Inquiry skills are used by human beings worldwide in everyday life. As teachers, it is our knowledge of children and how they learn that determines how we teach the acquisition of information and inquiry skills. Teacher librarians, as collaborative teaching partners, support teaching and learning programs in information literacy, recognising that students need to be inspired, challenged and empowered with new knowledge. Herring (2007) states that, ‘one of the key elements in a library mission statement relates to the development of information literate students.’ It is with guidance from the teacher librarian that students can become competent ‘locaters, selectors, analysers, organisers and users of information’. (Ryan & Capra 2001)
As discussed by Mitchell (2011) ‘Guided inquiry learning is fast becoming the buzz word of school libraries for the 21st century.’ Schools are moving away from teacher-centred lessons where students learn passively and are adopting a guided inquiry approach to learning with teacher librarians acting as facilitators. ‘This guided inquiry approach helps students to construct meaning, think creatively and solve problems.’(Mitchell, 2011) Teacher librarians need to give students a purpose for their inquiry and should not assume that students know how to search for accurate information without being explicitly taught. It is important to structure learning experiences using a research model and support the stages of the teaching and learning cycle. Teacher librarians need to model strategies, jointly work with students to assist the mastery of research skills and support students to use research skills independently.
Technology is continuing to impact on education and teacher librarians must consider the important, central role the internet plays in harvesting current information. As Frey (2007) states ‘We have transitioned from a time where information was scarce and precious to today where information is vast and readily available.’ With the interactive nature of the web, the guided inquiry approach promotes discovery and the role of the teacher librarian is to help children organise the wealth of information presented to them.
A key component of the guided inquiry approach to learning is that knowledge can be personal. It allows students to feel fully engaged, develop ownership and take responsibility for their own learning path whilst being guided. As discussed in ‘Pedagogy in Action; The Portal for Educators (2012), ‘A guided inquiry approach in a classroom consists of students working on specially designed inquiry materials.’ As there is an increasing demand for customised learning plans the guided learning approach ensures students are working at their own level and at their own pace but with a defined purpose.
The guided inquiry process fosters innovation and creativity and can involve students working in groups where they feel motivated and energised. Students can share knowledge and request clarification from each other. ‘Education as inquiry provides an opportunity for learners to explore topics collaboratively using the perspectives offered. In this way, curriculum becomes a metaphor for the lives we want to live and the people we want to be.’ (Harste, Jerome, 2001)
The guided inquiry approach to teaching and learning is not a new approach in classroom instruction and is best described as a process-orientated approach. Students are developing their knowledge and skills in order to be successful citizens in our increasingly changing society. As stated by Hansen (2004), ‘Our students need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers to survive.’
Hansen, David.M. (2012) Instructor’s Guide to Process-Orientated Guided Learning. POGIL website.
Hansen, David. M & Daniel.K.Apple (2004). Process-The Missing Element.
Herring,J.(2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S.Ferguson (Ed) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp27-42)
Mitchell, P. & Spence,S. (2009) Inquiry into Guided Inquiry. Vol.23, No.4, Nov 2009.
Upton,M. (2013) Inquiry Learning vs Information Literacy. ASLA Conference 2013.