Inquiry


Inquiry Podcasts

Donna DesRoches and Carlene Walter have created a series of four podcasts focused on inquiry and teacher-librarians.

What Is Inquiry?

The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have change. The overabundance of information demands that all students possess the skills to not only locate needed information, but to critically evaluate its relevance, currency, and authenticity, and then to repurpose the information appropriately and effectively to their inquiry and to similar, but novel situations. The key abilities needed to understand and make meaning of an inquiry involves self-accountability, efficacy, and metacognitive ability to determine if their skills, dispositions, and responsibilities are effective (process and content).

Pappas and Tepe (2002), in their book Pathways to Knowledge and Inquiry Learning, indicate the relationship between information literacy and inquiry learning as symbiotic. The learner must gather, evaluate, and use information cricially, efficiently, and creatively. The methods and tools of inquiry provide a fertile field for sowing the seeds of information literacy.

Inquiry is a philosophical stance rather than a set of strategies,activities, or a particular teaching method. As such, inquiry promotes intentional and thoughtful learning for teachers and children (Mills & Donnelly, 2001, p. xviii). It is the WHY, considering alternate perspectives, explore their thinking, and its connections, and engage in higher-level thinking in order to understand

“Operating with an inquiry stance is critical to being an effective teacher….an inquiry stance is one that positions the teachers as a ‘problem poser’ (Friere, 1973) asking questions, …viewing learning in a more complex and dynamic fashion, rather than in a one size fits all formula.

Inquiry is more than a simple instructional strategy. It is a philosophical approach to teaching and learning, grounded in constructivist research and methods, which engages students in investigations that lead to disciplinary and transdisciplinary understanding. Inquiry builds on students’ inherent sense of curiosity and wonder, drawing on their diverse backgrounds,interests, and experiences. The process provides opportunities for students to become active participants in a collaborative search for meaning and understanding (Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, English Language Arts Curriculum - Grade 6 , page 22).

Inquiry enable students to:
  • build their background knowledge
  • develop curiosity and motivation for their topics
  • formulate relevant focus questions
  • engage with complex information sources pertinent to their focus questions
  • deal with conflicting information
  • negotiate the representations of knowledge that reflect the real world
  • cope with the affective dimensions (e.g. doubt, uncertainty, anxiety) of the inquiry process.
Source: Todd, 2007; Kuhlthau, 2004

Creating A Culture of Inquiry

Inquiry must be foundational, rather than episodic.It is meaningful, relevant, embedded in a social context, promotes deep understanding and connections to prior knowledge, and fosters the development of new questions and wonderings.

This may be uncomfortable for many teachers who may not thrive in their acceptance of not knowing the answer. Fostering a culture of inquiry can be hampered by traditional teaching mindset, oppressive environment, episodic learning vs foundational learning, limited understanding (what inquiry is and what it is not), particularly in relation to cognitive overload and affective omission.

To effect real change, a school community must wrestle wth the following questions:
  • What should students learn?
  • How should students learn?
  • How might technology support learning?
  • What interactions and relationships enhance learning?
  • How can we promote continuous school-wide improvement?

Source: Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2004). Moving from rote to inquiry: Creating learning that counts. School Library Media Connection, 23(2), 22-25

How Does The Teacher-Librarian Support Inquiry?

Teacher-librarians support inquiry by providing the resources, the instructional support, and the ease of access needed for students to pursue meaningful knowledge and to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Teaching and Learning
  • Help students negotiate the direction of their information search process.
  • Invite and facilitate thoughtful questions.
  • Model how to access, evaluate, and use information responsibly and ethically.
  • Promote continual assessment.
Physical Environment
  • Arrange spaces for multiple groupings.
  • Allow for flexible scheduling.
  • Provide for easy and safe access to resources in a variety of formats.
Resources
  • Provide access to a range of resources in a variety of formats.
  • Provide resources to meet diverse needs.
  • Enable electronic access to global resources.
Building Learning Communities
  • Play a key role in creating learning communities that link students and teachers with human and information resources beyond the school walls.

Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2004). Inquiry Learning Through Librarian-Teacher Partnerships (Information Skills Across the Curriculum). Worthington: Linworth Publishing.

Suggested Reading

Engage and Grow with Questions (C. Koechlin and S. Zwaan, School Libraries in Canada, 2009)Focus On Inquiry (Alberta Education)Inquiry Livebinder (Tracy Woodward)Points of Inquiry (British Columbia Learning)Together For Learning (Ontario Learning)What is Inquiry? (Galileo Educational Network)