That’s not all …

I started this blog for assessment purposes.  Basically, I had to set a blog up to document my inquiry into … inquiry.

But now I am a teacher librarian and this blog will document how I go about developing an inquiry focus and information literacy continuum at my school along with a band of subject area coordinators I approached to join me on my mission.

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… at the end …

What do I now know about inquiry based learning?

The nexus of information and learning occurs when one gathers the information required and then applies that information to achieve a set of goals.

Information Gathering requires:

  • The formulation of relevant questions
  • Information-as-process (what you know is changed)
  • Information-as-knowledge (reduces uncertainty but sometimes uncertainty is increased)
  • Information-as-thing (data, documents that have the quality of communicating information) (Buckland, 1991)

Skills which include:

  • Search
  • Organisation
  • Time management
  • Reflection
  • Learning does not end, it informs our future inquiries
Learning can be expressed in a myriad of ways

  • Objective opinions
  • Subjective views
  • Mobilisation into action within one’s micro and macro environment
  • Creation of knowledge which is a reflection of the process
  • A change in direction given self-reflection

So what did Einstein mean when he stated, “Information is not knowledge”?  I thought I was being clever in naming my blog this!  I thought he meant having access to information does not automatically give rise to understanding and this I held to be highly relevant today with our unprecedented access to, what appears to be, limitless information.  But this unit has caused me to reflect on this blog’s URL.  Information is that which ‘informs’ and our physical and virtual environment does just that; it informs and this process changes, even disrupts what we know.

What else has disrupted my pre-existing knowledge of inquiry based learning and information literacy?

Inquiry models should include a questioning framework, information literacy/information search process, and an action research cycle.  I formulated a diagram, below, of the three elements Lupton (2012) maintains must be present in an inquiry.

When we inquire, we must ask questions.  This I knew but I now acknowledge that successful inquirers must ask questions first and continue to ask questions throughout the information search process.   Interestingly, I came across an institute which dedicates itself to help teach students not how to answer questions but rather how to pose them.  Click on the image below to be directed to the Right Question Institute.

When you teach within a discipline, one of the first areas students should investigate is what it means to be a scientist, how do scientists think? What does it mean to be a geographer? A historian?  This then informs the questioning framework each discipline applies to their inquiries.

To be successful inquirers, students must be information literate.  Rather than viewing these skills as a generic set, I would prefer to develop an information literacy continuum which is informed by one of the already existing continua, such as the The New Haven Unified School District Library Media Program or The New York City School Library System Information Fluency Program and apply the GeST Windows model which classifies these skills into either Generic, Situated or Transformative as well as the requirements of the inquiry models as proposed by the Australian Curriculum.

The action research cycle applies both within the one inquiry and links inquiries.  Often an inquiry ends but certain questions remain unanswered, ideally these should inform future inquiries.  Students need to understand that following an information search process does not necessarily lead them from one stage to the next but often times students may need to return to previous stages to clarify how they ought to move forward.  As can be seen in the Stripling Model of Inquiry below, there is not a lock-step process, but constant movement back and forward between the stages of the inquiry model, and indeed, it is labelled a cycle.

I have also answered my initial questions identified in At the beginning but now have more … at the end.

As a teacher this satire makes me think about whether or not I have been the one asking the questions?  Have I given my students enough opportunity to ask their own questions?

How interested am I in this topic and how much do I now know?

I don’t believe I can consider myself a teacher librarian if I were not a great deal interested in this topic.  It is at the very heart of a TL’s practice.  Although they come to an end, inquiries often leave unanswered questions.  Until these are answered I would have to rate my knowledge of the topic as quite a bit but with a great deal left to go.  For example, I would have to collaborate with a variety of teachers in the generation of inquiries for their classes, help to administer, and become a member of the instructional teams to gain this knowledge.  This experience and subsequent reflection will assist with my understanding.

What did I find easy?

I found a number of aspects of this research project easy.  I enjoy using Web 2.0 tools and there are literally hundreds which can be utilised in a project such as this.   I now feel very comfortable with online research, using both Google, Google Scholar and databases.  Yes, I do believe I have become the Googlemaster.

What did I find difficult?

Studying this unit has been difficult.  I have found it difficult, at first, to differentiate between inquiry and information literacy but now I recognise how information literacy is a skill set whilst inquiry is both a pedagogical and learning approach.  I have found it difficult to process the requirements of this blog, yet, I don’t believe I would be enjoying the clarity I have now if I weren’t pushed to engage and re-engage with the course work through a variety of modes which includes this blog, the presentation, involvement in the ILA and membership of a small group devoted to supplying each other with formative feedback on our posts.  I also found it difficult to tape my presentation of my findings and recommendations.  I presented to a group of teachers and rather than taking 20 minutes the presentation went for almost 50 minutes.  It was a tremendous experience and one I will conduct again.  The presentation was more of a conversation and each teacher noted that there should be more discussions of that nature occurring in our school.

What did I learn doing this research project?

With regards to what I learned by doing this research project, I can only add to what I have already identified in the first part of this post.  And to this, I would add that when schools list as one of their aims that students graduate with the characteristics necessary to continue learning, then learning how to inquire must be central to achieving this aim.

Does it help to give and receive formative feedback?

Reflecting has allowed me to appreciate how a small group of people can be given the same task but approach it in different ways.  There is no right answer in inquiry!  There is no one way to approach an investigation.

This was highlighted for me when reading Liz’s interpretation of her ILA.  Liz had mapped her students’ responses to a set of information literacy standards and represented these in a table.  As the reader of her post, I could readily identify the standard and then be given a first-hand account of a learner’s experience.  It was very informative and I appreciated the effort she had applied in producing these tables.  I had applied a similar strategy; however, my application was quite blunt!   I had tallied the number of times a student’s response matched an information literacy standard.  I only reported on the frequency of responses per standard, rather than following a small group of students and indicating their actual responses.  This issue was highlighted for me when I presented to my colleagues and I had to clarify my coding technique.  Liz’s method is far more transparent. I should have communicated the analysis in the manner of the following example.

A reader could then be drawn by me to note that the student’s response does not indicate that he evaluates the source, or indeed, that the sources are appropriate, just that he finds it easy to find ‘stuff’.

My response to this revelation was limited.  I had already processed my data and was not in a position to make an adjustment but it is definitely a strategy I will adopt in future ILA evaluations.

Comments from the staff at my presentation, however, proved immediately useful as I received these at a time when I could respond to the feedback.  Specifically, discussion centred on a number of occasions around the social responsibility that inquirers possess.  That is, if tasks set for students are authentic then students have the potential to make a social impact.  As a result, I decided to foreground the GeST Windows Model in my recommendations.  The staff all agreed that ideally our students should be challenged by inquiry tasks to not only gather facts but also question the status quo.

Ryan provided me with some very insightful comments regarding my recommendations relating to Guided Inquiry and the use of a questioning framework.  Firstly, he questioned the technique I used during my library lessons and he referred specifically to the following excerpt, highlighted in yellow.

He rightly pointed out that I needed to clarify my approach because as it stood I implied that my coverage of the stages was treated in a linear fashion.  This is what he wrote:

As a result, I added one sentence to highlight that indeed inquiry is iterative and it is necessary for students to cycle back through stages.  Highlighting this for students is vital, they need to feel that this is normal and they should expect this to occur.  I have highlighted this when discussing the same issues with senior classes.  The point I make is that such inquiries are given to them over a number of weeks; if they don’t commence work immediately and maintain a consistent application they do not allow themselves the benefit to undertake this reflection and, if necessary, to cycle back to previous stages.

So, is it worthwhile to give and receive feedback?  

That’s our business; we should probably do it more often with our peers.

MOISP – Part Two

This represents the second and concluding part of a post published on September 9.  Then I commenced my reflection on My Own Information Search Process using Kuhlthau’s Model of Information Search Process (see below).  In that post, I concluded my reflection atthe Formulation Stage.  This post will detail my progress through the Collection, Presentation and Assessment stages of the model.  Once again I have adopted the funnels which represent the feelings, thoughts and actions which Kuhlthau (2007) flags in the various stages of her Information Search Process (ISP).  This time; however, I have agreed with her proposals.

Collection

Indeed, this is when I started to draw together the findings from the Independent Learning Activity (ILA) and I could start to consider the recommendations which were informed by my readings and growing understanding of information literacy and inquiry based learning.  Unlike the stages of Exploration and Formulation, there was no sense of uncertainty.  Here, I would agree with Kuhlthau et al. (2007, p. 20) when they make the claim that students find direction and have a sense of confidence; equally I felt an increased interest in the topic because I could see how highly relevant it was in the promotion of lifelong learners.

Presentation

At present, I have come through this stage and I feel very satisfied with my efforts and Kuhlthau et. al (2007) would agree that at this stage students will either feel this degree of satisfaction or the opposite.  I think some students may fail to acknowledge this sense of achievement, giving in to a sense of relief and release of anxiety that the project is complete and submitted.  If students have not progressed through the various stages of the search process then relief and release are what will dominate rather than satisfaction.  Sustained inquiry permits the action research element of inquiry to occur; without this time to reflect students may continue to experience confusion and frustration which is characteristic of the Exploration stage.  This is my Presentation Funnel where I identify my feelings, thoughts and actions at this stage of the inquiry process.

Assessment

My post … at the end chronicles my reflection on what I have learned through this process.  Kuhlthau et. al. (2007) flag a sense of accomplishment and increased self-awareness at this point.  Of course, this assumes students have been engaged and motivated throughout the information search process.  And here is the catch; without this engagement a student’s progress through the search process would prove unfulfilling and pointless.  This brings us back to the Initiation Stage.  It is vital that students are engaged in meaningful, authentic and relevant inquiries.  Without these characteristics students are more likely to emerge disappointed and with no clear sense of accomplishment.  Here is my Assessment Funnel.

Bibliography

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A. K. (2007). The theory and research basis for Guided Inquiry.  In Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K. & Caspari, A. K.Guided Inquiry:  Learning in the 21st century (pp. 13-28).  Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.  Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Course Materials Database.

Recommendations for Future ILAs

Information Learning Theories Enacted

The Information Learning Activity (ILA) required students to contribute to a travel wiki about a country of their choice.  They were to conduct an inquiry into the customs, rituals, landmarks, accommodation and other useful information travellers are likely to need when touring that country.  Certain concepts identified by Wilson and Cole (in Murphy, 1997), which are inherent in constructivist learning theory, were present in the administration of this ILA.  They are that:

  • rather than studying their countries in an academic context, students were given the opportunity to engage in an authentic experience of their country; that is, they were asked to present their knowledge using a real-world web 2.0 tool; and
  • they were given a degree of control over their inquiry in that they were given a choice of country.

As such, students were provided with a constructivist environment in which to learn and produce their final product; that is, knowledge was individually constructed and socially co-constructed by learners based on their interpretations of experiences in the world (Jonassen, 1998).

The Inquiry Model l Used

Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Model (2007) was adopted for this ILA.  As reported in a previous post (Library Focus during the ILA – Response to Initial Data Collection), I stepped the students through each of the stages of this model during our library lessons and explained to them the importance of reflection and returning to a stage if required.  Indeed, students had access to an instructional team of teachers comprising their Study of Society and Environment (SOSE) teacher, Information and Technology (IT) teacher and the teacher librarian (TL).

A Critical Evaluation of the ILA

Adoption of the Guided Inquiry Model

As I have shared in a previous post, this was my first semester as a TL at a school I had previously worked at for twelve years.  This semester’s ILA with the Year Sevens coincided with my first-ever Year Seven library lessons.  Each week I would see the four Year Seven classes.  This was a perfect fit for my study into the Information Learning Nexus and so I adopted the Guided Inquiry model and planned to cover each stage in my lessons.

Time was a considerable factor when you only see a class once a week.  The SOSE teacher, who had run this unit for a number of years with the previous TL and the previous IT teacher, was used to a particular approach.  This approach included a TL who had developed a highly structured Research Booklet and an IT teacher who taught the class how to produce an A4 brochure about their country.  This year saw a new TL and a new IT teacher.  I chose to structure my library lessons around the Guided Inquiry Model and the IT teacher decided to use a wiki rather than have the students produce a brochure.  The SOSE teacher’s previous experience included his issuing of the task after the TL had already commenced students on their Research booklet.

I negotiated the issue of the task at the commencement of the semester and then during each lesson I saw them, they would progress through the stages.  Unfortunately, at the same time as I was doing this, the teacher during SOSE lessons was covering content which would be assessed in an examination, administered in Week 4.  Students would see me once a week, we would talk about the week’s inquiry stage, and then for the coming week they would not have another opportunity to progress with their inquiry until they saw me in their next library lesson.  When the SOSE teacher was ready to commence work on the Travel Wiki he was expecting they had covered a good deal of the research but in fact we had only just commenced.  This places a spotlight on the role of the library lesson.  Certainly, this term I have experienced a similar disconnect with what I am trying to achieve in my time with the students and with what is happening for them in their classes.

GeST Windows

Lupton and Bruce (2010) classify information literacy skills into three windows: the generic, situated and transformative; that is, the GeST Windows.  These windows are in a sense ‘nested’.  You cannot look through the situated window without first looking through the generic.  The skills of the generic window are required to be competent with the situated; similarly the skills of the situated are required to be competent with the transformative (see Figure 1, below).  Students were not directed during their investigations to make

Figure 1 – The Nested GeST Windows (Lupton, 2012)

judgements regarding their country.  Their job was to report facts and to regard information as external and objective; that is, they applied the generic information literacy skills and processes.  However, the nature of their investigations did give them pause to consider whether they themselves would like to travel to their country.  When asked, only two students indicated they would not:

Such reflections could be regarded as internal and subjective; that is, the situated information literacy window.  Without being directed, most students will seek to make meaning of what they are learning and how it impacts on what they already know and their place in the world.  After all, they “are actively involved in making sense of the world around [them] rather than being passive receivers of information” (Kuhlthau et al., 2007, p. 15).

This ILA targeted the skill set contained within the Generic Window.  Although, there were elements which pertained to the Situated.  For example, students were directed to contribute to a wiki.   By its very nature a wiki is a collaborative tool to be used within a community situation.  This would satisfy the use of information for community purposes in the situated context; however, the wiki was used more as a pin board on which students tacked their A4 brochures rather than a space where they could share and reflect on each other’s efforts.  Therefore, the nature of this ILA explains why the students drew from the information literacy skills of the Generic Window rather than from the Situated and Transformative.

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy identifies a hierarchy of thinking skills from the low order up to the higher order (see Figure 2, below).  The ILA, when measured against this hierarchy,

Figure 2 – Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Churches, 2009 p. 5)

clearly focuses on the lower order thinking skills of Understanding and Remembering.  However, students were also challenged to Create their wiki page.  This primary focus on lower-order thinking skills does explain why students predominantly provided factual responses rather than explanations or conclusions when asked what they had learned.

Recommendations for Future Practice

Re-designing the activity into a stronger inquiry model

This ILA was run for the final time at the site, therefore, any proposal to improve the nature of this particular ILA would not be worthwhile.  However, I would like to propose the following set of considerations for any ILA run in future Year 7 Geography classes under the Australian Curriculum.

The Adoption of an Inquiry Model

Lupton (2012, August 22) advocates that strong inquiry models contain three elements: a questioning framework, an information literacy/information seeking process and an action research cycle (see Figure 3, below for my representation of such a model).

Figure 3 – Lupton’s (2012) Inquiry Model

The Questioning Framework

Naturally, questions are at the very heart of inquiry.  Both teachers and students ask questions: teachers to guide and direct, students to narrow their field of study and choose areas of interest (Lupton, 2012).  Although the ACARA F-12 Australian Curriculum Geography Draft does supply questions which geographers ought to ask, it is important that students are also given guidelines for formulating questions with which to frame their inquiries; for example, frameworks such as McTighe’s Essential Questions or the Question Formulation Technique.

Inquiry Models

The ACARA F-12 Australian Curriculum:  Geography Draft contains an inquiry model which is designed with the subject discipline in mind.  Units on ‘Environmental resources’ and ‘Why people live where they do’ are the focus in Year 7.  Geographical inquiry and skills are also addressed and detailed in the draft curriculum, the stages of which include:

  • Observing and questioning
  • Planning, collecting and evaluating
  • Processing, analysing, interpreting and concluding
  • Communicating
  • Reflecting and responding.

Action Research Cycle

In the Draft F-12 Australian Curriculum:  Geography students are also challenged to formulate action plans and there is clear evidence that an action research cycle can be adopted through the Year 7 course ‘Environmental Resources’ and ‘Why people live where they do’ and into Year 8 when students study ‘Landscapes’ and ‘Personal and community geographies’.   Inquiry units developed around each of these units can inform the next.  Further, the inquiry model proposed invites students to use the data and information they collect, analyse and then recommend action to their local and wider community.

My recommendations with regard to the adoption of an inquiry model include:

  • Focus on what it means to be a geographer.  Adopt the questioning framework in the Australian Curriculum and use this as a lense through which students view their world.
  • Provide students with guidance and direction in the formulation of questions to help frame their inquiries.
  • Adopt the inquiry model proposed in the Australian Curriculum to facilitate the structure of geographical inquiry which builds in the essence of a Guided Inquiry model.  This model allows for the necessary scaffolding, with the help of an instructional team, to allow students to perform tasks that would normally be slightly beyond their ability (Murphy, 1997).
  • Continue with an instructional team comprising the Geography teacher, IT teacher and the TL.
  • Facilitate closer collaboration amongst the instructional team.  Perhaps this warrants the consideration to do away with the discrete library lesson and to involve the TL directly in the Geography and IT classes at significant stages of the inquiry process when students require intervention; that is, during the early stages of observing and questioning, planning and collecting because this is the time during which students often experience confusion and require guided direction and intervention (Kuhlthau et al., 2007, p. 18).
  • Develop a school-based approach to information literacy which is based on the GeST Information Literacy Model.  This model should be applied to take “advantage of the technology available to connect, to participate and make a difference in their community” (Jenkins YouTube video, 2010).
  • Collaborate with teachers in the planning and preparation of units of work and recognise the need for an action research cycle to permit students to draw on what they have learned, which in turn will shape their search for new information.

Bibliography

Churches, A. (2009, April 1). Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Retrieved October 30, 2012, from Edorigami: http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/file/view/bloom%27s+Digital+taxonomy+v3.01.pdf

Jenkins, H. (2010, April 13). TEDxNYED – Henry Jenkins [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AFCLKa0XRlw

Jonassen, D. (1998). Designing Constructivist Learning Environments. In C. M. Reigeluth, Instructional Theories and Models (2nd Edition ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). The Theory and Research basis for Guided Inquiry. In C. C. Kuhlthau, L. K. Maniotes, & A. K. Caspari, Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century (pp. 13-28). Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Lupton, M. (2012). CLN650 Week 4 GeST Windows [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from http://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_84672_1%26url%3D

Lupton, M. (2012, August 22). What is Inquiry Learning? Retrieved October 30, 2012, from Inquiry Learning and Information Literacy: http://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/what-is-inquiry-learning/

Lupton, M., & Bruce, C. (2010). Windows on Information Literacy Worlds: Generic, Situated and Transformation Perspectives. In A. Lloyd, & S. Talja, Practising Information Literacy: Bringing theories of Learning, Practice and Information Literacy Together (pp. 3-27). Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies.

McTighe, J. (2008). Essential questions:  Doorways to inquiry and understanding.  Retrieved from http://images.schoolinsites.com/SiSFiles/Schools/TN/GreenevilleCity/GreenevilleHigh/Uploads/DocumentsCategories/Documents/McTighe%20-%20Essential%20Questions.pdf

Murphy, E. (1997). Characteristics of Constructivist Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emurphy/stemnet/cle3.html

Rothstein, D. and Santana, L. (2011). Teaching students to ask their own questions. Retrieved from http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/507#home

Library Focus during the ILA – Response to Initial Data Collection

This Information Learning Activity (ILA) (see Figure 1 Task and Criteria Sheets, below) had been run for numerous years.  This would be the first time I was involved in the

Figure 1 Task and Criteria Sheets

activity, and I decided to make Kuhlthau’s (2007) stages of the inquiry process explicit to the Year 7s during my library lessons.  I based this decision on the following factors.

First, my own degree course research inspired me to apply  Kuhlthau’s (2012, p. 3) caution about supporting student inquiry:

Second, I had discussed my intention to make the inquiry process stages explicit to the Year 7s with the Middle School Humanities Coordinator.  She was supportive of the approach and believed it would be valuable for students to be aware of these stages moving into Year 8. As a result, I developed a number of supporting documents, which represented the various stages of the inquiry process.  Each lesson, I would work through the next stage with the students (click on Figure 2, below, to look through the Guided Inquiry Booklet).

Figure 2 Guided Inquiry Booklet

Interpretation of Findings from the Conduct of the ILA

This post serves to report my findings of the Information Learning Activity (ILA) run in a Year 7 Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) class which focused on Multiculturalism.  Specifically, students were asked to select a country to study.  Follow this link to the Task and Criteria Sheet and this link to the Questionnaires administered to the students.

What did students know about the countries they chose?

Students were asked to identify what they already knew about their country at the commencement of the unit and these responses were coded in accordance with the Scoring Sheets supplied in the SLIM Toolkit.  Responses were coded as either statements of fact, how or why explanations, or conclusion statements which represent movement on behalf of the student away from pure explanation and includes elements of evaluation or reflection.

For this first question, one student supplied a statement, which I considered explanatory, and another supplied a conclusion.  The other students provided only factual statements (see Figure 1, below).  However, there were a greater number of factual statements

Figure 1

Figure 1

recorded on the second survey.  On average 2.9 factual statements were supplied per student on the first survey, this increasing to 3.3 factual statements supplied in the second.  Here, it must be noted that the very nature of the ILA is factual.  Students were required to supply specific information about a country of their choice.  The task specifically focused on lower-order thinking skills.  Students were asked to complete a fact-finding exercise, therefore, as Limberg (2000, p. 198) suggests, it should not prove surprising when results such as those which appear above, reveal that they did not reach a richer understanding of their chosen country.

A further explanation for these results may lie in the very nature of this first question. Students were asked to write down what they knew about the country they had chosen to investigate.  This may invite students to list facts.

I had used Kuhlthau’s (2007) Guided Inquiry Model to structure their lessons.  During each lesson, I would step them through a stage of the process.  At the Formulation Stage, I provided them with a resource that asked them to indicate if they would travel to their chosen country and provide five reasons why/why not.  83% of students indicated they would like to travel to their chosen country (see Figure 2, below).  Students were asked to

Figure 2

Figure 2

supply five reasons for their answers.  On average, each student supplied 4.4 factual statements.  Across the class, a total of nine conclusions drawn (see Figure 3, below).

Figure 3

Figure 3

Setting students a specific target number of responses may assist in increasing the number of reflective points made for each question, although the responses were still predominantly factual (see Figure 4, below for a sample of Factual on the left and Conclusion responses on the right).   Had more time been available, it would have been

Figure 4

Figure 4

informative to drill down into the motivations underpinning the expression of factual reasons.  Indeed, the student who identified snow as a reason may have done so because he values a unique experience.  This silence is a function of the blunt nature of a questionnaire and convinces me that a revision of my data collection method could yield richer, more accurate data about my students’  capacity and/or inclination to offer what the SLIM resource (Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2012) (Murphy, 1997) classifies as high-order conclusions.

How interested were students in the topic?

From the outset, there appeared to be little interest in the topic (see Figure 5, below).

Figure 5

Figure 5

Clearly, the topic did not capture the students’enthusiasm.  However, a number of students I did talk to were clearly excited about their country.  Each student, in every class, had to select a different country.  Some countries were more popular than others, for example, Italy, France and Greece.  Those students – 24% of the group (see Figure 6, below) – who were asked to reselect a country because it had already been chosen were

Figure 6

Figure 6

very disappointed.  Selection of an inquiry topic is pivotal to student engagement and indeed in this case, although perhaps not the only reason for the initial lack of enthusiasm, should clearly be considered a contributing factor.  Jonassen (in Murphy, 1997) identifies the provision of learner control as a central concept to constructivist design, teaching and learning.  Without this degree of control, student motivation and application may be eroded.  Also of significance is the further decline in the lack of interest at the close of the unit (see Figure 7, below).  In fact, 64% of respondents’ interest declined, whilst only 8%

Figure 7

Figure 7

increased in interest.  Each student, who reported that their interest had increased, had studied their first country of choice.  However, 24% of the students whose interest declined (see Figure 8, below) did not study their country of their choice, rather their second, third and sometimes their fourth preference.

Figure 8

Figure 8

Students measure what they know of their topic

In the Initial stages of the ILA, there was little variation between the number of respondents who knew Quite a Bit, Not Much and Nothing at All about their country (see Figure 9, below).   Interestingly, a little over half the class still felt they knew little about their country

Figure 9

Figure 9

at the end of the unit (see Figure 9, above).  This, however, may be related to their increased expectations regarding their understanding and knowledge after having conducted their investigations; sometimes when students commence researching, the abundance of information on their topic highlights how little they actually did know.  In fact, Kuhlthau et al. (2007, p. 17) flag that this “information often initially increases the sense of uncertainty” which may explain these results.

However, Kuhlthau et al. (2007) identify this uncertainty should exist during the exploration phase (see Kuhlthau et al.’s (2007) Model of the Information Search Process, below) rather

than at the Assessment phase, which is when this second questionnaire was administered. For this group of students, perhaps this raises questions regarding their progression through the search process.  Perhaps, time did not permit these students to cycle through the formulation and collection stages.  Indeed, a number of students noted they felt they did not have enough time to complete the task at school and at home.  Many also noted that time management was an issue (see Figure 10, below) which may well have impacted on their progression through their information search process and therefore their perceived level of knowledge about their country.

Figure 10

Figure 10

Further, Limberg (2000) would argue that there exists a clear correlation between a student’s learning outcomes and the information search process when she reports that students with a fact-finding approach do have limited learning outcomes whereas students who scrutinised and analysed the data they collected had more sophisticated learning outcomes.  Here, one could conclude that the nature of the ILA, which focused on lower-order thinking skills prevented students from developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of their chosen country.

What did students find easy about research?

Students were asked to identify what they found easy when researching at both the commencement and at the conclusion of the ILA. The SLIM toolkit supplies guidance in the coding of such responses against the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Information Literacy Standards, however, given that these standards were formulated in 1998 the current AASL (2007) Standards for the 21st Century Learner were deemed more relevant.  The top responses were classified according to these standards and they appear beside each of the figures.

The following chart (Figure 11) represents the standards relating to research students felt

Figure 11

Figure 11

they found easiest to achieve before they commenced the ILA.  Interestingly, at the conclusion of the ILA students identified three new skills as easy (see Figure 12, below).

Figure 12

Figure 12

Significantly, the number of students who felt it was easy to “use technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry” as well as “organise knowledge so that it is useful” doubled by the conclusion of the ILA.  Further, the final survey reveals three of the recognised skills involve the use of technology, whereas in the initial survey only one skill was identified which related to the use of technology.   This could be the result of the students’ engagement with a new technology tool:  the wiki.  Interestingly, the focus on this Web 2.0 tool, which was new for most of these students, proved troublesome for half the group.

What did students find difficult about research?

Based on their original assessments, the stand-out aspects of research technique students found difficult included the use of technology to organise their information along with their skills to find and evaluate information which is reliable and relevant.  Technology continued to prove problematic throughout the unit.  Numerous students recorded that they experienced difficulty at school, and on occasion at home, logging on to computers and accessing the internet (see Figure 13, below).  Certainly, at the school site band width had been an ongoing issue and one which was resolved during the term break.

Figure 13

Figure 13

The ILA involved the students constructing a wiki on the school’s Learning Management System (LMS).  I did observe, nearing the end of the unit that numerous students were struggling with this new mode of presentation.  In particular they were having difficulty with copying their Word documents into the LMS; images were not uploading correctly and the format they had adopted in Word was not transferring to the new platform.  This would explain the increased results for “Use technology to organise and display knowledge”.

However, after the completion of the unit, students reported improvement in their ability to find and evaluate sources of information.  When one considers Figure 11 alongside Figure 14 (Questionnaire 1) one could conclude that half the students found the retrieval of useful

Figure 14

Figure 14

information easy and the other half found this difficult.  By the end of the unit, though, students felt comfortable in acknowledging that they found searching for information and finding reliable information a lot easier.  The Google Search Strategy lessons may have assisted here.

What did students learn about research during this process?

One student’s response to the final question on the second questionnaire (see Figure 15, below), expressed what teachers hope for at the culmination of any unit …

Figure 15

Figure 15

Unfortunately, this particular student did not feel inclined to elaborate on exactly what it was he did learn.

Four themes, however, did emerge from this final question on the second questionnaire: new ways to Google, time management, note-taking skills and how to research better.  Figure 16, below, illustrates one student’s response which included three of these themes:

Figure 16

Figure 16

What was fascinating was that I had taken the students for each library lesson and I had spent a good deal of this time detailing for them the various stages of the inquiry process.  Only one student identified this as an area of learning for this research task (see Figure 17, below):

Figure 17

Figure 17

I can only surmise as to the reasons for such a limited response.  Again, this points to the need for a triangulation of observation, questioning and interviews.  I did have to compress the coverage of three of the latter stages into the one lesson.  This was not an ideal situation but I found that circumstance and the limited contact time I have with the students did necessitate this coverage.  I did team teach on a number of occasions with the SOSE teacher but these lessons were specifically on search strategies.  My compression of their Information Search Process in class may well have also had an effect on their measurement of the knowledge they had acquired on their country (See the previous section:  Students measure what they know of their topic).

What do students enjoy about research assignments?

I added an additional question to the final questionnaire:  What are the characteristics of research assignments you enjoy?  One characteristic, in particular emerged; that is, finishing the assignment and the relief this brings (see Figure 18, below):

Figure 18

Figure 18

These obvious reflections of relief at the conclusion of this assessment are not identified by Kuhlthau et al. (2007) Model of the Information Search Process (see Figure 19, below) and students were not asked if they were satisfied or disappointed with their final product.  However, I can’t help thinking that whatever their assessment of their product may have been, this overwhelming sense of relief and finality may overshadow any self-assessment of their achievements.

Figure 19

Figure 19

On reflection, a number of important issues have emerged from the analysis and interpretation of these data:

  • the fact-finding nature of the ILA;
  • the need to employ time management techniques to allow students to cycle through this Information Search Process; and
  • the importance of information literacy skills for successful inquiry.

Bibliography

American Association of School Librarians. (2007). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from American Association of School Libraries: http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/AASL_Learning_Standards_2007.pdf

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). The Theory and Research Basis for guided Inquiry. In C. C. Kuhlthau, L. K. Maniotes, & A. K. Caspari, Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century (pp. 13-28). Wesport: Libraries Unlimited.

Limberg, L. (2000). Is there a Relationship Between Information Seeking and Learning Outcomes. In C. Bruce, & P. Candy, Information Literacy Around the World: Advances in Programs and Research (pp. 193-207). Wagga Wagga: CIS, Charles Sturt University.

Murphy, E. (1997). Characteristics of Constructivist Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from: http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emurphy/stemnet/cle3.html

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. (2012). Impact Studies – SLIM. Retrieved from Rutgers School of Communication and Information: http://cissl.rutgers.edu/joomla-license/impact-studies/57-impact-studies-slim