Guided Inquiry and the Teacher Librarian

Leave a comment

April 28, 2013 by patriciawhite84

The concept of information literacy was developed to help identify the skills and processes students need to learn in order to become lifelong learners. How students achieve this varies across the world as different countries have their own information literacy models. Many of these models have been influenced by the research conducted by Carol Kuhlthau that led to the development of the Information Search Process [ISP] during the 1980’s and 1990’s (CSU, 2013). Central to this model is the emotional impact that a research project has on a student’s ability to process and express information (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012). More recently, a Guided Inquiry approach has been designed by Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari that takes Kuhlthau’s ISP one step further by focusing on the 21st century learning needs of students (Kuhthau, 2010, p. 18).

Guided Inquiry is a collaborative process between the teacher librarian and classroom teachers. Other specialised educators and community involvement can also extend these learning experiences. When implementing a Guided Inquiry approach there are eight phases that align with a particular component of the ISP. These phases identify a “zone of intervention” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012, p. 20) that the teaching team use to guide inquiry thereby scaffolding student learning to create meaningful connections with information whist supporting their emotional needs.

These phases and their equivalent ISP component are:


(teaching team)





Immerse Selection
Explore Exploration
Identify Formulation
Gather Collection
Create Presentation
Share Presentation
Evaluate Assessment

(Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012, p. 29)

A Guided Inquiry approach is based on constructivist learning theories, which link student learning to their personal experience. By engaging students through open-ended tasks that relate to the curriculum, combines the three spaces of Guided Inquiry (Fitzgerald, 2011, p. 27).

  • First Space: A student’s personal and cultural knowledge and understanding
  • Second Space: Curriculum content and the school’s needs
  • Third Space: The link between first and second space where a student draws upon their personal experience to form meaningful connections with the curriculum

Implementing a Guided Inquiry approach has several advantages as well as disadvantages. However the positive outcomes severely outweigh the negative aspects. It offers an opportunity for the library to be “intricately woven into the fabric”(Fitzgerald, 2011, p. 40) of the school learning community rather than an external tool that enables RFF for classroom teachers.



  • Difficulties developing focus questions
  • Student centred
  • Increased time and workload for teaching team
  • Real life context
  • Difficulties/resistance when forming collaborative teams
  • Helps develop social skills
  • Helps develop literacy skills
  • Helps develop information literacy skills
  • Incorporates curriculum content
  • Satisfaction in seeing student progress

As Guided Inquiry is a collaborative approach to teaching information literacy, it requires commitment from both the teacher and teacher librarian to ensure the whole process is completed. They way in which Guided Inquiry has been designed is to enable the teaching team to identify dips in student interest and how to intervening using a particular phase to get students back on track. This scaffolding approach does increase the workload for teacher librarians, but also offers the opportunity to gather data to support evidence-based practice. By investing in a Guided Inquiry approach to improve student learning we are therefore investing in our own profession.


Charles Sturt University, (2013). Teacher librarianship: Topic four – information literacy

Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purpose of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L, K., & Caspari, A, K. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. Santa Barabara, Cal. Libraries United.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for the 21st century learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18-21.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: