Musings on GID vs DT

Last post, I talked briefly about the relationship between Design Thinking and GID.  Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper into that relationship and look at how these two models can complement each other.  As we will see, each model has its strengths that can support the other assuming that the context is right.  One thing to keep in mind through this discussion is that the origins of each model are significantly different and so the emphasis is different in each.  Guided Inquiry came out of the recognition that student research projects were ineffective and often caused students a range of unintended emotions.  Carol Kuhlthau’s research looked at identifying how (or if) students were engaged at various points of the research process and looked at ways of increasing that engagement.  Almost exclusively, the typical medium for demonstrating one’s knowledge was the research essay.  The Design Thinking model came from an attempt to understand how folks who make new things work.  This looked at trying to codify the often messy process that someone building anything from a car engine, to a lemon juicer, to a prosthetic might use.  While these are very different processes – and one might argue that the way one person operates within a research or design process might be very different from another carrying out the same task – there are enough parallels to make the discussion fruitful.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  After all, it is a very good place to start!  Both Design Thinking and Guided Inquiry begin with open collection of information.  This begins with a broad spark from some experience that kicks the process into gear (Open in Guided Inquiry, the design brief in Design Thinking).  Guided Inquiry breaks this process into three phases – Open, Immerse, Explore – and allows students a period of loosely guided wallowing in the topic in order to build genuine connections and interest.  We recognize that the topic is likely brought down from on high by the teacher, but every attempt is made to ensure that the student sees a real connection with their own life.  Likewise, Design Thinking uses an Empathy phase.  This is a very human-centred process that builds understanding of the needs of the users of whatever is being designed.  This will include interviews and other forms of research that simply build an understanding of the problem.  While this phase is typically human-centred, I find that there is also an element of research here as well.  To understand other’s needs and to truly understand the problem, there is likely some straight-up book or web research that digs into the concepts behind the issues.  For example, if one is building a prosthetic hand for someone else, one needs to understand how the hand is going to be used (an office worker might have different needs than a rock climber), how materials affect the way the hand can be used, and perhaps what other designs may have been used in the past to address similar issues.  Of course, an understanding of the bone and muscle structure of a normally functioning hand would be immensely useful!

Next, comes the definition of the problem.  In GID, this comes in the phrasing of the ultimate question being addressed and may look like a driving question, a research question, a thesis statement or any number of carefully wordsmithed structures.  In Design Thinking, this is the definition statement and can come in the form of a question that starts with, “How might we…” or it can look more like a statement that reads “User X needs Y because of Z.”  In both models, we spend time building broader understanding in order to come to a point where defining the problem is effective.  There are plenty of stories of designers who, after an effective empathy phase, define the problem in a way that the end user had never thought of, but on reflection, addresses the true nature of the problem better than the use ever could have.  The solution is something far different than was originally expected.  Likewise, a teacher might have an idea of what directions a student might take a GID unit, but until the personal connections with the topic are made, the ultimate direction of the projects can be surprisingly different!

Once we have our definition, the paths of the two models diverge a little.  In Guided Inquiry, this is where we get down to the work of gathering and digesting information for our research.  In Design Thinking, we can think of the Ideation phase as a process of gathering as many possible solutions to the defined problem as possible.  In GID, the ideas come from others; in Design Thinking, the ideas come from ourselves.  You might think of Gathering as focusing your thinking while Ideation as a process of widening your thinking, although that would only be partly true.  The purpose of Ideation is to consider all possible solutions and then pick the “best” one for the next phase.  While the process is somewhat different, it points in the same direction.

The fun begins in the Create/Prototype phase.  Both of these are where the learning manifests itself into some creation, whether that be a written paper or physical product.  Both involve the playing with ideas that are a result of the previous phases and articulating thinking in a way that will ultimately be shared with others.  It should be pointed out that in both models, the apparent linear sequence is somewhat of a fallacy and I would say, no more a fallacy than between the gathering of ideas and the articulation of them.  An essay writer will find that there are remaining questions that need to be answered and will go back and gather more information as much as an engineer might get to a certain point with a prototype and realizes that the idea simply won’t work and needs to go back to the ideation phase.

Finally, the work needs to be shared and reflected on.  In GID these are the Share and Evaluate phases.  In Design Thinking, we test the prototype and that process, in all likelihood, involves testing against the users’ needs and sharing it with those users.  GID promotes the idea that this sharing should not be the private handing in of an essay to the teacher but sharing learning back to the community of learners in order to extend and deepen everyone’s learning.  In Design Thinking, that sharing is more dependent on the situation.  If the design problem has been presented by a single person, then maybe the sharing is back to that individual.  Usually, there is a larger user group that the prototype is tested with.  The essential point in this is that the purpose of sharing is different.  GID shares to deepen community understanding while Design Thinking shares in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.

It strikes me, as I write this, that GID is might be typically good for thinking about concepts while Design Thinking might be good for thinking about things.  I’m sure that this is a drastic over-simplification, but there is some truth in it.  GID can be used to solve problems by building something, but the nature of the research is primarily conceptual.  You might be trying to understand people’s perspectives or the reasons behind something.  The results of that conceptual research might be manifest in writing, physical objects or virtual simulations, but the concepts are at the focus.  In Design Thinking, the thinking is more about how we make something to solve a problem.  It can be a subtle distinction, but the emphasis is important.  The kinds of things one thinks about when building a solution to a problem might be what materials are best to use, how we connect those materials, what function our object needs to perform and how the design serves the function.  Clearly, there are concepts underlying all of this, but the concepts serve the process where in GID the concepts are the process.  Again, this is likely a drastic generalization and many examples can likely be brought forward that show the weakness of this argument, but I think that there is some use in at least exploring this comparison.

Once we understand the strengths of each model and how they relate, we can use that knowledge to build even more powerful units in particular areas.  Of course, there will be situations where one model stands on its own brilliantly and would likely be made weaker by forcing ideas of the other into it.  But there are situations where the combination is even more powerful.  The research ideas behind Open, Immerse, Explore and even Gather can underpin the Empathize piece for those Design Thinking processes that require more academic underpinnings.  Likewise, the ideas behind Empathize can support more socially based GID units.  Of course, given that Design Thinking is often about building a solution to a problem, some of the prototyping ideas can help similar Create phases of GID.

Next post, I’ll look at some questions and issues that I’m having with both models.  It seems that the more that I explore, the more questions I have!

 

Marc Crompton

Introducing: Marc Crompton

Well… reintroducing, really!  I’m a Teacher Librarian at St George’s School in Vancouver, BC.  That’s right, the same school as the divine Curious St George!  While she’s at our Jr School (grades 1-7), I see the boys when they come up the street to our Sr School.  Yes, I used the word “boys” purposely as we are a single-gender (boys) school.  You might be interested in my posts (1,2,3) from last year where I talked about work with a grade 10 Social Studies Class and how I look at other tools as they work in conjunction with GID, such as NSRF’s protocols.

To put things in context, I’ve been at St George’s School for 25 years.  I was likely hired, in part, because I’d played rugby in high school, but I was brought on as a music teacher and have yet to spend a day on the rugby pitch.  In 2009, some different opportunities opened up at the school that I thought that I’d try my hand at.  I started leading an educational technology cohort of teachers and took on a very “part-time and temporary” role as our school librarian.  Since then, I’ve completed my MLIS at San Jose State and am permanent and very full time…  In the past year, I’ve also taken on the creation and administration of a grade 10 STEM program.  Through this time, I’ve written a number of articles for Teacher Librarian magazine, co-authored a book on Collection Development with Dr David Loertscher and, most recently and pertinently, have contributed chapters to Leslie’s High School edition of the GID book series.  I also have a personal blog that I’m recently not contributing much to, but if you’re more interested in the kinds of things that I think about, you could head over to Adventures in Libraryland.
My journey in GID started in a meaningful way, when Leslie was kind enough to organize a trip to Boston for myself, Curious St George and two of our Sr School Social Studies teachers to check out two schools who were deeply embeded in the ways of GID.  The teachers and librarians at Lexington and Westborough High Schools were amazing hosts and we had a chance to talk in depth with students and teachers about their experiences with GID in conjunction with some great chats with Leslie to help put it all in perspective.  From there, we came back to Vancouver and started implementing the model and spreading the gospel.  Since then, I’ve worked with teachers at our Sr School in Social Studies, English, Computer Science, and Languages to design and implement GID units.  Some were successful and some were less so, but all engaged students in meaningful ways and made research relevant.

In my own teaching, I’ve been looking at instructional design models that focus around building or making physical manifestations of student learning.  My current STEM cohort works most overtly with a Design Thinking model that has come out of Stanford’s dSchool.  This is not to say that I’ve abandoned GID however.  My experience and knowledge of the GID model has informed everything that I do within the Design Thinking model.  I actually see a strong correlation between the two models and I think that aspects of GID truly make Design Thinking, when used as instructional design, much more effective.

In a nutshell, the emphasis in Design Thinking is in the creating a solution to a problem.  In many ways, it is akin to Problem Based Learning.  What GID brings to the process is the stronger research structure and documentation of thinking.  While every one of my students thinks in terms of the Design Thinking model and are adept at adapting that model to a variety of situations, they are also using the tools of GID in their Inquiry Journals (blogs), and how they approach their Immerse and Explore phases.

My next posts will look at this relationship between GID and my students’ use of Design Thinking.  Likely, my last post will look at our current process and investigate how explicit use of GID concepts will allow us to improve the work that they are doing in a few key ways.  I hope that you’ll enjoy reading and I encourage you to push back and challenge me as we go.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I likely have even fewer than I think I do!

 

Marc Crompton

 

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.]

aerial_broughton-oct-2006

irc_highexteriorview

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!

ircexterior_students
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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

newknowledgecycle_ross

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.

gidtechdiff

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)

Take care of the seeds and they will grow…

growing-seeds

Image credit – http://flolly.com/how-to-grow-seeds/

Now, in the summer of 2016, I have a year of teacher training behind me. Ten teachers chose voluntarily to attend in service training in Guided Inquiry here in Sweden. I have re-read Guided Inquiry Design and have tried to put the teachers in the position of the students. I have tried to model, encourage and listen. We had some kind of a crisis at Explore – believe that most of them had the intention of start skipping class and blaming me and their fellow group members for the fact that we were not getting anywhere, neither individually nor as a group. But we hung in there and at Share and Evaluate our principal was attending – of course by coincidence, but what would we be without it? And I had “a sense of completion suited to the audience.” And also a sense of pride in the room.

I am at this point invited into a number of teams, in school and at other schools. The most important aspect for me right now is that I have stayed true to my vision and my method, what suited me and that it worked for us. We don’t know if and in that case how it will spread but we feel confident that something is achieved. We have taken care of the seeds and some of them are definitely thriving.

I have seen myself as a half. I believe I know certain things and the teachers believe they know certain things. When we meet we learn both about what we thought we knew but also about what the others thought they knew. The difficult part is to get the meeting. Me being the person that has taken every single initiative also tends to put me in the position of the one who is supposed to know. So to have the courage to back off from those expectations but keep the teachers in the conversation is an advanced assignment.

So far I have been the one telling stories. Like the one you’ve just read. The story of me and my journey with ISP/GI, the story of third space, the story of student voices from evaluations and now the voices of teachers’ evaluations from their journey this year. I would like to move on from there. And I believe I am.

A couple of colleagues from another school were so inspired by my stories that they applied for and will attend the summer school at Rutgers this summer, my much younger colleague here at my school is involved in all the digital tools projects that exist here, a couple of teachers are in charge of a full day programme at an in service training for teachers in our region and another teacher is including GID material in an educational website that she’s creating for the Swedish National Board of Education. There will be a chapter about us in the book about the varieties of inquiry across the globe by Lee Fitzgerald coming… sooner or later.

So, I thank you so much for having me on this blog and if anyone would like to get in touch for asking questions of any kind, please do. my email – Lena.Fogelberg-Carlsson@linkoping.se

I wish you all the strength, imagination and persistence to keep on giving young people the best education in the world.

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson

Student Questions Drive the Process

Hi 52_GID Readers!

It’s Leslie Maniotes – author of the GID series on the blog this week.

EVERYbody is gearing up for their new year and few have time to take on the blog this week.  So, I am lucky to have a week to share some new thoughts and experiences from working with the professional development side of GID.

One of the best aspects of Guided Inquiry Design, and perhaps the most scary for teachers, is that students learn by asking their own questions. We know that student curiosity and questioning is at the core of all inquiry based learning.

At one of my professional development sessions with our partner Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools last week, a very smart librarian wanted to know exactly what these student questions about the content standards would look like.  At the beginning, teachers must take a leap of faith into the unknown with Guided Inquiry Design in order to let go and allow students to ask their own questions.  That is the real beauty of the design, though, because with GID, smart educators can intentionally design the first three phases so that students arrive at marvelous questions that address the content and are truly interesting to our students! That’s the sweet spot and the real trick of intentional instructional design for inquiry based learning!  😉

The best designed inquiry learning supports all students through the first three phases to help students to arrive at an intellectually stimulating and interesting question on the content standards in the unit of study.

Guided Inquiry Design Process

I knew that high level questioning was happening in the schools, classrooms, and libraries where I have worked with excellent educators to know how to use this model to design their inquiry based learning. So, I asked my GID crew- who are AMAZING!  And, of course, I got responses from each level High School, Middle School, and Elementary level.  REAL questions from REAL kids about the content under study. In the next three posts I’ll share those questions  and some reflections on them in order to help you to ….Keep-calm-and-carry-on

Side note – do you know the history behind this poster?  It’s a fascinating relic from WWII  – an actual poster of British war propaganda.  Find out more here.

But, before we begin, in order to prime your thinking about the power of student questioning in learning, Here’s a 6 minute TED Talk video of science teacher Ramsey Musallam describing what he calls the 3 rules to spark imagination and learning. (Thank you to Kathryn Lewis and Lee Nelson of Norman Public Schools for sharing this video with me! It’s so aligned with Guided Inquiry and what we believe about real learning!)

Ramsey Musallam 3 rules

 It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.

Enjoy that video and come back tomorrow for more about students real questions in GID!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author + Professional Developer

Guided Inquiry Design

Avoid Cheetah Reports in 8 Easy Steps!

Remember this charming critter from my last entry? My Guided Inquiry Design mascot? This creature is a Pompeii Worm, and the reason it represents the power of GID, to me, is that this animal was selected by one of our Grade 4 students as the subject of his Guided Inquiry project on animal adaptations.

 

Hello. It's me again. Photo credit: Alison Murray, ARKive

Hello. It’s me again. Photo credit: Alison Murray, ARKive

If you’re an elementary teacher, I’m sure you’ve encountered an animal project in some form. You know the drill… the kids choose an animal and do a little report on it: what it eats, where it lives, etc. This kind of project is a nice introduction to research skills, and because most kids are interested in animals to some degree, there is high motivation. You will find that the vast majority of students will pick pretty standard animals. Wolves. Zebras. Sharks.(Note: when I was in Grade 3, I chose echidnas, thus cementing my nerdiness for years to come. I digress.)

However, it is a truth universally acknowledged that at least 55% of your class will choose cheetahs.

Yeah, we get it, Cheetah. You're very noble. Photo credit: Anup Shah, ARKive

We get it, Cheetah. You’re very noble. Photo credit: Anup Shah, ARKive

Look, I have no problem with cheetahs. They run fast. Their claws are unretractable. They hunt gazelles. They are endangered.  Their cubs are ridiculously adorable.  Cheetahs are LEGIT. I get the appeal. Kids LOVE them.

OMG SO CUTE | Photo credit: Suzi Eszterhas, ARKive

OMG SO CUTE | Photo credit: Suzi Eszterhas, ARKive

But they are so… predictable. I’m sure you’ve marked dozens – nay, hundreds! – of cheetah reports in your professional life. It’s time to move on. Wouldn’t you rather learn about something a little different? A little out-there? For instance… a Pompeii worm?

A cheetah’s got nothing  on a Pompeii worm. (I mean, fine, a cheetah would easily take one down  if, say, a Pompeii worm somehow found itself stranded on the Serengeti. No contest there. I’m speaking more ontologically.)

Team Pompeii Worm | Photo credit: Greg Rouse, ARKive

Team Pompeii Worm | Photo credit: Greg Rouse, ARKive

 

These guys live in the deep sea in hydrothermal vents. The end of the worm that sticks out in the water has to endure near-freezing temperatures in the frigid water of the deep ocean. So? Lots of organisms live in the deep ocean. The really cool thing about Pompeii worms is the end of the worm that’s in the vent has to contend with blasts of hot water that can be as high as 80 degrees Celsius, or 176 Fahrenheit. How does it survive in this environment? Most animals would poach themselves within seconds, yet these worms thrive in such a hostile environment because of bacteria that live on their bodies that help to regulate their temperature!

Admit it: that’s cool. Or hot. (Whatever.)

How did we discover Pompeii worms? Well, Guided Inquiry guided us to them! The whole process was important, but because we leveraged the power of the first three phases – Open, Immerse, Explore – for this unit, the students were able to explore some carefully curated resources about animal adaptations and make notes on different adaptations and animals that have them. In this way, the boys were exposed to a vast array of animals that they might not know about, and successfully carry out their research. Rather than designing the project around teacher-led discussion on adaptations, the boys discovered the concept on their own and built knowledge themselves.

The provincial learning objective for this Grade 4 science unit was: “All living things and their environment are interdependent.”  The instructional team – the Grade 4 teachers, our wonderful Inquiry resource teacher and myself – decided that the students should learn about how different environments can affect the adaptations that animals have developed to survive. These would be independent projects culminating in an animal “fact file” with a labelled diagram and paragraph.

 

Fact files on display. Photo credit: me

Fact files on display. Photo credit: me

 

We started the OPEN phase by projecting a panoramic Google maps photo of Dinosaur Provincial Park in our neighbouring province of Alberta. This park looks very different from our own local temperate rainforest, so we had the boys brainstorm and discuss questions about the environment there. What kinds of animals might you find there that you wouldn’t find in Vancouver? Why? We then went out to our wooded area to take photos with iPads. This OPEN activity got the boys thinking about how environments can impact plants and animals.

We timed this project around the boys’ first overnight outdoor education trip, which became their IMMERSE phase. They spent two days at a local outdoor centre, where most of the programming revolved around adaptations of local flora and fauna. Full disclosure: I did not attend. I stayed warm and dry, but from all accounts, the experience was highly IMMERSive!

After they returned from camp, we set up the EXPLORE phase. Instead of letting the boys go nuts on Google, or wreak havoc on my painstakingly arranged 590s shelves, we gave them only one option: a brilliant website from BBC Nature: Animal and plant adaptations and behaviours This site has an exhaustive list of adaptations, with an easy to read description for each and multiple examples of organisms. We put the boys into Inquiry Circles and had them browse the site, noting down on a specially-created worksheet any animals or adaptations that they thought were interesting.

Because this BBC site has such an exhaustive list of adaptations, and because we gave them free range to browse the site, the boys were learning about everything from behavioural adaptations such as swarming, to feeding strategies like kleptoparasitism! Thus, one young man discovered the Pompeii worm, neatly filed away under symbiosis. His curiosity was piqued. What the heck is a Pompeii worm? (Probably what you were thinking at the beginning of this post!)

After a couple of sessions exploring the BBC site, we helped the boys review their notes and IDENTIFY an animal they really wanted to learn more about, and to write a strong research question about it beginning with “Why” or “How”.

From there, we provided more curated resources for GATHER: the BBC site again, ARKive, World Book, and in some cases, reliable websites that I vetted for those boys who chose an unusual animal with scarce information available.

They CREATEd their fact files and we SHAREd with a big celebratory class session involving small-group informal presentations and a gallery walk of all the files. Finally, the boys were EVALUATEd on the science learning objective as well as a self-assessment on the whole process.

The results? The boys were so motivated and excited each week when they came to the library. The learning was student-centered with each boy striving to answer his own question, instead of following a list of criteria from the teachers. Those pesky note-taking skills were a breeze to teach, and the science learning objective was hit out of the park (ask one of our Grade 4s about any possible adaptation – they know them all!)

Those are all very noble, altruistic goals for the betterment of our darling students. Allow me to be selfish for a moment – of 48 projects completed there was not a single one on cheetahs. If that’s not a career highlight, I don’t know what is.

 

The Flexibility of GID

When I learned how effective Guided Inquiry could be, I got excited about planning a GID-based writing workshop. I focused on Reconstruction because it’s the setting for my book, but the model could be adapted for any historical time period. On my website I’ve posted the materials you’d need to lead this workshop in a middle or high school classroom, and I’ll run through the steps quickly here.

The “Open,” “Immerse,” and “Explore” stages are the same as I mentioned yesterday: show the book trailer, read BROTHERHOOD, ask students to connect to content, and begin to research Reconstruction. When I visit schools, I show a series of photographs, and students point out the details—clothing, means of transportation, food, etc. My favorite is this shot taken at the wall in front of St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, in 1865. Notice that the people are wearing coats and hats, but most have bare feet.

St.Johns.Church.people

During the “Identify” stage, I ask students to write a scene based on a newspaper article from the era. I encourage loose, messy, fast writing. I interrupt them with sound effects (church bells, horses, crickets), and ask them to incorporate the sounds into their scenes. The process here isn’t about producing good writing. It’s about entering into the time period vicariously.

Next, students swap newspaper articles and write a second scene—again, loose, fast writing. Then they pause and I ask which scene they liked most. Which did they prefer writing about, and why? What did they find compelling, disturbing, or interesting about the one they preferred? Their answers kick off the “Gather” stage of the GID process—the stage when students begin to ask their own questions. This step is the essence of Guided Inquiry. It’s the reason GID is so effective.

Whether students prefer scene A to B, or B to A doesn’t matter. What matters is that they prefer one. Students will always prefer one. Always. And the moment they articulate why they like one better than the other is the moment they really begin to invest in the subject matter. It’s an exciting moment to watch! They’re given permission to make a choice, express an opinion, and be heard, and the process empowers them.

In the “Gather,” “Create,” and “Share” stages, students’ individual or group projects go in any number of directions, and I leave that part up to the teachers. Some have particular themes they’d like the class to address. For example, in my previous post I mentioned that the teacher wanted students to think about gangs—all types of gangs and the conditions that give rise to them. Or teachers might want students to think about voting rights (who feels threatened by another’s right to vote?). Or maybe students will create and share presentations about citizenship and what it might feel like to live in America today and not be a citizen. Or they might talk about the problem of bullying.

GID allows for flexibility! I began this post talking about Reconstruction, and in only a few paragraphs, I’ve raised a myriad of topics, but that’s because my novel raises them (the Reconstruction-era amendments established birthright citizenship and voting rights; if your class is focused on a different time period, your students will ponder a different set of issues).

From my perspective—hey, I’m a writer, so I have to nudge students to write, no apologies!—an easy exercise in loose writing gets the process going strong. And when students reflect on issues that matter to them, personally, and are in a safe space for reflection, wow! Sharing happens. Listening happens. Learning happens.

I love the way GID promotes a student-centered and student-directed approach to learning (so much more effective than the memorize-and-regurgitate model of my youth). Like I said in my first post, boy do I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. Thank you, Leslie, for inspiring me and the next generation of educators!

The 2016 Collaborative School Library Award

Yesterday I invited you to experience the “Open” stage of the award-winning GID unit developed by two librarians and a social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA. They based the unit my book, BROTHERHOOD, and posted all of their materials on this Blendspace page so that others can recreate the unit in their schools.

Set in Virginia during Reconstruction, BROTHERHOOD is the story of a white boy who joins the Klan, meets a young black teacher, and comes to question the racial prejudices he’s been taught. The book raises all sorts of questions about identify, race, peer pressure, gangs, etc., and doesn’t provide easy answers. So it’s great for kicking off classroom conversations on a variety of topics.

During the “Immerse” stage of the GID process, in order to connect to the content of daily readings, the students at Carver wrote a tweet a day.

daily tweet.52GID blog

Historians from the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society visited the school, bringing samples of items mentioned in the book, such as swatches of cloth and a copy of a page from an 1867 newspaper. The time period was beginning to come alive for the students.

During the GID stages “Explore” and “Identify,” students continued to read while researching the post-Civil War era. Then they went on a field trip to Richmond, VA, and walked the streets the characters had walked. In advance of the trip, the librarians asked me to audio-record myself reading selections from the book. I posted the audio files online, and during the trip, students stopped at key locations to listen—via QR codes—to me reading. This was an innovative way to use technology, and got the students all the more engaged. Click on this code to hear one of the recordings:

QRCode.FarmersMarket

I visited the classroom and talked about how I came to write BROTHERHOOD—a presentation that includes mention of the Noble Lost Cause ideology, Jim Crow era, and Civil Rights movement. On another day, the school’s safety officer came and presented information about gangs. The class explored reasons why a person might join the Klan or any gang—any group vying for power, control or influence.

During the “Gather” stage, each student’s essential questions led him/her to choose a gang to research further. Students divided into small groups, and for the “Create” and “Share” stages, each group did a presentation about a gang and how they (or society) might stop the spread of that gang. In this way, they progressed through the 7th grade curriculum. For prohibition, for example, one group did a presentation about the Mafia running liquor. For World War II, another group showed how the Nazis gained support by blaming Germany’s ills on the Jews. By the time the curriculum brought them to the present day, they already knew from yet another student presentation that Al Qaida is motivated in part by a rejection of capitalism. I visited the school again, and was blown away by the high quality of the presentations, both from struggling learners and from gifted students. The GID approach excited them all.

Along the way students participated in the GID stage, “Evaluate,” asking questions such as, what surprised me today? What was clear? What was confusing? I love the fact that when you do GID, you don’t leave evaluation to the very end. GID encourages self-reflection at every stage.

This GID unit was pretty involved, and it hit me that some educators might want to add BROTHERHOOD to the curriculum and use the GID approach, but they don’t live near Virginia and can’t easily do the field trip. And that thought motivated me to design a GID-based writing workshop that can be done in any classroom, anywhere. I’ll tell you about it in my next post…

Singing a New Tune

A.B. Westrick here. I’m the author of BROTHERHOOD (Penguin Young Readers). If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be writing and speaking about GID, I might have said, “Huh? GID, what? Guided Inquiry Design? You must have me confused with someone else. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Brotherhood COVER ARTNow it’s 2016, and boy am I singing a new tune. I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. I’d especially have welcomed it in history classes, which I generally found to be dreadful. Having to memorize dates and names of dead white guys and strategies that won or lost wars? Spare me. Please.

But I’m not going to post here about history, not really. Only kind-of. I write fiction—not the first outlet that comes to mind when educators talk about GID. But as it turns out, my novel inspired two middle school librarians and a 7th grade social studies/language arts teacher at Carver Middle School in Chester, VA, to plan a dynamic GID unit. Next month—on June 25, 2016—during the AASL Awards session at the national ALA conference in Orlando, that team is going to receive the Collaborative School Library Award. Go, team!

So, how did it come about that fiction inspired their GID unit? Well. Read on. For today, I hope to make you curious, just as GID encourages you to do with students during the “Open” stage. Check out my book trailer (only 53 seconds long):

And if you want the full experience of the “Open” stage of the Carver Middle School unit, read chapter one of BROTHERHOOD. (Here it is at Amazon.) I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the “Immerse” stage and the rest of this GID unit, but if you’d like a sneak-peek, check out this “Blendspace” page. (I also link to the “Blendspace” page from the “Teachers” page of my website.) The Carver team posted everything there, including parental permission forms.

In my next post I’ll go into detail, and you’ll see that the unit was rather involved. The students loved it. But when it occurred to me that some schools wouldn’t have the resources to do the whole unit, I developed a scaled-down version that’s essentially a writing workshop based on GID. And history. Yes, I have to come back to history. (My book is historical fiction.)

WestrickABIn my third post, I’ll talk about the writing workshop, and you’ll see that it’s not about teaching history as much as it’s about getting students excited to ask their own questions about history. What I especially love about GID is the way it encourages students to lean how to learn. More tomorrow…

Final thoughts from Connecticut

Challenges

Right now, there are some challenges that I hope to work on over the next year or two.

First, my schedule is a fixed schedule, meaning that all my classes come one time per week for 45 minutes, without their teacher. I do have a few blocks that are free and I use those for collaboration whenever possible. Also, because I am in one school 3 days a week and the other school 2 days, I often miss team meetings, etc. because I am simply in the wrong building that day. This makes collaborating more difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.

Some teachers and I have really worked to make collaboration work. We have planned together (sometimes electronically), had me start a unit in the library, they take it from there in their classroom, and back and forth until it is completed. Sometimes we have been able to use my free blocks together and then doing different parts in library and in the classroom. At other times, our tech integration specialist has started the unit in the classroom and then worked with the students and me in the library. It’s really helpful to have one person who can be in both places. This spring, our technology teacher and I are working together, so that I am doing the first phases and he will help students with the sharing part. We enjoy a challenge! But I have frequently talked with my administrators about moving to a flex schedule that would allow for better collaboration and student learning.

A flex schedule would also eliminate the problem I often have of seeing classes only once per week. This makes it very difficult for students to really maintain a focus on what they are learning. Instead, I would love the ability to meet with a class every day (or similar) until the project is completed. Sometimes, like last year when I missed 7 Mondays in a row due to snow days and holidays, I have classes that simply miss entire projects. Again, not impossible, but difficult.

Working with my K-2 students, another challenge is simply that many cannot read or write very well yet. Technology has provided many work-arounds, such as using PebbleGo or Worldbook which will read aloud to them, using pictures and having me dictate their words, and our latest love – Seesaw.me which allows students to type or draw a picture and then record their thoughts. I do want to be sure that they are having a balance of using both print/paper and technology, so that is constantly on my mind.

 

Further wonderings

Makerspaces and STE(A)M are very much a part of many librarian conversations these days. I very much want to carefully consider how Guided Inquiry Design can support student learning.

In addition, with the new NGSS and Social Studies standards being adopted, our curriculum director and the rest of our technology and information literacy specialists are looking to see how GID complements them.

Finally, I wouldn’t be a librarian if I didn’t talk a little about the books to use! This morning on twitter, the post was about a 2nd grade teacher’s Top 10 Picture Books to Introduce Units of Study, and I thought, “How perfect!” There are some books that just beg to be used to get kids thinking. Curating lists of books like this is another way that I can help get an inquiry unit off to a terrific start!

It has been such a pleasure reflecting on my own learning and work with Guided Inquiry Design this week. I am very much looking forward to reading the future posts! I will be attending CISSL summer institute this summer with a team of teachers (woo hoo!) and am thrilled to be able to really dig deeper myself into GID and how to create the best learning opportunities for my elementary students.

Many thanks —

Jenny