Launching the New Year with Inquiry Learning

Welcome to School Librarian Leadership 2021!

On this blog, I share research and musings, news and views with the hopes of prompting critical thinking regarding coteaching and collaboration between school librarians, classroom teachers, specialists, school administrators, and others involved in deeper learning and effective teaching.

A Dialogue Centered on Inquiry Learning

Screenshot of Judi Moreillon and Barbara StriplingLast month, I had the pleasure of participating in an interview with long-time friend and colleague Barbara Stripling. In addition to writing for School Library Connection (SLC) magazine, Barb is engaged in collecting video interviews to share on the SLC website. Over our years in school librarianship, Barb’s path and mine have intersected many times. We have many beliefs, values, and recommended practices in school librarianship in common, but inquiry learning may be the thread that connects all of them.

Student Motivation and Inquiry: A Conversation
In my experience, inquiry is a pathway that leads directly to deeper learning. When students ask personally meaningful questions that are relevant to their own lives, they are motivated to learn and will be invested in their learning outcomes. When students practice agency, they grow as independent thinkers, active participants, and knowledge contributors who express curiosity, demonstrate persistence, and build the foundation for lifelong learning.

“In this video, educators Barbara Stripling and Judi Moreillon discuss ways to motivate students and help them engage in deeper inquiry. As Moreillon points out, it’s not easy: ‘Today, students, and all of us adults, we want things to be quick and easy, and inquiry is anything but quick and easy. It’s messy. It takes commitment. It takes work. So, motivating people of all ages to ask questions and pursue knowledge and facts can be challenging.’ Both Moreillon and Stripling have risen to this challenge, and share their insights here (in this video)” (2020).

The video will be freely available until January 31, 2021 and then will be accessible to SLC subscription holders. Barb and I invite you to view the video and share your questions and comments here on my blog.

Connecting Research and Practice
As both a practitioner and a researcher who writes for practicing school librarians as well as school librarianship educators and researchers, I am always looking to make connections between research and practice. Coincidentally and also in December, Edutopia published an article by Youki Terada and Stephen Merrill, in which they list and provide abstracts for the “10 Most Significant Education Studies in 2020.”

Although I recommend practicing school librarians review all ten of these studies, there was one on the list that directly supports making inquiry learning a top priority in our teaching: “Students Who Generate Good Questions Are Better Learners.” It’s number six on Terada and Merrill’s list.

Although this study was conducted at the university level, the results and recommendations can be applied from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students who participated in the study scored an average of 14 percentage points higher on a test than students who studied their notes or reread classroom material. “Creating questions, the researchers found, not only encouraged students to think more deeply about the topic but also strengthened their ability to remember what they were studying” (Ebersbach, Feierabend, and Nazari 2020).

Having engaged graduate level students in inquiry learning, I have learned that far too many students get to higher education without ever having had the opportunity to engage in inquiry learning. They do not even know the term or what inquiry entails. Far too many have only had experiences of teacher-led research projects that involved them in answering the teacher’s or the textbook’s questions and writing a report that simply restated the “facts.” While many of these students have been “successful” as compliant learners, they have not developed a passion for discovery and have not experienced all of the joys and challenges of the learning journey.

In my humble opinion, these students have not been prepared for life. Students should have inquiry experiences beginning in the early grades that set an expectation for student-led learning (See Edutopia’s video: “Inquiry-Based Learning: From Teacher-Guided to Student-Driven” – Ralston Elementary School is creating a culture of inquiry to nourish 21st-century learners.)

Launching 2021 with Inquiry Learning
School librarians and other educators can reach their goal of developing lifelong learners through guiding students in the inquiry process until youth are able to design their own learning process and pursue a question independently. Through classroom-library collaboration for instruction, educators can ensure that all K-12 students experience the competence, autonomy, and relevance that inquiry learning affords (see 11/30/20 Inquiry Connections blog post).

Let’s position our school libraries as hubs for inquiry learning. Let’s build instructional partnerships with classroom educators and spread the inquiry model in every classroom at every grade level and in every discipline in our schools.

Now that’s one high-impact 2021 New Year’s Resolution!

Works Cited

Ebersbach, Mirjam, Maike Feierabend, and Katharina Barzagar B. Nazari. 2020. “Comparing the Effects of Generating Questions, Testing, and Restudying on Students’ Long-term Recall in University Learning.” Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acp.3639

Stripling, Barbara K., and Judi Moreillon. 2020. “Student Motivation and Inquiry [19:18].” School Library Connection, December, https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2259724?topicCenterId=2252404

Terada, Youki, and Stephen Merrill. 2020. “The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2020.” Edutopia.org, December 4, https://www.edutopia.org/article/10-most-significant-education-studies-2020

This entry was posted in Collaboration, Coteaching, Inquiry, Instructional Leadership and tagged , , , , by Judi Moreillon. Bookmark the permalink.

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 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. She has published four professional books; the most recent is Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018). (See the book study on this blog.) Judi earned the American Library Association's 2019 Scholastic Library Publishing Award. She is currently editing and contributing to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

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