From a summer lake in Finland to a research study on GID

As you read in our last post, educators from far and wide are leaving their summer places behind and headed to Rutgers University today. Here’s Dr. Heinstrom’s story.

Summer in Finland

Summer in Finland

July 13, 2016. I am sitting by the lake with a book in my hands that I cannot put down.

It is not the first time I read this book, and it will not be the last, but this time the reading has a special meaning. The book is Guided Inquiry Design by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes and Ann K. Caspari and I am preparing for next week when I will be attending the CISSL Summer Institute on Guided Inquiry Design (http://cissl.rutgers.edu/summer-institute-2016).

Guided Inquiry Design is an important book for me in many ways. GID is a solid research-based method on how to guide students’ learning in today’s information world. The foundation of the method lies in the highly regarded work of Professor II Emerita Carol C. Kuhlthau. Carol’s research on the Information Search Process (ISP) is a multiple award-winning scholarly work which has been confirmed and established within Information Studies. Carol’s work has, however, not only inspired research and teaching, it is also widely applied by professionals. This work has culminated in Guided Inquiry, where the ideas of the ISP is combined with Dr. Maniotes’ insights from educational research on the importance of Third Space, and Educational Specialist Caspari’s expertise on informal learning with use of museums and community resources to link together classroom learning with students’ experiences outside of school.

This summer I am reading Guided Inquiry Design from a research perspective. Next Spring,
I will be conducting an explorative case study on GID in a US high school with several years of experience in implementing the Guided Inquiry framework. The study is part of the ARONI (Argumentative online inquiry in building students’ knowledge work competences) research project.

ARONI, funded by the Academy of Finland for four years (2015-2019), is a collaborative project between research teams from three partner universities: University of Tampere, University of Jyväskylä and Helsinki University. The aim of the project is to develop an instructional model for online inquiry competence for upper secondary schools in Finland. The project strives to build a deeper theoretical understanding of students’ online inquiry and clarify how their competence can be enhanced in upper secondary education. In Finland, a new national curriculum, developed by the National Board of Education, will be effective from this fall, 2016. The new curriculum emphasizes multi-literacies, including online inquiry competence. We, however, still need a deeper understanding of the best way to support students as they develop these competencies. We believe that our research on Guided Inquiry Design will provide insights that will be highly useful for us as we develop our instructional model.

I close my book and walk up to the house. It is time to apply GID in practice: Immerse, Explore, Identify and Gather what I need to pack for my trip.

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Jannica Heinström, PhD

Senior Researcher, University of Tampere, Finland; Associate Professor, Åbo Akademi University, Finland; Docent, University of Borås, Sweden

Link to my Research Gate page

Views to Finnish Education system from Guided Inquiry point of view

In my first blog post I introduced myself and in the second I told you about the GI projects that I have had. In this blog post I want to reflect the educational change we have going on in Finland.

As you know, Finland has been on top performer in PISA for quite a while now. It feels here in Finland, that we were gloating in the sunshine a little too long and didn’t notice how other countries were actually running faster. I do not mean that this is a race, but there are definitely signs that are getting Finns worried.

The latest development has been that especially the growth in number of low-performing children in Finland has been dramatic (OECD, 2016). The change in reading skills started already in the PISA results in 2009, but then it was not yet statistically significant but merely indicating (PISA 2009 at a glance). The same source tells us, that another alarming thing is that the gap between boys and girls and top performers and low performers is betting bigger.

IMG_1861The issue of reading has been on the news just now. Every fifth fifteen-year-old boy is a poor reader. Less than half of ten-year-old-children reads a book at least once a week. We all know, that reading fiction is the key to reading itself. The same news article notes that a reading teenager has a word vocabulary of 70 000 words as a teenager that is not keen on reading has a vocabulary of only 15 000 words.

The new core curriculum is supposed to be the vitamin injection for Finnish education. The new core curriculum is strongly going ahead with learner first pedagogy, supporting and encouraging the student and also including coding to subjects. And it is emphasizing how to teach instead of what to teach (presentation in English) . The core curriculum presents seven cross-curricular themes that are as follows:

  1. Growth as a person (a strong reference to thinking skills)
  2. Cultural identity and internationalism
  3. Media skills and communication (including a strong reference to multiliteracies and information seeking)
  4. Participatory citizenship and entrepreneurship
  5. Responsibility for the environment, well-being, and a sustainable future.
  6. Safety and traffic
  7. Technology and the individual (a strong reference to information skills)

Some of the terms that are implemented are multiliteracy, integrated projects as of phenomenon based learning, and “the third space”, as it is known in Guided Inquiry. These issues are worth a closer look.

I am at the moment doing a discourse analysis of the new core curriculum. Preliminary results indicate that this is a more ‘information intensive’ curriculum. Phenomenon based learning is leaning to teaching strategies of problem based learning. Multiliteracy is requiring a change in thinking of literacies all together. More emphasis is set to individual work that students have to be doing. The requirements of information seeking skills are piercing through the core curriculum, but not with the same ‘weight’. I will be reporting more about the results later on during this year. What the Third Space will mean in the Finnish context will remain to be seen.

But the bottom line is, that we absolutely need to set more emphasis on teaching the students about information seeking and especially, working with information. This is where I consider Guided Inquiry Design would be meaningful in the Finnish curriculum. My earlier analysis of the 2004 core curriculum showed that the process thinking of information literacy is weak and it led me to think that do we understand what happens in schools between finding information and learning? IMG_1853

Guided Inquiry would bring thinking skills into information seeking. Personally, I claim that is what is actually missing. It is not the lack of information seeking skills as such, but lack in thinking skills. Information seeking is more considered as a means to an end, which is a finished homework or an assignment. Guided Inquiry and inquiry learning would change this and the information process would more be looked at as a learning process than merely seeking facts.

One thing in particular is important. Teachers are, at the moment, under a lot of pressure because of the new curriculum and are in a dire need of more tools to manage then new ways of thinking learning. Especially when the information skills are playing a more important role, could Guided Inquiry give tools considering for example the phenomenon based learning.

This is why I have been promoting Guided Inquiry during my presentations in Finland. Both teachers and librarians have been taking part to these occasions so Guided Inquiry is already known. Now Tampere University is starting a research project and it makes me so very happy that so we will have some actual research results about GID in Finland. I am for one an eager promoter!

I hope that through my blog post you have learned something new. I do also hope that this project could lead to a network for the people implementing Guided Inquiry. I want to extend my thanks to Leslie and also to Carol Kuhlthau and to all of you!!

Have a great spring!

Anu

Experimenting with Guided Inquiry in primary school

In this second post of my week in 52 weeks of Guided Inquiry I want to tell you about some of the observations I did during experimenting Guided Inquiry in Finland. As I wrote to you my background is in school libraries. In Kaarina city I had collaboration with two schools, where I connected with two teachers who were eager to try out new ways of working. One of the schools were Finnish speaking and the other was Swedish speaking. With the latter school we had already done a project for a national reading program in form of a reading diploma with exercises done also with a tablet computer.

In these two schools we tried out GI in following groups and subjects:

  • Geography project with a combined class of student in the 4th, 5th, and 6th year students
  • Space project with 5th year students
  • Human biology with 5th year students

We entered Guided Inquiry from information seeking perspective and tried to work on amplifying the information seeking process according to Guided Inquiry Design. We did not use inquiry circles or journals. I am not going to present every project individually, but rather listing some issues that were interesting along the project. The last one, human biology, was the only one I did some information gathering of during and after the project.

Information literacy is used in universities, but the concept has not reached the primary or secondary schools in Finland. Information seeking instruction or information literacy instruction are not a part of teacher studies per se. Surely teacher students are seeking information for their own needs, but it is another business to instruct the students at class. Information seeking instruction is quite often considered to be the job of a librarian. And it is usual, that in the 7th grade a librarian comes to visit the class for 45 minutes during the year to show how the local public library database works. We do understand, that this is not enough. It is usually not combined to some actual learning situation. This is not advancing the information literacy skills of the Generation Z or post-millennials, whose understanding of information environment is totally different than those of the previous generations. We clearly are in need of other kinds of methods.

You have surely been reading about the Finnish schools during the years: Why are Finland’s schools successful?

Finnish education chief: We created a school system based on equality.

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Picture: Jonna Hellsten-Impivaara

And an American on Fullbright scholar in Finland 11 ways Finland’s education system shows us that “less is more”.

I am not going to go into how Guided Inquiry would change the education as such but rather concentrating on how this would change our perspective of information seeking in Finnish schools. I will not refer to any studies in this blog post. Several of my writings in my own blog refer to same sources. There are several studies that are showing that students tend to look for facts and also, teachers tend to make assignments so that one can carry it out by finding facts. We all know that the digital native reference is a myth and thorough deep information seeking is not common in daily classroom situation in Finland. I often like to refer to the ‘Principle of least effort’ by Zipf in 1949 as well. It feels oftent that the result is more important than the journey.

Here are a list of some observations I want to take up:

  • First of all, the students were puzzled about the Open phase. Where are we going with this?
  • They were not used to seeing the librarian in the classroom. (!)
  • As the students relaxed, the Immerse and Explore phases were cozy, they really got interested and talkative!
  • They found it very difficult to come up with research questions, it was nothing they really had done before. They usually get the assignment from the teacher.
  • At a very early stage they just insisted on starting to write the actual presentation, which indicated to copy/paste information behavior.
  • They all had their booklet where they draw the mind map, writing up keywords and search terms and wrote down the sources they wanted to use. Information management in form of managing sources is poor. Inquiry Journals would have been perfect here for them as well!
  • Mapping out the topic of their choosing was very difficult for some of the student. The mind map could be as large as 8 notebook pages.

But, then positive things from the feedback questionnaires.

  • Students liked the new way of doing things!
  • There is still some curiosity left in a fifth grader!
  • On a scale 1-5 they rated themselves in self-evaluation to 3,9
  • Most difficult phase was presentation!
  • They were learning about information seeking right then and there, while working.
  • They did see, that one needs several sources (to find out which animal was sent to space first!)
  • Second and third most difficult phases were coming up with a topic and structuring it.
  • They strongly felt that they learn something new, it was a different way to learn and it was fun!
  • The teachers was happy that she had finally gotten a partner and she learned too!
  • The students learned to see the librarian in some another role than just lending books and the professional role of the librarian was changed.
  • This way of working brought also long term effects as the students started to use these methods even in the following assignment.

These were the major issues I wanted to take up. The overall feelings of trying out Guided Inquiry were very positive and supportive, both from the students and the teachers. Me as the librarian in the project just loved working like this! Being among the students, involved in their work, guiding them and making an intervention when needed. Giving the student the freedom of doing research, they do manage it. In my mind Guided Inquiry is an excellent way of working, already from the primary school all the way to gymnasium. Now even more important than before.

In the third blog post I will tell you about the educational change we are going through in Finland, about the new core curriculum, and how do I see Guided Inquiry fitting in. And it would fit perfectly!

Best greetings,

Anu