Searching for Guided Inquiry

Greetings from the Lone Star State!

My name is Tara Rollins and I am the Information Literacy Specialist (aka Librarian) in a large urban district in Houston, Texas.   I am proud to work at Aldine ISD’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme campus, Kujawa Elementary.   Inquiry plays a large part of the IB curriculum, so I have been pleased to gather new ideas from so many Guided Inquiry teachers around the world.

I still feel like a novice, even after working in an inquiry based programme for several years.  Over the past few years, I have struggled as the “librarian” in finding a process that taught students and teachers how to complete research projects.  I seemed to lack a road map, a guide of steps and stages.  I watched students, teachers and parents struggle with research projects.  That’s why I was overjoyed to find Leslie and the Guided Inquiry Design Model.  The model brought me the road map that helps me plan my unit.  I am better able to plan for each stage of the research process, and complete each stage in a student centered method.

I first learned about inquiry when I transferred to the IB campus.  There were so many components of the IB programme I learned that first year that it all is a blur.  I enjoyed everything I learned, and found all of it very beneficial in educating the “whole child.”  However, I was still in search of that perfect “how to” as far as teaching research skills and implementing units of inquiry.  So, I went in search of the missing components.  I went to IB training for librarians and got their recommendation for Guided Inquiry and Guided Inquiry Design by Carol Kuhlthau, Leslie Maniotes & Ann Caspari.  I bought both books and devoured them cover to cover.  Several webinars about Guided Inquiry gave me additional ideas.  I applied and was accepted to the CiSSL Summer Institute 2016, where a selected team and I learned even more about Guided Inquiry Design.

Planning for Guided Inquiry

Planning for Guided Inquiry “Open”

I have provided staff development sessions about inquiry and specifically guided inquiry several times in the past couple of years.  The picture I’m sharing is from a Guided Inquiry Design Staff Development in which the teachers searched for artifacts to “Open” their first unit of inquiry this school year.

I also have designed and taught portions of units following the Guided Inquiry model both independently and in collaboration with classroom teachers. However, I continue to learn from other GID leader’s and fellow educators.  Each year I feel that my experiences with Guided Inquiry in the classroom setting as well as collaboration with staff members grow stronger.

Guided Inquiry as a teaching/learning model thrills me!  I enjoy that inquiry is student centered, that it promotes an intrinsic motivation to learn.  It excites me to see students engaged and enthusiastic about learning.  I love seeing students take ownership of their own learning, and delving into specific portions of topics that interest them.  I enjoy seeing them eagerly sharing details they learn with friends, classmates and other teachers throughout the building.  It’s equally exciting when they share with community members, parents, other IB schools and school board members during a yearly fourth grade exhibition.  Finding the Guided Inquiry Design Model was the icing on the cake and has brought closure to my search for “how to” with Guided Inquiry.

Tara Rollins

Interlude: GID, Instructional Technology & Design

My professional journey has certainly been one that has traveled down a winding, some would say perilous, path.  From a liberal arts degree in theatre to a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction.  From waiting tables, to teaching AP English, to Innovation Specialist, librarian and tech integrator, to PhD student and Instructional Technologist – I have definitely been one of those Robert Frost had in mind when he penned his famous poem about the road less travelled.

But through it all has been a common thread, holding everything together around a thirst for learning.  What I have discovered most recently, however, is that my greatest passion lies in helping others to best disseminate their own considerable passions and knowledge.  Being able to share the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) framework as a pedagogical cornerstone is something that will forever be an emphasis in my instructional design.

My biggest transition has been from K-12 education to the world of higher-ed.  It has definitely been a challenge to transfer my focus from the secondary classroom to the college campus.  But, as my concentration has shifted, I have become aware of an exciting new field: one in which GID is desperately needed in order to ensure student engagement and presence in the learning experience. Continue reading

Finding a Solution

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

–Socrates

 

     My adventure into Guided Inquiry Design began as all good adventures should, with a close friend and a road trip. It really started with desperation. The desperation led to the road trip….

     A few years ago, our school district required a senior capstone known as Senior Project. I was struggling to help seniors find their way and develop their projects to the fullest. Of course, I took my struggles to my teacher-librarian Dana Wright. Since she had been essentially co-teaching the project with me, she was well aware of the issues I was facing. Dana and I have always been on the same page and look at teaching in much the same way, so it was no surprise the day I walked into the library with an exciting new idea only to find Dana waiting to share her exciting new idea. Both of our exciting new ideas were the same. Guided Inquiry.

     Jonathan Alder Local Schools is small and is known for turning nothing into something because of our low expenditure per student. We are about 20 minutes northwest of Columbus, Ohio, in the small farming community of Plain City. When Dana stumbled across the information on the CiSSL Summer Institute. Our district agreed to send us, and the road trip began. Dana and I drove from Plain City to New Jersey for a new beginning.

     Guided Inquiry was a natural fit for us. We saw immediately that we were rushing the research process. Our students were developing questions (Identify) and fast-forwarding to research (Gather) and fast-forwarding again to writing/presentation (Create/Share). We left no time for developing interests or exploring options. Once we adjusted to allow for a fully developed Guided Inquiry Design approach to Senior Project, so many of the struggles vanished. The depth and quality of student growth improved significantly. What we did not realize at the time was that Senior Project would soon be a memory. Another new beginning was coming.

     Now we come to the current school year. This school year arrived with a new building principal and a new state mandate known as College Credit Plus. CC+ requires strict adherence to a state-wide set of standards for Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes. Mike Aurin (our new leader), Ann (guidance), and I sat down to discuss the impact of the new requirements on Senior Project and our other curricula. To proceed with students’ best interests in mind, we needed to remove the Senior Project requirements from the English curriculum.

     At first it was a shock. Senior Project was an institution. It’s what we did. That’s when I realized that it was no longer what we HAD to do. We no longer had to “[fight] the old.” We could now “[build] the new.”

Jennifer Danner

@MrsDanner_JA

English Department Chair

Jonathan Alder High School

Plain City, Ohio