The Information Search Process (ISP) is a research model developed by Carol Kuhlthau that explores the thoughts, feelings tasks and actions associated with the research process (Kracker, 2012). Guided Inquiry is based on wide ranging research of the ISP, which has shown that learning through research requires more than just collecting information and resources, the inquiry process (ISP) requires guidance, instruction, modelling and coaching (Kuhlthau, 2010).
Studies have identified the following key stages of learning that help to demonstrate how students are guided through the inquiry process. These are initiating/beginning the inquiry; selecting a topic; exploring that topic; formulating a focus for it; collecting information specific to that focus; organising and presenting that information; then, finally, assessing and reflecting on the learning that has taken place (Kuhlthau, 2007).
When I read this I couldn’t help but think how often a successful teacher librarian would find themselves directly involved in implementing and supporting each of these stages. As we all know the school library is a major hub for undertaking research and, perhaps the student’s classroom teacher aside, no teacher should be more qualified than the teacher librarian in assisting students to seek the information required in each stage.
It is also worth noting that by using a Guided Inquiry approach students are able to develop a range of other skills they might not even realise as they carry out their research. Through each inquiry a student undertakes they are also carrying out learning in the areas of curriculum content, information literacy, learning how to learn, literacy competence and social skills (Kuhlthau, 2010).
By this we can begin to understand how a range of learning takes place any time a Guided Inquiry approach is adopted by students, and that this learning is not specific only to the topic being explored, but to range of different areas. In order to best facilitate and develop this range of learning a number of different teaching techniques and teaching skill sets will be required.
This brings me directly to my next point. As we can see there are many stages and skills that are worked through in a Guided Inquiry approach. Due to it all being quite involved a flexible team of learning experts need to work together to help guide students through the many processes and approaches involved (Kuhlthau, 2010).
The teacher librarian would clearly be an important member of such a team. What’s more, working as part of a team to help implement a Guided Inquiry approach is something the effective teacher librarian should be well adapted to do. The ability to (a) collaboratively plan and resource curriculum programs, and to (b) collaborate with teachers to plan and implement information literacy, are two references to collaborative processes mentioned in the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2004). These references provide examples of the standards every teacher librarian should be familiar with and aiming to meet.
There is no escaping how interconnected the implementation of a Guided Inquiry approach is with the role of the teacher librarian. Teacher librarians clearly have great responsibility here. They can impact enormously upon the learning outcomes of their students, not only in the implementation of this approach, but right through all aspects of it.
Kuhlthau, C.K. (2010), Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st Century Learners, School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18.
Kuhlthau, C. Maniotes, L. and Caspari (2007) A Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited.
Kracker, J. (2012), Research Anxiety and Students’ Perceptions of Research: An Experiment. Part 1, Effect of Teaching Kuhlthau’s ISP Model, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Feb 1 2001; 53(4):282-94.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA), (2004), Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA).