While I have been an 'experienced' teacher for some time, I also have been quite guilty of creating, facilitating and executing "word-moving" projects that oh-so many of us remember well as students ourselves (Fontichiaro, 2009). I've come to realize that easy questions result in easy answers and thus marginal learning overall. These projects need nudging, tweaking, or complete revamping altogether. Easy questions with easily obtainable answers do not allow for deep learning to occur. I struggled for months figuring this out on my own, but thankfully after confiding in Ms. Brown, she kindly came into my class and modeled this aspect of the inquiry process with me. After all, asking the right kinds of question is the foundation of the inquiry process, so having someone help me get on the right track for this aspect early on in the school year has been so helpful. Without Ms. Brown’s help, my students and I may have not worked through the inquiry process with such efficiency!
Kuhlthau's (2004) Information Search Process (ISP) has really helped me and my students work through the inquiry process together and to persist through the most difficult stages within the Exploration stage (Maniotes, 2013). There really is something magical, and deeply satisfying as a teacher, when "students learn to recognize changes in their feelings and thoughts" and thus really "learn how to learn" (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2010). Recognizing where students are in the ISP model has allowed me to determine when students need my guidance and when I need to subtly guide them through their learning process. Mrs. Cole has been paramount in this area and I have appreciated the relationship we have built this year.
Mrs. Cole has become the second teacher in my classroom and my students have been regulars in the school’s library this year. She has been key to my development in inquiry-based teaching practices and I am so thankful to have her ongoing support and all her expertise. Mrs. Cole is an expert in recognizing when students are in the optimal learning stage (third space), but also knowing when subtle but crucial coaching needs to occur with my students (Maniotes, 2013, p. 11). Mrs. Cole has been very good at teaching me that coaching my students in their learning means encouraging them to develop their own understanding and discover their own path (even if this means that they are going to make mistakes) by developing a balance of “stepping in and holding back” (Maniotes, 2013).
The school year is still relatively new but there has been so much growth so far. I am just so impressed with what inquiry has given to my students but also, what it has given to me as an educator. At first, it was quite intimidating trusting the process of inquiry, but now that I am immersed in the learning and I can see the results in action…there is no going back!
Fontichiaro, K. (2009). Nudging toward inquiry: Re-envisioning research projects. School Library Monthly, 26(1), 17-19.
Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C.C. & Maniotes. L. K. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for 21st-century learners. School Library Monthly, XXVI(5), 18-21.
Maniotes, L. (2013). Stick-to-itiveness: three strategies to achieve persistence through inquiry. School Library Monthly, (2). 9.