An Invitation to Learn

In Monday’s blog post, I asked everyone to dig deep and analyze their own attitudes about time. Today, let’s think about how we present the learning process to our students (which definitely relates to time). In short, is learning a drag, something to merely tolerate? Or is it a process of discovery?

When you want to learn more about something, do you reach for a textbook or Powerpoint presentation? Or do you ask a person, do some research, watch a film or video?


What can educators do to establish a warm, inviting, exciting mood for learning? In Guided Inquiry Design, the first three phases of inquiry learning (Open, Immerse, Explore) are critical. Kuhlthau et al establish again and again how important it is not to rush students because establishing a learning purpose affects successful implementation of the rest of the inquiry process.

Educators learn from studying the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning that they should not begin a unit of study by handing out an assignment. No learning context has been established! Just yesterday a student told me, “We just started reading a speech in English class today and answering questions about it, but I have no idea who was giving the speech and why.”

In my school, students can take an elective called Media Center Service Learning. We have had success implementing a unit on social justice. When we start talking about it, they all inevitably ask, “What is social justice?” That question shows me their lack of previous knowledge, so imagine how ineffective it would be if I simply handed out an assignment sheet or packet on the day we began the unit.

Units of learning should begin with an open invitation to spark students’ curiosity. Students should be curious about lots of things because they typically haven’t had many life experiences yet, so there’s a lot they don’t know. What would make you curious to learn more about something? (Probably not a textbook or PowerPoint presentation.)

At the high school level, I’ve had success using the New York Times Op-Docs website for short documentary clips to engage students and get them thinking. For the example of our social justice unit, here’s one clip we used, featuring an all-girls school in Afghanistan. Students wrote questions during viewing on a shared Google Doc which we discussed after viewing. The clip prompted some great discussions among students who before viewing the clip didn’t know the meaning of social justice. They were astonished to discover some of the information presented in the clip. Some students went on to research the school because they were curious, naturally leading into the Immerse phase of GID.

In Immerse, educators need to give students opportunities to encounter the breadth of the topic. Building background knowledge is critical if students are going to have enough information to eventually narrow down a topic in the Identify phase of GID. During my unit, the students continued their discussion about the clip. I also arranged for some guest speakers to visit my library. A representative from a local organization which works to help victims of human trafficking attended as well as a representative from a local community center and a public librarian. These three individuals spoke with students about how their jobs involve issues of social justice. This event helped show students the breadth of social justice issues around the world but also in our local community. Students took notes and also participated in discussions in inquiry circles. They were particularly interested in the human trafficking organization (SWITCH).

At this point, students have already encountered a great deal of new information as a group. As we transition into the Explore phase of GID, “students browse through various sources of information to explore interesting ideas and prepare to develop their inquiry questions” (Kuhlthau, 2012). In our unit, we prepared 13 stations each featuring an issue of social justice. Students rotated among the stations, writing down questions. We included books, articles, political cartoons, photographs, video clips, and much more. Remember that students should only be browsing, skimming, and scanning at this point. They may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and now is not the time to be bogged down in detailed note-taking. As Kuhlthau (2012) states, “when students rush through exploring, their thoughts about their ideas have little opportunity to evolve or develop. As learners slow down and relax, they can read and reflect on the information they are exploring” (79).

Here is proof that GID works: some of my students ended up choosing a topic that was not featured in the Open, Immerse, or Explore phases! These same students who began the unit asking “What is social justice?” had progressed enough to find their own topics. I could not have been more proud of them. And yes, some of these students were reluctant learners.

As an end product, students wrote a letter to a local representative, organization, or newspaper explaining the social justice issue and proposing a solution or course of action. Their end products were much more effective because they were given time to explore issues that interested them and that they cared about. They gained a much clearer, detailed picture of social justice because they moved through the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases. Imagine if I had merely provided them with an assignment sheet including a list of possible topics. The students would not have developed an emotional connection with the unit.

All of these activities took time. Use your fellow teachers and school librarians to collaborate. Branch out into your community and see which learning opportunities are available. Ideas provided in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases can make learning so very exciting!

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC



Time and Patience

“Would your learners come back to your class tomorrow if they didn’t have to?” –Trevor Mackenzie

I have a tall order for a Monday morning: we’re being very honest with ourselves today!

If you’re a more experienced teacher, you might realize upon self-reflection that it’s very tempting to fall into a rut. Because, let’s face it, teaching is exhausting. Tailoring instruction to your specific students, allowing for exceptionalities of all types, being creative, giving constructive feedback, entering grades, calling parents… I’ll just stop the list right there.

However, it does us good as educators to be reminded that our attitudes, tone, and demeanor dictate the paths of learning in our classrooms. I think it’s fair to say that in an average American public school, there are a lot of demands being made on teachers which can obscure our vision. How can we break through that fog to rediscover the joy and fun of educating others?

Let Guided Inquiry Design lead the way! This inquiry model isn’t effective solely for the students, but also for the educators. When was the last time you put yourself in your learners’ shoes? Done something you’d never tried before? Read something about which you knew absolutely nothing? Read something that you knew would be very difficult? Put yourself outside of your comfort zone? Engaging in these things makes us feel like learners and discoverers again, which means remembering what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and anxious and overwhelmed. We know this is exactly what happens to learners thanks to the Information Search Process research conducted by Kuhlthau and reaffirmed over the past 2 decades!

This week, I’m going to share some ideas that I plan to present next week at the South Carolina Association of School Librarian (SCASL) conference in Greenville, SC.  I will be encouraging fellow librarians to take steps to foster an inquiry mindset with their students based on the GID model, sharing some successes and struggles I have had. In this blog post today, I’m going to focus on two issues which I personally believe greatly influence our level of success: time and patience.

How many times today have you already said, “I don’t have time for that!”? Keep track and analyze your results. Time hasn’t changed; we still have 24 hours each day! Librarians hear that response a lot when we suggest alternatives to students taking notes from PowerPoint presentations or reading from a textbook. Although we do live in the age of standardized testing, there are still a lot of courses at the high school level which are not tested. Be honest with yourself about how you spend your time with your students. You don’t need to worry about drill-and-kill with content area knowledge if students are encountering your content in authentic texts and authentic learning activities (like visiting a museum, listening to a guest speaker, interviewing their local government representative). Remember yourself as a student. If you didn’t like to read your textbook when you were a student, then there is no chance your own students do.

Have you ever passed out a research assignment to students as the beginning of a unit? Do you only allow students a day or two to find information? Librarians know from experience that research is often presented in this way. If you find yourself dreading a research assignment as much as your students, then you know it’s time for a change. Students who feel pressured to complete work quickly will not turn in quality work, nor will they probably care because an intent to learn has not been established. Yes, exploration and discovery take time. But what a useful way to use the time we have! Partner with fellow teachers and librarians in your building to help brainstorm and share resources. There is never a reason to go it alone.

Be willing to honestly examine your own attitude toward time. You teach your students about what is important through your words, actions, body language, and tone. Make exploration and discovery something you can’t wait to do either, and be the learning role model for your students. As Kuhlthau (2015) states in Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, “Guided Inquiry has the power to excite students about using resources for learning” (114). Furthermore, “Sources from the community enliven the inquiry process” (115). Use your time to find resources beyond your textbook or PowerPoint presentation: the school library, fiction, objects, museums, experts, parents, public library, business professionals, community officials.

Guided Inquiry Design states that during inquiry, the learning team “uses modeling, listening, and encouraging” to engage and guide students. Prioritize time in your classroom and library to model curiosity, listen to students throughout their process of discovering information, and encourage questioning.

These ideas naturally lead into the second issue I believe is greatly important: patience. I am the first to admit that I struggle with this one! Patience and time are directly linked. If students are going to build their own knowledge through an inquiry stance and develop information literacy skills, then they have to be the ones doing the learning. We don’t need more research and books to prove that to be true again and again. How many times did it take you to truly learn something well enough that you could teach it to someone else? Probably more than once! Allowing students to make mistakes, maybe even on purpose, so they can learn from them is critical. Avoid telling students answers. Use questioning to guide their thinking.

Moreover, being patient with someone shows that you care. Being patient shows that you are willing to give your time to someone else. When students trust their educators, a safe learning environment is established and they are willing to take more risks which can lead to more discoveries. Be patient with learners as they reflect on their abilities in order to make goals, then give them the time to reach those goals.

Dedicating time and patience to the inquiry process has many rewards! Return to the question which begins this post. Do you even want to return to your classroom? Being excited and curious, having patience, and using authentic sources of information will influence how students answer.

In my next post, I will share some ideas for the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of GID and why they are so important to the inquiry mindset.

–Jamie Gregory, NBCT Library Media, Duncan, SC


Past GID blog posts:;;;



Guided Inquiry Design & Curriculum Reform in Croatia (3)

Photo by, Mario Fajt (


School librarians in Croatia are interested in Guided inquiry. One of our leading experts in information science, Prof. Stricevic I mentioned before, advocates for it at our professional education events. She keeps saying that GI is the model of learning that best suits the needs of contemporary students. Guided Inquiry is recommended in IFLA-s guidelines for school libraries as well. So, why do we not use GID more?

The problem in Croatian education system is that we are stuck in our curriculum reform. Most teaching in our schools is traditional, there is no real collaboration between teachers, not to mention that teachers are not satisfied with their social status and many of them are not motivated to learn new things. The fact is, with traditional method of teaching, where teachers are lecturing and students are reading just their textbooks, there is no actual need for information literacy. If the only goal of teaching is that a student remembers what a teacher says to him, there is no need for collaboration between a teacher and a school librarian.

So, the question is – what kind of schools do we want? How do we prepare our students for their future life? Two years ago, it seemed that serious improvements in Croatian education system are to be made, but the change of political power stopped that. A New Committee for curriculum reform was appointed, but we still do not know any concrete results.

So much time and money is lost in the political struggle. Unfortunately, our students cannot wait, they are left at the mercy of their teachers. There are excellent schools, libraries, teachers, but they are excellent despite the system, not because of it. That is why, on the average, our students do not perform well on international testing (like PISA, PIRLS, ICILS….) nor do they achieve splendid results at their final high school exams.

We desperately need GID in our schools. We should have the books available in Croatian. We should educate teachers and librarians to apply it. There is no straightforward way to do this, I am aware of this. But, however futile it seems sometimes, we librarians, have our duties to perform no matter what are the circumstances. I have seen that GID works in my school. Students love learning through Guided Inquiry. I am aware that my colleagues and I made mistakes in our first attempts at it. But, the change in the classroom is enormous compared to traditional teaching. Students are motivated to work, they do not notice the bell ringing, and everybody is active, not just a few designated to answer all the questions. The students are learning, thinking, making conclusions based on evidence. Therefore, at the beginning of this school year I am going to ask my colleagues to join me in planning and preparing more GI units. I think this is my humble contribution to education winning in the race with catastrophe.


Gordana Sutej

Duga Resa, Croatia

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

“Bulldog Brilliance” at its best – Alternative Ed students rock it!

For my final post this week, I will talk about the specifics and how the GID process worked beautifully with the Bulldog Brilliance Lab project.  Recall that the project this class did was to create a lab with video recording and editing equipment and materials for creating.  As I have already stated, I believe that GID is appropriate for all types of learners. This is important and was particularly key because the students in this middle school class ranged in grades from 6th to 8th with varied academic abilities. The flexibility of GID supported this diversity perfectly!

The initial planning work on the Bulldog Brilliance Lab took about 4 weeks.  The guiding unit question was ‘How does creative expression impact the world” and integrated standards from language arts, math, social studies, information literacy, and art. The unit started by bringing students together to discuss what they thought they could do with a lab where they would be allowed to create. Students shared their ideas and visions through a shared writing experience thinking about how this might impact their learning.  To Open, as a group the class looked at student created videos and brainstormed what was necessary to create an actual video.  Open was really an inquiry group activity where students shared freely.  Immerse was a fantastic field trip to the high school to visit the Video Resource Center (VRC).  The VRC is a production studio offering classes in media production.  The VRC also manages the District TV channel showcasing footage about events in the district and happenings at the school sites.  It was a perfect place for our students to learn firsthand about what equipment was needed.  As noted in my second post this week, there was also emotional benefits for our students because of them ‘finding their place at the high school’ making the upcoming transition so much easier.  The field trip also motivated students about the project and they came away with great ideas and a new-found confidence. Explore was done primarily through online resources simply because pricing for equipment could change quickly and the available print resources were limited. This provided the perfect opportunity to really strengthen skills for evaluating web sites!  Using resources curated and organized in Google Docs and websites the students located, they learned more about video equipment, labs, creating stations, and fab lab options.  Identify was somewhat collaborative because students naturally divided and focused on the equipment and the part of the lab that interested them most. There’s that flexibility again – thank you GID! The students consulted another expert from the Computer Lab/Technology Center from the public library to further identify possible equipment and as they Gathered information, it was maintained on a collaborative Google Spreadsheet (see image below). Information included was the name of equipment, pricing, quantity and where the item could be purchased. In this phase, there were several inquiry group discussions about the equipment specifications and the students had to justify why they choose one model over another.

Image 1. Collaborative Google Spreadsheet for Equipment Budget

The Create piece of the project was to work as a team to develop presentations that could be shared when seeking financial support.  In this phase, discussions about presenting etiquette was covered. Students recorded themselves using old Flip Camera’s and what we found was when students watched themselves, many of them said ‘I need to practice more’. Talk about a chance to practice writing and speaking skills!  Sharing was done through presentations and grant writing where students contributed to the final presentation and work.  Students could not be at all presentations and any grants written had to be done through the teachers.  None-the-less, student input was invaluable because it was their vision and work!  Although we did not get the funding to buy new equipment, as the project was Evaluated using ‘what worked, what did not work, and what would you change next time’ questions, students shared that they were proud of their work and recognized that not everything gets funded.  Another really great learning opportunity.

As noted in my earlier post, the lab became a reality through donated and repurposed equipment.  Once that happened video and creating activity was somewhat ongoing. Here are some pictures of student work and production on a promotional video they created for the Pennies for Pasta campaign.  (Pennies for Pasta is a fundraising effort to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.) For this video students created a storyboard and plan to include as many teachers and students in the school as possible – of course only those that wanted to be front of the camera – and then collaboratively wrote the script.  In this project, it was so great to see the camaraderie happening between students.  Some students did not want to be in front of the camera so they opted for ‘behind the scenes’ roles and they cheered each other on through the completion.  Because we did not get new equipment, the class partnered with the VRC so they could use really good quality equipment for recording and to learn Final Cut Pro for editing.  The video aired on the school channel and we were so proud!

Image 2. Pennies for Pasta Storyboard

Image 3. Collaborative Google Slides writing video script

Image 4. Student ‘interviewing’ cook for video


Image 5.  Recording footage for video in Bulldog Brilliance Lab

We observed growth in students in their self-confidence, their ability to use information in an authentic way, their ability to work collaboratively to solve a problem and share information, and their improved overall behavior- and this is attributed to the GID process.   To bring this all back around I believe deeply that GID is for all learners and that it provides natural learning scaffolds in every phase no matter the academic ability of the student.  By the way, I also believe that GID is great for special education students – but that is perhaps the topic of another week.

I hope you enjoyed reading my work and feel free to contact me if you have any questions. As I close my blogging for this week it is with great thanks to Dr. Leslie Maniotes for this opportunity. This is a fantastic chance to reflect and share and I am so glad I did it!

Buffy Edwards, PhD, MLIS

Energetic Educator and Online College Professor,

Evaluating our GID Global Connections ‘OREO’ experience

While our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving and taking a holiday for two days, ‘Down Under’ we are very busy completing the last few weeks of our school year and looking forward to our six week summer holiday!

This morning I have been working with two of our four Year 7 classes on their GID unit of work ‘Ancient World depth study: China and helping them finish off their reports before selecting a way to share their work – so far we have a selection of web pages, poems, songs and there will no doubt be a prezi or two!

But I digress – In my last blog post about the Year 5 Global Connections unit of work we arrived at the vital stage of ‘Evaluate‘.

This unit of work became extremely large and our time was very limited. We did, however, take the time to evaluate! This is very important so that a second cycle with another class can build upon what took place this time and improve on what was already so exciting!

The teaching team had already discussed quite a few aspects during the process.

One idea was to give certain students, with special learning needs, tasks that would allow them to absorb more knowledge without having to write as much. One boy we decided, who loves using cameras, should have been given the video management role so that as he edited he would have learned a lot more than through doing his own research!

Students could also have worked in groups, with a leader allocating tasks, so that some students could work on the logo, another on the script in partnership with those working on goals and motto etc.

This would have saved a lot of time but we were also aware of just how proud each student was of their individual achievement that they could then share with the others. Some of these activities, though, were also used to achieve outcomes in other subject areas such as Art.

We decided to evaluate the students and the teaching team but we also received unexpected comments from parents.

Students: Based on de Bono’s hats

Catherine decided on a wonderful way to ask the students to reflect on their learning. After telling them all about de Bono’s thinking hats she had them work their way around the room in groups to tables that held coloured pieces of cardboard. They all wrote comments on these and the teaching team, including a special needs teacher, circulated to assist in some of the ‘harder zones’.



A timer ‘bomb’ App on the white board kept the students focused to achieve a comment in the limited time before the massive explosion!


I collected the cardboard and notated the comments  so that we could discuss this together later.

Teaching Team: Catherine and I discussed at length together – what went well and what needed fixing. I interviewed her and her responses were recorded and are stored here:

Student achievement:

Student Engagement:

Integration and evaluation:

Teacher Librarian Collaboration:

Integration and ‘Thinking’ Questions:

The Year 5 parents were amazed by the enthusiasm of their children throughout this whole unit of work and after their attendance at the “Summit” we received these two emails:




SHARE again – Widely!

I was invited to speak at the NSW annual conference of the Teacher Librarian Professional Learning Community. The topic I spoke on was TL – changing pedagogy to increase student engagement and learning.

I decided to invite along Catherine and also one of the students with his parents. I gave them half the time and we all spoke about our learning experience on this unit. Needless to say, a number of teacher librarians became convinced that Guided Inquiry Design, collaboratively taught and with the assistance of the teacher librarian certainly engages students but also increases their learning across many areas.



This GID unit of work really was a wonderful learning experience for us all!

Stay tuned for my final general GID wrap up reflections later in the week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Alinda Sheerman (Broughton Anglican College, Menangle Park, NSW Australia)

Making it Personal …

When sitting down to consider what I would write for my blog posts this week, I realised that the topics I had chosen, all had one thing in common: an emphasis on “making it personal”. So for my first post, I’d like to reflect upon the importance of Third Space.

I believe that the concept of Third Space is so critical to the GI approach. How often do teachers hand out “generic” / whole class assignment tasks?  How often is it a task that will elicit only a small range of “correct” responses?  How often have the learner’s needs been factored into the construction of that task and valued more highly than the need to address curriculum content and requirements? I cringe when I think back on some of the tasks which I have set in the past: uninspiring, unoriginal and definitely working at the lower end of Mr Bloom’s taxonomy! Recognition of Third Space within a Guided Inquiry approach offers students something very appealing: the chance to find the intersection between what needs to be taught and their personal interests. For many, this opportunity is also a challenge. Particularly for those in the Middle and Senior years, so used to being given a mandated task with limited choice, students may sometimes baulk at this opportunity for choice. Sometimes ill-prepared for individual and innovative thinking, the chance to find their own avenue of interest may be difficult. To me, this is Guided Inquiry’s most necessary and crucial Zone of Intervention: helping the student to find that intersecting space.

Third Space In Action!

For the past three years, the Head of Inquiry Learning at St Paul’s (Des Hylton) and I have had the pleasure of collaborating with the Health and Physical Education Department on a Guided Inquiry unit for Year 10 students. This unit was developed initially after one of the Year 10 PE teachers had attended a Professional Development course which Des and I conducted at our school. The teacher had seen the value  of a GI approach and could see clearly how it could be applied to a unit which they were about to teach. After many conversations, plenty of tweaking, lots of learning, plenty of “to-ing” and fro-ing”, and a healthy amount of trepidation, we were ready to give it a shot!

Entitled “Safe Choices”, the unit asks students to consider an Overarching Question: “In a world full of opportunities, how can we encourage adolescents to make safe choices?” Their responses were to be uploaded to youtube, hoping that an authentic audience would assist them to produce a work of which they would be proud, and one which could help adolescents and others, to make safer choices. Students were led through interesting Open, Immerse and Explore phases, and then invited to find that Third Space….. where did their personal interest lie? It was here that the team approach, so important to the success of a GI unit, was really helpful. With four teachers working with the group, talking to students, posing questions, probing and challenging, we eventually (for some this took quite a few lessons!) found that third space for each student. Some found it difficult to become the “asker” rather than the “answerer”; others found it difficult to find enthusiasm and focus; yet in some we saw  a spark that was truly wonderful.

For one girl, in particular, this task offered her a chance to produce a work that was most definitely situated in the Third Space. Fuelled by personal interest and a strong desire for societal change, she chose to investigate the choices made by victims of domestic abuse. The choice of  presentation mode also allowed her to work in her Third Space: her artistic ability was able to be employed as a tool to add effectiveness to her presentation. I believe her video is a wonderful testament to what can be achieved when students find that Third Space.

Judy Bolton


Student Questions Drive the Process

Hi 52_GID Readers!

It’s Leslie Maniotes – author of the GID series on the blog this week.

EVERYbody is gearing up for their new year and few have time to take on the blog this week.  So, I am lucky to have a week to share some new thoughts and experiences from working with the professional development side of GID.

One of the best aspects of Guided Inquiry Design, and perhaps the most scary for teachers, is that students learn by asking their own questions. We know that student curiosity and questioning is at the core of all inquiry based learning.

At one of my professional development sessions with our partner Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools last week, a very smart librarian wanted to know exactly what these student questions about the content standards would look like.  At the beginning, teachers must take a leap of faith into the unknown with Guided Inquiry Design in order to let go and allow students to ask their own questions.  That is the real beauty of the design, though, because with GID, smart educators can intentionally design the first three phases so that students arrive at marvelous questions that address the content and are truly interesting to our students! That’s the sweet spot and the real trick of intentional instructional design for inquiry based learning!  😉

The best designed inquiry learning supports all students through the first three phases to help students to arrive at an intellectually stimulating and interesting question on the content standards in the unit of study.

Guided Inquiry Design Process

I knew that high level questioning was happening in the schools, classrooms, and libraries where I have worked with excellent educators to know how to use this model to design their inquiry based learning. So, I asked my GID crew- who are AMAZING!  And, of course, I got responses from each level High School, Middle School, and Elementary level.  REAL questions from REAL kids about the content under study. In the next three posts I’ll share those questions  and some reflections on them in order to help you to ….Keep-calm-and-carry-on

Side note – do you know the history behind this poster?  It’s a fascinating relic from WWII  – an actual poster of British war propaganda.  Find out more here.

But, before we begin, in order to prime your thinking about the power of student questioning in learning, Here’s a 6 minute TED Talk video of science teacher Ramsey Musallam describing what he calls the 3 rules to spark imagination and learning. (Thank you to Kathryn Lewis and Lee Nelson of Norman Public Schools for sharing this video with me! It’s so aligned with Guided Inquiry and what we believe about real learning!)

Ramsey Musallam 3 rules

 It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.

Enjoy that video and come back tomorrow for more about students real questions in GID!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author + Professional Developer

Guided Inquiry Design

Questioning the Journey


Working with GID for over four years, has allowed me to reflect on the patterns, challenges and successes of integrating the Guided Inquiry Design Process in our high school.

One aspect that overwhelmingly starts out as a challenge for content teachers is student questioning.  Historically, teachers are the questioners – choosing the Essential Question or creating a research project with predetermined questions for students to answer. In this type of research, the students engagement can vary.  If it’s a topic that students have interest in, the outputs are more favorable.  In many cases, the outputs will be surface level instead of a  deep meaning-making process.  Jamie McKenzie, author of The Question Mark, a journal devoted to questions and questioning and a thoughtful leader of technology in schools, writes about research in schools in his educational technology journal, From Now On.  He suggests that real problem solving in research begins when we are stuck.  I think the key to helping kids get “unstuck” is to stay with them through it. But, how do we do this in a way that takes into consideration the time constraints, the comfort of the content teacher and the desired outcomes of the research? This is a question that I am still attempting to answer.

In my years as a library teacher, I have developed strategies and gathered resources to help students understand the question building process.  Within the IDENTIFY phase, I work with small groups of students to create their inquiry questions.  In their inquiry reflections from the previous work through the EXPLORE phase, I ask that students create a list of questions that they have about their topic.  I am intentionally vague with instructions – “As you read through and discover information about your choice topic, write down any questions that come to mind.” – by giving students minimal instructions – they are able to follow this mindfully – without worry of creating a question that will be “wrong”.  We then use these questions in our question building session, along with inquiry tools and strategies, to create a solid inquiry question.  Typically, I will work on the question from the aspect of inquiry and then the students will check in with their content teacher to be sure they are on the right track with content.  The key is to ensure that students are staying rooted in their personal interest.  I also believe that it is crucial to not add content knowledge to the question building process – as this sometimes sways the student to change their topic based on what the content teacher speaks about and most often leads the student away from their core interest. My experience has shown that the personal interest of the student will be the sustaining force throughout the challenges within the research and GID process.

Teachers survive the demands of each new school year by creating routines, developing habits of mind and in some instances – by turning on autopilot. One challenge as the library teacher is to keep the current issues within your community in mind when attempting to collaborate with content teachers. Interestingly, questioning is something that can be viewed as “just one more thing” to add to a project that expands the time necessary to work with students.  In my school, I am grateful that there has always been a culture of a day or two with library resources but it is still a paradigm shift to allow more time for instruction throughout the process.  GID gives the necessary framework that allows content teachers a way to envision the space and time necessary to receive the outcomes desired.  When a teacher is able to let go of the fear of the unknown as well as become able to sit with the initial uneasiness of facilitating over instilling information – the shift for student  learning begins.

As the library teacher, my role with questioning and often with GID,  becomes one of co-teacher, collaborator, sometimes hand-holder, always the visionist, often the only believer – that it will all work out okay and we will all take away a meaningful experience. Many students seem to instinctively know this from the start while others are as uncomfortable with the “not knowing” as their teacher.  Good collaboration begins with trust and one can not discount the role that it plays when planning.  I believe that it’s always best to begin where the content teacher is, in other words, baby steps may be necessary – the goal should be to begin the journey! Even the longest and most difficult journey begins with the first step.



Anita Celluci, Library Teacher, Westborough High School


The Flexibility of GID

When I learned how effective Guided Inquiry could be, I got excited about planning a GID-based writing workshop. I focused on Reconstruction because it’s the setting for my book, but the model could be adapted for any historical time period. On my website I’ve posted the materials you’d need to lead this workshop in a middle or high school classroom, and I’ll run through the steps quickly here.

The “Open,” “Immerse,” and “Explore” stages are the same as I mentioned yesterday: show the book trailer, read BROTHERHOOD, ask students to connect to content, and begin to research Reconstruction. When I visit schools, I show a series of photographs, and students point out the details—clothing, means of transportation, food, etc. My favorite is this shot taken at the wall in front of St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA, in 1865. Notice that the people are wearing coats and hats, but most have bare feet.


During the “Identify” stage, I ask students to write a scene based on a newspaper article from the era. I encourage loose, messy, fast writing. I interrupt them with sound effects (church bells, horses, crickets), and ask them to incorporate the sounds into their scenes. The process here isn’t about producing good writing. It’s about entering into the time period vicariously.

Next, students swap newspaper articles and write a second scene—again, loose, fast writing. Then they pause and I ask which scene they liked most. Which did they prefer writing about, and why? What did they find compelling, disturbing, or interesting about the one they preferred? Their answers kick off the “Gather” stage of the GID process—the stage when students begin to ask their own questions. This step is the essence of Guided Inquiry. It’s the reason GID is so effective.

Whether students prefer scene A to B, or B to A doesn’t matter. What matters is that they prefer one. Students will always prefer one. Always. And the moment they articulate why they like one better than the other is the moment they really begin to invest in the subject matter. It’s an exciting moment to watch! They’re given permission to make a choice, express an opinion, and be heard, and the process empowers them.

In the “Gather,” “Create,” and “Share” stages, students’ individual or group projects go in any number of directions, and I leave that part up to the teachers. Some have particular themes they’d like the class to address. For example, in my previous post I mentioned that the teacher wanted students to think about gangs—all types of gangs and the conditions that give rise to them. Or teachers might want students to think about voting rights (who feels threatened by another’s right to vote?). Or maybe students will create and share presentations about citizenship and what it might feel like to live in America today and not be a citizen. Or they might talk about the problem of bullying.

GID allows for flexibility! I began this post talking about Reconstruction, and in only a few paragraphs, I’ve raised a myriad of topics, but that’s because my novel raises them (the Reconstruction-era amendments established birthright citizenship and voting rights; if your class is focused on a different time period, your students will ponder a different set of issues).

From my perspective—hey, I’m a writer, so I have to nudge students to write, no apologies!—an easy exercise in loose writing gets the process going strong. And when students reflect on issues that matter to them, personally, and are in a safe space for reflection, wow! Sharing happens. Listening happens. Learning happens.

I love the way GID promotes a student-centered and student-directed approach to learning (so much more effective than the memorize-and-regurgitate model of my youth). Like I said in my first post, boy do I wish my teachers had used Guided Inquiry when I was growing up. Thank you, Leslie, for inspiring me and the next generation of educators!