National History Day Project inWisconsin

Recent Project: The GID Process

In the 2015-16 school year, after participating in a Guided Inquiry summer institute, my partners at the Charter School: the social studies teacher, the Dean, and I decided to implement the Guided Inquiry Design Process throughout all content areas. We started with the National History Day Project. I created a student journal that the students used to capture their thoughts. I collected the Journals daily and commented. The student journal is an adaptation of a journal that Leslie had teachers use when we participated her GI Institute. The students commented that they appreciated not always having to use technology to compose their thoughts.  I created PowerPoints for each session. I added all the PowerPoints and other documents to a Google Folder and shared the folder with the students and my teacher partners. I also encouraged the students to email me any time they had questions. Several students, who were not able to make it to all the classes, appreciated that they could keep up with the class lessons in this manner.

The Open session was our most challenging as we never took the time before to open students’ minds: to get them excited about the journey they were starting. After participating in the Institute, we wrestled with different ideas.  In one of Leslie’s posts on her Guided Inquiry Design Facebook page we found some great suggestions. We mentioned the theme, which was Explore, Encounter, and Exchange in History, and that we would spend more time with what the theme meant in the coming days. We viewed the Sir Ken Robinson video Changing Education Paradigms. The students took notes using guided questions in their Journal. They discussed in Inquiry Circles how that video spoke to them. How did Sir Ken explain the historical context of education reform today? How did he captivate them while exchanging his ideas? I was surprised at how many students were diagnosed with ADHD when they were younger. They could really relate to Sir Ken.

Historical context is often difficult to understand. One of the suggestions in the GID Facebook page was to have them watch and discuss a more current topic to which they could relate. They watched History of Apple and the First iPhone: RIP Steve Job. . Many students had not seen this video. Time passes so quickly. Most of them had mobile phones and historical context started to make sense. Again, the students took notes using guided questions in their Journal and shared their thoughts in Inquiry Circles.

The reflections in their journal gave us an insight into what they were wondering about at this beginning stage.

The Immerse Stage was also a challenge. Students had never taken the time just to discover content while they built background knowledge. We spent time viewing and discussing a National History Day winning video. The Tiananmen Square Massacre: A Government’s Encounter with It’s People. They again took notes from guided questions in their Journal. We also immersed the students in political cartoon analysis. Most students had no background knowledge of the what political cartoons were and how to analyze them. They are excellent primary sources for understanding historical context. Some student’s reflections revealed they were changing their thoughts on topics. That was a good thing.

The other stages: Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share, and Evaluate had challenges also since this was my first year implementing GID within the National History Day Project. I was determined to implement the process with fidelity. However, to do that we needed to take the time during class. They spent time looking at exemplar National History Day past winners. They also spent time Asking the Experts in the Google+ Hangouts. These sessions were invaluable during the Create stage. Determining which category they were going to enter, in order to share what they learned and how to write up the Process Paper were a challenge they had not encountered in previous research projects. They studied the judging criteria, which set the expectations.

National History Day requires an Annotated Bibliography. The students who used Noodle Tools had no problem with this requirement.

The students shared their project several weeks ago at a Parent Open House. Homemade punch and cookies were an added appeal. Later on in the BLOG I will share the parent’s reflections. The students shared their thoughts throughput the entire process through reflections and dialogues in Inquiry Circles and with the entire Inquiry Community. They also gave input during the final Evaluation Session. Common themes were:

  • Students learn more by listening, communicating, and working with peers;
  • They relish input from their peers;
  • They desired to dig more into their topic because they chose the topic based on a theme.

Next year the theme is “Taking a Stand”. I am already looking forward to working with the students next year. Every year I learn and the next year benefits from that learning.

For the next project I will be working with the seniors on their Global Issues Capstone Project. They choose an international problem and after thorough research they present solutions from their informed point of view.  They will follow the GID process. They will connect with an expert mentor in the field as a resource. They will write a paper. Then they will present in a creative and meaningful way to an authentic audience who gives them input. Often times their expert mentor will also give them input during the evaluation component of their final project. Voice and Choice are key actions for personalizing learning. Voice and Choice are also critical motivators for them to stay engaged through an extended timeline.

If you questions, I am happy to reply in the comments section. In the end students commented they were never prompted to think and share their thinking with their peers before. They gave this project very high rating when they communicated on their successes at the school. This project provides rigor within a guided process.

Kathy Boguszewski

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!


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.


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,


A high school math inquiry project

The email started like many we receive: What dates are the library computers available to bring down classes for research?

We check the schedule and start to email a response when it hits us …a math teacher…wants to do research? What?! We quickly respond with dates as requested and offer to help in any way we can.

Then Ms. White, my librarian colleague, and I start chatting from our desks to one another.

“Have you ever done research with a math class?”

“No, but this could be so cool!”

“I wonder what their product would be – a research paper? Presentation?”

Ding…then another email arrived with an attachment of the math research project Ms. Zehnder had done at a different school but she wanted to make it better and asked for our help, perhaps using the Guided Inquiry Process. And that is how we became part of another Guided Inquiry Design (GID) unit at HCHS. The three of us began collaborating to design a student-oriented research project and by late fall, students began their inquiries, and for many of them, this was the first math research project they had ever been assigned.

So, what did it look like?

Open – Students were asked to think about ways they use math in the real world. With a little prompting from the classroom teacher, the examples started pouring in. Perhaps the most powerful point about this phase was once they started thinking about math in the real world, they understood it was all around them. To help with this phase, as librarians, we brainstormed a list of ways math was relevant in their world and gave it to Ms. Zehnder although it wasn’t really needed. The list came in handy later though as we worked to find resources to flesh out the Explore phase.

Immerse– Using a high interest article in the classroom, the class found as many math related concepts as they could within it. Afterwards, as a group, they discussed how one might use it as a springboard to come up with inquiry topics for a research project. As school librarians, our role was to find a handful of possible articles and gave them to the Ms. Zehnder so that she could determine which one(s) she wanted to use. Having the classroom teacher model the process of reading articles and talking about real life experiences, then brainstorming how math was relevant to it, was a great way to scaffold the class for the Explore phase.

Explore – Next, students came to the library and participated in exploration stations to make connections with mathematical concepts used in the real world and think about how math affects their daily life. There were 4 stations: books, magazines, computers and manipulatives. Students spent 9 minutes at each of the stations looking through whatever materials caught their eye and filled out the Exploration handout as they went. There was enough time at the end of the period for students to return to any station(s) they wanted to explore longer. At the book station we had over fifty resources scattered around for students to pick up and flip through. Topics ranged from specific sports, to nutrition, to world records, to teen spending practices and more. A complete bibliography is below in case you’d like to look at it further. The magazine station included the local newspaper and a variety of magazines like: Transworld Skateboarding, Popular Science, Outdoor, Time, National Geographic, ESPN and others. By far the two most popular stations were manipulatives and computers. At the manipulatives station, we set out the Cracker Barrel peg game, Suduko sheets, mandala coloring sheets, the Banagrams game, dice, etc. Watching students at this station made me so happy. Not only were students trying their hands at origami, wrestling with math brain teasers, playing Connect Four, etc. they were having real conversations about math and enjoying it! The computer station was very engaging too. Ms. White spearheaded this station by creating a Symbaloo webmix housing a variety of websites for students to explore and determine how math was involved. Check out the Explore link below when you have time because the mix of videos, websites and tutorials gave students plenty to consider in this station too. The beautiful thing about this portion of the GID unit was that I learned a new technology tool out of it too!

Math topics

Resource: Math Related Topics Bibliography (PDF)


 Resource: Explore Symbaloo Webmix (link)


Resource: Explore Stations (entire PDF)


Identify – During this phase, we as librarians visited the classroom to lead a mini-lesson with each class. With their completed Explore Station handout in front of them, students selected a mathematical concept they found interesting to focus on for the rest of their project. While students were not required to select a topic from the Explore phase, many of them did so and having a series of possible topics in front of them, allowed everyone to have something to work on during this lesson.  After we modeled how to take a topic and brainstorm possible inquiry questions, we gave the students time to complete theirs. Note there are two graphic organizers. We did this knowing some learners are linear thinkers and others are not. Our hope was that a student could select the one that best helped them organize the topic and potential keywords and related inquiry questions related to the main idea. We modeled both types of graphic organizers with the students. Ultimately the topics students selected were quite varied including:  how math drives the game of hockey, why an understanding of math helps mixed martial arts fighters get an upper hand in a match, why the number zero is relevant, why do we need to understand the concept of infinity, just to name a few.

Inquiry graphic organizers

Resource:  Identify Graphic Organizers (entire PDF)

Gather – The next time students came to the library, we (librarians) demonstrated how to take notes on relevant resources as it related to their inquiry. Students were required to use both print and web-based resources to research their mathematics concept. As librarians, we created and provided an Inquiry Log template including links to citation help where students could answer their inquiry questions as they researched. Before turning them loose to conduct their own research, we modeled the process using the template. During the student research time in the library, Ms. White, Ms. Zehnder and I circulated around the room to assist students with locating potential print and web resources, and generally helped them stay on task. In reflection, it was clear students loved talking and sharing what they were learning about their topics and were eager to share that with anyone who would listen. Students who did not complete this phase during allotted time in the library were required to finish it independently.


Resource: Gather Sources Inquiry Log (entire PDF)

Create – Students were eventually tasked to create a presentation where they would explain the mathematical concept they chose, provide examples of how it is seen or used in real life and find relevance for its mathematical study. As librarians, we helped students think through possible presentation types. When PowerPoint was mentioned, we tried to talk about the pitfalls of a traditional presentation format and how to avoid it. Suggestions included not reading from the slides directly, embedding pictures or videos, and how to narrate using audio clips. At first students seemed frustrated by the lack of specific requirements given for the presentation. They wanted to know which presentation format was best, how long it should be, etc. In hindsight, I would definitely not change this aspect of the project because it helped students truly consider which format would be best for their particular topic and their particular audience. The varied results spoke to the wisdom of leaving the presentation format open. On the final day of class time given to work on the presentations, we did create and give students a Presentation Planner Checklist to help students organize themselves and know at a glance what else needed to be done or strengthened to ensure success.

Presentation Planner

Resource: Presentation Planner Checklist (entire PDF)

Resource: Presentation Planner Checklist (entire Word doc)

Share – Students ultimately shared their presentations and were graded based on whether their visual and verbal presentation addressed the mathematical concept, clearly defined and explained it, gave examples of the concept in real world and discussed the relevance of studying the concept in general.  The diversity of the final products was greater than I had originally expected. Sure, there were still a lot of PowerPoint presentations but not exclusively. Interestingly, if Ms. White and I got sidetracked in the library during one of the presentation times, it wasn’t unusual for a student to inquire where we were and ask to call and remind us to come up. How cool is that? We were absolutely thrilled to be part of the process from beginning to end.

Ms. Zehnder not only invited us as school librarians to the Share phase, she invited all building math teachers and administrators too. Students were both pleased and proud to have additional audience members. We even invited a Communications person from the district office who wrote a feature article on the district website. Check it out!

Resource: Everyday math takes a bow at Henry Clay High School” feature article

Evaluate – The classroom teacher, Ms. Zehnder, evaluated each project based on the rubric that specific class had made. For example, every class was evaluated on incorporating five math facts, citing their sources and discussing the concept’s relevance but she had also allowed each class to individualize their rubrics. Some classes added a creativity component, others bonus points for audience participation, etc. We intended to have students complete a self-reflection on the project using a Google form  but due to lack of computer availability, this wasn’t possible. Instead, students debriefed in a class discussion. In the future we hope to use the Google form, as it is a great way to collect and analyze data in a timely manner.

Resource: Self-Evaluation Google Form

The positive press by the district combined with teachers hearing about our project by word of mouth has led others to express interest in developing a GID unit of their own in collaboration with us. Perhaps by the end of the school year we will have more units to share.