Successes, Challenges and To-Do List

In my quest to motivate students to drive their own learning, I find inquiry-based learning essential. Moving further towards successful inquiry-based learning and attempting to internalize this personal need in students, I’m very glad I found Guided Inquiry Design. Since the beginning phases of implementation of the GID model, I already can see many students maintaining excitement throughout the research stages.  I’m seeing less unsuccessful searches for information and less frustration. I’m have students continuing to ask to work on their project, seek information on their own using district online resources, and hear them discussing with excitement life on the moon and the information they discover with peers.  I feel more successful as a facilitator of inquiry units!

My biggest challenge moving forward is continuing the unit after the initial four class periods. Like most educators, the days are packed with curriculum that must be covered. Time limits are placed on daily instruction in reading and math, RTI requirements must be met, district goals also are essential. All of these things could of course be rolled into a unit of inquiry, which my campus has done with our International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Units of Inquiry. However, I started this unit based on the Texas Bluebonnet book, and it is not one of those units of inquiry already in place. Not to fear, several of my fourth grade teachers have told me that they will place the unit in a center for students to work on at various times throughout the week!  Therefore, my unit will continue as a collaboration with the fourth grade teachers, and will continue into the next four day rotation as well. My plan is to continue into the identify and gather phases with activities that can be included in the classroom technology centers and also by having passes to the library as a center.

During the next four day rotation, I will finalize these two stages and move into the create phase. The last day of their rotation will be spent sharing what they learned with other fourth grade classes. I plan on students reflecting all along the unit. It will be interesting in a month seeing where my own reflections on this unit take me. Perhaps, with Leslie’s permission, I will add an update towards the end of the year as to the successes and areas for improvement.

I eventually have aspirations of creating videos of students in each phase of GID as well as meaningful mini-lessons that guide the process.  I still feel like I need to grow myself more as the guide prior to this endeavor, but it will remain on my “in the near future to-do list” until it’s an accomplished task to check off.

Tara

Questioning the Journey

aequestioning

Working with GID for over four years, has allowed me to reflect on the patterns, challenges and successes of integrating the Guided Inquiry Design Process in our high school.

One aspect that overwhelmingly starts out as a challenge for content teachers is student questioning.  Historically, teachers are the questioners – choosing the Essential Question or creating a research project with predetermined questions for students to answer. In this type of research, the students engagement can vary.  If it’s a topic that students have interest in, the outputs are more favorable.  In many cases, the outputs will be surface level instead of a  deep meaning-making process.  Jamie McKenzie, author of The Question Mark, a journal devoted to questions and questioning and a thoughtful leader of technology in schools, writes about research in schools in his educational technology journal, From Now On.  He suggests that real problem solving in research begins when we are stuck.  I think the key to helping kids get “unstuck” is to stay with them through it. But, how do we do this in a way that takes into consideration the time constraints, the comfort of the content teacher and the desired outcomes of the research? This is a question that I am still attempting to answer.

In my years as a library teacher, I have developed strategies and gathered resources to help students understand the question building process.  Within the IDENTIFY phase, I work with small groups of students to create their inquiry questions.  In their inquiry reflections from the previous work through the EXPLORE phase, I ask that students create a list of questions that they have about their topic.  I am intentionally vague with instructions – “As you read through and discover information about your choice topic, write down any questions that come to mind.” – by giving students minimal instructions – they are able to follow this mindfully – without worry of creating a question that will be “wrong”.  We then use these questions in our question building session, along with inquiry tools and strategies, to create a solid inquiry question.  Typically, I will work on the question from the aspect of inquiry and then the students will check in with their content teacher to be sure they are on the right track with content.  The key is to ensure that students are staying rooted in their personal interest.  I also believe that it is crucial to not add content knowledge to the question building process – as this sometimes sways the student to change their topic based on what the content teacher speaks about and most often leads the student away from their core interest. My experience has shown that the personal interest of the student will be the sustaining force throughout the challenges within the research and GID process.

Teachers survive the demands of each new school year by creating routines, developing habits of mind and in some instances – by turning on autopilot. One challenge as the library teacher is to keep the current issues within your community in mind when attempting to collaborate with content teachers. Interestingly, questioning is something that can be viewed as “just one more thing” to add to a project that expands the time necessary to work with students.  In my school, I am grateful that there has always been a culture of a day or two with library resources but it is still a paradigm shift to allow more time for instruction throughout the process.  GID gives the necessary framework that allows content teachers a way to envision the space and time necessary to receive the outcomes desired.  When a teacher is able to let go of the fear of the unknown as well as become able to sit with the initial uneasiness of facilitating over instilling information – the shift for student  learning begins.

As the library teacher, my role with questioning and often with GID,  becomes one of co-teacher, collaborator, sometimes hand-holder, always the visionist, often the only believer – that it will all work out okay and we will all take away a meaningful experience. Many students seem to instinctively know this from the start while others are as uncomfortable with the “not knowing” as their teacher.  Good collaboration begins with trust and one can not discount the role that it plays when planning.  I believe that it’s always best to begin where the content teacher is, in other words, baby steps may be necessary – the goal should be to begin the journey! Even the longest and most difficult journey begins with the first step.

 

journey

Anita Celluci, Library Teacher, Westborough High School