During this blog post I will be analysing the different feeling thoughts and actions I have encountered so far during my inquiry process as part of Information Learning Nexus this semester. This analysis has been completed using the model of information search process outlined by Kuhlthau in his book entitled “Guided Inquiry – Learning in the 21st century.” This model is a practical one because central to it are a description of feelings, thoughts and actions involved in any inquiry.
As I sat down to commence my first search I was once again feeling the same “uncertainty and apprehension” that I seem to experience at the beginning of each semester. I certainly related to the work of Kuhlthau (2007) who suggests that the characteristic of the initiation stage of the Information Search Process are feeling of being “bogged down and overwhelmed at the amount of work ahead.” (Kuhlthau, 2007, p18). I was finding it hard to get my head around the way in how different elements of the unit of study linked together. In particular what was the purpose of conducting different online searches. As is common during the initial stages of an inquiry process, it was the lecturer who initiates the process and not me; therefore I didn’t feel I was in control at this stage of the information process. I needed to ensure that I slowed down a little and look at the big picture. Never before had I stopped to consider that my own students would have most certainly have experienced these same feelings at the beginning of our inquiry unit this semester.
During the second stage of Kuhlthau’s inquiry process, selection, I had to choose my general topic for study this semester. At this stage I was anxious about making the right decision, and as a result it took me quite some time to decide to complete my information learning activity in a history context, rather than a more familiar English one. One of the major reasons I felt like this at this stage was that I was not at all comfortable with the concept of inquiry based learning and what it truly looked like in an early year’s classroom setting. Kuhlthau described that people working through this stage experience a “brief feeling of elation, followed by apprehension at the extent of the task ahead.” (Kuhlthau, 2007, p.18) I skipped that feeling of elation, but there was certainly plenty of apprehension at this stage of my journey as I was still feeling completely lost and overwhelmed.
During the third stage described by Kuhlthau, exploration, I decided I needed to move out of my comfort zone, and explore my topic. I was looking to define my understanding of inquiry based learning, in particular guided inquiry in the early years, as well in relation to my chosen context, history teaching. I discovered a plethora of information on the topic of inquiry based learning, in particular in a science teaching context, however was getting a little frustrated and discouraged when my initial searches weren’t relevant to my context. As part of my research at this stage I came across a resource, http://www.naturalcuriosity.ca/pdf/BranchISection.pdf which helped to refine my understanding of the concept of inquiry based learning, and helped give me the confidence to keep going on my journey. It also reinforced to me that I have been using inquiry based unit for various activities in my classroom for years although I haven’t been explicit in expressing this is long term plans. Through my searches I can already see how this teaching/learning approach can be very clearly aligned with the new Australian Curriculum framework, and in turn my current teaching practice more explicitly.
The formulation stage of my information gathering initially appeared impossible as all my search results, using the variety of suggested data bases, had provided me with a large amount of information on inquiry learning, guided inquiry, history teaching, early years teaching and Australian Curriculum requirements. I had to send time working out how all the information I had gathered fitted together. As selected by Kuhlthau there are a number of criteria that a student uses at this stage in order to clearly define a focus. The criterion that I used to assist me at this stage was “looking at the criteria/expectations that had been set for this unit of study.” Was I “meeting the requirements of this assignment?” (Kuhlthau, 2007, p18) or was I completely off track.
The collection stage of my search was a very time consuming one for me as I not only had to rethink my focus, check I was on the right track, but then had to present the information I found in a logical manner in my annotated bibliography. As I was selecting resources that I felt best defined my context, extended my existing knowledge, and supported my focus area, I began to see a purpose for all my searches, but also for the annotated bibliography activity. Through these I was developing a degree of confidence in what I was exploring in particular its relevance to my learning activities I was developing with my class. Kuhlthau describes that learners within this stage develop a degree of “expertise”, but I certainly didn’t feel like an expert. (Kuhlthau, 2007, p20) It was more that I was more confident and comfortable with my topic.
During the presentation stage of my inquiry process for this unit I felt a range of feelings. I was quite pleased with the quality and range of the resources that I was able to discover and share on my blog, and felt happy that I was able to share these discoveries in a variety of formats. I was however questioning the standard of my presentation particularly in relation to the quality of screen shots and video presentations as I spent a lot of time on these and they were not of the standard that I would have hoped for, despite many attempts. Were my expectations of myself too high as I encountered the feeling of disappointment with these elements? I need to remember that this “feeling of disappointment” is a natural part of the Presentation stage of inquiry outlined by Kuhlthau. (Kuhlthau, 2007, p20)
The final stage of my inquiry process, assessment is a work in process. I am in the process of reflecting upon what I learnt in the last few weeks, not just in terms of the content that I found on my topic of choice, but also the processes I used during my inquiry process. I feel that this stage is ongoing, and never ending as I continue my quest for knowledge about my context and how to effective search for information on it. At this stage, one of the things in particular that I have learnt through this inquiry journey is that my inquiry journey would have been enhanced if I had spent more time brainstorming my topic of investigation, and if I had made use of online mind mapping tools, before commencing my searches. A particular thing that has assisted me during this stage of my inquiry journey has been the comments (both positives and improvements) provided by my fellow students.
By reflecting on my own journey using Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process, I have come to the realisation that the feelings, thoughts and actions I have experienced so far this semester are a natural part of an inquiry process. It has also helped me to reflect on the current journey that my students are on as part of the inquiry unit they are currently working through.