Reflecting on the Journey
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” ~ Drake
Although my understanding of inquiry learning has not necessarily changed and my focus questions also did not change significantly, I found that Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) has played a valuable role in supporting me throughout my journey. This model has transformed my understanding of how to support students throughout inquiry tasks and in developing information literacy.
For the first time on my many inquiry learning expeditions, I was able to reflect on how my own inquiry process on this journey related to the ISP and make connections to how I was feeling at each stage of my re-search.
Initiation and Selection Stages
I love research and I love information literacy so while I did feel some uncertainty during the ‘initiation’ stage, I soon moved on to optimism as I selected a topic which I knew that I was going to love.
It was the ‘exploration’ stage which had me venturing deep into my journey. At times, I was so far into the wilderness, that it took me days to make it out again. I was having fun sometimes and following interesting paths, but I also felt that I was meandering up and down the river of re-search, often passing the same points of interest, but never finding a way to get to the other side.
As time went on and I thought that I had most of the resources that I needed, I decided to step off the research path and began to work on my curated collection, selecting and then culling resources again and again…and again! I also began to collate the key ideas and began adding them to my infographic. Kuhlthau warns of this possible miss-step on the inquiry learning journey. I had attempted to skip over the Formulation stage – I was too keen to get to the end of my journey. While I had found a path to the other side of the river, it was treacherous and rocky!
I waded back across the river. I was back at the ‘exploration’ stage and frustration had set in. As Kuhlthau’s ISP indicated, ‘exploration’ was certainly the most difficult stage in my inquiry learning journey, especially because I was unable to express precisely what information I needed. I found the ISP surprisingly reassuring though. Rather than a dip in confidence, I knew that the fourth stage, ‘formulation’, would eventually bring a turning point for me and this was comforting.
I eventually worked my way to the ‘formulation’ stage. I now had a “clearer sense of direction” and my thoughts centred on defining, extending and supporting my focus. It took some time, but I was now able to form and articulate my personal perspective.
I began working on my curated collection and infographic in earnest. As I did so, my ideas continued to grow and evolve as I re-read my top sources and made more detailed notes.
Although I had taken some uphill paths to get to the ‘presentation’ stage, I had been constructing my ideas and taking notes along the way which really helped in the writing process. I felt satisfaction as identified in Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process.
As I finalise my inquiry journey, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’ll admit that I found the journey longer than I expected but now that I have arrived at my destination, I have a renewed sense of how to effectively integrate information literacy within inquiry learning. At times, I may have had too much focus on Carol Kuhlthau’s work, but the Guided Inquiry Design framework and the Information Search Process was invaluable to me in this inquiry and I can see that these tools will be very useful to teach my students in the future. Furthermore, encouraging students to see inquiry learning as an iterative rather than linear process will also help to assuage student uncertainty.
I have learnt that information literacy within inquiry learning, has the potential to be so much more than generic or situated skills. It can be transformative, collaborative, participatory, and empowering. I can now see the potential of inquiry learning to broaden the conception of information literacy.
At the end of my journey, I still have my trusty backpack that I set out with. I have added a few new items, but, like any journey, I’ve ended up with so much more.
I’m also left excited by the potential of future inquiry learning journeys, some of which extend on this expedition and others which would see me venture on a slightly different path in my quest to understand and explore information literacy and inquiry learning. These are the questions I look forward to exploring:
How can teachers be supported (by schools, curriculum documents, professional learning, etc) to embed information literacy within inquiry learning in their subjects?
How can the GeSTE Windows model of information literacy be applied within Modern History inquiry learning (my main teaching area)?