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!

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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



I love reflecting. I reflect after every lesson I teach, after a full day’s worth of lessons, after finishing a project, after finishing a parenting task, after everything. I truly believe that I can use reflection to improve my teaching and to improve student learning. Here are my “Big thought” reflections on the guided inquiry process.

Collaboration: Collaboration is key. While at the GID Institute, at CiSSL this summer,  I was able to plan with a regular education teacher and the school media specialist. We worked very well together. We all three wanted to be there and had a goal in mind. When you make your GID team, you need to make sure everyone has bought in. You will struggle. We struggled. The regular education teacher had to take the perspective of teaching 150 students per day and what she could do with that. I had to take the perspective of the special education teacher and play devils advocate for my students who may not be comfortable with some of the activities or ideas that we had due to their disability. The media specialist was able to give us a completely different perspective and moderate conversations. This make up was key. We were able to give each other different viewpoints and constructive feedback. We worked no less than 45 hours on this unit, that would only last two weeks.

Challenges: We started this unit on day 4 of school. We started this unit with freshmen. It was very easy to get them hooked. They wanted to write and discuss the concept of balance and how things related. They liked exploring with the stations and working in the room as well as the library. It was great to be able to give them non-math tasks. The students were excited to choose their own topics for researching and making connections. Honestly, the first 7 days were great and going just as planned. Once they had their topic, they struggled. All of the students were able to connect balance to their topic, but found it very difficult to connect it to math. The media specialists, myself and my co teacher all had to work with students one on one questioning them through their progress. It was exhausting. These were probably some of the most inspiration and draining days of my teaching this far. Students wanted us to give them the answers. They expected us to lead them in the right direction. We held strong and let them work through their frustrations. It took an extra day or two for them to actually get facts and information gathered and their thoughts together. Once that happened it was presenting time. We left the options for presentation open, and this lead them to have a lot of anxiety. Many did not want to present. Many did not want to complete a project. Many were so tired of the loosely structured classroom that they were unwilling to persevere. They did though and we came up with some great products.

Rewards: We had several students who would not have been interested in math rapping about math. One student was so very excited that he could use this as an excuse to learn coding skills to talk about a career in coding and how it relates to math and balance. We had students coming out of their shells and presenting. We also had students who were not usually interested in math, that were now excited to come to class. So while the concept wasn’t grasped by all, it had a huge positive impact on the students.

Recommendations: I would recommend this unit to any math teacher. Balancing equations can be used at almost any grade level. I do not recommend doing it in the first week of school. I would say you need to have structure, routine and respect in place before moving on and starting this lesson. Having a “background” of structure and allowing the students to get to know us for longer would have helped tremendously.

Amanda Biddle

High School SPED teacher/ Assessment Coordinator

Fayette, KY

The Passion Project: choice and flipped learning using Guided Inquiry Design

Some student work from the Passion Project that was shared in the library

Some student work from the Passion Project that was shared in the library

I don’t like to play favourites with my projects, but the Passion Project was definitely one of the highlights of my Guided Inquiry journey this year. The project was the idea of two Religious Education (RE) teachers who wanted to bring a greater level of choice to their students’ learning, thereby providing a more meaningful and deeper experience in the classroom. They came to me after one of the teachers had collaborated with me using Guided Inquiry in a science project and she thought that the principles could be applied in RE.  Religious education in Australia is not tied to the curriculum constraints of other subjects, but is considered a very important part of our school curriculum. Therefore, we had a lot of freedom in our project design…and that made it so much more fun.

The Passion Project asked the students to choose what they would like to focus their study on for Term 3 in relation to Christianity and faith. It asked, “what are you passionate about?” and provided the students with the freedom to ask the big questions related to faith, religion and spirituality. We emphasised that there will not be one answer to your question which was something that some students found challenging and others found exciting.

We opened the project with a number of games which were designed to get the students brainstorming the kinds of things they were passionate about, whether it was Game of Thrones, Justin Bieber or animal cruelty. We used chatterboxes to get conversations started and students worked in partners and small groups to support each other in the creation of a mind map which would form the basis of their Explore phase.

This page of resources held sources for students to explore as well as videos which were allocated to each stage of the Guided Inquiry process

This page of resources held sources for students to use in the EXPLORE phase. Each of the four tiles (e.g. Using the inquiry log, etc) had Youtube videos that I personally created to model information literacy skills.

As we only had one lesson to spend with the students per week, I decided to implement a flipped classroom approach. Students used the learning management software to access videos and instructions on various stages of Guided Inquiry. They also accessed their Inquiry Log and Inquiry Journal for the EXPLORE and GATHER phases. This enabled teachers to spend less time at the front of the classroom teaching skills, and more time for student inquiry and teacher interventions as required. We implemented EVALUATION throughout the process and the classroom teachers used reflections using Google Forms at the beginning of each lesson to gather important information to inform whether the student needed additional support. This also provided valuable feedback which informed whether the students needed more or less time at each stage of the inquiry process.

This is me recording the flipped classroom videos in our very own soundproof recording booth at school! It took many, many takes. Note to self...write a script!

This is me recording the flipped classroom videos in our very own soundproof recording booth at school! It took many, many takes. Note to self…write a script!

I cannot emphasise enough how important the reflection component was to this task. I have found that the inclusion of reflection is something that requires a bit of persuasion on the part of the teacher librarian or Guided Inquiry practitioner for a number of reasons: there is little time, does it add value, I’m not sure how to do it, etc. Reflection is something I strongly believe in as a teaching tool because it encourages reflective practice both in students and teachers. It encourages us to question how we go about our teaching and learning and provides valuable insight into our students and how they are feeling/thinking/behaving at each stage of the project. It also provides valuable evidence of the impact of teacher librarians – something that we do not always have access to if we are not assessing, reporting and providing formal feedback. In this case, the RE teachers were big fans of reflection and were quite happy to use it to ensure the students were properly supported throughout the project.

I had many interesting discussions with students in the beginning stages of the project. The ISP emphasises the fact that students will go through periods of doubt and uncertainty, and this was true for our students. A couple of students begged me to “just give me a question to answer!”, which only confirmed that the process of making choices is essential for improving information literacy and skills that will help them become lifelong learners throughout their life.

It took the girls 6 weeks to get to the stage where they could begin to plan their creations. This was also a valuable lesson to those who like to jump right in and create before they have a deep understanding of the subject (often this leads to a lot of copying and pasting in my experience). Like the choice of subject area, they were able to choose their method of sharing their findings. We gave the students physical and digital platforms for sharing and this led to many amazing creations. Examples included:

  • Youtube cooking videos exploring food and religion;
  • Infographics which visually compared characters in religious inspired films compare to the Bible or discussing Harry Potter and Religion;
  • Google Slides on Christianity in Sport;
  • Artwork and collages on various topics;
  • Poetry and short stories;
  • Instagram posts;
  • Vlog posts; etc

In all, the Passion Project was valued both by teachers and students. Using the Guided Inquiry Design model provided the structure and scaffolding needed to properly ensure that the knowledge that the students gained would be personally meaningful. It also personally allowed me to get creative with my own pedagogy and play around with technology to improve the learning experience. I particularly enjoyed recording the flipped classroom videos. Although this was time consuming in the planning phase, it was worthwhile in the learning phase. All in all, the project was a huge success and will be repeated next year.

Erin Patel

Don’t Sit Still


This is where we are now.

In the coming year there will be two grades who have gone through a Guided Inquiry Design unit.  I will be working with 3rd Grade teachers to introduce the process to a new set of students.  4th grade will implement at least two units with the students who participated in the animal classification unit.  The 5th grade team does not have a unit planned at this time, but my aim is to target that grade level in August to plan a Guided Inquiry Design unit. This will allow students to stay familiar with the process they learned in the Native American unit.  I will also conduct a unit with 2nd grade because I know that teaching team will readily jump into this design process.  My advice to you is approach a grade level that you know will be willing to learn the process with you (that is what my 3rd grade team did).

When I look at this progress I realize that we will have gone from conducting our first two GID units last year, to having done no less than six in the upcoming school year.  My school wouldn’t be able to continue this growth if we had not started somewhere.  If you haven’t jumped into the GID process I encourage you to give it a try.  My favorite Oklahoman, Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”   If you are like me the right track brought you this far, now we’ve just got to keep moving through a purposeful implementation of the GID process.  We can do it!

Good Luck!



Turning a Science Fair into a WONDER-FUL experience!

I mentioned in my first post this week that I’ve been traveling a little and seeing GID in action.  One place that I had the pleasure to visit was Saint George’s School in Vancouver British Columbia.  You’ve heard about this school already from a member of our GID family, Marc Crompton.  I went up there to visit, this March, to work with teams refining GID units and developing and designing new ones. As always, I learned so much from these conversations with teams. We talked about what kinds of questions kids should ask, and how to coach students to ask better questions. We thought together about problems of student motivation and connections to the unit design. We had great conversations about the role of student reflection across the process, when there was enough reflection and when there might be too much. As well as how to find that sweet spot in the Inquiry Journal prompt. One prompt that was super successful for them was in the Evaluate phase where students wrote a reflection giving advice to the students of the next year.  The kids couldn’t wait for the teachers to read these entries. There are so many elements and moving parts to Guided Inquiry learning where we can all learn and sharpen our practice.  For me it’s a great joy to be with smart educators and think through these issues.

I was so happy to come to St George at a time when they were having the SHARE for one of their big units of inquiry in Grade 7.  In the Grade 7 Neighborhood they were holding the great annual WONDER EXPO!  It was the conclusion of their wonder time which was a long term work leading up to a science fair.  Many of these traditional contests like science fair can be so much improved if GID is used to consider the instructional design that wraps around these experiences. (You can imagine that in order to arrive at the science fair topic, the students could greatly benefit from the first three phases of OPEN IMMERSE and EXPLORE to IDENTIFY that question.) This team has recognized this powerful connection and they continue to shape this experience using the principles and phases of Guided Inquiry Design as a guide.

During the Wonder EXPO, I had the great opportunity to connect with students and hear their depth of learning and third space connections.Cc9xfrLUkAAXNOt

This young gentleman on the left had found a way to use light to detect oil and gas in the water.  He believes that if everyone was required to have such a light on their boat engine they would be able to detect spills and avoid them much more regularly.  This student is a huge advocate for Guided Inquiry, and confessed that although he loved the experience, not all students enjoyed it.  F
r the Wonder time, the learning was balanced between open time and some structure around the process.  Some students were able to benefit well from the open time, and others weren’t able to use the time as well as others. This is a common problem we face with prolonged open work time.  Some students need more structure while others are ready to go.  It’s always a challenge to find that perfect balance between guiding and freedom to meet every student’s learning needs

Cc9g4YkVIAAeOJcThe boys on the right had this interesting experiment and research on how taste buds change over time. They claimed that young children tastebuds generally favor sweet flavors and bitter tastebuds develop later in life.  Their tri-fold had clear concise writing for each phase of the science inquiry and they were each able to speak using academic language to describe the research that they did, explain their results, as well as possible implications.

My question to the boys as I walked around was, “And so, what do you think are the implications for this research that you did?”  It was interesting to hear how the students each could extend beyond the project and theorize about possible impacts.  In every conversation, I could hear the third space connections as students explained why they chose this topic.  If you’re interested in more of what they did, you can see many more photos on their twitter page.CV08rJ_UsAA65H8 They did have a vote and prizes as well as a big celebration!

As I mentioned before, at Saint George they are really working on student reflections across the process with the focus on “learning how to learn” through inquiry.  The Grade 7 Neighborhood even tweeted out this picture (Right) of the reflection they had for the Wonder Expo. Using a four corners exercise, the students reflected on different modes of thinking and which mode was the students preferred method.

The next day, I had a chance to speak with the team who designed and implemented this unit.  This fabulous team was truly interdisciplinary and includes the literature teachers, drama, science, social studies and their wonderful librarian. And like so many with Guided Inquiry, they still felt as though there were changes that could be made. Even with an extremely successful unit and SHARE event, great Learning Teams know there’s always more learning or something to be tweaked!  It was so fun to be with them and celebrate all the successes, and then reflect on Wonder EXPO for next year.

To sum up our conversation there after talking through it all the Science teacher recognized that although the traditional science fair has it’s drawbacks, they still want students who are interested to be successful enough to enter the local competitions. This meant that they would continue with the same format because to enter the competitions they had certain requirements to fulfill (Tri-board with specific elements present, research, experiment, data, results, etc). But when nudged to think about what makes every science fair above and beyond, the science teacher recognized the important element that the project helps humanity. And so it was, that next year’s focus for WONDER would not only include all the elements of a really well guided science fair project using Guided Inquiry Design process, but in addition, it would have the theme around “How does/can science help humanity?” Using this as the big idea for the unit has promise to impact all students projects to think beyond the experiment and into the world.  I’m really excited to hear how they progress and how that supports student engagement as results.

Thanks to all the excellent educators at St George for working with me and allowing me to continue to coach you on your design processes across the grades.

This wraps up my week of reflection- I’ll see you all again in a few months. Until then, keep on enjoying all these amazing reflections on practice!  I know I am!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author of
Guided Inquiry Design
Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century
Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School


Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection–Oh My!

Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection:  these three educational buzz words are at the forefront of conversations in schools today.  As we know, the research shows the following:

Children have different ways and modes of learning.

Children learn by building on what they already know.

Children learn by being actively engaged in and reflecting on an experience.

This research is directly integrated into  GID; and in fact, the aforemtioned statements are three of the six principles highlighted in Guided Inquiry Learning in the 21st Century (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, Caspari).  The awesome news is through GID, a teacher can incorporate all three principles and a lot more!  And that is why I’m passion about the GI process; my students are truly working within a holistic, invigorating process that will benefit their learning in a multitude of ways.


As mentioned in my previous blog, I teach a senior English seminar called Psychology in Literature.  It is heterogeonous grouping:  I have students who take Advanced Placement classes and I have students who have significant learning and/or behavioral challenges.  I have students who are English Language Learners.  Bottomline:  the range of my students’ abilities differs greatly.  So how do I design an assignment that can meet the needs of all the students in my classroom?  Through GID.  GID naturally differentiates through its stages, skill development, and content.

For example in the Psychology in Literature assignment that my library educator Anita Cellucci and I created, we ask students to review and reflect on the literary materials they have accessed over the course of the semester.  These materials include books, poems, short stories, articles, TED Talks, movies, guest speakers, etc.  We ask them to contemplate course terms such as coping mechanisms, addiction, positive psychology.  We ask them to review skills such as information psychological analysis, personal refflection and information literacy.  And based on their own individual curiosity, personal experiences and connections to the material, cognitive development, etc. students are able to move through the Open, Immerse, Explore, and Identify stages at their appropriate learning ability. Another key component of differentiation is the research.  Anita created a libguide ( that enables students to access information based on their learning abilities.

Student Choice

Because students are empowered through their teachers and the weath of options presented, they often start at a much higher level of engagement and motivation than if we assigned them topics to research.  I now see students who are visibly excited to gather research, are more willing to use vetted sources (versus using Google and then picking the first site that pops up), and are committed to putting the time in to analyze the information they have acquired.  The range of topics for this particular assignment are fantastic:  the negative effects of  sleep deprivation in teens, the benefits of art therapy, the negative effects of stress on teenagers, the struggles of veterans who suffer from PTSD in assimilating back home, the differences in sociopathy and psychopathy, the benefits of positive psychology, etc.  Just reflecting on the topics myself, I observe just how different my students’ choices are based on their experiences, interests, and connections.


One of my favorite parts of GID is the Share stage.  This stage enables students to share their research AND reflect on their research and the process.  I find student reflections so valuable because I can “see” their thinking/feeling process.  This enables me to reflect on my students’ learning and my teaching.

In my next post, I’ll share a couple of the students’ presentations; however, what I want to show you now are a couple of student reflections.  We ask students to remind us of what their inquiry question is, discuss a bit of the research process, ask new questions, and reflect on any further thoughts.  Below are two excerpts from two students’ reflections. You will be able to see certain places where students make mention of their own choice, engagement, and motivation as well.

Student #1:

My question was, “how does positive psychology help humans obstacles and what methods/treatments are available?” I really was confused on the literal meaning of positive psych and all it encompassed. I found myself wanting to know exactly what it is. Naturally I wanted to learn the methods and see how this thought process can apply to myself. I don’t think I need a psychologist but good mental thinking cap can help. Keywords included “happiness” “resilience” “treatments” “learned optimism” and “meditation”. Although I used a lot more, I found these one reoccurring a lot. I used these keywords on all four databases in the libguide…A new question would be are there treatments people are experimenting with? How is this new movement being incorporated into society? And I also noticed the backlash and wondered how can there be any negatives to positive psychology?

When I first started I really was eager to learn about the topic. As I went along I found the articles weren’t boring me and that the topic maintained my interest which led me to some great books and pieces of writing…I definitely see how negative thinking and depression can be linked to the disorders of characters in Girl Interrupted and The Bell Jar

Student #2
My inquiry question is “How are students affected by sleep deprivation and what can schools to do to help students?” I knew from the beginning, I wanted to research about sleep deprivation, because it’s a disease that’s a lot less talked about. Usually, it’s something big like depression, PTSD, and such but sleep deprivation hits home for many people. When I was using the LibGuides, the articles I kept finding were related to high school teens suffering from sleep deprivation. Therefore, I chose to stick with how high school students are affected by school deprivation and how schools can help with the problem. The keywords that I found to be most effective were: “sleep deprivation”, “sleep”, “high school sleep”, “adolescent sleep”, and such. In the LibGuide, I used the Gale Research in Context database within which I searched for my topic using various advanced searches. One difficulty I had issues was with whether, in my presentation, I should be talking about sleep deprivation as a disease in general and at throughout just allude to my topic or is my whole presentation going to the specifics about my inquiry question based on students and schools. I decided to focus only on my inquiry question and only address the schools and students’ perspective to have a clear focus and not jumble up a bunch of information on sleep deprivation and not talk enough about my inquiry question. Some new questions I had were: “If adolescents are the most affected and prone to sleep deprivation, why hasn’t school board legislation done anything sooner?”, “What’s the probability of an adolescent contracting this disease as opposed to an adult?”, “Can sleep deprivation kill you naturally over a prolonged period of time?”, “Assuming school times are, in fact, pushed back, how long will it take for the positive effects to take place?”, “Over all these years, why is it that public convenience always  outweighed millions of students’ health?”, and others. When I first started this project, I was really set out on finding a perfect solution that solves this huge problem and since it readily affects me personally, I was a lot more involved. The process was kind of long and arduous, but when research isn’t long, clearly you haven’t done the best research on your topic and there is much left to be discovered. As I was finishing up and realizing there has been an advocacy for a push of school start times to solve this crisis of sleep deprivation, I was sort of frustrated with public school legislation that no change has been put into effect even with clear medical research. Considering my topic was sleep deprivation and the fact that most high school teens in fact are sleep deprived, I can see the effects of sleep deprivation in students every single day, including myself. Usually, teachers blame the students for staying up late and that’s why we’re so tired in school. But there’s more to the story than just that. Unknowingly to most, many students are battling a serious disease everyday and it’s never really recognized.

In order to set standards and expectations for our students, we as educators need to put the appropriate structures in place for students to excel.  Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection are three essential principles of GID that will lead our students to engage enthusiastically in learning.  And perhaps more importantly, GID supports students in  making meaning of their learning and life-long connections from their learning.


By:  Kathleen Stoker, English/Journalism Teacher, Westborough High School, Westborough, MA