Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is a large, suburban school district just outside Richmond, VA. We have 63 schools and serve just over 60,000 students. As part of our district’s comprehensive plan, we are becoming a Project Based Learning (PBL) district – training several schools each summer until all are on board. As part of LIbrary Services, I wanted to find an inquiry research model to support the division’s move towards becoming a PBL District. That is how our journey began with GID. Leslie has done all day trainings with the librarians, and we spend other PD time looking at how GID supports all types of inquiry, not just for PBL.
This year we have had lots of change. We have a fairly new School Board and July 1, we got our new Superintendent. We also have had quite a few administrative changes happen at the building level as well. With all this change, the expression “Shift Happens” has become quite a mantra in our district. To help support the librarians here, I offered two book studies on professional books that talk about library services but were written for administrators. Our first book, Tapping into the Skills of 21st-Century School Librarians: A Concise Handbook for Administrators by Dr. Audrey Church, helped our librarians frame the types of conversations that can happen, especially with a new administrator in the building. We have new administrators who are new to CCPS but not new to administration; we have new administrators not new to CCPS but new to administration; and we have new administrators new to CCPS AND administration so we ran the full gamut. One of the big connections I wanted the participants to make was in using GID, they were tapping into 21st-century skills and inquiry learning was all about that Dr. Church describes. It was to allow them to use the format Dr. Church set up to frame their initial conversation with their new administrator.
Our second book study was with Dr. Rebecca J Morris’ School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide for School Leaders. In her chapter on Inquiry Learning, I asked the participants “How does Guided Inquiry Design support what Rebecca Morris calls the ‘Collaboration Arc’, ‘Assignment Design’ for educators; ‘Thinking and Questioning’ and ‘Developing Questions’ for Students? “
Here are their responses:
“Guided Inquiry supports the Collaboration Arc because it assumes that there will be planning, teaching and co-teaching between and among the classroom teacher(s) and the librarian. Assignment Design supports guided inquiry because GI encourages students to construct meaningful questions to ponder and research. As Morris writes, “educators model how and why we attend to the process.” Thinking and Questioning is part of GI in that it encourages active thinking and ‘course correction.’ Developing Questions makes Guided Inquiry personal which as we know, makes learning much more meaningful.” Elizabeth K
“Assignment Design mirrors Guided Inquiry in that it moves away from students researching from a pre-selected topic or list of topics. Inquiry based assignments want students to choose to research a topic that interests them by encouraging them to ask good questions. Think Open, Immerse, and Explore. Similarly, with the students, the ‘Thinking and Questioning’ and ‘Developing Questions’ aspect of the Collaboration Arc are in the same mold of Explore, Identify, and Gather. I like the term ‘satisficing’ the book uses to explain how students typically accept resources that are passable. I may steal that.” Gillian A
“When first learning about Guided Inquiry, I actually imagined more of an arc shape than the linear process that was offered in the text. The inquiry process is a circular process in that an idea starts small then gets bigger and grows as the student is immersed in it and explores more deeply. The student reaches his/her highest level of discomfort (top of the arc) when trying to identify quality sources to validate the idea. As the student concludes the most difficult process, he/she begins to slide into a more comfortable place as synthesis and the creation process begins to take shape. After sharing and evaluating, the process comes full circle. It’s a circular process with collaboration, as well. You can only go up when breaking ground with veteran teachers and building new relationships with fellow teachers. We, then, must immerse ourselves in and explore each other’s content areas to ensure they flow seamlessly together. The librarian will identify & gather quality sources that support the curriculum, and possibly create student exemplars. The resources are shared with teachers and students, and the librarian and teacher reflect/evaluate how well the lesson worked and how it can be improved.
Guided Inquiry totally supports the Assignment Design for Educators – it’s the framework for getting away from the “bird units.” Admittedly, we are all more “comfortable” in a controlled environment, but a controlled environment does not allow deep thinking. I am currently working on Genius Hour with 8th graders. The ELA teacher and I definitely say “what were we thinking??” but the ideas that students are generating may not have come out otherwise! We still don’t know how everything is going to work out, but we are definitely celebrating the process!
By its nature, Guided Inquiry supports thinking and questioning for students in the immerse and explore phases. Students delve deeply into their topic, and as they are immersed, they discover a wide variety of sources from diverse perspectives. This allows them to compare, contrast, validate, and support their thinking and the questioning process.” Heather M
“Guided Inquiry Design supports the new PBL training that everyone in the district is doing. Using the library to support project based learning by doing research and being part of the inquiry work. Project Based Learning often promotes students working in small groups and the library helping to develop questions, research and complete their projects. Inquiry is a natural path to collaboration and working with curriculum!” Laura I
“Guided Inquiry Design supports collaboration as teachers and librarians work together to create meaningful learning experiences for students where they can immerse themselves richly in a topic before addressing a more finite research question. Collaboration arc (as would also be true in guided inquiry) means that the nature of the project dictates the type and frequency of collaboration. Not all projects are the same, nor is all support the same. Assignment design and guided inquiry are parallel in that students move away from selecting topics that have little meaning for them to choosing topics driven by good questioning. By learning how to create their own questions and by increasing confidence in questioning, students learn how to be self-directed in inquiry. Students are more engaged as a result supporting the development of critical thinking skills. By thinking and questioning throughout the research process, students develop the skills to replicate the research process across content areas and for future units of study.” Lindsey H
“Collaboration Arc seems to be similar to PBL. PBL is based on inquiry learning. Inquiry learning allows for collaboration with librarians and classroom teachers. Inquiry learning also allows students to gain knowledge by engaging them in questioning, critical thinking, and problem solving. Teachers and librarians working together is best practices for guiding students through the process of inquiry learning. If teachers and librarians collaborate instruction will be more effective for students because learning will be authenticating and engaging.” Ruby P
“Guided inquiry mirrors the collaboration arc, assignment design, thinking and questioning, and developing questions ideas presented by Rebecca Morris. The collaboration arc of working with teachers, sharing the responsibility, creating a culture of collaboration, and varying the degrees of collaboration is exactly what we do when we assemble the team for guided inquiry. We work with teachers and community experts to support the learning process for students. I like her point that having a collaborative partner encourages risk taking and innovation. The idea of assignment design is exactly what guided inquiry is. We have a goal for students to learn so we design the lesson to guide them in their learning. The process of learning is as important as the content they are learning. We use their third space to make it matter to them and we create a hook to get them thinking and generating questions. Students generate their own questions and drive their learning. Students look at how they learn and they evaluate information by forming higher level thinking questions. The immerse, explore, identify, and gather portions of guided inquiry are where learning questions are formed, reflected on, and revised.” Tami W
Lori Donovan is a National Board Certified Librarian and is the Instructional Specialist for Library Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA. She holds a master’s degree in education with a specialty in school library media programs and a Graduate Professional Endorsement in Educational Leadership from Longwood University. She has published several articles in Library Media Connection and co-authored Power Researchers: Transforming Student Library Aides into Action Learners by Libraries Unlimited. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @LoriDonovan14.