Tag Archives: inquiry-based learning

LibGuides and Student Choice

24 Feb

One of the important aspects of using inquiry, and especially in using the ILP, is the opportunity for student choice.  In Meg and Cathy’s classes, students  explore themes in literature and develop skills around standards, and all of this begins with the texts students choose.  In Heather’s latest post, she discusses the ways in which librarians can help students and co-teach in inquiry classrooms.  For Cathy’s and Meg’s classes, librarians assist students at the beginning of the ILP process by helping them select texts.  One of the ways we do this is through booktalks.  A booktalk is a short introduction of a book that we can provide to students as a way to get them interested in a particular text, era, or genre of literature.  In giving a booktalk, Heather and I, as well as other librarians, provide students with a glimpse into a text, by either reading a small section or sharing the conflict, theme, characters, or our favorite part.  For American Literature classes, Heather and I would organize and provide booktalks around eras:  Realism and Romanticism, Modernism & Postmodernism, Contemporary American Literature, among others.  While we would share titles belonging to these eras, we would also connect the texts to major concepts and themes from the time period.  Cathy and I would  “tag team” our booktalks, alternating between the two of us, often like a ping-pong game along a literary timeline. While we were satisfied with the introduction of the texts we provided to students, we always felt that we could never cover enough books to give students a wide exposure to all of the possible literature they could choose from.  

In an effort to make this part of the inquiry process more student centered, in addition to booktalks, we guided students through a browsing activity using a curation tool called a LibGuide.  This web-based program allowed us to collect various websites and databases, as well as print books available in our collection or electronic texts found online.  Our LibGuide for American Literature optimized a student’s ability to browse for texts.  Instead of simply listening to a booktalk with books the teacher and librarians have chosen to highlight, now students could explore the multitude of resources on this guide to not only learn about eras and authors more thoroughly, but also to explore as much as possible of the literature America had to offer.  This LibGuide has certainly grown over the past few years.  We’ve added websites that students have discovered in their learning, ebooks that the library has purchased, and our own documents that serve to guide students through the ILP.    

American Literature LibGuide

And when Cathy began talking about altering the structure of her class this time around, we saw the need to add even more material to this guide.  While we still offer the opportunity for students to browse by era, this guide leads students to explore major playwrights, novelists, and poets across eras.  It links to lists of American literary awards by year, as well as resources on American art and music, allowing students to see the connections between literature and other arts.  We’ve offered sites on American culture  and American history, and knowing that students don’t need to find just long texts and can explore supporting documents and materials, we’ve aggregated resources that contain primary documents from our nation’s history.

In some of the specific eras, we have linked to certain Google documents that highlight either the texts that our school library has, titles that Cathy’s classroom library contains, or books that students can find in the public domain on the web.  Cathy and I have used these documents for specific browsing activities where students list their top three choices and explain why they are interested in reading the text and how it may connect to the themes they want to explore or the essential question they want to answer.

By combining all of these different types of approaches and exposing students to as many resources on American literature, writers, culture, and history as possible, we truly desire to create an open opportunity for them to explore–to wander around the resources, making connections and creating pathways for their own learning.    We’ve even created a space for students to upload resources they find in their own browsing and searching online, giving them ownership of this class resource as well.  And as we monitor this LibGuide, we can examine the usage statistics in the site’s “back office” to evaluate which sites are frequently referenced or which ones may be underused.  Such data can give us insight into how students are using the guide and may help us determine what, if any, changes need to be made in the future.

And we haven’t just used LibGuides to help students connect with texts for literature classes.  Teachers in other disciplines have teamed with the librarians to create guides  in their disciplines, including Global Studies and Environmental Science, among others. By using resources like LibGuides and providing the time needed to deeply engage with the material in the beginning stages of inquiry or research, we are honoring the act of discovery and immersion as well as the importance of student choice, which all contribute to successful ILP and learning processes.

Please let us know if you recommend any resources for the American Literature LibGuide, or any of our other LibGuides, that we can share with our students.  We welcome any feedback you may have and certainly would love to hear how you honor student choice in your classroom or library.

So What?

29 May

Too often, students don’t see the value in what they’re learning–there can be a disconnect between the meaning we want the students to walk away with and the meaning these incredible individuals make based on their own unique views and experiences. As students begin to take more control of their learning, it becomes impossible for us to design each student’s final assessment and absolutely vital for students to determine why their learning experience is important, not just to them but to their community, both local and global.

We call this final step of the Inquiry Learning Plan (ILP) the “So What?” and it serves as a way for students to apply knowledge and content and reflect back on the unit or class. You can see in the questions below that they’re really looking at the bigger picture of the unit–what is the essential lesson they’ve learned and how do they want to share it? Continue reading

Student Post: Refining an Essential Question

6 May

I can’t tell you my name, but I am a junior in Ms. Donhauser’s Honors British Literature course. I want to talk about my experience with the Inquiry Learning Plan and my search for an essential question; through my irritation and sense of utter defeat, I broke through to find something worth studying. It began in class with me being consumed by my despair; I had no good essential questions on my learning plan and I was stressed that my activities were due with no real EQ that seemed useful. The only question I had was “How dangerous is humanity’s thirst for knowledge?” The only problem was that I was dead in the water with my question; it was more of a guiding question rather than a good topic to study. I felt this question was specific to my text; it didn’t relate to what I wanted to pursue in this unit. I had to continue my research for a more overarching question but I felt hopelessly lost in my texts…until… Continue reading

ILP and Guided Inquiry

30 Mar

Two helpful resources in understanding the principles of Guided Inquiry (GI) are Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century (2007) and Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School  (2012) by Carol Kuhlthau, Leslie Maniotes, and Ann Caspari.  Through years of research and professional practice, this team of researchers and educators demonstrates how GI “is an approach to learning whereby students find and use a variety of sources of information and ideas to increase their understanding of a problem, topic, or issue” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007).  Students construct new knowledge actively and strive for deep understanding.  Gone are the days of just gathering information for presentation, or copying and pasting information as ways of learning.   GI requires thorough interpretation, analysis, reflection, and synthesis to handle the complexities and nuances of various topics.  The process increases student engagement and invites students to connect what they are learning in the classroom to the world around them.  As a result, students take on more independence and more responsibility since they are constructing their own paths for learning.

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Giving Students Control

14 Mar

Over the past week, I have read numerous emails, blogs, and tweets about personalized learning, many with links to student samples or courses that teachers are redesigning so that students can have more control over their learning. Each time I navigated to these sites and saw what others were doing, I was reminded that my own students are achieving some pretty incredible goals in my current Honors Brit Lit course. For the last two and a half years, my students in my Brit Lit (and this year my English II courses) have designed their own curriculum. They choose their own texts, develop their own questions, design activities, manage their time–they control nearly everything in that classroom.

So, to help keep my students focused and organized, I developed an inquiry-based learning plan, inspired by Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process and Grant Wiggins’ UbD template. This site’s purpose is to share with you that plan and many of the resources and strategies that I–and my incredible friends and colleagues Cathy Stutzman, Heather Hersey, and Marci Zane–use to prepare students for rigorous, individualized, responsible learning. The plan is to have students, teachers, librarians, administrators,  and parents contribute to this site to share with you the struggles and achievements of this type of learning.

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