Immersed in Learning

In my current GID unit, my 5th grade students are exploring the world around them. Over this unit, students will gain knowledge  of Earth’s four spheres: hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and atmospheres. The goal in this Next Generation Science Standards inquiry based unit is to lead students to an inquiry project about human’s impact on the environment.

Currently, we are in the Immerse phase of GID. This phase is all about building background knowledge, connecting students to content, and guiding students toward those inquiry based questions. Throughout this unit, I have specifically selected technology tools and resources that are highly engaging, fosters critical thinking skills and promotes communication with peers and experts. 

The beginning of a student ThingLink Inquiry Journal

Throughout this inquiry based unit, students are keeping digital inquiry journal. This will be a place where they will record their ideas about what they are learning and their questions that will guide research later on.  There are many options for student digital inquiry journals. I work at a Google Apps for Education district, so a majority of my students’ work is housed in Google Docs and Google slides. For this GID unit, I wanted to introduce a new web tool. I decided to use ThingLink. I love this website! Students were able to take this image of the four geospheres and create an interactive image. Within the website, students can add images, videos, and audio to images and videos. Through this activity, students they are learning how to organize ideas, synthesize information, and create. In addition, they can take this with them as they move to ahead in their education, where they will develop even deeper knowledge of our world. That is way more powerful than a notebook that most students will throw away at the end of the year.  

The most powerful technology tool that I have used, thus far, has been Skype for Education. A few weeks ago, my class was able to Skype with a ranger from Yellowstone National Park. He spent a half hour talking to my students about the geology and wildlife of Yellowstone. While being in Yellowstone would have been an amazing experience for my students, facilitating a field trip for thirty-two 5th graders Wyoming would be nearly impossible. Just because we can’t bring our students to the experts, doesn’t mean we can’t bring them to our students. Skype for Education is completely free for educators, and there are experts in just about every field who want to share their passion with students.  This was the second Skype we did this year. The first was with author, Christina Farley, who spoke with us for almost an hour about the writing process. The process is so easy. Each time, I received a response in a matter of days. All you need is computer with a camera and microphone and a free Skype for Education account. It’s that simple. 

My students may not remember every lesson I carefully planned, but I know they will remember the day we talked with a real Yellowstone National Park Ranger. They were completely glued to every word he said and had a ton of questions at the end of his presentation. Immersed in learning…I think so.

 

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified
@msmorris2013

Greetings!

As the guest blogger this week, I will share how technology is infused with Guided Inquiry Design to enhance the learning experience for all of my students. In addition, I will share FREE technology tools to really hook students during the Open and Immerse phases of GID.

For most of my teaching career, I have taught in the 5th and 6th grades. Some may say I’m crazy, but I love teaching students this age! They are really starting to develop critical thinking skills, independence, ideas, and opinions about the world around them. Guided Inquiry Design is an excellent way to hook these preteens into the learning process, especially when they are typically more concerned with playing video games and Snapchat.

The “sit and get” method of teaching rarely inspires students, but Guided Inquiry does! I often hear kids talk about how fast their day went when engaged in GID. Little do they know, it’s because I’ve purposely and strategically designed a learning experience that will foster student engagement.

I was first introduced to GID last year. I have never considered myself a “textbook” teacher, and have always loved developing lessons and units of study. So when I received the invitation to attend a workshop that designed learning experiences for all students using inquiry based learning, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. While I’ve used inquiry based projects in the past, I’ve been able to revamp these lessons with GID and provide my students with the support they need to go further.

I’m super excited to share how I have use GID in my classroom. My next post will be on how to break down the four walls of your classroom and bring experts in all subjects to your students, even when they are thousands of miles away.

Rebecca Wilkin
Selma Unified School District
@beccalmorris83
Find me on Instagram! @beccawilkin

The pride in my heart

Students discussing their research and filling out evaluations for each “presentation”

I am immensely proud of my students’ work during this Guided Inquiry Unit. For my final post, I wanted to share a few things that warmed my teacher heart.

My goals for this Unit have always been to increase student engagement and scientific discussion in my classroom. This Guided Inquiry unit hit the nail on the head.

As students began their research, they were constantly running up to my desk or stopping me as I meandered about the classroom with a “OMG Mrs. J did you know…?”. One student brought to my attention (long before I found it on my own) the article of an astronaut whose DNA is now different from his identical twin because of space travel.

One of my student’s project – their question was “How could genetic engineering be used to help bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction?”

Since we knew that the research my students would be attempting would be very high level, we made sure students were looking at other resources for information, such as: videos, literature, podcasts, and artwork. One of my students cited A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in her research as an insight to what could go wrong if we slip into   genetic modifications. I was blown away by this!

Originally “powerpoint” was not on my list of approved projects, however, this student did a TED Talk style presentation and I just could not say no to that!!

Our Share phase was probably the day I was most proud of. To present our research, I decided to approach it as a gallery walk. What I enjoyed the most were the exchanges I saw between students when they visited with each other. Students had debates about the ethics of GMOs, giving each other praise and being genuinely curious about what others learned. I heard such great conversations as I walked around, but I didn’t stop since I knew they wouldn’t talk if I stood there. Hearing them speak with knowledge and confidence put a huge smile on my face and sent me skipping down the hallway.

I loved watching my students grow during this process and become excited about research. They all recognized that it is difficult but extremely gratifying when they find what they needed.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Oklahoma House of Representatives hoping and praying our schools get funded so I can get back to the students I miss and the job I love.

Thank you for letting me share my GID experience with you!!

Fight On Tigers!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

Questions? Questions? Anyone have any questions??

We introduced Guided inquiry to our biology students using the DNA unit. DNA was the perfect choice because it offered different avenues to explore: from DNA analysis to the Ethics of Genetic Engineering.

Since Guided Inquiry motivates students to develop their interest into a research topic, it only made sense that we start with teaching students how to write upper level questions.

First, we watched a video on how to write Level 1, 2, and 3 questions. Then we practiced bringing level 1 questions up to level 3 questions in groups of three using carousel writing style. For example, a student may write the level 1  question: “What is the function of DNA?”. The next person changes it to the level 2 question: “How is the function of DNA similar or different to the function RNA?”. The next person has the most difficult task, changing the question to level 3: “How would exposure to radiation (UV, gamma, x-rays) affect the way DNA function?”  We did this twice on separate days to get them used to the different types of questions and to learn how to increase the rigor of their question.

Second, to get them ready for the Identify phase, I had students practice taking level 3 questions and breaking them down into level 2 and level 1 questions. I gave each group a large piece of paper with a thinking web containing a level 3 question in the center. I then asked the groups to think about questions that would help answer the level 3 question. Students took a moment to think, but began to branch off simpler questions (“What is DNA?”) and questions that could be answered by looking in their notes or simple web searches (“How do DNA mutations affect proteins?”). By breaking down their question into simpler questions, they had formed a starting point for their research.

Third, once students had identified their research question, I set up a “question verification process”. In this verification process students needed to receive four signatures and comments: 2 signatures from other students, 1 signature from a different teacher, and 1 signature from me. After each signature, students reviewed the comments and made edits to their question. Why did I love this process?? Well for one thing it got students talking to each other and practicing identification of level 3 questions. Also, it cut down on edits that I would have needed to make on each student’s question. By having them review their comments and make edits, all I had to check for was the subject content.

DNA analysis and Genetic Engineering can be difficult topics for adults to undertake, so it was important that we did not make it too hard for our students to understand. Since this was our first Guided Inquiry Unit and they are not used to writing questions (many of them explained to me how much harder that was compared to just answering questions), I knew that structure and scaffolding would be key to their success!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School – Science Teacher

A Year of Firsts!

Hello everyone! My name is Rachelle Johnson and I am the guest blogger this week. I am a Secondary Science Teacher in Norman, Oklahoma. I teach Biology and Zoology at Norman High School (GO TIGERS!). Not only is it my first year doing a Guided Inquiry unit; it is also my first year at NHS and my first year in Oklahoma, needless to say this is turning out to be a very fruitful year!

In the past I have struggled with student engagement and am constantly met with the “why is this important?” question. So I love finding new ways to engage my students in meaningful scientific discussions. Guided Inquiry sounded like the solution to all my problems. It offered an opportunity for my students to discover why the things we learn in Biology are important to them as  individuals.

I first learned about Guided Inquiry through our Librarians during a professional development day in the Fall. Not really understanding what it was and just hearing the word “research” I instantly thought: Not for my Freshmen. That was definitely closed-minded thinking on my part. Luckily my district values student lead learning and sent me along with other colleagues to training early this spring.

The first thing I learned is that any student can do this. It doesn’t matter what grade you teach or whether you have English language learners or you have a group of special education students integrated in with your general ed kids. Everyone is capable. The second thing I learned was that I was already doing some of the stages in Guided Inquiry! Minor changes to my tried-and-true lessons and they fit right in.

And here it is the cherry on top of an already irresistible sundae — it helps students delve into ideas they are interested in, things that we wouldn’t normally have time to cover in class.

I am definitely sold on the effectiveness of Guided Inquiry. I love it. I can’t wait to share how our unit went!

Rachelle Johnson

Norman High School

Breakout Box

My goal this week on the blog was to share my experiences and thoughts about making time for critical learning experiences in the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of inquiry learning. Analyzing our own attitudes toward how we decide to spend our time in our classrooms is the first critical step. Then remember that you are not alone! When classroom teachers and school librarians collaborate, we can create some truly exciting opportunities for our students!

On Wednesday, I shared an idea to invite local community members to your library during the Immerse phase and plan gallery walks to expose students to lots of different types of information sources during Explore. Another fun idea to try during the Immerse phase is a breakout box activity!

Modeled after escape rooms, a breakout box activity can take many different forms and can be used in any classroom and level. Students can work as a whole group, in small groups, with a partner, or individually to solve clues, unlock locks, and discover what’s hidden in the locked box! Even our high school students get active and enthusiastic. One teacher said, “I see some of my students participating who usually do nothing!” One school librarian in my district planned a breakout activity for the faculty during an in-service day before school started.

We have successfully designed 3 breakout experiences: library orientation, book censorship, and the beginnings of the Cold War. We began by purchasing a box set from Breakout EDU which was $100. However, you can buy your own boxes and locks for less than that. The advantage to buying from the website is that you get access to hundreds of lesson plans. The set includes invisible ink pens with a special flashlight, which is incredibly fun for the students to use to solve clues. Also included is a small USB drive. I made a short video of myself giving a clue, saved the video on the USB drive, and hid the drive in a book.

To begin, create a scenario that is exciting for students. For example, when we use the breakout for library orientation, we play music from Mission Impossible while reading aloud the following:

“You and your friends have been investigating a biochemist on suspicions that he is making bioweapons. His evil plans are locked in a black box in order to prevent you from finding them and destroying them. You must find the evil plans and destroy them or this mysterious villain will unleash a deadly virus in 30 minutes!”

For book censorship: “A group of parents is angry about some of the books available for checkout in the library. Specifically, they are complaining about To Kill a Mockingbird, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harry Potter. They have locked the offensive books in a large, black box and are planning a book burning ceremony in order to get rid of these controversial books! You have 30 minutes to save these books from an untimely and unjust end!”

For the beginnings of the Cold War: “World War II has officially been declared over with the unconditional surrender of Germany. While people around the world celebrate, another conflict has been brewing between the Allies, even before the war ended. The new world superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States are battling for territory and influence after the Nazi threat is defeated. As the United States is concerned about the imminent spread of communism, the Soviet Union also begins its own nuclear program. This new cold war has the potential to end in total devastation. You are the superpowers, the Americans versus the Soviets, working against the clock to prevent a world-ending nuclear holocaust. Be the first country to unlock the nuclear codes and get them out of the hands of the enemy. If you fail, your opponent will acquire your country’s nuclear codes, and a mushroom cloud may be in your future. You have 30 minutes to overcome Cold War mistrust and tensions to save the world.”

For the Cold War activity, we passed out paper copies of Soviet Union and American flags to students as they walked into the library, dividing them into two teams. This idea helped create an atmosphere to mirror the tensions of the Cold War (obviously on a smaller scale!). Each team worked to solve clues, but the box wouldn’t be completely unlocked unless both teams were successful. 

Design the clues so that students must access a variety of library resources in order to solve the puzzles and unlock the locks. For example, we use print books, eBooks, databases, infographics, and more. When we use this for library orientation, it’s a great way to test if they know how to use an index. And if they don’t, they’ll figure it out quickly because they become competitive and don’t want time to run out!

Here’s one clue from each of our activities so you can see examples if you haven’t created one yet. Library orientation: Those pesky librarians are always changing things around…this time, they have adopted a new way to use online resources called MackinVIA. Apparently they have given each student their own login. Go to schoology and open the MackinVIA link. Open the Opposing Viewpoints database. Some people call me a bully (imagine that!) and I want to know just how many news articles are available for me to read under the bullying topic.” Book censorship: “It’s not easy to stop people who want to burn books! For the first step in finding the key, figure out which book is number 6 on the list of books most challenged in 2016 as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.” The Cold War: “You must find the type of uranium used in the center of the secondary fusion device to accomplish the most powerful explosion from the nuclear bomb before the other team. What is it? (Hint: Find Matt Bougie’s Strategic Inventions of the Cold War.)”

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Use a free website to create fake text messages. I created the following conversation between Truman and Stalin as part of what was in the locked box during the Cold War breakout. You can get really creative with a breakout activity! Use QR codes. Maybe your principal could play a role or make a guest appearance.

Breakout experiences are effective during the Immerse phase because students become exposed to lots of information through solving various clues. Design the clues so students use content area knowledge to solve them. After the breakout experience, debrief students. Have them share answers to clues if they worked on solving different ones. From here, students can choose which aspects they encountered during the breakout to investigate further in the Explore phase.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts for this week. I truly believe in the importance of educators making time for what matters and modeling their own curiosity and excitement to learn for their students.

-Jamie Gregory, NBCT, Duncan, SC

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net

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

@gregorjm    jamie.gregory@spart5.net

 

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

@gregorjm   jamie.gregory@spart5.net

Past GID blog posts: https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/19/it-all-starts-with-a-question/; https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/21/concepts-and-questioning/; https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/23/keyword-inquiry-log/; https://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org/2017/06/25/individualized-reading-plans-and-reflection/

 

 

Inquiry is Fluid and Flexible: Part 2

Yesterday I attempted to discuss this wiggly topic of how GID is not lockstep.  In GID, our job is to guide students to find their own direction for inquiry in this fluid flexible process.

So, what are some key concepts that you can keep in mind as you try to follow the students and stay true to the process.

Think slime not concrete.

Maybe I’ve been hanging out with my 12 year old daughter and her slime too much, but it’s not a bad mental image for the difference between flexibility and rigidity. Slime vs Concrete

Being flexible takes deep understanding of the process. In order to deviate from the norm, we have to fully understand the norm, first.  So knowing the process deeply from a theoretical standpoint and a practical “in the classroom” view helps us to be confident in our variations from that norm, to know what is in bounds and out of bounds. With that knowledge, we can balance trusting the phases of the process, with following the students  as we get to know our students in the process.

Know the phases.

Knowing the process phases and the intention of each phase help

s you to know when we are ready to move on.  The bullet points for each phase are a great checklist for you. The more practice you have guiding the process with students, the more you know how it feels, how students interact, and what they need from you at each phase.

 

Know the research.

The more you understand the research behind GID, the more fluid and flexible you can become, in the moment. Here’s a link to some of the core research on the ISP – remember it is a user-centered design, meaning it came out of a need to better the experience for students who were learning through information in school. It doesn’t come from another industry, but is focused in education and on student learning.

Have an Inquiry Stance (or mindset)

Too much adherence to the plan, you’ll get concrete – and less learning. Inquiry learning requires us to Listen to our students, where they are struggling, where they are becoming inspired, in what direction they are leaning, will help you to “go with the flow” within the process.

In Guided Inquiry Design the learning team designs and plans activities that support students to accomplish each phase.  Having an inquiry stance or mindset is critical to your flexible use of the GID process.  Your inquiry stance is evidenced as you

  • observe students (kid watching),
  • talk with them,
  • ask questions about their ideas,
  • read their journals with an open mind and heart.

The results of those observations and interactions takes the form of shifting and differentiating conversations, groupings, lessons, and directions as needed by students. That’s how we become flexible within the model, by paying attention to how our students are engaging.

Use the Inquiry Tools

The Inquiry Tools inform you of students’ needs. The example I described yesterday shows when you put in the work at each phase, you can be confident of your forward motion. In this case, the students had spent ample time in Open and Immerse and at the end of Explore they each had detailed their own individual ideas for the direction of their research all mapped out. Proper use of the Inquiry Tools will help to guide you and the process in flexible forward motion.

Continually reflect on the work.

Conversations with your colleagues, coaches, and teammates can also help you to think through where you are and what students might need as compared to what was originally planned. Just going through the motions of your plans won’t help you to be flexible within the model, that might even solidify the flexible process into a lock step (concrete) approach. But reflecting on each phase, how the students engaged, and the intention of each phase can drive your flexibility within the process.

With that, I invite you to join us with your reflection here on this blog. That’s what this blog is for. It’s for you to have a space to reflect within our community and with my support!  Because Guided Inquiry is better through reflective practice we created this space for you to practice, try and reflect.  Here we are not looking for perfection, but an inquiry stance, that you’ve tried something and are learning from each attempt!  Through you we can all learn and improve.  Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll give it a go.

Leslie Maniotes, PhD ( leslie@guidedinquirydesign.com )

Author/Professional Developer for Guided Inquiry Design

 

 

GID is a Fluid Flexible Process

The definition of Guided Inquiry Design states that it is “a fluid flexible model” (2012, p. xiii).  But it is presented as 8 distinct phases.

So what’s flexible about it?  Shouldn’t you always go through those phases?

Well, the answer is, yes, BUT….

Within the GID process, we have to allow students room to make it their own. We have to find that balance between going through the phases and creating their own meaning. We need to keep it natural, yet blend in protocols that support student thinking and perseverance. This is the challenge of the inquiry guide. This challenge is not static with an easy one-time answer, as it will shift with each new group in front of you. But, what we can think about are some concepts that guide our actions.

In Kuhlthau’s research (2004) some students weren’t successful at getting a focus. They just thought they could gather information and “smush it all together.” As a result they had a more difficult time with the latter phases of the process and in the end weren’t very satisfied with the results.

One of the reasons we created Guided Inquiry Design was so that teachers and librarians wouldn’t find students floundering through the process with no direction. We wanted all students to use the process to create meaning for themselves and learn about themselves as a learner.

The first three phases of GID prepare students to arrive at the Identify phase with many possible directions. Then, with our guidance, they determine their path. But a common question for teachers is, “when do you know you can move onto the next phase?

While visiting and coaching teams at Saint George’s School in British Columbia, the grade six team was guiding students to move from the Explore phase to the Identify phase.  They were wondering about when to move onto the next phase- are the kids ready to Gather? What if some students are ready and others are not?

The hard work the students had put in was evidenced by their Inquiry Charts (mind maps) of questions on a variety of topics. Not only had they created these detailed mind maps in class, but each student had prioritized their most interesting ideas (see photos -highlighted or circled questions).

During the session where I observed, the students were meeting with an advisor in Inquiry Circles prearranged by topic.  It was all hands on deck for this session.

All the students had an opportunity to vet their ideas and talk about the viability of their questions within a small group with the guidance of an advisor. They each shared their prioritized questions with the group and they discussed how the questions could be blended or adjusted, where the holes might be and so forth.

After the session, two of the advisors met with me to reflect on the work.

Knowing that all students will not identify their question at the same time, makes the Identify phase a logistical challenge. This requires flexibility. We have to teach our students to be flexible too. They want hard fast answers just as much as we want a clear plan. To bask in uncertainty is uneasy. But having a pretty good idea, and some direction, is what we are looking for here. Moving into Gather, we want students to have a clear direction yet feel open to new ideas. Perhaps their question will shift and change a bit through the Gather phase as their information points to new ideas. Naturally their topic will narrow in as they search and seek information. But they have to remain open to new ideas (Our students need to assume an inquiry stance throughout, just as we do!).

If students are reflecting on what they are doing all the way along- there is no harm in moving forward knowing that some students may be a little more fuzzy than others about their direction. When you are using the process, embedding the tools, you are providing them with ample opportunity to engage the necessary work to be successful. Moving on, and continuing to check in, will be the best move for all of you, in that case.

The decision to between supporting the few to get there and staying until everyone has identified a perfect question and moving on is not an easy one. But when you trust the process, and have set them up for success you can feel easier to move forward.  These teachers did move forward even though every question wasn’t perhaps “ideal,” the preparation work that was completed by all the students gave them the time and resources to plan a direction. They had given a lot of thought to where they were going and they had some sense of it.

So how do we know if students are on the right track, in the advisory. Well, one teacher in this set of advisors was trying to get to the bottom of why the students wanted to know the things they were asking, what motivated them to find out about the illegal drug trafficking between Mexico and the US? He prompted them to make clearer connections between themselves and their questions.

Third Space is critical to having the right question. Curiosity, real questions, and relevance enter into those inquiries that engage the Third Space. So, asking why is this important to you, is a worthwhile prompt.

Knowing the resources is also critical (typically in the wheelhouse of the school librarian). When students are asking questions of which there is limited information available, their question will naturally have to shift. This can be addressed at this phase of the inquiry. Or, it can wait until Gather and be sorted out then. But be aware, that students who have difficulty finding information, will need more guidance in the Gather phase as they rethink their direction. These students will need to remain open to new ideas. They’ll also need conversation to assist them in articulating new directions. Some think about this as a mini cycle, at this point, back to Explore– through Identify and on again to Gather (Talk about flexible! Something many of us have learned through using the model is that knowing the purpose of each phase frees us up to recognize when these kinds of cycles are a support or a hinderance. In this case the student may not have accomplished the purpose of Explore, but without forward motion they couldn’t move anywhere, so the cycle back sets purpose to the work and hopefully provides a good outcome). This, of course, will take extra time, but if given the space to do so, when necessary, the end learning result will be much improved over slogging on down a path that was less interesting or fruitful.

So, tomorrow I’ll share some key concepts to keep in mind when maintaining that balance between flexibility and sticking with the phases.

Thanks to the folks in Grade Six at St George and the Advisory team for allowing me to observe your amazing practice and share it with this community.  Together we are stronger- each time I am in Guided Inquiry I learn something.  I hope you do too!

Cheers!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Author/Professional Developer and Coach for Guided Inquiry Design