Sharing with Authentic Audiences and Student Self-Assessment

Guided Inquiry Design (GID): Share and Evaluate Phases

Waaaay back in the Dark Ages when I was a K-12 student, it was understood that teachers were the primary audience for the vast majority of the school work students produced. There were notable exceptions in my K-12 education that still stick with me. My third-grade teacher required that we compose and recite original poems. We performed them first with her, then for her, and then when she thought we were ready, we performed them for the class. In fifth-grade, we memorized poems written by notable poets and recited them in front of the class. In upper elementary, middle and high school, I remember having to orally read reports (sometimes with visual aids), which for shy me was totally embarrassing. Perhaps even worse, I remember how tedious it was to listen to all thirty-some-odd fact-only reports produced by my classmates.

Thank goodness those days are (should be!) long gone.

Today’s students can easily share their learning using a wide variety of multi-sensory technology tools with local as well as global audiences. Engaging in and sharing learning with authentic audiences is one of the most empowering aspects of the Internet, Web-based tools, and software. When inquiry learning is framed in terms of authentic audiences, many learners will be more likely to value their work and some may be more motivated to persist when the learning journey is difficult.

Share Phase
The “Share” phase of the GID presents learners with opportunities to further exercise voice and choice. The proliferation of online tools, apps, software, and social media can help students target audiences within their classroom, school, region, or global community. They can upload presentations to blogs and wikis where they can invite viewers to respond to their work. They can use tools such as VoiceThread and receive feedback from their audience on specific pages/aspects of their presentations. In addition, they can use social media to broadcast their work to a global audience. Depending on the learning objectives, educators may provide learners with a menu of tools from which to choose, or give them free rein.

Wise educators will develop a separate checklist, rubric, or other assessment guide that is specific enough to assess inquiry learning objectives yet generic enough to give students creative options. Here is an example from my secondary reading comprehension strategies book; scroll down to 4.3 Group Work and Multimedia Product.

Evaluate Phase
The GID involves students in reflecting throughout the inquiry process. Students can reflect on their learning journeys in inquiry journals; educators can offer prompts as needed. Students may keep journals exclusively for their own use or share their reflections with inquiry teammates, in inquiry circles comprised of students studying varying topics, or with educators during inquiry conferences.

Throughout a well-designed inquiry process, students self-assess and receive feedback from peers and educators on their process and progress toward mastering learning objectives. These formative assessments help students identify the need for more practice, to seek more information, or to ask for specific help. They allow educators to provide individual, small group, and whole class interventions in which they reteach skills and strategies for which students need more direction.

It is also important for educators and students to assess students’ dispositions and social-emotional skills. “Students develop self-efficacy by being keen observers of their own learning processes. When educators use terms associated with dispositions in their communications with students and families, students may be more likely to understand how their emotional and social intelligence affects their academic learning. Educators also model dispositions and share anecdotes related to how their own grit, curiosity, or sense of social responsibility made a difference in their lives” (Moreillon 2018, 117). Dialogue between students and educators can facilitate social-emotional learning assessment. Assessing dispositions in student-educator conferences may be the most effective strategy.

Summative evaluation at the end of the learning journey should align with the overarching goals and objectives of the inquiry. Educators should provide these evaluation tools early in the process and may create these instruments with learners themselves. “The effectiveness of rubrics is determined by how well students can use them to guide their learning process and self-assess their progress as well as their final product or performance” (Moreillon 2018, 115). Students should have the opportunity to self-evaluate both their process and final products. Final evaluations may include criteria for individual as well as group work. They may offer opportunities for learners to add their own criteria and state their case for their level of mastery.

Coteaching the “Share” and “Evaluate” Phases of the GID
When two or more educators are guiding the inquiry process, students can receive more support for unique methods of sharing their learning. The inquiry team will have expertise in various presentation formats and tools and can help individual and groups of students learn and apply tools to meet their presentation goals.

Co-creating assessment and evaluation tools can help educators clarify their goals and objectives for the inquiry experience as well as provide clear guidance for learners. When students are given the opportunity to create unique final products, it may be challenging for a single educator to create assessments that will meet all students’ needs. Coteachers should decide in advance if they will take individual or collective responsibility for evaluating specific aspects of students’ process or final products.

Once again, coplanning, coteaching, and coassessment improve educators’ teaching and student learning outcomes.

Works 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.

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

Opportunities for Voice and Choice

Guided Inquiry Design: Identify, Gather, and Create Phases

In schools and libraries where curriculum and learning outcomes standards guide teaching and learning, ensuring that students have voice and choice is essential. Student agency, learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant to the students’ themselves, can easily get lost in standards-crowded learning environments. If primary goals of inquiry are to tap into students’ interests and passions, increase their internal motivation to learn, and create opportunities for them to persist and succeed, then educators should assess their planning in terms of maximizing student voice and choice.

Identify Phase
A well-constructed Explore Pathfinder—with numerous (if not, limitless) avenues for students’ own questions—is an essential feature of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID). These “dip in” resources focused around an overarching inquiry question must open doors for students to pursue related sub-topics and develop personally meaningful inquiry sub-questions. These openings are intentional and seek to stimulate students’ critical thinking and creativity.

When students identify their own questions, they are giving voice to their personal connections to the overarching inquiry question. Students’ opinions and perspectives on the topic will vary based on their values, beliefs, and background knowledge. Their identities, cultural backgrounds, and prior learning experiences will likely influence their questions. If they are working with a group, their classmates’ opinions and perspectives will also shape the group’s question(s). The inquiry guide(s) can help ensure that all voices are considered.

Differentiation and inclusion involve providing different learners or groups of students with options for how they conduct their inquiry process. Students’ individual strengths, preferred ways of learning, or accommodations necessitate that educators differentiate in order to increase students’ success in reaching the targeted learning outcomes. The “Identify” phase creates opportunities for students to take their individual or group’s questions in a multitude of directions, some of which the educators may not have predicted. When developing their inquiry plan, students may also seek to explore their questions in unique ways, such as bringing in experts or taking field trips off campus.

Gather Phase
Students will build off the resources provided by educators and access far-ranging resources beyond those included on the Explore pathfinder. Educators support students at this phase by teaching/reviewing strategies for determining accuracy, authority, and authenticity of resources. They keep students focused on purpose, currency, and relevance as they curate their own resources. Educators also connect students with human resources in the school and community to further enrich their knowledge base.

Educators can offer students various strategies and tools for organizing their resources, making notes, and bibliographic record keeping. These are lifelong learning strategies are transferable to other learning contexts.

Create Phase
Likewise, the “Create” phase provides yet another opportunity for students to demonstrate learning and meet the target outcomes in a variety of ways. Educators can provide choice through a menu of tools for presenting learning. These can be various apps, online creation tools, or software. Educators may offer students options in terms of the format of a final product. In addition to the tool menu, they may provide a list of final products that includes journals, letters to the editor or op eds, poems, scripts, short stories or essays, bibliographies, debates, leading discussions, presenting skits and plays, taking action in the school or community, and more. Educators may (should) also be open to students’ presentations ideas.

When students determine how they will show their new understandings, they are more likely to be invested in their learning process because they “own” it. Their work products will be authentic in terms of the questions students ask, the audiences with whom they want to share, or the feedback they seek to receive. The one-size-fits all approach to final products may make it easier for educators to assess student learning outcomes, but they should have a strong rationale for why one single way for students to demonstrate their learning is best for all students. Educators must ensure that students’ voice and choice is still evident in their final products.

Coteaching the “Identify” and “Create” Phases of the GID
Having two or more adults in the room to guide students during the Identify phase is of benefit to students and educators alike. Monitoring individual student’s or student inquiry groups’ formulation of an inquiry question can increase learners’ engagement and enthusiasm as well as reduce their frustration. With a school librarian and a classroom teacher, or a public librarian and a caregiver offering support at this phase in the inquiry process, the outcomes are likely to be more satisfying and successful.

Inquiry guides can help students see opportunities to narrow or broaden their questions. They can ask students to define terms, determine keywords, and phrases within their questions that may otherwise cause students confusion or complicate their search for resources. Guides may help students reframe their question toward “how” and “why” and steer the away from “yes” and “no” answers. They can prompt students to consider other perspectives.

As noted above, far too many inquiry learning experiences result in predetermined presentation formats. While this can help standardize the assessments used for the inquiry, it can also stifle creativity, student voice, and student choice. When two or more educators are guiding an inquiry experience, the educators can feel more confident that they are able to respond to a range of creative processes, products, and presentations.

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.

 

Explore Phase: Annotated Bibliography Pathfinder

The Explore Pathfinder is an essential feature of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID). This can be in the form of a hands-on text set or annotated bibliography. A text set is “a set of materials that is provided by educators or created by students that helps learners investigate a topic, theme, problem, or dilemma. A text set is usually comprised of hard-copy printed materials and can be effectively combined with a web-based pathfinder of electronic resources” (Moreillon 2018, 178). These resources are selected by educators to invite learners to “dip in” and explore a sampling of resources that support the overarching inquiry question.

The goal of these resources is to prepare and support students before they develop their own inquiry questions. Their questions will be based on the overarching essential (inquiry) question for the learning experience. Learners skim and scan these resources for ideas that connect with their interests or information that sparks their desire to know more. Purposeful skimming and scanning are essential reading strategies, particularly online. In an information-rich environment, the ability to weed out the extraneous and identify promising resources is essential.

Annotated Bibliography
The annotated bibliography was a staple of librarians’ work long before the dawn of the Web. (Way back in the Dark Ages) I can remember my high school librarian providing students with printed bibliographies comprised of print-only resources and reminders to access the printed Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. (If you are too young to remember it, Google it. Of course, now there is an online database version.) I believe my approach to using those bibliographies was that they were the “final” word on the topic and I need not look any further.

By contrast, the Explore pathfinder/annotated bibliography is intended to be a jumping off place for students. As they “dip in,” they will uncover other resources mentioned in the text or in the books’ bibliographies or source notes. They will discover names, places, events, and subtopics that may not be included in the pathfinder resources that they will want to pursue. They may also realize there are human resources that can support their inquiry and take their learning far beyond the starting place of the pathfinder.

Types of Informational Books
The image above shows four types of nonfiction/informational books we are exploring in IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth. We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Youth by Susan Kuklin (Candlewick 2019) is shelved in the 300s social science section of a Dewey library. Andrea Warren’s book Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II (Holiday House 2019) is a biography found in the 92s. Racism and Intolerance from the Children in Our World Series (Barron’s 2017) and written by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai is an expository informational book, also shelved in the social sciences. And Don Brown’s The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018) is an informational book presented in a graphic novel format, which is shelved in the 900s history section of the library.

Each of these types of informational resources may be more or less accessible to individual skimming and scanning inquirers. Some readers may gravitate toward narrative nonfiction titles that pay attention to literary elements, such as characters, settings, plot, themes, and the like. Others may appreciate the primary source documents in a well-written, well-researched biography. While others may be more inclined to reach for expository books with tables of contents, glossaries, indexes, bolded keywords, and more. Still others may gravitate toward non-traditional formats—graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks, and more. Others will go straight to the computer and out on the free Web. Providing a wide array of types of books and other resources organized around subtopics of the overarching inquiry (essential) question may help students avoid frustration and can support them in achieving success.

Coteaching the Explore Pathfinder
Learners’ hands-on, minds-on interaction with an Explore pathfinder/annotated bibliography gives educators opportunities to monitor students’ comprehension strategies. Educators can also probe students for connections to the inquiry topic and push their thinking deeper. They can help individual students use resources effectively and efficiently. When classroom teachers and school librarians collaboratively facilitate the inquiry process, students will receive more individualized attention than one educator working alone could provide. “Guiding students through the Explore phase leads them to form a meaningful inquiry question (of their own making)” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012, 3).

Works 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.

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

Immerse Phase: Author Study and Visit

In the Open Phase of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID), educators invite learners to join the inquiry. There are any number of creative ways to do so including presenting learners with a thought-provoking inquiry question, a thorny problem, or a real-world dilemma. The goal of the Open Phase is to set a tone for the inquiry and pique students’ curiosity. (I will be writing more about how I began our whole class inquiry in a WOW Currents blog post to be published in August. In three additional WOW Currents blog posts, I will provide more information about our class inquiry process and outcomes.)

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).

For IS 445: Information Books and Resources for Youth, I invited graduate students to explore informational books written and/or illustrated by author-photographer Susan Kuklin. I provided them with a list and starred her books that most closely align with our inquiry question. Ms. Kuklin will join our class for an online author visit this week.

Author Visits
Although I have facilitated and presented children’s/teen’s author/illustrator visits in many K-12 school libraries and classrooms, I have not had the opportunity to plan such a visit for graduate students or in an exclusively online classroom. Fortunately for me/us, Ms. Kuklin has experience and is willing to take this calculated risk with me.

In my experience, author/illustrator visits are the most successful when learners are familiar with the author or illustrator’s work. This allows them to build their background knowledge in order to deepen the questions they will bring to the author visit. It is unlikely that all of the IS 445 students will have the opportunity to ask their prepared question(s) based on one or more of Ms. Kuklin’s books or the Web-based information I provided them. Still, their minds will be prepped to engage with our guest.

Introducing an Author
Giving one or more book talks is an ideal way to introduce an author/illustrator’s work. Although book trailers can be fun multimedia presentations, in my experience they are fraught with “opportunities” for copyright violations. Authors, illustrators, and publishers are fine with book reviewers/book talkers sharing the cover of a book. The book jacket, after all, provides promotion for the title and the book’s creators. Of course, everyone involved with the book’s creation will want the review to be positive; some might even believe that any publicity—positive or not so positive—puts the book in the spotlight.

Sharing interior images or lengthy quotes from a book can put a book trailer creator or book talker who publishes reviews for Web distribution in jeopardy of copyright violations. (Sharing interior images and quotes in the face-to-face library or classroom, or online behind password protection does not violate copyright as long as the talk is not distributed.) It’s my opinion that the best way to avoid these possible pitfalls is to share the publisher’s book trailers and create DIY podcasts or video/vodcast book talks that show only the book jacket. (Here’s an example of a publisher’s trailer for our picture book Ready and Waiting for You, illustrated by Catherine Stock.  Clearly, there is no way a book trailer creator could have created a similar trailer using Ms. Stock’s images without grossly violating her copyright.)

Podcast Book Talk
To prepare graduate students for Ms. Kuklin’s visit, I shared a podcast book talk for Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery (Kuklin 1998) and connected it to the class inquiry question focused on how prejudice and discrimination affect children and teens globally. (Later in the semester, students will have the opportunity to create podcast or video/vodcast book talks of books and resources they identified for their small group inquiry projects.)

In addition, Ms. Kuklin and I will collaborate to determine the best way to introduce her to the class and launch her author visit. (I highly recommend that librarians and educators collaborate with their guests to make sure they are on the same page about the content and process of an author/illustrator visit.) Bottom line: I am excited to work with Ms. Kuklin, learn IS 445 students’ questions related to her books, and hear Ms. Kuklin’s responses!

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.

 

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.

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.

Inquiry-Empowered Learning Culture

In the three previous Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning posts, I have shared ideas about developing a school-wide inquiry process, using inquiry learning as a way to engage students’ curiosity, experimentation, and creativity, and diverse creative expressions of learning. What would be the result if students, educators, and administrators enacted these three big ideas of inquiry learning?Shared Processes
A shared process provides a guaranteed, viable framework for student success. Students can master an information-seeking process and then adapt and expand upon it as they advance through grade levels and in various aspects of the curriculum. A common process leads to shared vocabulary and understandings that help every educator in the building communicate with and support all students in the building in achieving their learning goals.

A shared process can only be realized in a positive school climate and a collaborative learning culture. A framework that promotes in-depth learning will by necessity require changes in other aspects of the learning environment. Bell schedules may need to change. Student and educator responsibilities may need to change. Assessment and evaluation may need to change. Trusting relationships, professional respect, and the ability to navigate challenges and change are essential features of such a learning community.

Student-led Questioning and Diverse Expressions
Trust is also essential if educators support the agency of empowered students who guide their own learning process. Student-led questioning is one of the essential differences between inquiry and traditional research. When educators guide inquiry by providing students with sufficient background and helping them build connections between prior and new knowledge, they create a space in which students’ curiosity, experimentation, and creativity can thrive.

Trust is also necessary in an inquiry environment that supports students as creators. Educators who give up control and share power with students in the classroom and library provide an essential piece of the inquiry learning puzzle. They support students with menus of options or give students free rein to create new knowledge in diverse and unique ways. These expressions of learning are meaningful to students and cement their ownership in both the process and products of their discoveries.

School-wide Philosophy
Inquire is one of the shared foundations in the new AASL standards (2018). When students AND educators inquire, they practice a growth/innovator’s/inquiry mindset. They open their minds to new information, ideas, and perspectives. They use formative assessments to grow and develop as curious, creative, experimenting learners. Educators support students with timely, specific feedback to propel students forward on their learning journey, giving them encouragement to take missteps and to learn from them. The same is true for inquiring educators. They seek, give, and receive real-time feedback from one another through coteaching; they expect to be engaged as learners who are in a constant quest to improve instruction.

When a school or district adopts an inquiry learning framework they are also adopting a philosophy. If you haven’t yet tuned in or want to be inspired again, please listen to Priscille Dando’s podcast interview Episode 3: Inquiry Learning, in which she shares how school librarians are leading and guiding inquiry learning to achieve district goals for students and educators.

A Recipe for Inquiry Learning
Figure 3.1 on page 38 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership offers a “Recipe for Inquiry Learning.” It is “taken out of the book” of future ready educators and students. The ingredients are curiosity, connections, motivation, content knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions. The directions can be applied to any inquiry process, but all steps require sufficient time for maximum results. You can download the recipe from the ALA Editions Web Extras.

Inquiry learning is student ready/future ready learning. It is the pathway to helping students develop literacies, skills, and dispositions that will serve them throughout their lives.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What behaviors indicate to you that students and educators are empowered in your school?
  2. How can inquiry learning lead to empowerment for the entire school community?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

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

Diverse, Creative Expressions of Learning

In addition to advocating for learning experiences that involve stimulating students’ creativity, engaging them in experimentation, and activating their creativity (see last week’s blog post), coplanning and coteaching inquiry learning are also ways to increase students’ opportunities for diverse final products. If our message to students is that all roads lead to the same outcome, many will not see the relevance of their learning experiences to their lives. They will not experience learning as a complex activity that results in diverse creative expressions of learning. Too many will disengage or simply be lost or derailed along the way.

Supporting Classroom Teachers and Specialists
During coplanning, classroom teachers and specialists may express reservations about students taking curriculum into individual or unexpected pathways. Secondary educators, in particular, who may be responsible for learning outcomes for 75 middle school or as many as 150 high school students may shudder to think that they alone will be responsible for guiding and assessing students’ learning.

School librarians who coplan, coimplement, AND coassess student learning outcomes can ease classroom teachers’ and specialists’ concerns about giving students “free rein” to explore in many different directions and in producing many different final products. Collaboration can also ensure that educators create flexible assessment tools that accurately reflect students’ achievement in terms of learning objectives as well as their creativity.

Supporting Students
Two (or more) educators working as a team can better monitor and guide individual student’s learning as well as small group work. Inquiry circles as described in the guided inquiry require check-ins from educators (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 32–36). It is through check-ins that educators push students’ thinking, offer resource support, identify stumbling blocks, and opportunities for reteaching specific subskills to the students who need them to move forward.

One of my all-time favorite teaching memories involved working with a second-grade teacher (in the late 1990s) who structured her classroom around inquiry. Students identified areas of interest, pitched their ideas to the class, and formed small groups to pursue meaningful questions. As their school librarian, I often worked with more or more groups as they sought information through the library’s resources.

One of the questions for the “frog and other amphibians” group was about dissecting frogs to learn more about their body parts and functions. I helped the group contact a biology professor at the University of Arizona. The students posed their questions to him and organized a field trip to his lab where he led them in dissecting and learning about frogs. I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying them on their adventure. Years later, two students from that group remembered that learning experience as one of the most powerful in their elementary education.

The Underlying Message
Learning is complex and expressions of knowledge can (and should?) be unique. When classmates share their learning processes and final products, students (and educators) should be amazed at the divergent thinking and variety of expressions of learning. When students are given the opportunity to pursue learning that is personally meaningful, use resources they have discovered on their own, selected and employed tools that helped them meet their individual (or their group’s) goals for sharing, they are enacting the skills and dispositions of lifelong learners.

Inquiry Learning = Preparation for Life!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What strategies have you used for supporting students’ diverse creative expressions of their learning?
  2. Describe the assessment tools you have used to guide students’ learning while giving them opportunities to express their learning in diverse and creative ways?

Work 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.

 

 

Curiosity, Experimentation, Creativity

“Explore” is one of the shared foundations in AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018). When learners explore, they engage with the learning community by “expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance” (38).Curiosity
In their book. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman (2015) emphasize the importance of curiosity as a springboard to creativity and innovation. Educators who create learning environments and opportunities that stimulate students’ curiosity help them on a path to lifelong learning.

For far too many students, schooling has stunted their innate curiosity. Over time, they have come to think of school as the place where the educators ask the questions, and students’ job is to respond to those questions with answers the educators already know. When students are given opportunities to revive their sense of wonder, they can take charge of their learning in ways that will support them throughout their academic, professional, civic, and personal lives.

Experimentation
Experimentation was once reserved for science and art courses, with chemistry labs and art classes the most often offered opportunities. The STEM/STEAM/STREAM focus in recent years has added technology, robotics, and engineering to the mix. Many school librarians have turned to makerspaces as strategies for engaging students and classroom teachers in experimentation. The opportunity to risk, fall short, and learn from missteps is a foundational tenet of makerspaces.

Although a makerspace may be housed in the library, hands-on, minds-on learning can be strengthened when the “maker” philosophy is diffused throughout the school. When classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians collaborate, students have the opportunity to experiment and explore in all content areas and develop a growth/inquiry/innovator mindset. School librarians who coplan and coteach with their colleagues help spread the benefits of makerspaces in the learning community.

Creativity
Creativity was once associated with the fine and industrial arts more than any other areas of the curriculum. Students signed up for art, music, shop, and home economics classes with an understanding that the curriculum in those courses would allow them free rein to explore, experiment, and “fail forward.” In these courses, students and educators expected students to access and enact creativity in their thinking and in the final products they created.

Creativity is one of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs. When students are encouraged to imagine and “think outside the box,” they may pursue and express their questions, knowledge, and learning in unexpected ways. For some youth, personalized learning can be a pathway to unleashing students’ creativity. For others, small group exploration may be the path to connecting their own creativity with that of their peers.

Coleading School Librarians
An effective school library program involves students and educators in exploring the curriculum, resources, information, and ideas in creative ways. School librarians can spotlight the ways students use library resources and tools to create. They can work with colleagues and administrators to ensure that curiosity, experimentation, and creativity are cornerstones of students’ learning experiences.

Taking the attitude and enacting the behaviors of “explorers,” students can stretch themselves beyond their own expectations. Through codesigning and coteaching with classroom teachers and specialists, school librarian can also stretch themselves and advocate for engaging learning experiences for students.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your school’s considerations in determining the location of a makerspace in your school building?
  2. What are the benefits to students when school librarians share responsibility for facilitating making?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. 2015. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.