Essential Question

What does inquiry have to do with information literacy in a Web 2.0 world?

  • What is inquiry?
  • How do we build a culture of inquiry?


Show Notes

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.

What Does An Inquiry-Focused School Look Like?

  • Questioning is at the centre of the learning experience.
  • Teachers are problem-posers
  • Students help to negotiate the direction of the learning.
  • Learning is social and interactive.
  • Solving problems is an integral part of the process.
  • Students learn by doing.
  • Choice
  • Products and performances reflect application and transfer of learning.
  • Learning is authentic.
  • Assessment is continuous. Students and teacher assess with the goal of improving learning and teaching.
  • Asks, "How did we come to know?", rather than "What do we know?"
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.

The role of the teacher in an inquiry-based curriculum is to possess not only expert knowledge about different disciplines but also expert knowledge about how learners learn (Berghoff, Egawa, Harste, and Hoonan, 2000).

What Should Educators Reflect Upon?

  • How do students learn?
  • Do we encourage students to formulate their own ideas based on data they collect?
  • Do we foster the transfer of learning to new and different situations?
  • Do we have extended conversations with students regarding their learning?
  • Do we encourage such conversations among students?
  • Are students relating their learning to the real world?
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.

  • How can I help my students realize that they have questions? And that their questions matter
  • How can I create a classroom library environment that supports my students inquires without directing them
  • How can I help my students connect their inquires to questions and issues of deeper personal and social significance
  • How can I help my students share their learning in interesting, relevant authentic ways?
Diane Parker. Planning for Inquiry: It’s not an Oxymoron! Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2007

Inquiry-based planning is truly an inquiry in itself. By its very nature, it has to be. Just as an inquiry-based curriculum revolves around the questions of students, inquiry-based planning revolves around the questions of teachers as they consider their students’ questions.