National Week 2012

Designing for Guided Inquiry: Why Partnerships are Important

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Guided Inquiry is an instructional framework designed to support students while engaging in inquiry learning tasks. The new Australian Curriculum requires students to develop skills and understandings as critical inquirers of their world across a number of learning areas. In other words, inquiry underpins disciplinary thinking.

“Guided Inquiry is a way of thinking, learning, and teaching that changes the culture of the school into a collaborative inquiry community.”

Inquiry in the Australian Curriculum

Some examples of inquiry in the new curriculum include History, where students are expected to engage in historical inquiry to develop an informed explanation about the past. In Science, they are expected to develop scientific inquiry skills and ‘think like a scientist’. In Geography, they are expected to apply geographical inquiry skills as they explore the impact of natural and human forces on the world. In Mathematics, students are expected to respond to familiar and unfamiliar situations by employing mathematical strategies to make informed decisions and solve problems efficiently. In English, students develop language and literacy skills to become effective communicators and inquirers of spoken, written and multimodal texts, as they develop their capacity as literary learners.

While each curriculum area expects students to develop inquiry skills and understanding of the discipline, how are schools helping students consolidate this learning across subject areas? Many inquiry skills are common across the curriculum. For example, the ability to construct questions or propose hypotheses, locating relevant sources, analysing sources for accuracy and bias, collecting and analysing data, using evidence from sources to develop an informed opinion, evaluating results to draw evidence-based conclusions, presenting ideas to others via appropriate and creative means, and collaborating and communicating effectively with others. These skills are embedded in each of the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum mentioned above, just to name a few.

The Guided Inquiry process

By introducing the Guided Inquiry process as a whole school inquiry model, teachers and students can explore the world through inquiry across a range of discipline areas using a common inquiry process, which consists of eight phases: Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share, and Evaluate.

According to the authors of Guided Inquiry Design (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2013), employing a GI approach helps students “gain deep understanding of curriculum content and also internalize an inquiry process that they can use in academic settings, the work world, and everyday life as they apply the same inquiry strategies” (Ch.1, para 1), and by “consistently learning through the phases of the Guided Inquiry process, students gain competence and independence for taking responsibility for their own learning process” (Ch. 12). This also ensures that teachers within a school use a common language of inquiry to assist students in making their own connections between what they have learned through inquiry in one subject with other subjects, and from year to year as they progress through school.

Building Guided Inquiry teams

For this approach to successfully ‘guide inquiry’ as a way of learning across curriculum areas and year levels, schools need to have established a collaborative culture that encourages instructional teaming. It requires the building of collaborative teaching partnerships between classroom teachers and specialist teachers, such as the teacher librarian, reading/literacy teacher, elearning facilitator, ESL/EAL teacher, and careers/pathways teacher. The configuration of each instructional team is dependent upon the scope of the inquiry unit, the disciplinary expertise of the classroom teacher, and the learning needs of the students. For example, a Year 6 teacher might team with the teacher librarian, ICT teacher, and specialist drama teacher to design a guided inquiry unit where students work in groups to complete a Media Arts project (addressing one or more of these content descriptions ACAMAM062, ACAMAM063, ACAMAM064, ACAMAM065)

Inquiry projects are often interdisciplinary in nature, however, few schools encourage the design and teaching of interdisciplinary units of work. The new Australian Curriculum’s cross curriculum priorities provide schools with an opportunity to explore the design of such units.

For example in a secondary school, the Year 8 Geography teachers might team with the Year 8 Science teachers and the teacher librarian to design a guided inquiry unit where students explore environmental issues and impacts as part of a four (4) week sustainability project. Collectively, this GI unit can address the content descriptions of ACHGK051, ACHGK052, ACHGS061 and ACHGS062 for geography and ACSHE135 and ACSHE136 for science, where students work on this project during the timetabled science and geography periods for those 4 weeks, with the teacher librarian being the consistent presence of the instructional team working with students across all periods.

Guided Inquiry involves “close supervision, ongoing assessment, and targeted intervention by the instructional team… through the inquiry process that gradually leads students toward independent learning” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 3). This scaffolding needs to be developed as part of curriculum unit design. The expertise and roles of each of the instructional team also need to be clearly defined as part of design process.

Teacher-TL partnerships are essential in making Guided Inquiry happen

Studies examining the impact of school libraries on student achievement have shown when teacher librarians collaboratively plan, teach and evaluate with classroom teachers, students learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardised test scores than those students without access to the resourcing and instructional expertise of a teacher librarian (Kahn & Valence, 2012; Montiel-Overall, 2008; School Libraries Worldwide, 2008; Todd, 2008a, 2008b; Lance, Rodney & Russell, 2007; Haycock, 2007; Lance, Rodney & Hamilton-Pennell, 2005; Lindsay, 2005).

Classroom teachers benefit from this collaboration because team teaching reduces the teacher/student ratio in a class, and allows greater opportunity to provide individualised instruction for each student each lesson. This instructional partnership also provides greater support for at-risk students (Gavigan & Kurtts, 2010). Furthermore, recent studies have identified the important role the teacher librarian can plays in supporting the development of teachers’ and students’ digital literacy skills (Lance & Schwarz, 2012; Todd, Gordon & Lu, 2011; Duke & Ward, 2009; Asselin, & Dorion, 2008). With ICT as one of the Australian Curriculum’s seven general capabilities, we are seeing the design of inquiry units that involve the integration of digital technologies within different phases of the Guided Inquiry process. Teachers and students need support in testing and trialing new digital tools and apps. Often it is the school’s TL who provides this support.

A Guided Inquiry team needs professional development

Introducing Guided Inquiry into a school requires professional development of classroom teachers, teacher librarians, and specialist teachers. It is also important for a school’s leadership team to understand how Guided Inquiry can contribute to building a collaborative inquiry community, and the ways they can nurture interdisciplinary collaboration and support the development of GI units that address Australian Curriculum outcomes.

Our experience with hosting seminars and workshops on Guided Inquiry over the past seven years has found those schools who support the professional learning of a school-based GI instructional team achieve the greatest results in successfully implementing a Guided Inquiry approach. Each of these teams has had the school’s teacher librarian as a member of the instructional team, along with one or two teachers (at a minimum).

Some primary school teams have involved the TL, principal or assistant principal, and one or two classroom teachers (often teaching classes of the same year level or band, e.g. Year 4 or Year 5/6). Teams from secondary schools have often included the TL and one or two teachers from the same learning area, with some schools involving the school’s curriculum and/or elearning coordinators as part of the GI team.

This team approach to professional learning encourages the formation of a school-based ‘community of practice’ in Guided Inquiry, which begins while attending their first GI seminar or workshop. The programs for our two seminars on Guided Inquiry for 2014 are designed to support the professional needs of school-based instructional teams. Details for each seminar can be found at:

Interested in reading more about Guided Inquiry Design and GI teams?

The following articles outline the design of Guided Inquiry units and provide examples of the work of successful GI instructional teams in Australian primary and secondary schools. These authors are also presenting at Syba Academy’s Guided Inquiry Design for the Australian Curriculum: Putting it into Practice in Sydney on 26-May-2014.

Fitzgerald, L. (2007). Investigating Guided Inquiry: A beginning, Scan, 26(2), 30–37. [Secondary]

Fitzgerald, Lee. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41. [Secondary]

Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided Inquiry: A learning journey, Scan, 27(4), 34-42. [Primary]

Scheffers, Jenny, & Bryant, Kylie. (2013). A perfect match: Guided Inquiry and iPad technology. Scan, 32(1), 9-13. [Primary]

Sheerman, Alinda. (2011). Accepting the challenge: Evidence based practice at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(2), 24-33. [Secondary]

Sheerman, Alinda, Little, Joshua, & Breward, Nicola. (2011). iInquire... iLearn... iCreate... iShare: Guided Inquiry at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(1), 4-5. [Secondary]

Lyn Hay

Head of Professional Learning

Syba Academy


Asselin, M., & Dorion, R. (2008). Towards a transformative pedagogy for school libraries 2.0. School Libraries Worldwide, 14(2), 1-18.

Duke, T. S. & Ward, J. D. (2009). Preparing information literate teachers: A metasynthesis. Library & Information Science Research, 31, 247-256.

Gavigan, K., & Kurtts, S. (2010). Together we can: Collaborating to meet the needs of at-risk students. Library Media Connection, (Nov/Dec), 10-12. Retrieved from,%20Kurtts_November

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.

Kahn, E., & Valence, L. (2012). Collaboration is the key to successful research. Library Media Connection, (March/April), 40-42.

Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. (Kindle ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Lance, K.C., & Schwarz, B. (2012). How Pennsylvania school libraries pay off: Investments in student achievement and academic standards. PA School Library Project. HSLC, Oct. 2012. Web. 1 June 2013.

Lance, K.C., Rodney, M.J., & Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2005). Powerful libraries make powerful learners: The Illinois Study. Canton, IL: Illinois School Library Media Association. Retrieved from

Lance, K.C., Rodney, M.J., & Russell, B. (2007). How students, teachers, and principals benefit from strong school libraries: The Indiana Study. Indianapolis, IN: Association for Indiana Media Educators.

Lindsay, K. (2005). Teacher/teacher-librarian collaboration: A review of the literature. School Libraries in Canada, 25(2), 8-21.

Montiel-Overall, P. (2008). Teacher and librarian collaboration: A qualitative study. Library and Information Science Research, 30(20), 145-155.

School libraries work! (2008). (3rd ed.). New York: Scholastic Library Publishing. Retrieved from

Todd, R. (2008a). The dynamics of classroom teacher and teacher librarian instructional collaborations. Scan, 27(2), 19-28.

Todd, R. (2008b). Youth and their virtual networked worlds: Research findings and implications for school libraries. School Libraries Worldwide, 14(2), 19-34.

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. L. (2011). One common goal: Student learning, Phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from

Woolls, B. (2008). The school library media manager. (4th ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.


New Literacies

Monday, April 28, 2014

Will Richardson

My great-great grandfather was a horrible novelist. Truly. Writing at the turn of the 20th Century, his stories of riding on train box cars across the Midwest of the United States as a boy were neither adventurous or inspiring. In fact, it's hard to imagine taking a plot line with more potential and doing much worse with it. Don't believe me? Writing about an "outlaw" he met up with at one point, he penned:

"No one sanctions the unworthy deeds of an outlaw, but there was still a tinge of sympathy in the human heart for the undaunted, even though a bravado criminal, and we all gathered around to learn from an eye-witness something of our brothers whose daring adventures far out-classed any that ever defied the authorities of any civilized nation on earth."

That from a book that he self-published in 1895 at a "vanity" press In Chicago, making 50 copies for friends, one of which somehow got passed down to me and which now resides on my bedside table for those nights when I just can't seem to get to sleep.

Now you'd think that my great-great grandfather's tortured prose would rest peacefully only in the few of those fifty volumes that could have survived the 120 years since printing. Surely only a handful of people in the entire world would be able to read his stories today, assuming, of course, they would have a reason to. Right?


Today, thanks to Google's attempt to scan every known book in the universe, hundreds of millions of people in North America could be reading the full text of my great-great grandfather's exploits today if they wanted. (In Australia, you could get a sneak peek here.)  That's just a tiny bit more of an audience than he ever dreamed of having access to when he wrote it.

So, what does all of this have to do with my upcoming workshop in Sydney? Just this: the world has changed. We now live in a world of abundance where we carry access to almost the sum of human knowledge, billions of potential teachers, and millions of tools and apps in our pockets. The things we can read and learn, the ways we can interact and create and publish today look little like the potential we had to do those things even 20 years ago. And those potentials keep expanding at a very fast pace.

And I wonder what it will look like for my own children.

This world of abundance is not the same world that existed when schools evolved into our learning worlds. And while the opportunities for learning in abundance are enormous, the challenges for schooling in abundance are equally as great. What is an education when we can learn so much on our own? What is a teacher when teachers are everywhere? And what is literacy in a world where self-published, multimedia, interactive, connected, adaptive texts are beginning to rule the day?

These are important questions whose answers will guide us into a new way of thinking about our practice as educators and, importantly, as learners. And we'll be looking at those questions and many more during our day together.

The idea that my great-great grandfather's truly awful writings suddenly have an audience of billions is simply a metaphor for the huge change we're experiencing. I hope you'll join me as we spend a day exploring what that change means for our students and for ourselves.

Read more »Register now » Will's Bio »

Will Richardson

Education Consultant & Facilitator

Syba Academy


Building the capacity of Australian Teachers as Digital Curators

Monday, March 03, 2014

Building the capacity of Australian teachers and TLs as digital curators

On Friday 28 February 2014, the Syba Academy hosted the first of a series of hands-on digital curation workshops for teacher librarians. With our workshop class size capped at 30, the PC lab at Training Choice in North Sydney provided participants with the perfect venue to receive individual instruction and professionally connect with like-minded colleagues.

Curating Digital Collections for the Australian Curriculum is a full-day, hands-on workshop facilitated by Lyn Hay, Syba Academy’s Head of Professional Learning. The workshop is designed to provide teachers and TLs with the capacity to resource specific topics of the Australian Curriculum by creating customised collections of digital resources using a range of curation tools. The program structure allows participants to undertake hands-on activities within every session of the day. On Friday, our participants were up to the elbows exploring curation sites on their PCs well before morning tea.

Immerse, explore, play, evaluate, design, create, and share, were the strategies employed to help participants move from new learning, to learning action.

Participants were:

  • provided with access to a dedicated networked PC for the day;
  • provided with a customised Syba Academy desktop and pre-configured web browsers for curation;
  • introduced to digital curation principles and practices;
  • introduced to the features and functionality of a range of curation platforms, tools and apps;
  • exposed to a range of curation sites addressing Australian Curriculum content and outcomes;
  • provided with step-by-step guidance in creating and managing curation accounts; and
  • guided through the curation process while building a customised collection of digital resources for an Australian Curriculum topic taught in their school.

The majority of participants on Friday were teacher librarians along with one classroom teacher, an ICT Teacher/Coordinator, and a librarian. Collaborative learning and participatory curation were encouraged, with participants sharing their observations and reporting on their hands-on curation experiences with the group.

Feedback from the day was very positive. Overall participants strongly agreed that the content of the workshop was relevant to their work situation, that the content was well-organised, with a good mix of theory and practice; and overall, the day was a good investment of their time. While some participants felt they needed more time to cover all aspects of the curation process, all participants had devised a plan of action upon returning to school.

Some examples of participants’ comments include:

"I can really see how the dynamic nature of these digital curation can really provided authentic support to teaching and learning programs.

"The hands on component. It was very valuable to be able to put the new skills into practice immediately and gain help when needed.

"Practical and well paced as well as relevant. Good to be able to interact with presenter and participants."

"I found this in-service very useful indeed as it has given me the means of curating relevant content for my school. Tips about including annotations and tabs and being content specific for a particular audience were great."

"Lyn was able to help everyone in a great deal of depth if you required a lot of help."

"Really enjoyed my course and definitely see myself creating Scoop.its and Learnist for all our units of inquiry from K-6."

"One of the best PD days that I have attended. I am excited at the ideas that have come from this and am looking forward to exploring the concept further."

"Lyn Hay was a fabulous speaker who made it relevant to our working day. She was friendly, approachable and presented a well-sequenced and easy to follow workshop. Thanks for an educational day."

We also had five participants register for the digital curation CLiP program. This is a formal program where participants commit to consolidating their new learning in practice over a 4 week period within their school. During this time they have access to Lyn as their CLiP facilitator to support their ‘learning in action’ plan. At the end of the 4 week period, CLiP participants submit documentation of consolidating their learning in practice for assessment, to gain further endorsed hours of professional credit in addressing a selection of the NSWIT/AITSL professional teaching standards.

The feedback from this day confirms for us at the Academy that teachers and TLs see digital curation as an important strategy in resourcing the new Australian Curriculum.

If you are interested in learning how to integrate digital curation into your role as a teacher librarian, teacher, ICT coordinator, or librarian in your school, information about future workshops in #SybaCuration is available at


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