Blogs I Follow
My immediate response to the thought of having to give and receive feedback from my peers who have also been undergoing an information seeking journey this semester was one of hesitation. This was mainly because I was still lacking confident about my own work (a natural response according to Kuhlthau). However, after spending time exploring the works of my peers I discovered that while our approaches might look physically different, in terms of exploring and becoming familiar with, and reporting back about different information database we indeed shared common ground. I needed to remind myself also that Kuhlthau theory of Guided Inquiry supports and encourages the idea of a community of learners who learn together and learn from each other. This process forced me to look at the content and structure of my peer’s essays with a critical eye, and also made me reflect on my own work.
Once my feedback was received, I was able to see my blog from the perspective of someone else’s eyes, and seek to make improvements as a result. I had a go at some of the suggested Web 2.0 tools for mind mapping, and looked to enhance my searches further by the inclusion of screen shots.
Thinking about this activity I am able to see that not only have I benefitted from receiving feedback, but also from giving it as well. My knowledge base about my own context of the history curriculum has increased, I gained insight into different perspectives, and the opportunity to share knowledge and skills encouraged me to identify more clearly the strengths and weaknesses of my work.
This process has potential to be a valuable exercise in my early years classroom as the children work towards presenting new knowledge about our topic in a visual form. I need to be mindful that it is part of my responsibility as a history teacher to not only ensure the children are provided with an authentic inquiry tasks, but also are given opportunity to think critically and collaboratively work with each other.
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.
Through my information gathering this semester I have worked towards developing a cohesive definition of inquiry learning, and how I can apply this learning theory in a meaningful manner in the context of the Australian history curriculum within an early years classroom. As I have been exploring inquiry in the history curriculum, I have been motivated by the fact that keys elements of the new history curriculum can be directly linked to historical inquiry learning. The document Shape of the Australian Curriculum: History provided me with insight into the theory which underpins history curriculum standards. In particular introducing students to historical understanding involves the use of teaching methods of historical inquiry. By definition historical inquiry is the “process of developing knowledge and understanding in history by asking questions about the past and applying skills associated with analysing, interpreting and evaluating sources of evidence to develop informed and defensible answers.” (ACARA, 2009, p.5)
Defining inquiry within my context was indeed a challenge as many searches related in links to the science curriculum. In saying this however, one particular article Simplifying inquiry instruction (although in the science field), provided me with practical insight into Inquiry learning frameworks, and practical applications within a classroom setting. I found it interesting that they feel that “teachers know that inquiry is important, yet most teachers lack a practical framework of inquiry to inform their instruction.” (Bell, 2005, p.1) Personally I have found however that the Australian Curriculum provides practical frameworks, and it is more that I lack confidence in defining what effective inquiry learning looks like within a classroom setting.
From 2012 as a classroom teacher I am required to plan, assess and report using the new Australian Curriculum: History area. The framework of this curriculum area requires me to build my own historical understandings, my own historical skills, and most importantly forces me to critique my current teaching pedagogies to ensure that it is in line with inquiry based learning theory. Looking at the learning theories discussed in Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Chapter 2: The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry has helped me to develop a basic grounding in guided inquiry theory, and assists me in implementing inquiry based learning actively in the context of history curriculum.
One of the things I was particularly interested in investigating was how to develop effective inquiry learning activities within an early years classroom, where learners are not as independent as older students. I like the idea suggested by Bell in his article “Simplifying inquiry instruction”, that “the inquiry scale should be seen as a continuum so ideally students should progress gradually from lower to higher level over the course of a year.” (Bell 2005 Page 4) It needs to be remembered that no matter what opportunities are provided in an educational setting, a student’s progress on this continua in inevitably influenced by their ability. This is particularly relevant in terms of where my early year’s students sit on this continuum and my expectations of them as a result.
In relation to the Australian Curriculum: History standards, it is important for me to remember that regardless of the age of the learners, the inquiry process requires me to assist students in deepening their understanding of a particular topic because the goal of a true inquiry task is not simple rote learning of facts (as was a prominent feature of history curriculum in the past.) This idea was reiterated by Hoepper, in his article “Who says you can’t change history” which provides a concise description of the changing face of history teaching over time.
The reality of a classroom setting also has an influence on my ability to develop authentic inquiry learning tasks within my class setting. Alexander in his article Walking on the Wildside! Teaching Towards Deeper Understanding in History Through Building Capacity rather than Delivering Content reminded me of this. He suggests that the everyday expectations within a school environment may actually be at odds with the current curriculum development. In particular development of an Australian Curriculum with core content, and the implementation of various forms of state and national testing within schools may be at odds with inquiry learning, where there is a the need to facilitate deep learning for students.
As is the aim with inquiry learning, in my ideal learning environment I strive to provide students with opportunities to have an active role in learning situations, using real world connections, and build on what they already know. In reality however, the day to day school based expectations/curriculum expectations, interruptions, and not to mention the behaviour management influences, sometimes make it difficult to give the students “full control” over their learning. I can only continue to strive towards this.
When planning inquiry based units within my early years classroom, it is important that I remember that “inquiry is not a ‘method’ of doing science, history, or any other subject in which the obligatory first stage in a fixed, linear sequence is that of students each formulating questions to investigate. Rather, it is an approach to the chosen themes and topics in which the posing of real questions is positively encouraged whenever they occur and by whomever they are asked. Equally important as the hallmark of an inquiry approach is that all tentative answers are taken seriously and are investigated as rigorously as circumstances permit.” (Wells, 1999)
Alexander, J (no date given) Walking on the Wildside! Teaching Towards Deeper Understanding in History Through Building Capacity rather than Delivering Content, Paper retrieved July from www.acel.org.au/conf07/papers/Alexander%20Joe%20paper.doc
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2009). Shape of the Australian Curriculum: History ACARA. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Australian_Curriculum_-_History.pdf#xml=http://search.curriculum.edu.au/texis/search/pdfhi.txt?query=history&pr=www.acara.edu.au&prox=page&rorder=500&rprox=500&rdfreq=500&rwfreq=500&rlead=500&rdepth=0&sufs=0&order=r&cq=&id=503494f52f
Bell, R; Smetana, L & Binns, I. (2005). Simplifying inquiry instruction The Science Teacher, 72 (7), 30-33 retrieval August 23 2012 from http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/214615319/fulltextPDF
Hoepper, B., (2004) “Who says you can’t change history.” Retrieved August 2012 from http://www.eqa.edu.au/site/whosaysyoucant.html
Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Chapter 2: The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry in Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K, Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century, Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, pp.13-28from https://cmd.library.qut.edu.au/CLN650/CLN650_BK_175481.pdf
Wells, Gordon (2001). Action, talk & text: Learning & Teaching Through Inquiry. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Retrieved August 23 from http://www.galileo.org/inquiry-what.html#1
1. Take some time to think about your topic. Now write down what you know about it.
- Inquiry learning is an essential element of the Australian Curriculum subject of History. Students need to investigate and engage with historical knowledge, understandings and skills, not just rehash facts provided by a teacher.
- The teaching of history in a primary school classroom has a history of it’ own in terms of approach (from rote learning to inquiry based learning)
- The teaching of inquiry based units of work are influenced by the many interruptions and time constraints within a classroom.
- Teachers need to be supported to step outside their comfort zone, (through professional development and mentoring) and encourage students to take control of their investigations (acting as a guide and facilitator)
- There is debate about the advantages and disadvantages of single disciplines within a curriculum as opposed to integrated units of work (eg The new History curriculum verses SOSE)
- Within an early years history classroom the teacher needs to act as a guide to ensure that students are working towards a deep understanding of given topics.
- Students need to be provided with opportunities to gain information from a variety of different sources. Students should be encouraged to take ownership of learning through development of questioning techniques, and providing them with opportunities to develop skills regarding searching, collection, organisation, and presentation of information on given topics.
2. How interested are you in this topic? Check (ü) one box that best matches your interest.
Not at all ☐ not much ☐ quite a bit ☐ a great deal
3. How much do you know about this topic? Check (ü) one box that best matches how much you know.
Nothing ☐ not much ☐ quite a bit a great deal ☐
4. Thinking of your research so far – what did you find easy to do? Please mention as many things as you like.
- Anything I mention here is still part of a journey of development in terms of my information gathering skills (Don’t think the journey will ever end)
- Using Google and Google Scholar (particularly when I discovered that I should link my Google Scholar settings to include QUT databases.)
- Once I started to research using the databases I became more confident. I started to build up lots of resources
- Gaining confidence in exploring a broader range of databases (particularly those specifically for the education sector. Through this I have discovered resources more specific to my context.
- Gaining confidence in having a go at different ways of searching, using mind maps, and wordles to analysis my search processes.
- Gaining skills in the use of Boolean operators to gain more relevant information
- Finding common links/information in resources collected.
5. Thinking of your research so far – what did you find difficult to do? Please mention as many things as you like.
- Organising and sorting through the copious amount of information that I found. (using mind maps helped me with this however.)
- Having to work out which of the information sources that I have collected were truly the best ones for my purpose. I have concentrated so much on collecting different sources, that I had difficulties finding the time to really explore all that I have discovered (what am I missing out on)
- Concern that this has resulted in surface learning, trying to deepen my knowledge over the remainder of semester.
- Some difficulties finding information that was specific to Australian history curriculum approaches in the early years context. Lots of information related to older students and science.
- Remembering to record my sources as I discovered them (both from what databases and the bibliography details (this has always been a weaknesses) Although having to search for them again made me retrace my search techniques.
6. How do you feel about your research so far? Check (ü) one box that best matches how you feel.
Frustrated – I can’t find what I want☐
Overwhelmed – I’m finding it hard to sort through the information
Confused – I don’t really know what I’m looking for ☐
Confident – I think I know where I’m heading ☐
Today I have had a go at linking my key terms together using an online mind mapping tool. I have had many paper versions of the above mind map during my information journey, but after viewing the work of fellow students in my study group, and reading their suggestions for my own work I decided to have a go at using a Web 2.0 tool https://bubbl.us/ . This tool provides a neat, concise way of connecting my learnings together. In addition the creation of a mind map helped me to organise the large of amount of information I have collected in recent weeks.
The above link outlines my searches using the Proquest and ERIC databases. Unfortunately as noted by other readers of my blog there is a whistle in the background of my recording, which I was unable to rectify, despite numerous retakes.
At this stage I am wanting to consolidate my understanding of what guided learning is, and link it to my history curriculum context. I decided to initially investigate the concept of guided inquiry, and straight away found links between the concept guided inquiry and the work of teacher librarians. In addition one of the first links was the role of guided outlined in the ASLA guidelines. (Although the link was invalid as the ASLA website is currently being developed further.) Another link which was interesting was a PowerPoint about practical application of guided inquiry within library settings. While this PowerPoint was linked to old Victorian curriculum standards and not Australian Curriculum standards, it still gave me some insight into the practice of embedding guided inquiry theory through an Information Research Process.
Another link which was also both reasonably current and also once gain practical ideas was a slide share presentation from a Cairns Conference on Guided Inquiry.
An extremely fruitful search in terms of developing my understanding of the concept of guided inquiry, and also suggested practical implications for my current teaching practice.
While this first search was productive for my second search I decided to be a little more specific. Using Google again my search this time was “guided inquiry” and “early years” and Kuhlthau and history”.
For my second search in this area I added quotation marks to look at the difference that this makes in terms of search results. This is where I found my digital footprint. My first two results were actually links to my word press blog for this unit. A number of the following links were links to books I could buy on the subject, and outlines of university subjects which I could undertake., as well as blogs written by previous students of the Masters in Teacher Librarian course. It was interesting to look at those blogs and compare it to where I am right now on my journey.
While some interesting links I decided to look at the same search using Google Scholar as the previous search did not really provide me with any more information in regards to my goal. A quick look at Google Scholar was not very successful in terms of my end goal. At this stage I felt that it was important to step out of my comfort zone and take a look at other databases, which are available to me.
The first I used was A+ Education. I wasn’t feeling very confident in terms of my search terms using this database simply because I haven’t used the database a great deal. My first search was guided and inquiry and Kuhlthau and Australian and curriculum. This search provided me with two hits. The first Curriculum Perspectives provided me with link to an abstract about a book held in the library by Ross Todd. The abstract mentions how Guided Inquiry can be developed in a meaningful way in schools to enable learners to develop information literacy skills in line with Kuhlthau’s information search process. This link is definitely worth following up both in terms of my own information journey, but also for my current classroom practices.
I decided to refine this search further by looking at a similar focus but including the context of the primary school. This search proved to be very fruitful indeed. In particular the search provided me with access to an article which outlined the journey undertaken by a teacher librarian in Penrith, Sydney “Taking the plunge: Guided Inquiry, persuasion and
the research river at Penrith Public School”, and how he was able to integrate his knowledge of Kuhlthau’s information process, using the SLIM toolkit developed by Todd, and also being used by me for the first time as part of the expectations of this unit, Information Nexus. Lots of information here that can help me on my journey.
I am beginning to realise that I have actually made my own information literacy journey over the course of this Master’s course more difficulty by not accessing the databases available in the university library on a regular basis. Should I have done this subject earlier in the course, would I have made life easier for myself?
To finish off this search session I decided to take a look at the ProQuest Education Journal database, a database that I have actively used in the past and had success with.
My initial search was not fruitful at all.
I adapted my search to include the following this search gave me 64 hits, with reference to both Australian and overseas examples of guided inquiry, and Kuhlthau’s information on search processes. This search was definitely fruitful and provided me with resources that I can use for both my information journey and my own ILA guided inquiry unit in my classroom this semester. Looking back at my searches using a variety of different databases during this session, I am certainly gaining insight into the limitations and strengths of different databases. In particular the use of Google or Google Scholar while convenient and easy in terms of gaining lots of information about a broad range of topics, the use of databases such as A+ Education and PRoquest Journal led me to information which was more directly related to my original search goal. The use of databases such as these also “forces” me to be very specific in my search terms, and made me stop and think about what the true purpose of my search journey is. Through this search process I now have a number of resources that I wish to add to my annotated bibliography.
Please click on the following click for video of my information search. Due to formatting issues I have only been able to provide a link to the video.
The above search while very specific, provided me with a information about:
- my information learning activity context
- current curriculum practice
- development of the history curriculum area over time
- pros and cons of current curriculum development
There are three particular search results that I was selected to use as part of my information gathering for my Information Learning Activity.
The first was the Queensland History Teachers Assocation Links. This link provides practical online links about a broad range of historicaltopics for use by both teachers and students. In particular the child’s play section of the Queensland State library which provides users with historical photographs. This is particularly relevant to my context given that students will be looking closely at these types of sources when gaining information about past and present in the xxxx school environment.
The second hit which was particularly helpful in relation to my context was Who says you Can’t change history . I have referred to this article in a previous post however decided to include it is this search post as it is proving to be quite significant in my ILA context.
The other significant finds during this search were references to the QSA curriculum and the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, reminding me of the journey that my teaching colleagues went on when we first developed this guided inquiry unit for your Year 2 classes.
Although I probably limited my search framework by sticking to Google and Google Scholar, through exploring some of the works of Dr Hoepper, I have been able to gain insight into both practical and theoretical aspects of my guided inquiry unit. I hope to be able to discuss this understanding further in my information synthesis stage later in the semester. In terms of developing my expert search strategies my next step is to refine my understanding of guided inquiry in the context of my unit of work, using a wider range of information databases.