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

Introducing: Marc Crompton

Well… reintroducing, really!  I’m a Teacher Librarian at St George’s School in Vancouver, BC.  That’s right, the same school as the divine Curious St George!  While she’s at our Jr School (grades 1-7), I see the boys when they come up the street to our Sr School.  Yes, I used the word “boys” purposely as we are a single-gender (boys) school.  You might be interested in my posts (1,2,3) from last year where I talked about work with a grade 10 Social Studies Class and how I look at other tools as they work in conjunction with GID, such as NSRF’s protocols.

To put things in context, I’ve been at St George’s School for 25 years.  I was likely hired, in part, because I’d played rugby in high school, but I was brought on as a music teacher and have yet to spend a day on the rugby pitch.  In 2009, some different opportunities opened up at the school that I thought that I’d try my hand at.  I started leading an educational technology cohort of teachers and took on a very “part-time and temporary” role as our school librarian.  Since then, I’ve completed my MLIS at San Jose State and am permanent and very full time…  In the past year, I’ve also taken on the creation and administration of a grade 10 STEM program.  Through this time, I’ve written a number of articles for Teacher Librarian magazine, co-authored a book on Collection Development with Dr David Loertscher and, most recently and pertinently, have contributed chapters to Leslie’s High School edition of the GID book series.  I also have a personal blog that I’m recently not contributing much to, but if you’re more interested in the kinds of things that I think about, you could head over to Adventures in Libraryland.
My journey in GID started in a meaningful way, when Leslie was kind enough to organize a trip to Boston for myself, Curious St George and two of our Sr School Social Studies teachers to check out two schools who were deeply embeded in the ways of GID.  The teachers and librarians at Lexington and Westborough High Schools were amazing hosts and we had a chance to talk in depth with students and teachers about their experiences with GID in conjunction with some great chats with Leslie to help put it all in perspective.  From there, we came back to Vancouver and started implementing the model and spreading the gospel.  Since then, I’ve worked with teachers at our Sr School in Social Studies, English, Computer Science, and Languages to design and implement GID units.  Some were successful and some were less so, but all engaged students in meaningful ways and made research relevant.

In my own teaching, I’ve been looking at instructional design models that focus around building or making physical manifestations of student learning.  My current STEM cohort works most overtly with a Design Thinking model that has come out of Stanford’s dSchool.  This is not to say that I’ve abandoned GID however.  My experience and knowledge of the GID model has informed everything that I do within the Design Thinking model.  I actually see a strong correlation between the two models and I think that aspects of GID truly make Design Thinking, when used as instructional design, much more effective.

In a nutshell, the emphasis in Design Thinking is in the creating a solution to a problem.  In many ways, it is akin to Problem Based Learning.  What GID brings to the process is the stronger research structure and documentation of thinking.  While every one of my students thinks in terms of the Design Thinking model and are adept at adapting that model to a variety of situations, they are also using the tools of GID in their Inquiry Journals (blogs), and how they approach their Immerse and Explore phases.

My next posts will look at this relationship between GID and my students’ use of Design Thinking.  Likely, my last post will look at our current process and investigate how explicit use of GID concepts will allow us to improve the work that they are doing in a few key ways.  I hope that you’ll enjoy reading and I encourage you to push back and challenge me as we go.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I likely have even fewer than I think I do!


Marc Crompton


From a summer lake in Finland to a research study on GID

As you read in our last post, educators from far and wide are leaving their summer places behind and headed to Rutgers University today. Here’s Dr. Heinstrom’s story.

Summer in Finland

Summer in Finland

July 13, 2016. I am sitting by the lake with a book in my hands that I cannot put down.

It is not the first time I read this book, and it will not be the last, but this time the reading has a special meaning. The book is Guided Inquiry Design by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes and Ann K. Caspari and I am preparing for next week when I will be attending the CISSL Summer Institute on Guided Inquiry Design (

Guided Inquiry Design is an important book for me in many ways. GID is a solid research-based method on how to guide students’ learning in today’s information world. The foundation of the method lies in the highly regarded work of Professor II Emerita Carol C. Kuhlthau. Carol’s research on the Information Search Process (ISP) is a multiple award-winning scholarly work which has been confirmed and established within Information Studies. Carol’s work has, however, not only inspired research and teaching, it is also widely applied by professionals. This work has culminated in Guided Inquiry, where the ideas of the ISP is combined with Dr. Maniotes’ insights from educational research on the importance of Third Space, and Educational Specialist Caspari’s expertise on informal learning with use of museums and community resources to link together classroom learning with students’ experiences outside of school.

This summer I am reading Guided Inquiry Design from a research perspective. Next Spring,
I will be conducting an explorative case study on GID in a US high school with several years of experience in implementing the Guided Inquiry framework. The study is part of the ARONI (Argumentative online inquiry in building students’ knowledge work competences) research project.

ARONI, funded by the Academy of Finland for four years (2015-2019), is a collaborative project between research teams from three partner universities: University of Tampere, University of Jyväskylä and Helsinki University. The aim of the project is to develop an instructional model for online inquiry competence for upper secondary schools in Finland. The project strives to build a deeper theoretical understanding of students’ online inquiry and clarify how their competence can be enhanced in upper secondary education. In Finland, a new national curriculum, developed by the National Board of Education, will be effective from this fall, 2016. The new curriculum emphasizes multi-literacies, including online inquiry competence. We, however, still need a deeper understanding of the best way to support students as they develop these competencies. We believe that our research on Guided Inquiry Design will provide insights that will be highly useful for us as we develop our instructional model.

I close my book and walk up to the house. It is time to apply GID in practice: Immerse, Explore, Identify and Gather what I need to pack for my trip.




Jannica Heinström, PhD

Senior Researcher, University of Tampere, Finland; Associate Professor, Åbo Akademi University, Finland; Docent, University of Borås, Sweden

Link to my Research Gate page

Uncertainty in Inquiry

It feels like there is a lot of energy around GID, as of late.  We have so much going on that it just tickles me to tears. I’m excited to have a turn this week as someone needed a little … Continue reading

“I’m Not a Teacher, I’m an Awakener!” Greetings from Massachusetts!

Happy Spring!  My name is Kathleen Stoker and I am an English/Journalism teacher at Westborough High School in Westborough, MA.  I have been teaching high school and college students for twenty years–four years in New Hampshire and the past sixteen years in MA.  I currently teach Journalism I and II, sophomore English, and a senior seminar.  And oh my gosh, where does the time go? And yet, after all these years in the classroom,  I still find it refreshing that I continually am inspired by colleagues who continue to dig deep in their classrooms for ways to motivate and engage students in the learning process.

Early on in my teaching career, I read a quote by Robert Frost that has remained at the heart of my teaching–“I am not a teacher. I am an awakener.”  Of course I teach my students many things–but at the center of my teaching is my goal to awaken my students to their passions, interests, curiosity, skills, multiple intelligences–the list goes on.  And that is where Guided Inquiry Design comes in…

Two summer ago, my school’s amazing librarian educator Anita Cellucci (@librarywhs) was providing me research support for a senior seminar I teach called Psychology in Literature.  Anita asked me if I had heard of GID because she thought GID would work perfectly with the type of research I was asking my students to conduct.  She took the time to conference with me by providing an overview of the process. She then shared her copy of Guided Inquiry Learning in the 21st Century by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari.  Before I knew it, I was hooked.

There are many many reasons why I am interested in GID; however, for this first post I will highlight my top two reasons.  The first one is Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process.  I don’t think I had ever read about a research process in which the educators connected the research steps to students’ feelings in the process.  When I studied the model I felt a great sense of validation. Here’s why:  for a good part of my teaching career, I have had to spend time proving to some colleagues the importance of teaching, observing, and acknowledging emotional and social knowledge, intelligence and skills in our students.  Students actually feel many emotions in their learning process–let alone the research process.  To see the work of Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari was not only refreshing, it was life-changing for me as a teacher.  I could now offer my students a vocabulary in which we could communicate back and forth how they were feeling.  For example, often students feel confused and frustrated when they are exploring sources to answer their GI question(s).  To be able to validate students’ feelings by saying these feelings are normal helped the students stay with the process versus in previous experiences students may have quit, started over, or attempted to plagiarize as an escape from the challenges of the assignment.

I then asked Anita to help me implement GID with my Psychology in Literature students the following year.  But wouldn’t you know, later that month, Anita shared with me that her application for a team of educators from our school to study at the GID summer institute was accepted!  Later that summer, Anita, a science teacher, our assistant principal, and I drove down to Rutgers University for an intense study of GID with Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari.  The professional development opportunity was amazing!  We ourselves went through the GID, step by step.  We were able to work on our GID curriculum to take back to our schools.

The second reason that drew me to GID was the awareness of third space.  “In order for students to be able to create understandings of their own, educators must bargain by listening to them” (29).  Third space is an equal interaction of personal experience and curriculum content.  Often at the high school level, our focus is strictly curriculum with little recognition of “the students’ world as first space.”  I have had many a conversation with colleagues arguing that yes, curriculum is important, but the students’ world is equally valid.  How can I expect a student to fully access the curriculum if I am not acknowledging the experiences or non-experiences with which my student is living?

For example, this past semester one of my seniors named Michael chose to conduct his Guided Inquiry research on addiction.   It was an emotional journey for Michael because he shared early on in the journaling portion of the immerse step that he had a couple of close family members who were addicts.  GID gave Michael permission to move through the steps with fluidity, adaptability, and support.  When Michael got “stuck” in the gather phase, Anita and I could offer him support.  The reason he got stuck in the gathering phase of his research on addiction was because he was learning all about the symptoms and effects.  This knowledge was bringing up a lot of emotions and personal experience.  Fortunately, Michael was ready to face therapeutically his personal experiences and he asked if I would connect him with our school adjustment counselor.  The GID process worked for Michael because he was able to access the curriculum while acknowledging his very personal experience.  Anita and I were so grateful that we could support Michael through the research to the level that he was ready to ask for help.

So as shared earlier in my post, awakening students’ minds and hearts are very important to me.  GID provides a vehicle for educators to awaken their students in one of the best ways possible–by acknowledging students’ feelings, thoughts, and experiences while interacting with the curriculum.

Kathleen Stoker

Taking Chances

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” –Albert Camus

     No longer under the yoke of Senior Project, we found ourselves with massive gaps in the curriculum. For the first time ever, I was not the only one teaching senior English, so Stephanie Tinberg (first-year teacher) and I sat down to discuss how we would most like to teach the standards left dangling by the hasty departure of Senior Project. It didn’t take us long to brainstorm a diverse list of activities/assignments/texts that would make fantastic additions to the curriculum. At the heart of all of our ideas was Guided Inquiry.

     In an attempt to expand the worldview of our students, Stephanie and I decided to experiment with a new genre: the podcast. Stephanie introduced me to the Serial Podcast produced by This American Life and hosted by Sarah Koenig. The podcast explores the case of a young man convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Seeing the story of a 17-year-old who had actually been tried for and convicted of murder was eye-opening. More impactful than a man their age going to prison was the reality that he may have been wrongly convicted. Koenig follows the information from the case and conducts her own investigation as she attempts to discover what actually happened that January day in 1999.

     Sometimes in life, everything aligns to create a teachable moment like no other. Serial provided exactly that moment. Adnan Syed’s case was back in the news as we studied it. Because of new evidence unearthed by the podcast and a follow up podcast titled Undisclosed, Syed had petitioned for a post conviction hearing. It was granted. As we finished listening to the podcast in class, the actual young man from the story, now in his thirties, went back to court to possibly receive a new trial. The students were riveted as they watched this actually play out on the news and social media. The outcome of the hearing has yet to be determined, but students ask almost daily if there are any updates.

     Guided Inquiry provided the perfect approach for students to explore this case and what it revealed about humanity, the justice system, and the idea of right and wrong. Students used the Guided Inquiry framework to conduct their own investigations into nearly every facet of the case. Because so many groups have worked on Syed’s behalf to uncover the truth, many of the primary documents from the case are available online including police reports, autopsy reports, police notes, depositions, and even evidence photos. We invited lawyers into the classroom to discuss what elements are required to craft a reliable defense. We invited the numerous teachers around the building who had also followed the podcast to join us as a Serial Support Group for students to discuss their theories and frustrations. Our ultimate goal was to share our findings in a sort of “closing argument” style presentation complete with an evidence board that allowed students to take their audience through their investigations and evidence.   

     When I spoke with my students upon completion of the project, I was surprised by their reactions. For the first time in my seventeen-year teaching career, my students declared that they wished they could have done MORE research. MORE! They wished they could have worked in small, supportive groups to go deeper into different elements of the case. They wanted real answers from this real experience. Eventually, a judge in a Baltimore courtroom will supply those answers. Now, we are at his mercy.

     Our new focus on Guided Inquiry provided a chance to change for the better. We don’t practice it perfectly yet, but we are getting better with each new teaching unit. Our reflection is key to improving our teaching, but reflecting with our students has also proven to provide immeasurable growth. Most of our students appreciate our attempts to approach learning in new ways and also appreciate the opportunity to shape how that learning takes place in the classroom. Others are surprisingly fearful of new strategies and the freedom that comes with change.


Jennifer Danner


English Department Chair

Jonathan Alder High School

Plain City, Ohio