Inquiry Connections: Competence, Autonomy, and Relevance

Image of 3 interlock puzzle pieces and the words competence, autonomy, and relevance (plus modeling)In the past two weeks, I have been engaged in an email exchange with Connie Williams, who retired from her high school librarian position in Petaluma City (CA) Schools and walked into her second dream job as a part-time History Room Librarian at the Petaluma Regional Library. In her current role, she often has the opportunity to work with individual students as they conduct research.

Connie and I began our conversation after my 11/16/20 blog post that referenced Joyce Valenza’s “Enough with the CRAAP; We’re Just Not Doing It Right.” We have been sharing ideas about using Mike Caulfield’s The Four Moves and SIFT process when teaching students to closely examine the reliability of sources.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to engage in a virtual interview with Barbara Stripling, which will be posted to School Library Connection.com (SLC) in the near future. Barb posed questions about how to motivate students to engage in inquiry and how inquiry motivates students to become lifelong learners. (Note: Barb also discusses relevance, autonomy, competence (confidence) in her recent SLC article.)

Central to these conversations has been how to engage students in the hard work of determining the reliability of sources—to dig deep enough to determine the perspective, bias, and authority of texts, free-range web browser-searched texts in particular. This work is essential for student-led inquiry learning.

These conversations prompted me to revisit the work of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, which I first learned about in Paul Tough’s book Helping Students Succeed: What Works and Why (2016). Research conducted by Deci and Ryan points to the fact the people (students) are motivated by intrinsic needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness (personal connection or what we in education call relevance). According to Deci and Ryan, motivation can be sustained when those needs are met.

I believe these three needs are the key to unlocking in our students the motivation to doing the hard work. (This is the order in which Deci and Ryan address these needs.)

Competence
Making sense of any text, also known as comprehension, is work. It requires that readers who want to know the answers to their questions apply a range of strategies. These strategies include self-assessing their background knowledge or building it, posing meaningful questions and questioning the texts they encounter, determining main ideas, perspectives, and bias, drawing inferences, and synthesizing information from multiple sources. It also requires that adults and more proficient peers model what is going on inside their heads when they use these strategies to analyze a text.

K-12 students who have learned and have been guided in practicing reading comprehension strategies have learned to “stop” and chose from a selection of strategies to gain or regain comprehension. The process involved in making sense of text is an essential practice in reading and therefore in inquiry, which often challenges students to learn from texts that are above their proficient reading level. Students who are accustomed to doing this work will have a leg up when they are engaged in inquiry learning.

When students have confidence built from success with difficult texts, they will realize they are empowered with the skills and strategies needed to investigate any question they want to pursue. They will experience competence in making sense of texts. This competence can be a foundation on which they will persist in doing the hard work of analyzing and effectively using unfamiliar texts for their own purposes.

Experiencing competence creates confident learners
who are prepared to take the risks necessary for inquiry learning.

Autonomy
Autonomy is a centerpiece of inquiry learning. From my perspective and in my experience, there are two big buckets of inquiry practices in K-12 schools: guided inquiry based in curriculum standards and open-ended completely student-led inquiry learning. I believe both practices can create the conditions that further motivate students as lifelong learners.

I have the most experience facilitating guided inquiry based in content-area curriculum standards. When educators create opportunities for students to exercise choice within a content-area topic to achieve a standards-based outcome, they have created what Bhabha (1994) called a “third space,” a negotiated space between the curriculum required in school and the student’s outside of school interests and experience. In this context, students have the authority to ask personally meaningful questions within the required curriculum framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012).

Junior or senior capstone (and some university-level) projects are inquiry examples in which students may assume complete choice over the topic as well as the questions of their inquiry. These projects can pave the way for supporting a lifelong commitment to the process of asking questions and seeking answers, solutions, and uncovering more questions.

Empowered students engaged in inquiry exercise choice and voice.

Relevance
Deci and Ryan use the term “relatedness” which we, in education, call relevance or personal connections. Again, inquiry supports relevance and relevance supports inquiry.

Inquiry learning creates opportunities for student agency. Agency involves students in taking an active role in and ownership over learning. “They may set goals that are relevant and meaningful to their lives, practice autonomy by having voice and choice, and be empowered to share, reflect on, and grow through their learning” (Moreillon 2021, in press).

Exercising agency and experiencing empowerment is motivating.

Plus One: Modeling
To these three, I would add one condition that creates the kind of learning environment that motivates youth to enthusiastically engage in learning and persevere when the going gets tough. I believe that modeling is the most important example educators can offer students. When school librarians and classroom teachers show students that we, as adults, continue to pursue personally meaningful questions in our own lives, students can understand the usefulness of a lifelong inquiry stance toward learning.

Educators who model lifelong learning show students and colleagues that doing the work is worth it. This is not easy at a time when the most common question is what’s the quickest and easiest path to success.

Educator modeling invites students into a supportive inquiry learning environment, a club of inquirers.

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

Deci, Edward L., and Richard M. Ryan. 2018. Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs of Motivation, Development, and Wellness. New York: The Guilford Press.

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.

Moreillon, Judi. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Tough, Paul. 2016. Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

See also: My 6/5/17 review of Tough’s book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

 

Digital Learning: SIFT Meets Reading Comprehension Strategies

Image of Laptop with Books on the Screen and this text: Physical/digital access without intellectual access does not support traditional or any other literacy.Since computers entered libraries (and classrooms), students have been reading on screens. The difference today during the pandemic is that many students are reading exclusively online. This means that during this academic school year, more K-12 students than ever before will be engaging with digital texts.

An 11/11/20 Knowledge Quest blog post by Elizabeth Pelayo, librarian at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles, Illinois, brought this situation into sharp relief for me: “Print Nonfiction vs Databases.”

Elizabeth’s post reminded me of the challenges of allocating funds for library collections during tight budget times (and a pandemic). Her post also brought back a comment a high school junior made to me in 2010 when attempting to use a database during an inquiry project related to Harlem Renaissance literature and the arts: “Dr. M., can’t I just use a book?”

I agree with Elizabeth’s conclusion that students need both paper print and digital information sources. Her conclusion also aligns with Kathy Lester’s perspective in her 10/26/20 KQ post “Access to Print Books? Yes!

Comprehension Using Digital Texts
I think it is critical that all school librarians and educators, including administrators, read the research referenced in Jill Barshay’s The Hechinger Report article “Evidence Increases for Reading on Paper Instead of Screens” (2019). This is essential information if we are not only focused on providing access to paper print and digital resources but also committed to ensuring readers comprehend what they read.

This research finding should give us direction: “The excessive confidence of screen readers (with regard to their comprehension) is important, (researcher Virginia) Clinton said, because people who overestimate their abilities are likely to put in less effort. The less effort a person puts into a reading passage, the less they are likely to comprehend. That’s because reading comprehension, like all learning, isn’t easy and requires work” (Barshay 2019). (Emphasis added.)

As noted in Barshay’s article, the genre of the text figures into the mix. When Clinton’s research separated out studies in which students had read narrative fiction, there was no benefit to paper over screens, “but for nonfiction information texts, the advantage for paper stands out” (Barshay 2019).

Physical/digital access without intellectual access does not support traditional or any other literacy.

Connections to Inquiry Learning
Today, when students are engaged in remote and hybrid inquiry learning, they will be even more inclined to use digital texts accessed exclusively from the web in their information search process. Sorting fact from fiction, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and outright lies during free-range web searches requires the “work” that Clinton’s research supports.

SIFT + Comprehension Strategies = Critical Thinking
In a recent School Library Journal blog post “Enough with the CRAAP: We’re Just Not Doing It Right,” Joyce Valenza makes a research-based case for reassessing and changing the way we teach validating online information. I have never used the CRAAP test in my teaching. I have not found this apparently linear list useful to students. (Not to mention that I find the acronym off-putting.) On the other hand, I have used graphic organizers that I hope have led students to dig deeper when they are analyzing a source of information.

In her post, Joyce cites “Educating for Misunderstanding: How Approaches to Teaching Digital Literacy Make Students Susceptible to Scammers, Rogues, Bad Actors, and Hate Mongers,” research from the Stanford History Education Group. Joyce’s post and SHEG’s research finding should be a wake-up call for school librarians. It’s time to rethink how we teach digital literacy. (I encourage you read both Joyce’s post and the SHEG study.)

Joyce also cites Mike Caulfield’s “SIFT (The Four Moves).” For me, the SIFT process is aligned with and reinforces reading comprehension strategies that (upper grade) students should know and be able to apply. Parenthetical are mine.

Stop
Ask yourself if you know this website and the reputations of its authors. (“Stop” is precisely what readers are advised to do in order to self-assess their comprehension. Questioning and monitoring comprehension are reading comprehension strategies.)

Review Your Purpose
How will you use this information? (Reconnecting with the purpose for reading is a “fix-up option” reading comprehension strategy.)

Here Caulfield makes a distinction between next steps for a shallow or deeper investigation. Since this discussion focuses on students who are engaged in inquiry learning, school librarians and coteachers would guide them on to:

Investigating the source (building background knowledge)

Finding trusted coverage (determining main ideas and questioning the text until trusted information is found)

Tracing claims, quotes, and media back to the original context (verifying background knowledge) (Caulfield 2019).

And for me, at this point, educators stress the importance of deeply examining the author’s purpose, bias, and perspective, which is when students will make inferences combining their background knowledge with the evidence in the text (yet another reading comprehension strategy).

Digital Reading Comprehension
At this time as new practices are developing in instruction, it is essential that we have focused conversations with education decision-makers about how student read for meaning (reading comprehension), engage in inquiry, and determine the reliability of digital information.

AASL’s own “The School Librarian’s Role in Reading Position Statement” is also a rich resource for engaging in this conversation with decision-makers.

Collaborate!
The skills we have traditionally considered “information literacy” must not be separated from reading comprehension strategies, inquiry, and critical thinking. All of these tools—working in various combinations—help students analyze and make sense of texts. This is essential work for today’s students. Educators must teach these skills and motivate students to practice them—consistently—most especially in the free-range web learning environment.

In an SLJ article, Irene C. Fountas, professor in the School of Education at Lesley University in Cambridge and Gay Su Pinnell, professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State University, were quoted: “Having a library is a treasure, and having a librarian is a gift. And when reading teachers, classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians come together as a team, their collective knowledge about texts can help every child love to read independently, love to read in their classroom, and love to read at home” (Parrott 2017). (Emphasis added.)

Working together as a team, educators can also ensure that students deeply analyze and comprehend the “informational texts” they read in paper print and on their screens. School librarians can be leaders who make (digital) literacy teaching teams effective for the benefit of students.

Works Cited

Barshay, Jill. 2019. “Evidence Increases for Reading on Paper Instead of Screens.” The Hechinger Report, https://hechingerreport.org/evidence-increases-for-reading-on-paper-instead-of-screens/

Caulfield, Mike. 2019. “SIFT (The Four Moves).” https://hapgood.us/2019/06/19/sift-the-four-moves/

Parrott, Kiera. 2017. “Fountas and Pinnell Say Librarians Should Guide Readers by Interest, Not Level,” School Library Journal, https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=fountas-pinnell-say-librarians-guide-readers-interest-not-level

Valenza, Joyce, 2020. “Enough with the CRAAP; We’re Just Not Doing It Right.” School Library Journal, http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2020/11/01/enough-with-the-craap-were-just-not-doing-it-right/

Image Credit
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

Inquiry Learning Today

Former ALA and AASL President and retired library educator Barbara Stripling conducted and recorded an interview with Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives at Oakham School in the United Kingdom. Both Barb and Darryl are engaged in an individual and a shared on-going inquiry into inquiry learning. This conversation focused on how students (and adults) engage with information when conducting inquiry in the digital environment.

Barbara has been instrumental in developing and recently revising the Empire State (New York) Information Fluency Continuum, a PK-12 continuum of the information and inquiry skills required for in-depth learning. Darryl is the originator of FOSIL (Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning), which was originally modeled after the Stripling Model of Inquiry.

This transnational conversation, “The Process and Stance of Inquiry in the Digital World” was hosted by and is available online from School Library Connection.

Inquiry as a Process
Brian captured my attention immediately with this anecdote. There was a sign that read: “Are you ignorant or apathetic?” Under the sign, someone replied: “I don’t know and I don’t care.” This was a brilliant way to make the case for why inquiry is critical in today’s educational landscape.

The inquiry process involves a continuum of skills that some of us have called “information literacy.” Some educators approach and teach those skills as a linear progression; others apply a spiral approach in which students revisit more or less the same skills in increasingly more sophisticated contexts and applications. Regardless of the approach, Barbara and Darryl agree there is a decades long history of inquiry as an effective (and preferred?) learning process in librarianship and in education. (I was first introduced to inquiry learning in my preservice classroom teacher program in the 1980s.)

When thinking about inquiry in K-12, we cannot ignore assessment. Assessment in inquiry does not only focus on what we learn as the result of our exploration. Rather it also focuses on how we came to know what we learned. The emphasis on process is one that aligns with the school librarian’s goals for students to grow as lifelong learners who will be able to transfer and apply the skills they learn and practice in K-12 throughout their lives.

Darryl brought viewers’ attention to Chapter 5 in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions IFLA School Librarian Guidelines, 2nd Edition that makes the case for inquiry as a “tool” that provides a means to an end—namely learning. Inquiry sparks curiosity and the desire to find out. Barb noted that inquiry has the potential to change students’ attitudes toward learning—to make them more generally curious and to help them realize the importance of taking ownership and demonstrating agency as they pursue answers to their questions.

Inquiry as a Stance
To build on the idea of increasing curiosity, inquiry can also be a stance. As Salman Khan notes: “The crucial task of educators is to teach kids how to learn. To lead them to want to learn. To nurture curiosity, to encourage wonder, and to instill confidence so that later on they’ll have the tools for finding answers to many questions we don’t yet know how to ask” (cited in Moreillon 2018, 37).

In order for individual students and classrooms of students to achieve success, the adults in the school must ensure that this stance pervades the learning community. When all educators at every grade level and in every discipline approach learning from an inquiry stance, the likelihood that students will become lifelong inquirers increases exponentially. Inquiry, then, will be experienced as an authentic approach to schooling as well as learning and life.

This idea of inquiry as a stance connects strongly with my experience as an educator. I believe and have experienced the role of the school librarian as a leader who ensures that inquiry is systematically integrated into school curricula. Leading classroom teachers and specialists to the need to dedicate time for inquiry and creating space for students to explore is essential work for school librarian leaders. Although I have never had the total experience of inquiry being the sum total of the curriculum, I can imagine it.

Inquiry in the Digital World
Along with our students, all connected adults have or have had the overwhelming experience of locating too much information related to a particular topic or idea. We have also experienced misinformation, disinformation, and outright propaganda, and the digital siren song of distractions that are constantly competing for our attention. All of these contribute to the challenges students (and adults) experience in learning in the digital world.

Remote learning during school closures has only exacerbated this situation because the alternatives to pursuing information online are constrained without physical access to resources. Sorting facts from fiction, perspectives from biased information, content that meets our purposes and answers our questions can be even more difficult when we are socially separated from peers and guides.

Problems Create Opportunities
Last week, I attended the Arizona Library Association’s virtual conference. Brian Pichman, Director of Strategic Innovation at the Evolve Project, was a keynote speaker. In his talk, Brian stated this: “Problems create opportunities.” I agree with this statement but I often wonder who gets to identify what the “problem” is. From whose perspective is this a “problem?”

In the case of inquiry in the digital world, my perspective is that “inquiry” is not the problem. Giving students time and space to develop curiosity and explore are essential to their development as thinkers and doers. For me, the “problem” is the digital part in that many students today—if they are given the time and space to be inquirers—lack the skills and guides they need to be successful in the chaos of the online learning environment.

How can school librarians capitalize on our knowledge and pedagogical skills to solve the problem of students’ digital overload? How can we insist on knowledge construction in the digital world rather than more and more consuming? How can we solve students’ and our problem with Zoom fatigue?

Is “isolation” the problem? I believe translating our practice and emphasizing interactivity between educators and students, connections between content and students out-of-school lives, and increasing one-on-one, peer-to-peer communication in the virtual learning environment may hold promise. What do you think?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Pichman, Brian. 2020. “20 Ideas to Spawn Innovation 2020.” Arizona Library Association Conference. Online. October.

Stripling, Barbara K. 2020. “The Process and Stance of Inquiry in a Digital World [15:46].” School Library Connection Video. October. https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2254856?topicCenterId=2252404.

Image Credit
geralt. “Laptop Question.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-question-question-mark-2709647/

Susan Kuklin Book Study and Author Visit

This spring graduate students in IS445: Information Books and Resources are engaged in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) as they explore nonfiction and informational books and resources in the context of inquiry learning. This is our essential question for this inquiry: Is it important that students interact with global (multicultural and international) nonfiction and informational books and resources when they investigate prejudice and discrimination as it impacts the lives of young people today?

Immerse Phase of the GID
Immerse, the second phase of the GID, invites learners to explore resources to build their background knowledge, consider various perspectives on the inquiry question, and further their motivation to pursue the inquiry process. These are some possible Immerse Phase experiences: “reading a book, story, or article together; viewing a video; or visiting a museum” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012, 3).

Last week in the Immerse Phase of the GID, students participated in a book study of Susan Kuklin’s work and participated in an author visit with her.

Preparation for Ms. Kuklin’s Visit
In addition to reading her books, students were asked to explore Ms. Kuklin’s website and read an interview with her found on the Worlds of Words website: Authors’ Corner.

Students participated in literature circles during the first hour of class. They used the BHH (Book Head Heart) strategy for literature circle discussions centered on the titles in the above collage (see my review of Beers and Probst’s book Disrupting Thinking on my blog).

After the class session in an email to me, graduate student Kristin Somers shared her experience of using this discussion strategy. “The BHH was helpful. As far as guides go, the questions posed using BHH method were incredibly personal. Our group had a great conversation because of how much information was shared and how intimate the information was. We’re closer as a result-for sure!”

Then Ms. Kuklin joined our online class for a one-hour conversation related to her work. Students came to the author visit with two prepared questions. They were asked to listen to their classmates’ questions and Ms. Kuklin’s responses in order to forward our conversation with her.

Students’ Questions for Ms. Kuklin
Although their questions may have changed during their literature circle discussions and there wasn’t time for everyone to ask their questions, these are three examples from three different literature circle groups that offer a window into students’ thinking and responses to Ms. Kuklin books.

“How has writing We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Youth affected how you think about the idea of an ‘American’ identity?” (Abbigail McWilliams) Ms. Kuklin responded from the perspective of DACA youth who have gone to school in the U.S. and have friends and (some) family here. She noted they are American in every way but for papers. Then, Ms. Kuklin asked the same question of Abbigail. (I suspect this was a reflective moment in our conversation during which we all contemplated this question.)

“What were you hoping to learn from the teens (in Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out)? Had you known much about transgender studies prior to the book’s creation? (Lily Dawson) Lily and the class learned how Ms. Kuklin builds her background knowledge first, conducts research, and identifies interviewees. We also learned that each of her most recent books takes approximately five years to craft.

“I thought your use of children’s own words in Families and How My Family Lives in America, rather than description in the third person made these books stand out as unique and particularly compelling. What, if any, challenges did you face in obtaining and settling on the final text from the children?” (Nina Reiniger). Ms. Kuklin spends hours with the children and through her recordings of those sessions draws out their message. She uses the actual words of each child and checks in with them again that what she’s written is accurate before determining the final text. She also noted that the use of the first-person honors the voice and agency of the children in her picture books.

If you want to know more about the students’ responses to Ms. Kuklin’s books and our interaction with her, search Twitter for Susan’s handle @susankuklin and  this hashtag: #is445.

Author Visits
I firmly believe in the power of the transaction between the reader, the author, and the text. This theory by Louise Rosenblatt is known as the “reader-response theory.” Rather than making inferences, author visits provide readers with powerful ways to access the intentions and meanings authors themselves ascribe to their work. Having the voice of the author in the classroom or library is an incomparable gift.

In my experience, author/illustrator visits are the most successful when learners are familiar with the author or illustrator’s work through reading and discussing their responses to the work with their peers. This allows learners to build their background knowledge in order to deepen the questions they will bring to the author visit. Their minds will be prepped to engage with the guest and their takeaways from the experience will be more meaningful and long lasting.

Susan Kuklin’s Next Book
Ms. Kuklin’s next book In Search of Safety: Voice of Refugees will be released on May 12, 2020. In the book, she shares the experiences of five individuals—refugees from Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Burundi. Please read about this timely book on her website.

Thank you to Ms. Kuklin for generously sharing your craft, experiences, and heart with us. Thank you to IS445 students for sharing with each other, Ms. Kuklin, and with me.

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.

Note: I have used students’ comments, questions, and Ms. Kuklin’s responses with permission.

 

Professional Book Review: Disrupting Thinking

In their book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (Scholastic 2017), Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst offer educators strategies and opportunities to reassess the various ways they invite readers to approach texts. Classroom teachers, reading specialists, and school librarians will benefit from learning and reviewing research and information related to reader response, reading stances, rigor and relevance, and more.

The BHH Strategy
The Book Head Heart (BHH) strategy is at the center of Disrupting Thinking. This series of questions is designed to guide readers’ thinking from what is written in the text through feeling and thinking about the content of the text. (Note: Graduate students in IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth will the using the BHH strategy in their interactions with texts throughout the spring semester. I look forward to learning how this strategy supports them as they select, read, and curate library resources for their reading communities.)

Book

  • What is this book about?
  • Who is telling the story?
  • What does the author want me to know?

Head

  • What surprised me?
  • What does the author think I already know?
  • What change, challenged, or confirmed my thinking?
  • What did I notice?

Heart

  • What did this text help me learn about myself?
  • What did this text help me learn about others?
  • How has this text change my thinking about the world?
  • How will my actions or feeling change as a result of reading this text?
  • Does this text offer me any of my own Aha Moments? Any Tough Questions? Perhaps my own Words of the Wise? (2017, 62-71).

Regardless of the genre or format, these questions invite readers to enter deeply into the text.

Reading Stances
Aesthetic and efferent are two stances proposed by Louis Rosenblatt’s reader-response theory (1995). When we read from an aesthetic stance, we pay attention to how the text affects our emotions. We may respond by living vicariously through the characters and their experiences. We can also approach a text from an efferent stance, in which we focus on the factual information in the text. Readers, for the most part, read along a continuum from a purely aesthetic stance to solely efferent stance depending on their purpose for reading.

One of the strengths of Disrupting Thinking is that the authors make a strong case for readers learning to enter into nonfiction and informational texts as deeply as they have been taught to live through fictional texts. “Nonfiction should not suggest nonfeeling. Nonfiction offers us the chance to learn not only about the world and the people in it, but about ourselves” (2017, 49). When the content of nonfiction texts matter to readers, these texts will elicit feelings as well as thinking. Using the BHH questions is one way to support deep comprehension with nonfiction and informational texts.

Interest and Relevance
Educators have been taught to provide hooks, or motivational invitations, in order to spark students’ interest in texts or curiosity about topics or themes. Beers and Probst note that interest will fade if educators fail to address relevance. They cite this nugget of wisdom from their book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies (2016), which I will be referencing in many posts this spring for the benefit of IS445 students.

“Getting kids’ attention is about creating interest; keeping their attention is about relevance” (2016, 45).

Beers and Probst contend that if we help develop readers who are open to the possibility that a text will change them, they will then enter a text with “compassion.” An openness to different perspectives, motivations, reasoning, and evidence, or compassion, will further develop readers’ thinking. This compassionate approach can result in readers acting with compassion in the world.

The Goal of this Book
In Disrupting Thinking, Beers and Probst set out to create a resource for educators that serves as a guidepost for how to transform reading instruction so that the texts students read are transformative to their thinking and to the actions they take in the world.

For me, Beers and Probst’s approach to guiding students’ interactions with texts relates directly to the inquiry process suggested in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012). The overarching goal of inquiry learning is to put students in the driver’s seat—to determine questions, discover answers or solutions, and the develop as thinkers and learners. Finding the sweet spot, or third space, in the GID is where students’ internal motivation to pursue answers to questions propel them through the learning process and result in them taking action in the world.

Similarly, the approach to reading fiction, nonfiction, and informational texts offered in Disrupting Thinking is intended to support students as they experience reading as a change process. This connection is why I most highly recommend Disrupting Thinking to school librarians who are guiding students through an inquiry process and who are open to considering or reconsidering how they invite students into learning and growing—and changing—as a result of their interactions with texts.

Works Cited

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2016. Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2017. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters. New York: Scholastic.

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.

Rosenblatt, Louise. 1995. Literature as Exploration. New York: MLA.

Questioning for Deeper Learning

Questioning strategies are the focus of this chapter.  The Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework puts student-led questioning at the heart of inquiry learning (see Chapter 3 and the November blog posts beginning with “School-Wide Inquiry Learning.” In the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the GID, educators and students frontload their learning so that the questions they pursuit are deeper and more personally meaningful than their off-the-tops-of-their-heads questions might have been.

Figure 5.3 (page 81) shows the questioning strategies spotlighted in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership. All of these questioning strategies can be used effective in the GID Framework: Question-Formulation Technique, Question-Answer Relationships, Question the Author, Text-Dependent Questioning, and Socratic Questioning. Chapter 5 includes descriptions of each of these strategies and provides references for those seeking more information about each one.

Essential Questions
Coteachers can develop essential questions to frame an inquiry. These questions describe big ideas for which individual students or groups of students can drill down deeper into one or more aspects of these big ideas to find their most pressing genuine question(s). Educators’ abilities to think in terms of big ideas that connect required standards and students’ interests can capitalize on these questions during the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework.

Still, it is important that students have the opportunity and responsibility to take the educators’ essential questions in student-initiated directions. Supporting students as they dig deeper into the sub-questions that shape responses to the complex overarching essential questions is teacherly work. Through conferencing in the Identify phase of the GID, educators can push students’ thinking and help them find the “third space” between curriculum and students’ authentic interests (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 17).

Questioning Develops Analytical Skills
“Only if we continuously work to develop and use our complex analogical and inferential skills will the neural networks underlying them sustain our capacity to be thoughtful, critical analysts of knowledge, rather than passive consumers of information” (Wolf 2018, 62). This idea that analyzing information and situations and drawing inferences help us think critically and ask better questions rings true to me.

For example, the Right Question Institute applies the skills of thoughtful questioning and listening to their vision for “microdemocracy.” In this context, thoughtful (and respectful) questioning can help people engage in decision-making conversations and participate more fully with governmental and public institutions whose decisions impact their lives.

If I were in charge of the world, students would be in school today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. They would be focusing the entire day on studying and asking questioning about Dr. King’s legacy. They would be thinking together about human rights and planning or taking action to further his dream–our dream…

Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questions
Figure 5.1 in Chapter 5 may be especially helpful to school librarians who are developing their practice as inquiry framers and skillful questioners. Cross-discipline questions can relate to the purpose for reading or the reader’s background knowledge on the topic. The figure offers discipline-specific questions for these content areas: arts and language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and technology

All of these questions and questioning strategies can support student reflection and double back to two essential questions for inquiry learning:

  1. Why is/was this question meaningful to me?
  2. What will I do with the data, information, and knowledge I gain/gained from this inquiry?

If educators’ goal is to ensure that students are self-reflective thinkers and learners have long-lasting connections to their learning and who put their knowledge to use, then these two questions can be used at the beginning as well as at the culmination of any inquiry learning cycle.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Which “new” questioning strategy/ies can you add to the mix, and how will you share it/them with colleagues and students?
  2. What cross-discipline or discipline-specific questions would you add to Figure 5.1?

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2015. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Brain Reading in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Deeper Learning Opportunities

The quote that frames the “Deeper Learning” chapter can serve as educators’ guidepost for inquiry, traditional literacies, and digital literacy as well. Right Question Institute leaders Dan Rothstein, Luz Santana, and Andrews P Minigan proclaim: “Having students create their own questions is a short-cut to deeper learning” (2015, 71). I agree… and I also agree with these authors that students need guides to help them dig deep to find their most personally meaningful questions that will motivate them to pursue answers, even when the going gets rough.

More than One Answer
For far too long, many K-12 students have experienced school as the place where educators ask the questions and students supply the answers (answers that educators already know). While this paradigm has been changing, factors that can set up barriers, such as an over-emphasis on standardized tests or students’ grade point averages, have been impeded change in many school environments.

Linda F. Nathan who wrote a book called The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School and contributed to the “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School” video, wrote this deceptively simple statement in a recent Educational Leadership article: “Problems can have more than one solution and questions can have more than one answer” (Nathan 2018-2019, 62).

For many students (and educators) that fact can be a welcome (or disconcerting) surprise. Student-led inquiry, fine arts projects, science experiments for which the outcome is truly unknown, various projects involving real-world data collection—these are some types of opportunities educators can design and guide in which students can experience more than one solution to self-generated questions—where they can experience deeper learning.

“Traditional” Deeper Learning Project
The “senior research project” has long been a staple of the high school curriculum. The goal of this project is to integrate skills (such as communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), academic concepts from multiple disciplines, and data from the students’ courses into one summative project. In most cases, these projects are individual. Students may be “assigned” the project is a particular course, and it is then facilitated by that classroom teacher or another adult mentor.

School librarians are positioned to support students and classroom teachers as students pursue senior research projects. This may be accomplished on an individual basis, or classroom teachers may determine that small groups or entire classes of students need interventions. School librarians can collaborate with the teacher to provide interventions such as effective uses of databases, technology tools and resources, credible Web searching, bibliographic instruction, and more.

Genius Hour
In K-12 schools, Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions in order to capitalize on intrinsic motivation and encourage creativity.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. Although I am a firm believer in designing and organizing standards-based inquiry learning such that students ARE pursuing their passions, anecdotal data suggest that “genius hour” can be a win for students and their learning. The GeniusHour.com website provides professional development, resources, videos, suggested professional reading, and more.

Genius Hour is an idea adapted from Google. At one time, Google provided its engineers with “a genius hour” consisting of 20% of their work time during which they could pursue a pet project. In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, author Dan Pink also promotes the idea that passion projects are a way to tap into our motivation to learn and create. I appreciate Pink for this blog post, in which he describes an Innovation Day (2011) in a suburban Chicago classroom. All educators could design learning such that students experience such enthusiasm for learning every school day!

Academic Flex Time
Mark Dzula is the Director of Teaching and Learning Resources at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California. He is also a frequent contributor to the Knowledge Quest blog. In two recent posts, Mark described the learning experiences of students pursuing independent topics, questions, and knowledge during academic flex time.

AASL Standards and Multiple Literacies during Academic Flex Time (9/26/18)

Research, Information Literacy, and Independent Study (12/17/18)

Creating the Conditions
Educators create the conditions for deeper learning when they fully integrate learning and doing. “We diminish teaching and learning when we make students study history or biology or math or literature without consistently and simultaneously having them do the work of and as practitioners in the field” (Tomlinson 2018, 92). As emphasized in last week’s post, personally meaningful questions and time are two essential ingredients in empowered deeper learning. Hands-on, minds-on doing is another.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What kinds of deeper learning do students in your school experience?
  2. What kinds of deeper learning do educators in your school experience?

Works Cited

Nathan, Linda F. 2018-2019. “Hitting the Right Note.” Educational Leadership 76 (4); 62-67.

Rothstein, Dan, Luz Santana, and Andrews P Minigan. 2015. “Making Questions Flow.” Educational Leadership 73 (1): 70-75.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann. 2018-2019. “Sparking Students’ ‘Uncommon Genius:’ All Educators Can Learn Valuable Lessons from the Way the Arts Are Taught.” Educational Leadership 76 (4); 91-93.

Deeper Learning = Empowered Learners

Episode 5 Podcast: Deeper Learning (or the Bridge between Inquiry, Traditional Literacies, and Digital Learning)

Chapter 5 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy addresses the need for deep learning and strategies to achieve it. This chapter was intentionally offered as a bridge to the next chapter: “Digital Learning.”

The goal of deeper learning is what connects inquiry, traditional literacy learning, and digital learning. Deeper learning creates a condition in which students and educators are empowered to direct their own learning. What does it mean to be “empowered”? This Oxford Dictionary definition rings true to me: “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”

If schools and school systems are creating opportunities for students and educators to become stronger in knowledge, skills, and dispositions, the result will be confident, empowered students and educators who control their own learning process.

Students
Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning is, in short, about educators guiding empowered students through the inquiry process. Connecting inquiry to required outcome targets and curriculum as well as to students’ background knowledge and interests is an ideal way to help students find relevance in schooling. It is also an ideal way for students and educators to meet required learning targets and find the “sweet spot” on a Venn diagram where required learning outcomes and personally meaningful learning overlap.

A focus on one “right answer,” high-stakes testing, and grades can rob students, who might otherwise experience joy in learning, of their sense of empowerment. Guiding students as they connect to or build prior knowledge provides a launch pad for thinking that helps students develop their own questions. Empowered students flourish when they pursue questions of their own choosing…

Educators
and so do educators. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recently published an issue of Educational Leadership titled “When Teachers Lead Their Own Learning.” In their article “Choose Your Own Adventure: Action Research for PD,” Stephanie Dodman, Emma Zuidema, and Amy Kleiman note that “action research utilizes teachers’ own questions about their work and about student learning as they transform their classrooms (libraries) into dynamic learning laboratories” (2018, 75). The authors offer a process that includes valuing curiosity, purposefully paying attention to questions (or problems of practice), and establishing trust and motivation.

Through classroom-library and team collaboration or coplanning and coteaching, educators refine their questions about practice. Two heads (or more) are definitely better than one when clarifying goals and objectives for student learning and questions for action research. With the support of administrators and colleagues, educators learn from the data they collect, analyze, and act upon as well as the reflecting on outcomes. Action research leads to empowered instruction. In Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, action research is suggested as a component of educators’ professional portfolios (page 121-122).

T-I-M-E
Inquiry learning and action research are deeper learning. They are not superficial coverage of topics and materials or fly-by responses to learning challenges and problems of practice. Deeper learning, like deep reading, requires the investment of time—time to build background knowledge, time to formulate personally meaningful questions, time to pursue multiple resources and perspectives, time to collect, analyze, think critically about data, and reflect, time to organize and present new knowledge. Deeper learning simply requires t-i-m-e.

Inquiry learning and action research are ways that students and educators own their learning processes and products. These processes create empowered learners—youth and adults alike—who can apply the process to other learning experiences and transfer new knowledge to new learning situations.

Deeper learning builds behaviors that are applied in lifelong learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. In what ways does your school/district’s curriculum empower learners? Does it also dis-empower them? If so, how does it do so?
  2. How do educators demonstrate that inquiry “works” as a lifelong learning strategy?

Work Cited

Dodman, Stephanie, Emma Zuidema, and Amy Kleiman. 2018. “Choose Your Own Adventure: Action Research for PD.” Educational Leadership 76 (3): 72-76.