Guided inquiry is a form of inquiry learning in which students undertake research on an open-ended question either individually or collaboratively. It is based on the Information Search Process developed by Carol Kuhlthau. In guided inquiry, teachers and teacher librarians collaborate to guide students through the research process, assessing students and intervening as needed (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 18).
Reading through the papers on guided inquiry for this unit, there appear to be three main areas in guided inquiry which relate directly to the teacher librarian’s role. These are leadership in implementing guided inquiry, working closely with teachers and students to teach the unit and assessment of both students and the effectiveness of the guided inquiry method itself.
Guided inquiry requires collaboration between classroom teachers, teacher librarians and any other teacher or community member who may be helpful (Kuhlthau, 2010. P. 18). Sheerman (2011, p. 24) in particular writes that it is the teacher librarian who should push for implementation of guided inquiry and encourage its use at a whole-school level. In doing so, the teacher librarian must be skilled in time and schedule management. For example, in Scheffers’ (2008, p. 35) case study, a stage 3 unit required that students spend 90 minutes per week in collaborative library lessons to complete their research task. This particular case study was highly structured and quite in depth, and teachers recommended more time be spent in the library for similar units in future (Scheffers, 2008. p. 40). In order to implement guided inquiry at a whole-school level, teacher librarians must ensure that all students have the opportunity to complete guided inquiry projects and provide equitable access to library resources and teaching.
Collaboration in teaching the unit or units should also be extended to assessment (Sheerman, Little & Breward, 2011, p. 4). This allows student achievement to be measured, in addition to success of the unit. Continued formative assessment is a feature of guided inquiry and is a tool to assist teachers in targeting intervention strategies. The SLIM model, which is a questionnaire provided to students at varying points of the inquiry process, appears to be a popular method of formative assessment, as it assesses student attitudes and difficulties. Fitzgerald (2011, p. 28) writes that the SLIM method can also be used to assess success of the unit and teaching strategies. One challenge that could be faced with regard to implementing this questionnaire is the possibility of students being untruthful in their answers, claiming to be progressing with more ease than in reality. For this reason, it is important that teachers employ varied formative assessment strategies in addition to observation and review of students’ work in addition to these questionnaires.
Guided inquiry has been shown to be a successful method of teaching, and keeping students engaged throughout their research project in the case studies included in the readings (Sheerman, 2011, p. 32). It does, however, involve much planning and very careful attention to students’ progress, in addition to time management. It is highly dependent on collaboration with classroom and other teachers within the school. It is the teacher librarian’s role to ensure that guided inquiry is implemented correctly, and that teachers and students are well supported throughout all units.
Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of guided inquiry: guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan 30(1), 26-41.
Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for 21st-century learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18-21.
Sheerman, A. (2011). Accepting the challenge: evidence based practice at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(2), 24-33.
Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided inquiry: a learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42.
Sheerman, A., Little, J., and Breward, N. (2011). Iinquire… ilearn… icreate… ishare: guided inquiry at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(1), 4-5.