In this post, the ILA is analysed using several different models and theories surrounding Guided Inquiry (GI). This analysis will help identify strengths and weaknesses of this ILA and the recommendations that follow will help inform future guided inquiry units.
Lupton (2014) summarises a range of scholars who discusses science inquiry units in terms of a continuum based on how open the inquiry is (see the table below).
Table from Lecture Series by Mandy Lupton
While students had some choice over the specific plant or animal chosen to research they were given a limited number to choose from and were given the questions they had to answer. Using this table, the ILA would be somewhere between structured and guided. The initial searches they carried out had been modelled in a lesson with the TL. This level of structure was due to two limiting factors; time and the classroom teacher’s desire to hurry through the assessment task. There were only four lessons available for the ILA.
Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2012) describe a model of inquiry (the Guided Inquiry Process) which has eight phases. Of the eight phases, the ILA only covered three; explore, identify and gather. The phases that were covered by the classroom teacher included the open, immerse, create, share and evaluate. Access to class time was only available for these sections. There were some initial lessons on endangered animals, but not with the aim of creating curiosity in the students which are the aims of the ‘Open’ and ‘Immerse’ phases. Since guided inquiry works by stimulating students “innate curiosity (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, Caspari. 2007, p25)” this is a significant hole in the ILA. It is possible the dip in student interest at the completion of the topic could be due to this lack.
When compared with Callison’s (2006) inquiry model, the ILA is also shown to be lacking. Callison’s model includes five elements; questioning, exploration, assimilation, inference, and reflection. Callison states that “depending on the level of intellectual nourishment […] curiosity can be destroyed, stymied, or greatly enhanced” (2006, p 6). This ILA would seem to stymie curiosity by providing questions for the students in the student worksheet rather than giving students questioning skills to come up with their own questions. His Assimilation element “involves linking diverse new information to what is previously known” and “also the interactive processes of critical analysis” (Callison 2006, p 7) which was not encouraged by the student worksheet which did not include any evaluation or analysis questions, only list and describe questions. The inference element requires students to make judgments on available information (Callison 2006 p8) which again is not encouraged in this ILA. Inclusion of these stages would raise the level of cognitive process required of the students but also provide an opportunity to teach students these skills which would be of value for the rest of their education.
Lupton and Bruce (2010) describe three “windows” which guided inquiry can be viewed through; generic, situated and transformative. Despite both the TL and the classroom teacher acknowledging the value of inquiry, in practice, this ILA dealt with inquiry learning in terms of the generic perspective. The teacher directed portions of the ILA focused on discrete information literacy skills such as constructing google searches, evaluating websites, the use of synonyms for both searches and locating and understanding information.
Evaluating information is an important step in an ILA. The students were taught some specific things to look for during one of the teacher directed sessions, but evaluating information sources was not thoroughly addressed. Students were shown how google displays paid ads as search results and how to look for the domain in the web address. The students were told to look for official government sites or education sites by looking for .gov and .edu domains in the web address. While these did help avoid some unhelpful sites, a more thorough investigation of information evaluation through the use of rubrics such as the CRAP test would have been useful.
The ILA was designed around a C2C science assessment task which, for a research based task, had a lack of emphasis on inquiry. The assessment task as outlined by the unit was heavily structured and without modification from the classroom teacher, lacked many of the important characteristics of guided inquiry. The assessment task did not address research skills at all but assumed students would be able to locate suitable information to answer the set questions. Lupton (2012) when referring to the Australian Science Curriculum, points out that student directed open inquiry “is advocated throughout”. Adding a stronger emphasis on inquiry to this assessment task made it align with the Australian Science Curriculum more than it had in its original format.
The ILA did not make use of any questioning models as the questions for the ILA were provided for the students in the student research booklet from the C2C unit. The majority of these questions were low order with the majority of the questions being either list or describe. These two types of questions are listed in the two bottom categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy, knowledge and comprehension. McKenzie (2005, p22) argues that questioning in classrooms is usually of low level such as recall and also claims that when questions are discouraged, they are are allowed within “safe” zones such as science and technology” (McKenzie 2005, p 16).
While inquiry normally plays a large role in science education, it is normally scientific inquiry which uses experimentation. The role of inquiry in this ILA was not to have students perform experiments to create knew data, but rather to learn unfamiliar content knowledge through discovering and analysing information already available. Schmidt, Kowalski and Nevins (2010) used GI as a means of having students create a modified scientific literature review. According to their paper, instead of using the scientific literature to “examine prior scientific studies about potential research questions or hypotheses the researcher may choose to study” (p15) they used the scientific literature review to “introduce and educate their students in the excitement and content of ‘real time science'” (p15). While using this form of inquiry is a break from the traditional use of inquiry in science education, it has a real and valid place in the profession and so is a valuable form of education in the area.
The analysis identified several weaknesses in this ILA. The majority of these issues had to do with the scope of the ILA in one manner or another. When compared against two inquiry processes (Kuhlthau et al (2012) and Callison (2006)) the ILA was shown to lack several stages of a successful inquiry. The addition of Kuhlthau et al‘s (2012) open and immerse phases would help engage the student’s curiosity and so help improve student motivation. The ILA already covered the explore stage covered in both models, but the inclusion of Callison’s (2006) questioning element in a way which both educated students how to ask questions and then guided them in creating their own questions would help Improve student motivation through ownership (Kuhlthau et al 2007).
Questioning itself was another area of weakness identified in the ILA. The combination of questions being provided rather then student generated and that the questions were of low cognitive level meant that the students did very little questioning themselves. As was noted earlier, the majority of the questions in the student research booklet were low on Bloom’s Taxonomy, the assessment task that the ILA was working towards required students to recall information for their peers; a task which itself requires very little higher order thinking. Instead of simple requiring students to gather data and then retell it in a different format, the ILA could have asked students to evaluate (which is the highest category on Bloom’s Taxonomy) an already existing strategy being used to save an endangered animal and suggest possible redesigns. The content material covered would have been the same but the types of questions would have been of a much higher order.
Barrell’s (2008) concept of ‘problematic scenarios’ could be used to address the weakness of the questioning and student engagement. Barrell (2008, p??) states that problematic scenarios can be used “to intrigue students and roster their desire to become involved”. Given more time, the ILA could be restructured to include both a fuller inquiry model as has already been discussed, but could also be based around a problematic scenario in a fuller sense. The C2C assessment task was framed to some extent as a problematic scenario. The students had been tasked with educating their peers about an endangered species. However, this played very little role in the student’s inquiry and, as was discussed in the previous paragraph, engages students at a low cognitive level. Changing the scenario to the evaluation scenario suggested in the previous paragraph and making it a larger part of the ILA should improve student engagement as their curiosity and ‘desire to become involved’ rises.
Another outcome of using a realistic problematic scenario that evaluates and questions current practice is that students would be participating in inquiry at a Situated or even Trasformative level (Lupton and Bruce 2010). The task of evaluating current local practice to protect endangered species will help students engage with the information in a real social context with real social meaning for the student’s community which Lupton and Bruce (2010) include as a description of the situated window (p 12). Advanced students could be encouraged, upon evaluating their chosen protection strategy, to think about why it was put in place as it was, who’s choice it was to do it that way, who benefited from it, and if they found that the strategy was not particularly effective, why was it implemented at all? Questions such as this would fit in Lupton and Bruce’s (2010, p 13) Transformative window. This change in the ILA should lead to a more “holistic information literacy […] education” (Lupton and Bruce 2010, p 21).
Another problem identified with the ILA is the difficulty students had finding some of the required information. According to the findings, students had great difficult with finding information for two reasons; they did not understand the language used on the webpages and they did not have a thorough enough understanding of constructing searches that they could find specific information. Both of these problems require more time spent in the unit. As an example of the first problem, students were unable to identify the information which made up a life-cycle simply because the language that the websites used was not located on their task sheet. Spending more time studying the content in the immersion stage targeting a range of different synonyms and language would help students identify the information they are searching for. While there was time put towards teaching students how to construct searches to find information through search engines, this time could be expanded to include a session later during the ILA to help students find specific information.
Barrell, J. (2008). Why are School Buses Always Yellow? Teaching for Inquiry Prek-5. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Bonanno & Todd (2006). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and Information Skills. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/policies/gats/assets/pdf/usci6kw01bloom.pdf
Callison, D., and Preddy, L. (2006). The Blue Book on Information Age Inquiry, Instruction and Literacy. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., and Caspari, A. (2012) Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in your School. Santa Barabara: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., and Caspari, A. (2007) Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Lupton, M. (2014). LCN616 Inquiry Learning: Module 1 [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from http://inquirymodules.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/inquiry-learning-guided-inquiry/
Lupton, M. (2012). Inquiry Skills in the Australian Curriculum. Access, 26(2), 12-18.
Lupton, M., and Bruce, C. (2010). Windows on Information Literacy Worlds: Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives. In A. Loyd and S. Talija (Eds.), Practising Information Literacy: Bringing Theories of Learning, Practice and Information Literacy Together (pp. 3-27). Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies
McKenzie, J. (2005). Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn. Washington: FNO Press.
Newman, B. (2010). Crap Detection, A 21st Century Literacy. Retrieved from http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/crap-detection-a-21st-century-literacy/
Schmidt, R. K., Kowalski, V., & Nevins, L. (2010). Guiding the inquiry using the modified scientific literature review. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 13.