Inquiry Based Learning

As a newly graduated Teacher Librarian (although without a Teacher Librarian position!) I am very interested in Inquiry Based Learning. We live in an information age, and the problem for students today is not accessing information, but accessing the right information, at the right level, at the right time. Whereas once students researched from the encyclopedia and several non-fiction texts, today students can access an unlimited number of resources via the web, as well as a great number of additional resources via state, local and school libraries.

So the challenge is, how do we teach students to deal effectively and critically with this information overload, so that they can synthesise it and add this new knowledge to the knowledge they already posess? The answer? Teach them through doing, and start early!

Inquiry based learning is well supported online. Anyone new to the idea can find numerous websites that support both teachers and students. Even early years’ students can successfully begin to develop information literacy.

A very indepth website that offers a fully developed workshop that covers exploration, demonstration (via video clips of real classroom activities), explanation and implementation is http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/inquiry/index.html .

This site is really cool, and has everything a teacher needs to begin including an inquiry based approach in their classroom.

Another well known information literacy tool is the Big 6. The founders of the Big 6 are Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz. Taken straight from the very informative Big 6 site is this description:

The Big6 is a process model of how people of all ages solve an information problem. From practice and study, we found that successful information problem-solving encompasses six stages with two sub-stages under each:

1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the information problem
1.2 Identify information needed

2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Determine all possible sources
2.2 Select the best sources

3. Location and Access
3.1 Locate sources (intellectually and physically)
3.2 Find information within sources

4. Use of Information
4.1 Engage (e.g., read, hear, view, touch)
4.2 Extract relevant information

5. Synthesis
5.1 Organize from multiple sources
5.2 Present the information

6. Evaluation
6.1 Judge the product (effectiveness)
6.2 Judge the process (efficiency)

http://www.big6.com/

Using a process such as this, teachers can help students draw from a mass of information what they really need and what is the best to answer the question, and to formulate it so that the information is presented in a format that they not only understand, but own.

One day I hope to be able to initiate this process as a teacher librarian, but for the meantime, I will continue to try to influence the curriculum of my school towards this goal – have you had success with inquiry based learning? Let me know! I always love to learn more!!

Kay.