Guided Inquiry Design: Explore and Identify Phases

Judi Moreillon, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Explore phase of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) offers learners resources to browse, read or use to stimulate their thinking and prompt sub-questions related to the overarching inquiry question. A hands-on text set of books is one option. Students may also be guided to online resources that may further increase their interest in the overarching inquiry question. A combination of print and digital resources can be especially effective for today’s youth (and graduate students, too). This dip-in strategy is designed to deepen students’ background knowledge before they identify inquiry questions of their own.

Book Jackets for We Are Here to Stay, Enemy Child, Racism and Intolerance, and The Unwanted.

Explore Pathfinder
Before our next class, students accessed a sample Explore Pathfinder and were instructed to browse several books and resources annotated on the document. The annotated bibliography/pathfinder is organized by genre and format of nonfiction and information books and resources as well as subtopics within each genre. These resources are annotated to help learners decide whether or not their interests/questions align with the content of specific resources before they access and read them. A pathfinder gives learners a taste of the breadth of information available and offers a starting place for them to ask their own questions and conduct their own in-depth inquiries.

To collect the books on the pathfinder, I searched nonfiction/information book sources including those for past and present award-winning books on the Notable Books for a Global Society, National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS): Notable Trade Books for Young People, Orbis Pictus Books and Robert F. Sibert Information Book Medal and honor books lists. I furthered my search on the Pima County Public Library catalog and Worlds of Words Globalizing the Common Core Exemplar List in the information book section. The bibliographies found in many of these resources led me to additional resources. I used my knowledge of databases and online resources to add the digital entries found on the pathfinder. I gained much of this knowledge from following blogs, Twitter, professional Facebook groups and reading articles in professional (mostly library) journals.

For IS445 students, this pathfinder served as an example for the one they would create for their small group inquiry projects. I created a multimedia introduction to the pathfinder using The purpose of the video is to give students a snapshot of the genres and subtopics included on the sample Explore Pathfinder.

Presentation Slide: Childism is prejudice against children based on age and vulnerability. Young-Bruehel, 2012

As a class, we analyzed my example for organization, bibliography format, nonfiction and informational book genres, digital formats (such as ebooks), alternative formats (such as graphic novels), databases, and other Web-based resources. We examined the illustrations on the pathfinder and discussed copyright. Students also noted my introduction, which was directed to them as users of my pathfinder.

Identify Phase
If our class had had the time and opportunity to continue the whole-class inquiry, students would have dipped in further into the books and resources provided. They would have identified particular areas of interest and individually or with a small inquiry group determined a sub-question related to how prejudice and discrimination affect youth globally. They would have gathered their own materials, answered their questions and developed new understandings. They would have created a learning product, shared it and evaluated their inquiry process and final product. Note: Reflection on the process should be conducted strategically throughout an inquiry process to help learners build a framework for information seeking.

Instead, in our course, students brainstormed topics about which they were passionate and posted them in a Google Drive document. Over several days, students reviewed their list and began forming small inquiry groups. When their negotiations were complete, there were five groups of four students each focused on these topics: animal rights/testing, immigration, refugees, suicide and (teen) mental health. Students began their conversations in our online meeting and continued to collaborate with one another over a 3-week period. They refined their overarching inquiry questions, negotiated the content and format of their pathfinders, and collaboratively developed an introduction to their work.

During the Identify phase, one of the most successful and frequently applied inquiry guide interventions is to help students fine-tune their inquiry questions. Sometimes learners’ questions are too broad or too narrow. Sometimes, they need help with defining the terms in their questions or focusing their questions in terms of the overarching inquiry question. (In the case of our graduate class assignment, this was not a criterion.) Students who are working with partners or small groups may need help with negotiating questions that satisfy the interests of all group members. I met with small groups or representatives of groups in online conferences to review their inquiry questions and answer additional questions they had about the process.

IS445 students were required to tie their question to the appropriate education and library standards for their target users. These are their final, negotiated questions for their small group inquiry projects:

1. Why is it important to consider the ethics of animal testing and the affects it has on animals and humans? (targeted to students in grades 8-12)
2. How have immigrant experiences changed from historic to modern times? (targeted to upper elementary and middle school classroom teachers and librarians)
3. What experiences do children and teens go through as refugees and how can we help? (targeted to students in grades 5-12)
4. How can high school students use information books and resources to learn and educate others about teen suicide? (targeted to high school students)
5. How do teens live and thrive with mental health conditions and how can others help? (targeted to middle and high school students)

Graduate students’ task was to create an Explore Pathfinder of global nonfiction and informational books and resources to help a targeted group of K-12 students pursue the group’s overarching inquiry question. (They could include a select few fiction. historical fiction, or poetry titles, but nonfiction and informational resources were to be the focus of their pathfinders.) Students were to ensure that the resources were accurate and culturally authentic. They also focused on books and resources that offered numerous opportunities for learners to pursue many different avenues of inquiry related to the overarching (essential) question. Students also composed an introduction to their pathfinder that included the connections among their resources and described their resource-gathering, or curation, process.

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