Khulthau (2010) describes inquiry learning as a deeper level of learning and not just an exercise in collecting and presenting information. The importance of the partnership between the teacher and the teacher librarian in the success of inquiry learning is also highlighted. Unfortunately, I did not have access to a teacher librarian for this unit due to circumstances beyond my control.
Khulthau (2010, pp. 4 – 5) points out that, “With guidance, students are able to concentrate on constructing new knowledge in the stages of the inquiry process to gain personal understanding and transferable skills.” To identify what areas needed guidance, I administered the surveys to all my students from the revised SLIM Toolkit by Todd, Kuhlthau and Heinstrom (2005) (see Methodology page). Survey 1 was administered in the last week of Term 3 before the students began the English unit Creating Short Stories. It provided the initial information on the areas that were problematic across the board for my class and formed part of the content for my first few lessons.
On analyzing the students’ responses in survey 1 to the question, “When researching, what do you find most difficult?” the common themes were:
- Finding images that can be used and changed copyright free
- Finding words or language that will help me with my writing without plagiarizing
Finding images: Copyright free and can be changed
As the assessment for this unit required illustrations, I addressed in my lesson how the students could create illustrations themselves. Rather than telling them, I asked them to put forward ideas from their own experiences. This elicited a variety of responses from the use of Paint, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator to uploading your own photographs or drawn pictures into iPhoto or the PC equivalent. I put forward the question that if I did not want to do any if these but find images on the internet that I could manipulate, how would I do it?
One of my students came up with the solution of using filters in Google Images. She demonstrated how to do this during the web-conferencing so that other students could use the same safe process.
The students were very appreciative of the demonstration and agreed that from now on they would be looking for images, ‘Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification.’
Finding words to help me with my writing without plagiarizing
To assist students to research to find language and vocabulary, I posed the question of where they would go and what they would do to find words to enrich their writing. Most said a dictionary. Only one student said that he would use a thesaurus. None of the other students had heard of a thesaurus. They googled the meaning and used the Wikipedia example to share on screen: Definition of Thesaurus
We discussed the fact that this is not plagiarizing if we are selecting words to use in place of another word. Many of the students had been confused and thought they were actually plagiarizing if they did this. The new word may be a better choice, have a richer meaning or elaborate on their writing.
The students decided to find an online thesaurus that met their needs that they would all use. They individually did searches and applied their own Boolean operators such as thesaurus AND student. As there were at home I could not monitor all searches but reminded them to add words that they thought would be useful After much discussion, this site was selected as had tabs for a dictionary, parts of speech, antonyms, word origin, and translation: Online thesaurus
From survey 2, which was administered after lesson 5, the main theme that came through was creating the story: putting together all the ideas for the final piece without going over the word limit.
Creating the final piece
Each student had a pre-writing discussion with me before beginning their draft to outline their story ideas so that they were clear about their task: context, story structure, characters, and illustrations. According to the Create stage of Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Design model (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012), the teacher’s role is to guide the students in creating presentations that are vehicles for showing what they have learnt.
From this point, the students created a first draft to be submitted to me and a randomly chosen class colleague for feedback. Branch & Odberg (2004) indicate that peer feedback is essential in the ‘Create’ phase of the inquiry process and it also gives students time to reflect. All students were given this link to assist their peer reviewing:
To scaffold the students in what they were looking for in each others’ work, a template was developed in collaboration with the Year 8 English Head of Department and uploaded to breakout rooms.
The final presentation was done in week five via web-conferencing.
Branch, J. Oberg, D. (2004) Focus on Inquiry: a teacher’s guide to implementing inquiry-based learning. Retrieved on August 14, 2014, from https://education.alberta.ca/media/313361/focusoninquiry.pdf
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. & Caspari, A. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport : Libraries Unlimited. Chapter 2: The theory and research basis for guided inquiry.
Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A, (2012). Chapter 1: Guided Inquiry Design: The Process, the Learning, and the Team. In Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A. Guide inquiry design: a framework for inquiry in your school, (pp.1-15). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.