Keyword Inquiry Log

In my second post, I shared how Sarah worked with me and Karen to implement concept-based research as well as question-driven inquiry. Now we’ll shift to discuss how students conduct research in the Gather phase.  

I just finished my 4th year working as a school library media specialist, and I was a high school English teacher for 8 years before that. So I have a general idea of how a typical student at my school searches for sources: Google (most likely typing in an entire sentence or question), or at best a cursory glance at a database assigned by a teacher. We are continually striving to make the research phase more meaningful in order to support lifelong learning skills. Librarians crave more time with students in order to introduce them to all the databases available to them. And then databases function differently, requiring time for students to search within them and learn how to find the information they need.

This past February, I read “Doubling Up: authentic vocabulary development through the inquiry process” by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci published in the February 2017 issue of Teacher Librarian. (A new fiscal year is starting soon; be sure to get your subscription to Teacher Librarian!) When I saw this article and read the first paragraph, one word came to mind: genius! I knew I wanted to implement the keyword log introduced in the article because it just made sense, like the GID model. And I found just the teacher willing to collaborate with me on this project.

Jena Smith teaches the Public Speaking elective at my school, and she is a strong supporter of using library resources with her students. We collaborate frequently throughout the semester. Her students came to the library after selecting topics for their researched argumentative speeches. She created a Google Doc for students to record their topics. Sharing it with me helped me prepare mini-lessons targeted toward their chosen topics. It also taught the students to revise their topics as they began to do research, as some realized their topics weren’t going to work or weren’t quite argumentative in nature.

The rationale for using the keyword log, as presented by Maniotes and Cellucci, is to promote academic vocabulary growth as well as knowledge of information searching strategies. Even if students know what a Boolean operator is, they need to have some knowledge of the vocabulary specific to their topic. Luckily, unlike Google, databases provide keyword searches that will give students suggestions. In EBSCO products, you can search in Subject Terms at the top of the page to learn synonyms.

I mentioned ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher database in my second blog post. It’s super easy to search related subject terms for vocabulary development. The subject terms are listed at the end of each article, which students can click on.

I introduced them to the keyword log and modeled a few sample searches using the topic an at-risk learner chose in order to provide some targeted scaffolding. I added a few columns to the log described in the article just to ensure that students were providing detailed explanations.

As intuitive as I thought this log would be, we encountered a few obstacles during implementation. To start, students aren’t used to slowing down! They wanted to rush through the research process. We met some resistance when we told them they would be recording each search they tried. Of course the whole point was for them to discover that the Gather phase should take time in order to discover the best possible sources of information that would help them develop their researched argumentative speech.

Here are some of the first searches I modeled to the whole class (it’s not perfect; I tried to keep it simple at first):

Below is an excerpt from a reluctant learner’s keyword log. I sat with him as he completed his searches to show him different search strategies. In the first entry, you can see that he realized he wasn’t even searching for one of the main parts of his topic: how do violent video games affect children? His reflection in the second entry shows how I asked him to record his true search behavior, and what we know to be true from research: most searchers do not even scroll down on the first page of results.

I also spent a good deal of time telling them to type more in the results and reflection columns. As the research assignment progresses, students will see how useful the log is the more specific and detailed their responses are.

We discovered that we can really learn about how students conduct research simply by watching them and asking them to search how they would if they were on their own. Start with where they’re at as learners to gather information about their current skills and how they think about research. Then address misconceptions and a lack of skills as you see them.

There is an often overwhelming number of research skills that students can learn: how to search the open web using advanced search strategies and limiters; discovering special interests groups, independent groups, research organizations; picking which database fits their information needs; how to search different databases; how to paraphrase; how to cite. Yikes! But this keyword log provided an organized starting point. My goal is to work with more teachers to use this log at the beginning of their classes and tailor research assignments to target specific research skills instead of trying to teach every skill every time.

Most of the students shared in a survey when we were finished that they had never been taught Boolean search strategies and that the keyword log helped them stay organized. They gained a clearer understanding of how databases work. And remember that the GID model works in any discipline. Information literacy skills should be embedded in each and every course if we want our students to truly learn these lifelong skills.

The key here is that authentic learning does take time. Using databases isn’t always intuitive, and students need practice after direct instruction. Partner up with your school librarian to build these skills into your research units. It’s an investment that pays off in the end.

–Jamie Gregory  @gregorjm

Concepts and Questioning

Yesterday, I explained how I spent last semester introducing the Guided Inquiry Design model to a cohort of teachers at my high school. Today is all about showing student work related the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify phases of GID inquiry-based learning. I’m going to extend my discussion about using questioning as part of implementing GID by showcasing a unit my library service learners completed. I’m also going to show how one English teacher in particular worked to implement concept-based research assignments as well as questioning into her curriculum.

I am fortunate that my school offers media center service learning as an elective unit of credit. Students fill out an application and we take teacher recommendations. The students who participate learn about running a library, fielding reference questions, researching the future of libraries, you name it! My fellow librarian Karen Hill and I have developed a unit focused on learning about social injustice. For the Open phase in this unit, our students watched 2 shorter documentaries posted on the New York Times website (Check out the website, you’ll get lost in the possibilities!). We kept a shared Google Doc of questions in order to provide scaffolding at the beginning of the unit. For the Immerse phase, we created a gallery walk with 13 stations featuring various examples of social injustice in the world today. Students read from print books, articles, infographics, watched clips from documentaries, political cartoons, statistics, all sorts of fun stuff! They had to create their own lists of questions about each topic as they rotated through each station.

And there are so many opportunities here for embedding information literacy skills. Have students practice citing sources as they create questions, and have them question the sources themselves. Introduce them to authoritative resources they won’t know about, such as the ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States! Once students have experience with the gallery walk approach, start having them select the sources instead of the media specialist!

I cannot emphasize enough how effective we have found the stations activity to be in my experience with implementing GID. Students can move through the stations at their own paces, ideally, or you can use a timer if more structure is needed. Students respond honestly and find topics they are genuinely interested in. The great part about this particular group was that once we entered the Identify phase, only 2 students out of 10 chose a topic that was included in the 13 stations! They branched out and found other topics, which was inspiring to watch.

We had one particularly great success story this past year with a reluctant learner. She didn’t like to read at all, and it was hard each day to keep her from texting the entire class period. She truly blossomed during this project. She chose to research teen suicide because, as she told us, she didn’t know anything about it. She was engaged in her research and in her proposal wrote that maybe our high school should establish a help hotline.

Remember that in GID you do not begin a unit with an assignment; you begin a unit with an open invitation to learn! We didn’t introduce the assignment until the Identify phase. Don’t let students get stuck on the mechanics of the assignment; you’d rather their energy be spent on the content!

Now, back to the awesome English teachers I work with! In our cohort, we focused on designing concept-based research opportunities driven by student-led questioning beginning with the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. One classroom English teacher, Sarah Plant, re-envisioned her traditional Great Gatsby research paper (by the way, Sarah recently had to move away. We’ll be sad about that for a long time). While students might traditionally research aspects of the 1920s, she realized that assignment might fall under the “bird unit” categorization. While it is, of course, still necessary and worthwhile to know and to understand 1920s culture for successful reading of that novel, we realized that there might be more effective opportunities for authentic learning and research by moving to a more concept-based assignment. Plus, students are too tempted to simply copy and paste information with “bird unit” assignments!

For the Open phase, Sarah had the students watch some short videos and they wrote down questions while watching, then sharing as a class. Sarah next came up with 3 concepts related to The Great Gatsby: effects of social media, effects of poverty (and the American Dream), and effects of money on happiness. (While choosing the concepts ahead of time provided scaffolding, students were allowed to research their own concepts discovered throughout this process.) Karen and I then searched through our databases for information related to the concepts. We printed relevant articles, infographics, found print books, encyclopedias, etc. (For example, try “How to Buy Happiness” from the Atlantic, April 2017). We then designed a gallery walk activity for the Immerse phase. Students were given time to visit each station as a group. The groups designed questions based on each station’s focus.

Most of the groups wrote down superficial questions, which gave us an opportunity to model asking effective questions. We also monitored the students while they worked in groups, giving guidance and suggestions as needed.

Sarah shared that moving toward researching concepts required more advanced researching from the students. This move required more synthesis skills from the students, and they genuinely learned something because they chose their topics. She saw improved essay structures and stronger thesis statements because they weren’t just trying to summarize historical information about the 1920s.

Sarah also had the students include questions about their topics and learning goals on the grading rubric:

This part of her project touches on the last stage of GID, Evaluate. I spent a good deal of time in our cohort meetings emphasizing the importance of self-reflection throughout the entire inquiry process. I shared some strategies I used in my own classroom to help students evaluate not only their skills but also their behaviors. Creating specific goals for each assignment keeps students from feeling overwhelmed, particularly the reluctant learners.

In my next post, I’ll share how I worked with Jena Smith to embed some more in-depth information literacy skills during the Gather phase of her research project, which gave me an opportunity to use an amazing article by Leslie Maniotes and Anita Cellucci! Stay tuned, again! (I’m sorry y’all, I have too much to share about GID and I just can’t help myself. Anyone who read this far, I love you.)

-Jamie Gregory, @gregorjm

Sarah Plant,

It All Starts With A Question…?

Greetings from South Carolina! My name is Jamie Gregory, and I am a public high school media specialist in the Upstate of SC at James F. Byrnes High School. I taught high school English for 8 years (including 1 year of French) and just finished my 4th year as a media specialist. I completed my MLIS degree in 2012 from the University of South Carolina, and I was introduced to the GID model during my time there as a graduate student. While I also learned other inquiry models, I found the GID model particularly effective and applicable because it is research-based. Also, Kuhlthau’s ISP model is life-changing. Reading the research on the emotions and behaviors underlying the research and learning processes really changed how I approached the research process while I was still a classroom English teacher.

South Carolina recently adopted new ELA standards, specifically dedicating a strand to inquiry-based learning. Let me tell you, we are doing some great things in SC! Major props to the standards committee for recognizing the proven effectiveness of inquiry-based learning. The state standards document even goes so far as to explicitly state that inquiry-based learning should be incorporated by all classroom teachers, not just ELA:

Can I get an AMEN?! (or whatever you’d like to shout enthusiastically!)

So, given all this change, my district decided to offer a professional development cohort called Inquiry in the Classroom. When the head of professional development asked for volunteers to lead it, I knew I wanted to jump in so I could also promote the role of the media specialist in inquiry-based learning.

I led Inquiry in the Classroom, a professional development cohort of 18 English, Social Studies, Science, and special education teachers grades 9-12, from January to May of 2017. We met once per month, and I knew I wanted to share the GID model with these teachers. I also knew that I wanted to have teachers begin to implement aspects of inquiry-based learning throughout the semester so that we could have brainstorming sessions at our meetings to share successes and opportunities for improvement.

My posts this week are going to feature my collaborations with 3 English teachers at my school: Sarah Plant, Jena Smith, and Michael Jett. They are truly awesome educators and I can’t thank them enough for working with me this past year.

I spent a lot of time during the cohort sharing resources about the importance of questioning. (I also highly recommend the book Cultivating Curiosity by Wendy Ostroff!) Meeting students in the Third Space so they can choose topics and ideas that interest them and affect them personally is so important, and educators can help them discover new topics that students didn’t even know they wanted to learn more about! By the time we get our students in grade 10, some students have already “gotten by” with being passive learners. So when they are asked to be curious, ask questions, and engage in real-world issues, they truly aren’t sure what that looks like.

But don’t worry, we always have a few tricks up our sleeves!

Idea #1!  One activity for creating questions comes from a very effective professional book, Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: maximizing your impact by Judi Moreillon. Chapters are organized by 7 strategies, and I focused on the chapter titled Questioning. Visit the website to see the online extras available for this book! (Trust me, there is so much good stuff here you will feel overwhelmed by what to try first!)


In our March cohort meeting, I had the teachers watch a brief video about coal mining today.

I chose this particular video as an example to use with students in a science classroom because information literacy skills can be embedded along with science content knowledge (have students question the source of this video! Challenge them to find a video from an opposite bias!).  In order to model how you might use the above handout in the classroom during the Open and Immerse stages, as a cohort we brainstormed some questions we thought we had about coal mining today before watching the video. Then while we watched the video, each person wrote down questions. After the video, we wrote even more questions after sharing! This activity works really well to show students the recursive nature of questioning and learning. Then the bottom of this handout addresses metacognitive skills as well as information literacy skills! So wonderful!

Idea #2! For middle and high schoolers, there are a number of wonderful nonfiction series to help students research argumentative topics. We particularly like At Issue, Critical World Issues, Current Controversies, Opposing Viewpoints, and Thinking Critically. Some of these series provide questions as chapter titles, which we used with some classes. Some databases like SIRS Issues Researcher also provide questions related to various topics which can be used for scaffolding. Partner up with your media specialist to learn what resources you already have in your school library! These resources can effectively be used during the Open and Immerse stages, particularly if you have your media specialist set up a gallery walk with stations.

In this screenshot, SIRS Issues Researcher (a ProQuest product) suggests various subtopics related to Military Ethics and represents those subtopics by questions!

In this screenshot, you can see how SIRS Issues Researcher provides a few critical thinking questions when students click on a topic. Don’t miss the essential question in the background!

I will feature ideas and student work from Sarah Plant and my library service learners in tomorrow’s post to continue the discussion about questioning, and I will include how we focused on developing concept-based research assignments. Stay tuned!

-Jamie Gregory @gregorjm

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

Reflections of GID over the years and across the grades

It has been a real week of reflection. I came to school on Tuesday to find that the Theatrette had been booked by the two Year 3 classes to celebrate the end of a GID unit that I had no part in planning as I have been working with four Year 7 classes this term.

They were holding their culminating Share activity of a “This is your Life” show. The unit studied was British Colonisation of Australia. The students were all dressed as the character they had chosen to research – convict, free settler, aboriginal, Marine guard, colonial Governor etc. Each had prepared answers to questions about their trip to Australia on the First Fleet, their life in the early colony etc.

The teachers were ‘dressed to the nines’ as the host and the room was crowded with parents and grandparents. I first collaborated in this unit of work in 2014 and this was a repeat with one teacher supporting another who had not used GID before. It was a fantastic morning – the children were so excited and had obviously learned a great deal!

img_0178 img_4760

After the first few years of using Carol Kuhlthau’s original model of the Guided Inquiry process, with its nouns as steps, I was over the moon when we were introduced to the new GID process step names as verbs which made so much more sense to the younger students. Add to that the new colourful Syba Sign images to guide students through the process and it is now so much more connected for everyone.

Whilst I have always, in over 40 years of teaching, tried to make learning personally relevant to my students the concept of ‘Third Space’ explains why relevancy works so well and the more we can encourage teachers to have students explore within this space the more the students will retain and build knowledge and be engaged in their learning. Guided Inquiry Design does this so well!

In 2008 I began using Guided Inquiry with Year 7 and then after two years had my first experience of a Year 10 class. The difference was marked but really the outcome was similar. All students without exception were engaged in their learning and the teachers involved continued to want to repeat the process. Though the years I have gathered evidence, obtained permissions for publication and used this to promote the GID practice in our Australian schools. Syba Signs provided our first professional learning conferences on Guided Inquiry and continues to supply Australian school libraries with signage and books.

I use my library blog to store a lot of the history of our GID journey and anyone is welcome to look at these experiences through photos and videos.

Here are a few of our more exciting experiences at Broughton:

2010 – Taking two year 10 students to a Syba Signs conference in Sydney where Joshua articulated the whole process for his inquiry into the treatment of refugees in Australia – The politicians should have listened to him!

2013 –A Year 12 student who asked her teacher to use GI after her experience of the year before and a seminar of our Primary teachers promoting its use to colleagues then Jodie Torrington describing her work that year…and finally two video products of a Year 10 GID unit

2015 – scroll for a Year 2 unit on People who help us in the community

2016 – Medieval Day with Year 8 – this unit gets bigger and better every year!

A link to an action research article I published in Scan in 2011:

Technology has made our jobs so much more integrated and our shared learning so much more exciting. When I first used GI back in 2008, I set up a wiki for shared learning and this was considered to be very innovative practice. Whilst this worked well then, it had its frustrations and we now have so much more! Lately, Edmodo has been our preferred platform and this works very well to:

Differentiate learning tasks, set up and share in inquiry circles, deliver scaffolds, share resource list links (eg Diigo), collect and share work, share links to final products – websites, videos, assess scaffolds, links to questionnaires for action research…. and more!

Thank you to everyone who has shared and contributed to my learning and I hope, through sharing freely, I have helped others in some small way too.

Alinda Sheerman

Head of Information Services/Teacher Librarian

Broughton Anglican College,

Menangle Park, 2560

NSW, Australia

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.]



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!


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: )

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


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.


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 More videos of the teacher Paul’s evaluation of the unit of work can be found here: (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! ( )

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)

Change is Difficult but Possible

I am the first to admit that I move slowly when starting something new. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, spoke to our community last week and I realized, very late in life, that I am sometimes scared to take a risk. This is very enlightening since I just celebrated a later milestone in the aging process and thirty years ago would have scoffed at anyone who told me that I was risk adverse. So, I will assume as a result of this new revelation, it took me over a year to absorb, plan and implement GI into my teaching strategies. I mulled, ordered all the books and read, I read more, and I searched for enlightening commentary on the internet, and after some time decided to approach the freshman class teachers to rework the Tangled Web project that was in existence before I took over this position.

While I knew this was a step in the right direction, from experience I know that in order to facilitate change I need to approach teachers thoughtfully. Change is difficult in the teaching world so I have developed a strategy whereby I present a change as an improvement not just change for change sake.

The Tangled Web project is a cross-curricular adventure in research during the second semester of the freshman year. It provides a venue for research skill instruction from the librarian and writing instruction including MLA style from the English teacher. Making it cross curricular gives the girls opportunities to have a topic that can fall under any of these areas: biology, religion, world geography, and English literature. Topics are drawn from a hat; the content is graded by the subject teacher and the writing/MLA is graded by the English teacher. At the time of my intervention, biographical in nature, the research was not challenging and the products quite boring. Students may learn how to navigate databases and resources, take notes with annotated bibliographies, write and footnote in MLA style but they never really enjoyed it and I felt they did not really learn anything.

I start my classes on research with this quote from Carol Kuhlthau. “Uncertainty is the beginning of learning.” So after a few years with this project, I realized that the students were not experiencing uncertainty. They already knew how to write a biographical report and even with the “how has this person influenced the world?” question, were not challenged to think. Joyfully, I found that these teachers felt the same and in addition were terribly tired of reading the same boring papers year after year. Note to self, approach change from that perspective. “You must be so terribly bored reading the same papers year after year so let’s shake it up.”

We started shaking it up a year ago when we began brainstorming this change. We began by ditching the biography approach and looking for authentic learning that would require the girls taking a risk with exploring the unknown. I began a search for concepts in each area of study and after planning sessions with the teachers we decided on the following:

English Literature – Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, Homer, and French Revolution
World Geography – Control of Kashmir, Maori of New Zealand, Cambodia/Pol Pot regime, Keystone Pipeline, and South African Apartheid
Biology – HeLa cell discovery, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, equilibrium between inhabitants of ecosystems, exotic species, and emerging infectious diseases
Religion – Process of beatification, Wall separating Bethlehem from Israel, Pope John Paul II and communism, Anti-Catholic sentiment in US and the rise of Catholic Parochial school system, and Growth of monasticism during the Roman Empire

With these concepts and some very broad starting questions, we launched into the process with an ISP lesson, introduced the broad questions and the students drew from the hat, and then began Exploration with the assignment to take these conceptual questions and explore them for homework and return the next day with the first wave of developing broad search terms and keywords. The best quote of the whole lesson was when one student drew her question, read it and exclaimed, “What is Pol Pot?”.

Jean Pfluger

Tomorrow: Exploration to Formulation

From Australia

Hello, this is my first blog post on the 52 Week GID Challenge. Thanks for setting it up Leslie, it has made interesting reading!

My name is Margo Pickworth and I am the Teacher Librarian at Shore Preparatory School, a very large independent school in Sydney, Australia. My role as the teacher librarian involves not only managing the school library resources, but planning units of work with classroom teachers to implement syllabus documents, particularly with a focus on inquiry.

I first became interested in Guided Inquiry when Ross Todd spoke fondly of the work of Carol Kulthau in his visits to Australia. I was then fortunate enough to attend the CiSSL Summer Institute at Rutgers in 2014. Since then I have attempted to implement Guided Inquiry in my own context. There has been some ups and downs some of which I will share over the next few posts.

View from top1-2Circ desk1-2

Rutgers University the Birthplace of Guided Inquiry Design

It is going to be a very exciting, challenging and transforming week for Guided Inquiry. This week, the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CiSSL) will host the 4th Fourth Residential 
CiSSL Summer Institute: “Guided Inquiry for Student Learning” to take place on the Rutgers Campus from Tuesday evening 19th July to Friday 22nd July.

CiSSL Anticipation

It is exciting for several reasons. First, Rutgers University is the birth-place of Guided Inquiry! Rutgers Distinguished Professor Emerita Carol Kuhlthau’s groundbreaking research over several decades generated the highly cited and acclaimed “Information Search Process” model. This model has shaped a considerable number of research agendas around the world, and is the research-validated basis for “Guided Inquiry Design”, the constructivist approach to empowering and enabling students to engage with information in all its forms and formats, to develop their own deep knowledge and understanding, to think critically, creatively and reflectively, and to be innovative thinkers that empower global, social and cultural wellbeing and change.

Second, Distinguished Professor Emerita Carol Kuhlthau, together with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, who are co-authors and developers of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century and Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in your School will be the Institute leaders! Participating teams will have a wonderful opportunity to engage directly with the experts! Get right to the source, so to speak. It simply does not get better than that!

Third, the Guided Inquiry Institute will be design in action. Participating teams will engage in active, design-based thinking, sharing and critiquing ideas together, reflecting and reporting, shaping and reshaping, building and rebuilding. Having attended previous Institutes through CiSSL, this will be a thrilling and empowering process. I know. Participants will engage directly with the design process as they develop an inquiry unit for their schools. The professional development cycle, for each participating team, will be directly experiencing the process in a richly personalized, attentive and collaborative way.

Fourth, participating teams in this year’s Guided Inquiry Institute will be part of history making at Rutgers University. This year, Rutgers University is celebrating its 250th anniversary, and its theme is “Rutgers. Revolutionary for 250 Years.” On November 10th, 1766, William Franklin, the last colonial Governor of New Jersey, signed the charter establishing Queen’s College, the predecessor of Rutgers University, and New Brunswick was chosen as the place. The first classes were held in a tavern in the city! The first graduation was held in 1774, and the title of the graduation address, given by Rusten Hardenbergh, was titled “The advantages of education”. It wasn’t until 1825 that Queens College was renamed Rutgers University, in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers a Revolutionary War hero.

This is probably a long winded way to say that Rutgers’ tradition of revolutionary teaching, research, and service has endured for nearly 250 years. Guided Inquiry is up there with the best of Rutgers has offered for 250 years. You are experiencing the best.

Fifth, participants will experience a game-changing pedagogical process. One of the great and unforgettable experiences for me during this Rutgers year of celebration was to be part of the university’s graduation where President Barak Obama was the graduation speaker. For me, it was a truly remarkable day. I have to say I was excited to be there to hear him in person, and to cheer on as he was awarded a Doctor of Laws honoris causa. Regardless of his (and your) politics, his words from his Rutgers address are the spirit of inquiry: “In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is”. (Full speech is available at:

Guided Inquiry is revolutionary. It is visionary. It is a powerful approach to learning for breaking down intellectual walls, opening windows and doors to the world of ideas, and making a very real contribution to the development of a thinking nation. Be part of this journey. It will be game-changing.

Dr Ross J Todd

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Library and Information Science

Director, Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL)

School of Communication & Information

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

GID Coaches

Hi Happy GID followers!

We’re having summer here in the US and lots of professional development in GID.IMG_0366

As I mentioned in my last post, this week was the fourth GID institute in Norman Public Schools. Because of the size of this district and the way Guided Inquiry requires a collaborative team, the librarians at each school have attended one GID institute this year.  But because many have teachers who now want to join the fun, the librarians are attending the institute a second time to come with their teachers so they can participate as a collaborator.  As you all know, we believe that the school librarian has a critical role to play in the Guided Inquiry Design team.  She is the information specialist/professional as well as the information literacy teacher.  These are two cornerstones to GID a. that information literacy is valued by all team members and taught (Kuhlthau 2004) and b. when students are locating, evaluating, and using information to learn, the information specialist is a key player.

Since the librarians (and one English Language Arts teacher) had already attended the full institute, and implemented at LEAST one unit of GID this year (some, like Kelsey Barker had implemented 5) the leadership in the district and I felt like it was time that we could build capacity in the district to develop coaches for GID.  (I have to take time to acknowledge and thank these amazing leaders who have done everything to implement GID at the highest level, without them NONE of this would be possible, Kathryn Lewis, Shirley Simmons and Beth Fritch.)

In the institute teachers in collaborative teams design a unit of study.  By doing that, they engage in the inquiry process themselves as design requires you to identify the concept of the unit prior to determining the activities that would support students to arrive at their own questions around that concept.  So, teams are going through their own inquiry during the institute. We know that all people going through inquiry can use guidance, and that the strategy of conversing is a support to the process.  Maybe stemming from my background of five years as a teacher effectiveness coach in Denver, I have made coaching an integral part of the GID institute. Typically, I coach each teams during the institute on their units to help them stay on track, answer any questions and push their thinking to move beyond their known ways of doing things.  This institute included double the number of teams than I could handle coaching in the time we had. So, we decided to have the librarians who had been through the training before get some further training on how to coach teams and then give it a go in this institute.

As a result, this wonderful energetic and brilliant group of librarians who have now proved their accomplishments with the process and implementation of GID took on the role of coach in our June 2016 institute.  I want to thank them for their dedication, passion for the work and professionalism in learning with me and coaching their colleagues.  This is the beginning of something bigger and growing GID to help districts build capacity in the future.

Each district might have a different way of handling this, but for me, it is exciting because I think that the role of coach is another great role for librarians.  They are already really good listeners, and work with so many teachers, so collaboration and leading collaborations is natural to them.  Also, as they use the process over and over with different grade levels and content areas, the GID process begins to become internalized, and that is what you really need to understand well in order to coach a team in GID.  I’m excited about the prospect of GID coaching, and this stellar group was a wonderful place to start. Here’s a picture of our first GID Coaches!  There will be more trained in July.IMG_0392


I mean come on! Aren’t they great?!  Here we have (L->R) Kristin Lankford, Dana Phillips, Martha Pangburn, Paige Holden, Kelsey Barker, Lee Nelson, Buffy Edwards, and Stacy Ford.  Kudos team!  What a pleasure it was to work with you all!  Aaaaand…

As a result of their coaching, we had 20 excellent prototype units come out of this week’s institute.  10 at the elementary level and 10 more that the secondary level.  Typically an institute can only handle 10 units, so these educators efforts doubled the impact of this professional development for Norman Public Schools!  Kudos!

The Celebrations and presentations of the units were fantastic.  More on that in my next post!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-Author of Guided Inquiry, Trainer of Guided Inquiry Design