Inquiry By Design

This week, after a three-year hiatus, I will return to teaching graduate students in library science. I am teaching “Information Books and Resources for Youth” (IS445) online for library science master’s students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Some students in the course will be preservice or practicing school librarians; others will be entering the field as public library children’s or teen librarians. The course is just eight short weeks long.

Preparing for a course I have not previously taught is simultaneously exciting and a bit anxiety producing. Designing curriculum has always been a joy for me (the exciting part), but the proof of its/my success is unknown until students interact with it (the anxiety-producing part). As a card-carrying instructional partner, I would have preferred to design this course collaboratively. That would have eased the anxiety part but that wasn’t an option for me.

Inquiry Framework
I have learned a great deal from using the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework (Kuhlthau, Manitoes, and Caspari 2012) to structure this literature course. Our class will engage in a whole class inquiry related to global books and resources focused on prejudice and discrimination faced by youth. Our whole class experience will serve as a model before students form groups to set off on their own inquiry projects.

When I was teaching at Texas Woman’s University, I had the opportunity to serve on the Denton Inquiry for Lifelong Learning project team; our collaboration involved school, public, university librarians, and librarian educators in Denton, Texas. We studied the GID book for professional development. As part of that grant-funded project, author and educator Leslie Maniotes provided a three-day workshop for Denton ISD school librarians, their classroom teacher collaborators, and the project team.

I’m excited to implement the GID in IS445. The GID has eight phases: Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share, and Evaluate. This week in IS445 we will Open the inquiry with the goals of stimulating students’ thinking, piquing their curiosity, and motivating them to join me in our initial inquiry journey.

Resources
The plethora of outstanding nonfiction and information books has made identifying, analyzing, and selecting resources a pleasure and a challenge! The literature courses I have taught in the past have focused on fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and poetry… more than on nonfiction/informational books. I am pleased that UI-UC offers this course because public and school librarians will benefit from knowing how to identify, analyze, and select this literature. Finding accurate, authentic resources will be our mission.

Integrating targeted online resources, including OER, into the course is a new path for me as well. Rather than teaching Web-based information sources broadly, the goal in this course is to focus resources based on inquiry questions and curriculum, which will be the most likely way library users—students, educators, and families—will seek the support of these future librarians.

Assignments
Relevant, meaningful assignments are the foundation for the learning experiences in this course. Determining the appropriate number of assignments, depth of learning (in the allotted time), and amount of support takes a bit of guesswork when the course facilitator does not know the students. Designing assignments is the first step for me: doing them myself is the second step. (I am still working on one of the Choice Project examples. Ouch!) Doing the assignments provides students with examples, and it helps me ensure I’ve given clear directions and left pathways for student voice, choice, and creativity.

Planning for Interaction
In my previous online teaching, students were not required to meet synchronously in the online classroom. At Texas Woman’s University, I offered group office hour chats every two weeks during the regular semester, but less than 50% of the students took advantage of the opportunity to discuss course topics, ask questions, and share their experiences. Sessions were recorded and all students were expected to listen to the recordings.

The UI-UC iSchool requires students to be present for a synchronous online meeting for two hours each week. Planning for student interaction with course materials, with each other, and with me during our class meetings will be a constant as I plan for an engaging summer semester.

I look forward to meeting our class and launching this learning adventure on Wednesday, June 12th.

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi has taught preservice school librarians since 1995. She is currently an adjunct associate professor for the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has taught courses in instructional partnerships and school librarian leadership, multimedia resources and services, children’s and young adult literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles.

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