Guided Inquiry Design in an Aussie K – 12 Context

Greetings from ‘down under’ where many of us are actually ‘on top’ of Guided Inquiry Design and how it can be the catalyst for the development of inquiry based learning through the school library. Now days many teacher librarians in Australia are trained in GID and go into schools already knowing about using this as a tool to collaborate and assist teachers and students to integrate Information Literacy in their schools.

My name is Alinda Sheerman and I work as Head of Information Services and teacher librarian in a PreKinder to Year 12 school, Broughton Anglican College, about 100 kilometers to the south-west of Sydney on the edge of a massive housing growth area but still set in the open spaces and backing onto a reserve.

[Broughton Anglican College Information Resource Centre’s central position: The K-6 classrooms are to the left and the 7-12 classrooms at the back. The school’s Main Administration is situated along the front of the library building.]

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We have around 1000 students in total and the library is shared by all age groups with 6 ‘bookable’ learning spaces and physical and digital collections for everyone. I am the only Teacher Librarian but do have two full time Library Assistants who have formal training in their role and without whom I just could not survive!

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My Story:

I have been a teacher for nearly 42 years now – initially I was trained in Primary education but whilst following my husband as a Principal to a series of K-12 schools, I worked for a number of years as a part time or casual teacher in Secondary subject areas as well and this experience has been very useful in my position as K-12 Teacher Librarian.

During my Master’s studies in Teacher Librarianship, lecturer Lyn Hay introduced me to the amazing world of integrated technology and its possibilities excited me greatly!

After completing my Master of Applied Science (Teacher Librarianship) in 2007, I was looking for something to keep ‘learning’ about and began investigating Action Research – initially into student reading.

That year, however, my life was set to change when I went to a Syba Signs Teacher Librarian Conference in Sydney to hear Dr Ross Todd speak about the Action Research project just completed into the use of Guided Inquiry at Lee Fitzgerald’s school in 2006. Lee was also at the conference and spoke about the project from her perspective as Teacher Librarian.

(Lee blogged on this site for the week commencing 22 February and gives a great summary of GID in Australia to date: https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2016/02/22/teacher-librarians-forever/ )

I was inspired from then on and went home from the conference armed with Dr Carol Kuklthau’s original book “Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century School” (as well as Loertcher’s “Ban those Birds Units” with its scaffolds for learning)! The theory behind the practice was very worthwhile reading.

In that same year Dr Ross Todd also wrote an article for our Australian Education Journal, Scan, in which he described how Carol Kuhlthau’s original Information Search Process formed the “instructional framework for understanding the student’s journey of information seeking and knowledge building and a basis for guiding and intervening to ensure students develop deep knowledge and deep understanding”  (In ‘Guided Inquiry supporting information literacy”, Scan Vol 26 No2 p29, May 2007.)

I have taken Table 1 from that article and made it more visual. This cycle was my original inspiration to try out this process – Building on existing knowledge to produce new knowledge

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For the following year, 2008, I applied for, and received, a grant to initiate Guided Inquiry in my K-12 school and to conduct Action Research on this. I found that a group of other schools, headed up by Lee Fitzgerald, also had a similar grant so I joined them and through the use of a wiki and visits to Australia we were all guided by Ross Todd in our initial practice. I also used the grant money to take some teachers to hear Ross Todd at another Syba Signs conference on Guided Inquiry and we were off and running. (When we get tired, Lee and I often say that “Ross has a lot to answer for”!)

In 2009 I applied for another grant to continue a second cycle of Action Research and this time the team included four classroom teachers, the Head of Humanities, the Special Needs teachers and myself as Teacher Librarian. At the end of that year we made a presentation to the whole staff about our experience with teachers and students speaking about how they ‘journeyed’ through Guided Inquiry.

From then on I have lost count of the number of teachers that I have assisted in implementing this pedagogy into their classroom. Many have gone on to teach others in Grade ‘buddy’ systems in place at Broughton.

Last week I was privileged to be asked to speak at an educational conference in Sydney about the use of technology for differentiation. When I considered Guided Inquiry and how we, at Broughton, have used technology with it, I could see that a wonderful partnership has developed.

Guided Inquiry Design PLUS technology equals knowledge growth and deep understanding without discrimination.

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Technology has made the GID process infinitely more successful as we differentiate at all levels – Process, Content and Product/Sharing and Evaluating/Assessing the final knowledge created. We have seen some students experience successful learning for the first time when personal blocks have been removed through technologies such as ‘text to speech’ and assessment through oral means rather than written. One teacher who records her student’s ideas said recently that for the first time she really knows what that student thinks.

This is the ninth year that I have been assisting teachers to implement Guided Inquiry in the classroom and over the years some units of work stand out above the rest as being amazing learning experiences for us all. As the teacher and teacher librarian become part of the learning team together the success means so much more.

Only one teacher has been ‘game enough’ to use GID for a Year 11 class in their Preliminary Course for Australia’s Higher School Certificate which gives entry to University. Most of these courses are quite content driven culminating in an exam and time is of an essence. I have shared some of the experience here http://www.slideshare.net/AlindaS/guided-inquiry-in-the-senior-classroom-pdhpe-year-11-2014. More videos of the teacher Paul’s evaluation of the unit of work can be found here: http://bacirc.edublogs.org/guided-inquiry/gi-2014/ (Scroll right down)

Every year our Year 10 Commerce class explores “Issues in Australian Society” using Guided Inquiry and this is always a highlight for me as students take up issues and look for ways to improve problems or become a voice for awareness in an area.

Early this year our four Year 8 classes explored Medieval Europe, learning and sharing in the GID process. For the first time I ‘blogged’ my way through a very busy few weeks in six posts.

This can be found on the blog Lee Fitzgerald and I set up to support our Australian teacher librarians as they team-teach units from the Australian Curriculum. We share programs of work, scaffolds and encourage dialogue from our Australian cohort and any other interested people! (http://guidedinquiryoz.edublogs.org/2016/03/02/medieval-europe-year-8-at-bac/ )

I remember two years ago I was assisting students in a class and discussing what was happening with their teacher when the amazing learning dynamics and knowledge growth that was happening right before our eyes became a ‘goosebumps’ experience. I had only experienced this in music events in my life before. How can a classroom environment produce goosebumps? It was the observation of students who previously were normal Grade 5 kids becoming autonomous, very excited learners who were sharing this with everyone and bouncing off each other. I know just how special it was for everyone because this year they are in Grade 7 and when I met them to begin this year’s unit recently they were excited to begin with – they too remembered our previous time together!

I decided I should blog about this particular class here as I have not had the time to put the experience on paper previously.

The next few posts this week will describe that experience so… stay tuned! (Alinda Sheerman)

Our Project- Solving Equations

Hello again, and happy Wednesday.

We started our GID unit on solving equations on day 4 of this school year. We knew we wanted to complete a unit on solving equations, and we knew we wanted to set the idea of GI in the student minds from the start.

We introduced this lesson with two co-taught algebra 1 classes. Each class was made up of 26-30 students, with around 10 special education students in each. The class was co-taught by myself and another teacher whom I’ve been co teaching with for three years. We were comfortable enough with the flow of the class and with trusting each other, that we knew we could try this. If you want to try GID with a co-taught class, I highly recommend it. I also recommend it be with co-teachers that are great at planning and communicating with each other.

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I have attached ( I hope) the link to the power point that was used for this unit. I started to explain to you guys exactly what we did each day and what made it different, and then realized you should be the ones experiencing it. You should be the ones to look and see if anything catches your eye or interest. Within the powerpoint you should be able to see the notes at the bottom of each slide. These notes kept my co teacher and I on the same page throughout the lesson. These notes also allowed for us to have a place to differentiate and change the plan , like a working document, throughout the entire unit.

Please look through the powerpoint and ask any questions. We have had another class, college prep math, complete this same unit. I would love to answer questions so that you can become comfortable implementing this design in math classrooms. Any questions asked will be answered in Friday’s final post with my overall, super honest, reflection about the unit.

Have a wonderful tail end of the week!

Amanda

 

Special Education and GID- About Me!

Hello GID fans!

My name is Amanda Biddle. I work at Henry Clay High school in Lexington, KY. Henry Clay is the largest high school in Kentucky with about 2, 400 students from grade 9 to 12. I am currently the building assessment coordinator, however I was, and will be again, a special education teacher in our building. I have two lovely little boys, 6 and 2.

I have experience teaching special education in all subject areas in elementary school, special education in middle school, and special education algebra and geometry in high school. I have a passion for working with students who are struggling learners and finding ways for them to learn how they learn best. I believe that each student can be successful if they are given the right tools and encouragement.

I was introduced to Guided Inquiry through my husband, who is a social studies teacher. While completing his masters program in library science, he had the opportunity to study and implement Guided Inquiry. He started with advanced classes and worked his confidence in to the general education, co taught classes. It was through long nights of planning his lessons and unit together that I started to understand how this model of teaching and learning could benefit, my then language arts students who were in special education. I was able to take his knowledge and work with him to form a unit on guided inquiry. That was three years ago.

After my year as a middle school special education language arts teacher, I transferred to Henry Clay high school, and started teaching math as a special education resource teacher and a special education co teacher in math. My first year as a high school teacher, I rarely thought about GID and did not implement any units or lessons as I wasn’t comfortable with how it would be implemented in the math classroom. However, my second year, I was introduced to another math teacher who was implementing at least one GID unit each semester. It was amazing. I was also very motivated to make this work for my students. I attempted my first math GID unit at the end of last school year. (May 2016)

Once the librarians, other math teachers and I started working together and really looking in to GID and how it could benefit our students, we were able to sign up for the GID Institute at Rutgers this summer. We formed a team of 1 math teacher, 1 English teacher, 2 librarians and me, the special education teacher. Going to the institute and working 45+ hours on one unit was exhausting, but worth every minute. I was able to come back this school year, ready to start the year by giving students a new perspective on how they can learn and explore math.

I am excited to be a part of this 52 week challenge.

See you tomorrow,

Amanda Biddle

A team that rocks and the 2 C’s

Kelsey introduced the Guided Inquiry science unit and the team working on the unit and what a great team it is!   So many years of combined experience and expertise – it is a really energizing to work with these great people.  As I look back on the two planning meetings we’ve had so far, what I see is evidence of the natural alignment that happened with Guided Inquiry.  It was not ‘fitting a square peg in a round hole’ –  it was a natural flow that supports student learning and curiosity. It did help to get the ‘balcony’ view of the lesson with the sticky notes and charts pictured in Kelsey’s post on Thursday – thank you Kelsey for your wonderful obsession with sticky notes.   Being a visual learner myself this helped me see each step of the GI process and how the science content standards will be easily integrated.

As Kelsey shared, One question the team working on the science unit had was ‘how could we encourage collaboration between teachers and librarians while giving teachers what they need to implement the unit in their classrooms’? To me, that is the really great thing about Guided Inquiry – it supports a collaborative culture.  In fact, I believe one key to successful GI units is collaborative work – collaboration between teachers and librarians, collaboration between content area teachers, collaboration between students, and collaboration between teachers and students.  There has to be a lot of ‘give’ on everyone’s part. The GI unit I referenced in the blog last week was developed to allow kids the opportunity to earn multiple credits in different content areas.  A unit of that complexity would not be possible without flexibility and collaboration.  Throughout the nine week unit, the team (English IV teacher, science teacher, social studies teacher, art teacher, and teacher librarian) had to really work together to meet the needs of the kids. For those students earning multiple credits, regular meetings with content area teachers was critical and no part of the unit was taught in isolation. I do want to add that even if there is not  a ‘perfect’ collaborative culture in place, I would not shy away from a Guided Inquiry unit.  You have to start somewhere and those baby steps can help you win the big race.

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Ongoing student conferencing to ensure standards were met.

 

 

Science teacher conferencing with student.

Science teacher conferencing with student.

These student conferencing meetings solidified the integration of multiple content areas and helped students focus their project to a depth that met adequate standards, thus earning the credits.

Another perfect opportunity that I believe happens with Guided Inquiry is that of coteaching – a shared responsibility of teaching part or all of a unit plan with teachers.  In my school’s multi-credit unit it was fun to coteach with the English IV teacher and it really provided a great learning environment for the kids. Not only was it fun to coteach the unit but it was so helpful to talk through how the day went, what we felt needed to be modified, and to have someone to just share successes and challenges with along the way!  By the way, if anyone is struggling with getting teachers to collaborate or coteach, my advice is plan a Guided Inquiry unit to help and a helpful article to support this cause is David Loertscher’s Collaboration and Coteaching; A New Measure of Impact.

I’ll close now — thanks for reading and it’s been a pleasure sharing this with you.  What is coming up this week is a breakdown of the 5th grade science unit and the GI process step-by-step.  Kelsey will cover Open to Identify and I will cover Gather to Evaluate.   Take care and keep on!   

 

Uncertainty in Inquiry

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