The ILA involved a ‘Guided’ level of inquiry for students. At the start of the ILA, I applied a strategy or scaffold process familiar to my students – “I do, We do, You Do”. In the initial highly structured “I do” phase, the teacher set the question and demonstrated how to locate information using Google, Google Junior, Kidrex or a book. During the first guided phase (“We do”) the children set the question (on the topic framed by the teacher) and together with the teacher, collaboratively located information. During the second guided phase (“You Do”), the children researched either independently or with the assistance from a fellow student, teacher-aide or teacher, as required. On some occasions children researched teacher set questions, at other times the children had set their own question – approved by the teacher.
The ILA had various positives but could be improved by drawing upon the extensive documentation of Critical Thinking and The Inquiry Cycle. The research findings of Kuhlthau (2010), Lupton & Bruce (2010), Stripling & Hughes-Hassell (2003) and Garland (2014) can be applied to improve future iterations of the ILA.
The guided inquiry conducted in this ILA did not involve a team to plan or supervise it. Kulthau’s “Guided Inquiry” recommends a trio that includes the school librarian, teacher and second teacher (or subject area teacher) who work to provide the guidance and ongoing support required for the student inquiry (Kuhlthau, p. 6, 2010). In the future, the use of additional teaching staff and teacher-librarian collaborating to support students, would greatly enhance the ILA.
Lupton’s GeST model makes it possible to position conceptual, empirical and practical contributions to information literacy within a broad theoretical framework (Lupton and Bruce p4. in Lloyd & Talja. 2010). Applying this model to the ILA, it is clear that characteristics of this unit are associated with a Situated perspective. Information literacy was seen as important from the perspective that students in the future will need to be able to find and use information for personal, work and community purposes. The literacy practices used for finding information, preparing food and designing models, were fundamentally social acts. Evidence of this was seen when the children worked as a group to find information about the HISEAS space dome project. With assistance from the teacher, the group posted comments on the blogs of the NASA scientists – student created questions to gather data. Later they used information to independently design a space habitat. Entering and inhabiting our classroom replica ‘Mars space dome’, allowed the children to feel what it might be like to be an astronaut. This process involved multimodel dimensions that included linguistic, visual, audio and spatial aspects. The entire unit was highly participatatory and attempted to cater for the strong visual literacy of the students while also giving contextual and authentic opportunities to develop written and aural literacies.
Whilst using Google Junior, to apply a purposeful search strategy, children discovered that astronauts occasionally eat dry ice cream. Viewing Youtube clips, they developed a sense of how it could be made. Students used information gathered from a range of stimuli including touch, smell and taste whilst tasting dry ice cream. Their personal understanding or meaning of ‘space ice cream’ was constructed by internally engaging with the multiple sources of information, a process typical of the Situated Window in the GeST model (Lupton and Bruce, p13. 2010, in Lloyd & Talja).
The information gathered via google images, showing space food, allowed an opportunity for children to evaluate an image based on their own opinion as to whether it looked real or fake. For some students this task proved very challenging. They were required to think about how the information was produced and communicate this by creating their own images of real and fake food in our school garden. (This activity appealed to their sense of humour and was a simple five-minute task that yielded great results). Attempting to evaluate information in this unit by examining the cultural, political or economic context of the information – features usually common the Situated window in the GeST Model (Lupton and Bruce p13., 2010 in Lloyd & Talja) was considered beyond the students understanding at this time. At this stage, it is also viewed beyond the limits of the cohort to bring this unit to the highly aspirational Transformative level of the GeST Model.
Kuhlthau’s ISP describes the range of feelings associated with seeking information as a means to accomplish a goal (Shannon, D. 2002). The seven stage model ends with a presentation phase that enables the person to explain his/her learning to others or to put the learning to use. The ILA finished with a role-playing culminating activity. This could be considered a design flaw – with only the first five stages of Kulthau’s model being employed. On one hand, the students were ecstatic to “travel” to Mars and enter the dome but on the other, an important opportunity to explain personal learning (that may have lead to feelings of accomplishment and increased self-awareness) was lost as we began our spring holiday that next day. Future iteration of this unit would benefit from an enhanced Presentation phase and an Assessment (in addition to the work portfolios and observations) to give students a greater sense of accomplishment. The actions the children took were mostly “exploring” so there was little documentation, apart from the list of foods, astronaut menu design, real or fake food photographs and space-habitat plan. A future iteration would be improved with a documenting of pertinent information by the students themselves – in addition to the collaborative “whiteboard record” of useful sites and information found, used in this version of the ILA.
Kulthau’s ISP model also describes the Affective states that typically accompany each of the seven stages (Kuhlthau 2004). Applying this model to the ILA, it would be expected that student’s would start with a feeling of uncertainty and progress through other feelings of optimism, confusion, clarity, sense of direction, satisfaction or disappointment and sense of accomplishment. Looking at the children’s own survey comments reveals that some children remained at an uncertain or confused state, not only at the Initiation stage but also through the Selection and Exploration stages. This may have been caused by the changes to regular classroom routines brought about by the ILA or changes in medication for some children.
Each stage of Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Cycle offers opportunities to improve the ILA.
INITIATION- Starting with a generative question was good, letting the children also know that it is natural to feel a little uncertain about the topic is better, especially for those who struggle with high anxiety. (Remember to fully support students to communicate how they feel).
SELECTION- Support the children to feel a readiness to begin the search by providing a visual of “how to begin the search”.
EXPLORATION- Provide a graphic to show that during the search for information, sometimes we may feel confused when we encounter information that doesn’t seem to match. (It is always OK to ask others for help).
FORMULATION- Provide a graphic to show that if you keep trying and think very clearly about the search, “Confidence” will return. (If it does not, it is always Ok to ask others to help).
COLLECTION- Use a combination of a collaborative and independent collection of data.
PRESENTATION– The children could make a brief video, drawing or powerpoint display to show new understandings. (Build in a sense of accomplishment and allow the children to have something “to show” for all of their risk taking and hard work).
ASSESSMENT– Provide a formal piece of assessment to better inform students and parents about each journey of inquiry. Look beyond recall or Knowledge questions that Bloom’s Taxonomy considers a lower order goal -as in the Real or Fake questionnaire. Encourage higher order thinking throughout the inquiry and consider Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for Skill’s based goals and Affective Goals.
An evaluation of the ILA using Striplings Model of Inquiry, shows that the children did “wonder” and “investigate” rather well, especially considering this was our first inquiry. They were challenged, however, to independently: construct new understandings; express new ideas; reflect on own learning; and connect to self, previous knowledge. Explicit teaching to assist the students to develop skills in these areas would improve future iterations of the ILA.
A crucial component of the ILA was that it caused the teacher and the students to think about questions. The teacher reflecting on the quality and variety of questions being posed, throughout the ILA, was a strength of the unit. More work, though, is possible to further improve generative and reflective type questions. Following the practical advice of Stacia Garland, for parents of children with autism, (when she advises to ask questions that move beyond remembering or understanding level and help children to think critically), would also enhance future ILA’s with these students:
“Be patient and give your child extra think time to respond because if your child is not used to higher level questioning or using their brain for this type of thinking, it may take some time for them to process and be able to respond. With practice, higher level questioning will become easier” Garland, 2014.
Analysis of the ILA unit, from the viewpoint of the Australian Curriculum, reveals that several ‘planned for’ ACARA English Content Descriptors were covered and other non-planned ones were ‘visited’ during the natural flow of the inquiry. The ILA could have been improved by applying higher order critical thinking skills by guiding the students to further evaluate the data and information gathered.
During the ILA, it was aimed to explicitly cover certain material to meet ACARA English Content Descriptors. The incorporating of explicit instructions during ‘breaks’ from the inquiry and as a continuation of work previously commenced had been planned for. The children I teach are in Years 3 to 6 and range in ability for English from Year 1 to 4. Each student is supported by an Individual Curriculum Plan (ICP). These ICPs allow for additional time to be spent on all learning activities – for example, the anticipated time to complete one Year level of the English Curriculum is a two year study period. The table below shows the Australian Content Descriptors that were planned for the children to encounter during the unit – coloured black. It was interesting to discover, that in the dynamic environment of the inquiry other areas or content descriptors were also encountered in the natural course of events – coloured blue. This may not be of a great significance to some teachers in main stream classrooms, however, it provides opportunities for the very important ‘prior learning’ that my group of students really benefit from. Typically, members of the cohort experience difficulties generalizing information and linking concepts. To gain prior experience with features of online texts for instance, (YEAR 3 Identify the features of online texts that enhance navigation (ACELA1790)) is highly advantageous, in later learning units, when the children will work more specifically to develop this skill. Support can then be given to assist students to make the cognitive link between activities.
“Learning in English builds on concepts, skills and processes developed in earlier years, and teachers will develop and strengthen these as needed.” – ACARA 2013
The Australian Curriculum also makes reference to inquiry learning and information literacies across discipline areas, stages of skills and general capabilities (Lupton p. 13, 2014) . The ILA allowed time for the students to develop general capabilities for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT). The table below shows that students worked at Level 1 and 2 for ICT and Level 2 and 3 for CCT. The strength of the ILA work was that it effectively equipped students with various opportunities to “locate, generate and access data and information” (ACARA, 2013). The ILA would be improved by involving students in actively evaluating the data and information gathered, in greater detail – “explain the usefulness of located data or information, explain why it was selected” (ACARA, 2013). Making judgements based on criteria and standards is considered a higher thinking skill (Garland, 2014).
During the ILA some students underwent changes in medication, trials of either a reduction or increase of dosage, which may have accounted for some prolonging in vagueness beyond the exploration stage of the ILA. This medical intervention, being conducted outside the classroom, resulted in increased oppositional behaviour patterns displayed in the classroom by effected individuals. The timing of future ILAs would be better conducted when such medical trials have been completed.
The ILA took place in two ‘closed’ groups of four children. The process could be improved by increasing the social aspect of learning for these students, by inviting other students with more advanced skills to join the inquiry, at particular stages. Opportunities to learn from other peers outside of the SEP – during SEP lessons – would extend peer to peer learning opportunities and provide shared experiences that could lead to friendships developing.
Students can be strategically paired and grouped, and the learning experiences structured so that students have multiple, scaffolded experiences to learn a skill by interacting with others. Integrating all learning modalities (reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and representing) is also helpful for students with different learning needs.
Amer. Association of School Librarians (AASL). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action. Chicago, IL, USA: American Library Association, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 24 October 2015.
Copyright © 2013. American Library Association. All rights reserved.
(AASL), Amer. Association of School Librarians, & American Association of School Librarians. (2013;2009;). Standards for the 21st-century learner in action. Chicago: AASL.
Garland, S. 2014. Bloom’s Taxonomy:Critical Thinking Skills for Kids. Retrieved Oct 2 , 2015 : http://www.exquisite-minds.com/idea-of-the-week/blooms-taxonomy-critical-thinking-skills/
Kuhlthau, C. C., 1937. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services (2nd ed.). Westport., Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.
Library of Congress. 2015. Teaching inquiry with primary sources. Retrieved:
Lupton , M. – In Lloyd, A., Talja, S., Centre for Information Studies, & Charles Sturt University. (2010). Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together. Wagga Wagga, N.S.W: Centre for Information Studies.
Shannon, D. (2002). Kuhlthau’s information search process. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 19(2), 19-23. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/237131282?accountid=13380