers University, and New Brunswick was chosen as the place. The first classes were held in a tavern in the city! The first graduation was held in 1774, and the title of the graduation address, given by Rusten Hardenbergh, was titled “The advantages of education”. It wasn’t until 1825 that Queens College was renamed Rutgers University, in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers a Revolutionary War hero.

This is probably a long winded way to say that Rutgers’ tradition of revolutionary teaching, research, and service has endured for nearly 250 years. Guided Inquiry is up there with the best of Rutgers has offered for 250 years. You are experiencing the best.

Fifth, participants will experience a game-changing pedagogical process. One of the great and unforgettable experiences for me during this Rutgers year of celebration was to be part of the university’s graduation where President Barak Obama was the graduation speaker. For me, it was a truly remarkable day. I have to say I was excited to be there to hear him in person, and to cheer on as he was awarded a Doctor of Laws honoris causa. Regardless of his (and your) politics, his words from his Rutgers address are the spirit of inquiry: “In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is”. (Full speech is available at:

Guided Inquiry is revolutionary. It is visionary. It is a powerful approach to learning for breaking down intellectual walls, opening windows and doors to the world of ideas, and making a very real contribution to the development of a thinking nation. Be part of this journey. It will be game-changing.

Dr Ross J Todd

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Library and Information Science

Director, Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL)

School of Communication & Information

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

The week of the RUTGERS CiSSL Institute has arrived!

This week is a big week for Guided Inquiry Design.  Beginning on Wednesday CiSSL is hosting on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, NJ the 3rd Guided Inquiry Design Institute.  Our bloggers this week are the leaders at CiSSL, the director of the program, the facilitator of the learning and a researcher who is joining us from Finland!  See you on the back porch!

Back Porch of the RU Conference Center

Back Porch of the RU Conference Center

Starting us off is Dr. Mary Jane McNally, (Program Director for the CiSSL Institute 2012, 2014, 2016)

The stage is set! The program has been finalized, the books have been delivered – even the nametags have been printed. We are ready for the 2016 CiSSL Summer Institute at Rutgers University! Sponsored by CiSSL, the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, this year’s institute will be the fourth one to focus on Guided Inquiry for student learning.

Guided Inquiry Design (GID) has deep roots at Rutgers, growing out of the internationally acclaimed Information Search Process research of Dr. Carol Kuhlthau and the third space work of Dr. Leslie Maniotes. It calls for a team approach involving teachers, the school library media specialist and both internal and external resources.

From the beginning, the team approach has been a key feature of the Institute structure. Teams that have been selected to attend have included a teacher, a SLMS and (whenever possible) an administrator. Some teams have come with a great deal of experience in GID and others are just beginning their GID journey. Regardless of the level of experience they started with, they left the Institute with a heightened degree of enthusiasm, motivation, and tools to employ. Many of these teams have gone on to win awards and to share their experiences in various forums. Here are some of their stories:

Sarah Scholl and Sarah Wein of Havre De Grace (MD) Middle School implemented the unit “Challenge and Change” that they designed at the 2014 Institute and won a district award for Outstanding Curriculum Enhancement for that unit. They also presented at AASL 2015.

Anita Cellucci and the team from Westborough (MA) High School have integrated Guided Inquiry Design into Physical Science for all 200 freshman, as well as a unit in humanities, language arts and a special project on empathy. Anita also presented at AASL 2015.

The Newport News (VA) Public Schools Guided Inquiry team revamped the district inquiry process to align with Guided Inquiry. Mary Keeling, Patrice Lambusta and her team presented the implementation of Guided Inquiry across K-12 at both AASL 2013 and the CiSSL Symposium.

The team from the Tamagawa School near Tokyo, Japan implemented Guided Inquiry Design into the Science program of the middle and high school that was presented by Professor Yumiko Kasai in a workshop for librarians and teachers in the Pacific Rim on Guided Inquiry Design at the 2013 IASL conference in Bali.

Past institutes have attracted participants from over a dozen states and several countries including Australia, Canada, China, and Japan; this year’s Institute has a similar distribution of participants. We are expecting teams from Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and, of course, New Jersey. In addition, we will have a team from Malmo, Sweden and a researcher from Turku, Finland.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Institute has been the opportunity to build relationships with educators from other parts of the country and the world. Fortunately, now we have the 52GID Blog and other social media outlets to keep the conversation going.

Dr. Carol Kuhlthau telling the story of the ISP - CiSSL 2014

Dr. Carol Kuhlthau telling the story of the ISP – CiSSL 2014

With all of this to look forward to, it’s no wonder that we can’t wait for this year’s institute to begin.

Mary Jane McNally, Ph.D.

Program Director of CiSSL Summer Institute
Coordinator School Library Media Field Experience
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
School of Communication and Information