A recent example of my Guided Inquiry work has been with a unit for Year 4 students on National Parks in Australia. This subject is close to my own heart as I am a bird watcher, bush walker and generally outdoors person. I have found that if you have a passion for an area of inquiry, then it helps to make it a great topic for Guided Inquiry!
We began our ‘Open’ session with photos of my trips and guessing what might be packed in my backpack. It included erecting my tent in the library space, which led to lots of excited discussion. During the ‘Immerse’ stage the classroom teacher and I had gathered a wide range of material including pamphlets, brochures, books and videos. We planned a round robin of immersion activities and began to find some interesting ideas that students wanted to investigate further. Co-incidentally Sydney was covered in a smoke haze from controlled burning in National Parks, so this made a great bonus for an inquiry. Our ‘Explore’ phase included a phone hook-up with a Park Ranger, which led to further questions and answers.
During the ‘Gather’ stage we used an Inquiry Log. I always find this stage the most challenging with each young students pursuing their own inquiry. Students were given a choice of ‘Create/Share’ activities, however most constructed models of imagined National Parks, incorporating much of the information they had gathered throughout the process. ‘Evaluate’ enabled students to self-evaluate the process as well as the classroom teacher and I to evaluate whether we had achieved our planned outcomes.
AASL states that school library programs should employ an inquiry-based approach to “inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge” (2007). Using GID in my district as our inquiry approach is a way to tap into student’s natural curiosity, and help students develop a foundation using an inquiry process to facilitate all their academic work. GID breaks down inquiry into manageable steps, and gives students an opportunity to Immerse and Explore to better understand a research or essential question. GID is divided to provide specific scaffolds in learning the content and how they learn. GID helps students find gaps in their research and develop plans for how they can close those gaps to produce an effective product they would want to share.
I like how Leslie and I worked with the librarians in developing their sense of understanding in how to use GID. Leslie made sure we modeled the scaffolding ideas in Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School so that they can see how to use them in their own lessons. Another key element was that you didn’t always have to be a part of all the phases in GID. Most likely they would be involved in the Immerse, Explore, Identify, and Gather phases, and that was okay. We know it is ideal for us to be involved in all phases, but time is a precious commodity in schools, and if we scaffold well in the phases we are involved in, then we built the metacognition of students to be able to move through the other phases well. Overall, the librarians in my district see the value of this process and are making changes to input these phases into their lessons to help their students understand and apply what they have learned to new situations.
Lori Donovan, Instructional Specialist, Library Services, Chesterfield County Public Schools