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 ūüėä). 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 ‚Äď 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 Strińćevińá at our PD, Spring School, as we call it, in 2010. Prof Strińćevińá said: ‚ÄúKuhlthau says there is no point in teaching information literacy without context, it should be integrated into school curriculum and carried out through Guided Inquiry.‚ÄĚ 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 

Race Cars, Mental Agility, and Hikers – Strategies for Slow Thinking in Inquiry

Yesterday I wrote about the role of relaxation in learning. ¬†Educators¬†across the globe are working to help our students to embody¬†Carol Dweck’s ¬†growth mindset. ¬†Educators are also talking and thinking about mindfulness in education. Well, in Guided Inquiry these two things are occurring in practice while students are learning.

Daniel Kahneman (2011) in his book Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow talks about two different kinds of thinking.

  • System 1:¬†Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious
  • System 2:¬†Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious source

When we engage students in an extended study, such as inquiry, where we are seeking longer term learning and deeper learning, we strive for the learning of System 2.

In Guided Inquiry Design, we recognize the¬†importance of slowing down the thinking especially in the Explore and Identify phases. ¬†In our book, we describe the strategy of “Read, Relax, and Reflect” on (page 79) and highlight the action of “Pause and Ponder” in Identify phase (page 95), but there’s even more than that!

Barbara Oakley in her TED talk spoke of the Pomodoro Technique that provides frequent brain breaks between concentrated work times.  These brain breaks help learners to practice the ability to have focused attention and can enhance mental agility going from focused to relaxed.

As a classroom strategy, from a teacher effectiveness perspective, it seems like not only a technique that would enhance the overall tenor in the classroom, but also teach students an internal lesson about how breaks help their mental processing! ¬†I also find it interesting that the Pomodoro Technique is being sold as a way to have a better “work life balance”. ¬†This is a 21st Century skill as work is changing because we are always “on” with the use of technology. ¬†So, mental breaks are worth implementing in a deep learning environment where students are working on ideas over an extended period of time. Focused attention mixed with short breaks facilitates deeper learning and connection. ¬†It also might make us happier.

Barbara continues to compare learners to race car drivers or hikers when she describes slow thinking. When we hike, we look around. ¬†In a car, we zoom by and can’t capture the details. ¬†I love this analogy because I love to hike and I love the natural beauty of our world so I often take photos of nature. Here’s a photo I took while in a car. ¬†Beautiful shot of the Flatirons, right?

Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado

Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado

And here are two photos I took while hiking.  Notice the difference in detail that I could capture. My experience hiking was deeper and more sensory and perhaps even profound!

img_1238 img_1240

Let’s relate this slow thinking of a hiker to inquiry-based learning. Looking at a page and looking away to see what you can recall is a strategy Barbara describes as an effective technique that “builds profound neural hooks that help to increase your understanding of the material”. ¬†This is exactly what we describe the simple strategy of “Recall, Summarize, Paraphrase, and Extend” (p. 85) to reflect in Inquiry Journals in the Explore phase. Physically looking away from the text or experience and having to recall is a mental skill worth developing. We also describe the “Stop and Jot” while reading in Explore. Looking away from the text and jotting some ideas that you recall has a deeper effect than the typical¬†highlighting of the page and leaving the highlights there. ¬†The highlighter creates that false confidence in learning.

As teachers highlighting is an easy evidence based assessment of what students read and thought was important. And we can do it at a glance.  But the journal response of their recall would be a better indicator of knowledge development.

Learning how to learn in inquiry requires us to facilitate that learning by helping our students slow way down.  The strategies seem simple, and they are, but the challenge for us is making the time to implement them in our daily practice in the tempo of schools that seems to be racing along like a race car round the track.

Be a hiker. SLOW down and enjoy the experience and learning that results.

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author Guided Inquiry