Emotionally Supporting Students through GID

Hello from Westborough High School, Westborough, MA!  I want to thank Leslie for continuing to offer such amazing Guided Inquiry Design opportunities like this blog for educators!  I am so grateful to participate again this year by sharing some more GID experiences from my Psychology in Literature senior seminar.  (Please see my blogs from last year to read a bit more about me and the GID work from last year. Links are listed below.)

For this blog, I want to focus on and definitely AMPLIFY one student’s GID process and the importance of the teacher’s role in guiding the student through his/her emotions that come with the research process and specifically choosing one’s topic.  Emotionally supporting our students is an important key to the success of our students in the Guided Inquiry Process.

As a reminder, our school’s librarian educator Anita Cellucci (@anitacellucci, @libraryWHS) and I have collaborated together using GID in my Psychology in Literature course for a couple of years now.  The course is a semester long, so for the last quarter of the 16 week course, we are committed to GID. Students choose their own topic to research based on a connection (even if it’s a small one) to our course. The objective is for students to dive deep into the topic of their interest.

The student for whom I am focusing is named Ashwini.  She is a senior honors student who admits to being an inner perfectionist.

While we were in the Immerse phase and conducting some preliminary research in the library using our computers, I noticed that Ashwini had a perplexed and anxious look on her face.  I approached her and asked how I could offer her assistance.  She said she wanted to research a topic personal to her, but she was afraid to start the search.  I asked her what was her interest.  She said, irrational fears.  She said there was one in particular that she experiences, but was afraid to share it with me because she didn’t want to me to think  she was weird.  I told her it was okay, I wouldn’t laugh or make a weird face.  She shared for many years she has had a fear of groups of dots/holes.  To be honest, I never had heard of such a fear, but figured it was a phobia. Ashwini said her parents thought it was a bizarre fear to have.   Ashwini was afraid to start the search in fear of actually seeing images of the dots/holes.  But she said she it was so important for her to learn about her fear–to see if there was anything she could do to move through the fear.  I admired her courage and willingness to take on a topic that scared her.

So I offered to type in her fear and see what came up.  She physically moved behind the computer, so she couldn’t see anything that came up on the computer screen.  When I typed in fear of groups of holes, trypophobia came up.  From my initial read, this phobia isn’t officially recommended as a phobia by American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5); however, it is a proposed phobia as a lot of people share the fear.  When I told Ashwini that there was at least a name for her fear, she said, “So other people have it, too?  I’m not crazy?” She took a deep breath and said she thought for a long time that there was something wrong with her.  I did share that it wasn’t considered an official phobia yet.  But the bottomline was that Ashwini had taken the first step to managing her fear by having the opportunity to talk about it and research it.  She asked if she could explore the topic of irrational fears without looking at her particular one.  I said of course.  Ashwini  was curious and interested in further research. Of course, I was thrilled she was researching a topic to which she personally connected and one in which that was personally challenging.

It truly was amazing to witness Ashwini’s fear of researching her topic melt away having the knowledge that she wasn’t alone in her topic.  She moved through the Gather, Create, and Share phases with more ease as she found out that there are therapeutic techniques to help minimize one’s phobia symptoms. Please see below both her responses to what she shared in her final inquiry circle as well as her final reflection.  I will further comment after both.

Create/Share Final Inquiry Circle

Ashwini’s responses:

As you reread your core sources and review your journal, think about what you have learned about your inquiry question.

I learned . . .
That there is still a lot of research that is taking place about phobias because this is a relatively new field in science. I also learned that as they say, “there is a method to every madness”, there are so many explanations behind irrational fears, some of which I found so interesting and never even thought of.

Write what these things make you think about your inquiry question.

I think . . .

That this is something that should be further researched on because 18% of adults face irrational fears and I think that more people should be aware of this and should start possible therapies. I also think that the mental health aspect of this is something a lot of people are unaware of and I think that there should be more awareness about this topic.  

Read over what you have written and write what you would like to tell your inquiry circle about.

I would like to tell about . . .
How I discovered my fear and how I was comfortable knowing that there are people out there that face the same fear. Just like any mental health issue, this should be dealt in a similar manner because there are so many symptoms that can cause increased stress levels and anxiety. I also would like to explain to my peers about the genetics and science behind it, in addition to the mental health aspect, because I found that very interesting.

Anything else you would like to share…
I found it very interesting to research something that I can easily relate to. I loved finding coping mechanisms because now I can put that into effect, as I have never even thought that simple breathing techniques can reduce high stress levels due to these irrational fears.
About the powerpoint itself, I would like to add that I found ten minutes less to explain my topic. I know that Ms. Stoker and Ms. Cellucci may not have that much time, but I found it hard to squeeze in all my information and my “story” into ten minutes, so I had to rush at the end. But, thank you for all the support! 🙂


And Ashwini’s final reflection:

What is your inquiry question?

My inquiry question was “How, if so, do genetics play a role in developing irrational fears and phobias and how does these affect an individual’s psychological sphere of their life?

Describe the process of how you developed a specific topic within the inquiry question?

I knew that I wanted to do something that related to me. I wanted to know more about the science behind phobias and irrational fears, but I wanted to also research the psychological aspects behind it.

Which keywords did you find to be most effective for your search?

Phobias, fears, anxiety, insecurity, nervousness, physical pain, irrational fears, facing fears, treatments

Which part(s) of the LibGuide did you use?

I used the State Databases in the LibGuide, mainly focusing my searches in the health sections.

Identify at least one difficulty you encountered during your inquiry?

During my inquiry, it was hard to link the genetics and science to the psychological part of what I wanted to research more on. However, I found only a handful of quality articles that involved both.

How did you overcome the difficulty?

To overcome this difficulty, I kept searching for more and more within the databases, specifically trying to add more keywords and phrases relating to the mental health aspect.

Identify what new questions you have about your inquiry. What questions came up as you were doing your research?

What can be done to completely remove someone’s fear?

Is it possible to tell that someone has a fear just by the way they act in normal situations?

If two people have the same fear, do they behave the same way? Does it affect them in the same way psychologically?

Describe how you felt about working on this inquiry project a) when you first started, b) as you were gathering information and c) as you worked on the final product.

  1. I was nervous because I did not know how much research was done on this topic and if there would be even anything that I could find
  2. I felt better about it because I learned that a lot of scientists and psychologists have in fact research in depth about this.
  3. It felt a lot more satisfying, especially to learn that there is a possible, rational reason behind the phobia I have.

After conducting your research, do you have a better understanding of the class connection you cited in the beginning steps of inquiry? For example, if you were further interested in what survivor’s guilt was because of Conrad’s struggle in Ordinary People, do you now have a deeper understanding.

Yes, I have a better understanding of the connection. I definitely could understand more about the mental health aspect of characters and to know that they are not really all that different from anyone else facing the same situation. There is always help out there and we need to acknowledge our problem and try to find help. Especially because we have the understanding of doing an inquiry project, if we want to research something later, we have a good process in hand which can be used to effectively research a topic we are interested in.

My final thoughts on working with Ashwini:

Ashwini was excited to share her research with her classmates as in the Inquiry Circle because she had discovered so much useful information that is literally life-changing for her.  In a lot of traditional types of research projects, teachers assign a topic and then send their students off to research.  With GI, it is critical for teachers to be involved in the whole process, but especially the immerse and explore phases. Often in the traditional phase, teachers never see the internal emotional struggles students have in choosing a topic or having an assigned topic. It is essential to conference with the students about their emotions and thoughts during the process, especially in the beginning.

Co-teaching GID with Anita, she and I are able to really give the students individual attention.  Instead of me trying to touch base with 20 students, she and I really try to divide and connect with ten students each. We don’t necessarily stay with those same ten students throughout the whole process, but by starting with those students provides them with individual attention.  And as we move into the Identify stage, we touch base with all of the students so they have two teachers checking out their inquiry questions.

Knowing that Ashwini has both the GID skills to conduct meaningful research as well as the content knowledge and tools she learned for her personal growth are so rewarding as she will graduate in June with these life skills.

Last year’s blogs:

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

Differentiation, Student Choice, and Reflection–Oh My!

GID and “Real World” Use for Students: Valuing their GID work inside and outside the classroom

Kathleen Stoker

English/Journalism Teacher

Westborough High School

Westborough, MA


twitter:  @stokerkathleen

blog: http://awakenededucator.blogspot.com

1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for publishing your reflections as well as your student’s. I have just experienced the same emotional journeys with 20 students who have been working for the semester on their National History Day research and final projects using GID. None of my students had spent time on the research process before. Their reflections show evidence of their emotional journey. So did their conferences with me and their teacher. I am totally convinced that if the humanities teacher and I had not been a team throughout the entire journey our students would not have been as successful as they are. We had our parent open house last week to determine who had met the requirements to register for Regional Competition the end of February. Every single student was qualified. This was a first. But the emotional journey is not over. Several students who did an outstanding project said they have anxiety attacks presenting their work to strangers. We will continue to guide them. The rest of the month and at Regionals so they see how they can get over these very real emotional traumas.

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