Structuring time for process

I’ve just been reading Carol Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. I never understood before how project-based learning (PBL) differs from inquiry-based learning (IBL) until Kuhlthau points out in this reading.  She says “[PBL] falls short in two respects.  First, it overemphasizes product and underemphasizes the learning process.  Second, students are frequently left to their own devices, and when parents step in, many end up doing the actual research.”  ( p. 3).  This is a shift that we’re slowly making in my school.  We structure the assessment of our courses as 70% term and 30% summative and still a lot of that summative work happens in the final six weeks of each course.  So it’s very common for students to have 4 major projects at once during this time.  This structure absolutely diminishes the value of the learning process and seems to be happening because of the emphasis on product.

I really relate to the part in the second chapter where Kuhlthau discusses how the stages of exploration and formulation are most difficult to students.  I usually invite myself to work with a class for the first stage, but they most likely will need me to guide their inquiry, as their teacher-librarian, in these 2nd and 3rd stages.  Often, I can have 120 grade 12s all at different stages in their inquiry projects and I’m having trouble a) reaching them to help them and b) structuring my time to work with them.  As a classroom teacher, I set aside time to have two formal one-on-one conferences with each student, but I haven’t figured this out yet.  Sometimes I feel like I should be more transparent about my schedule so that teachers and students can find me more easily but being free to be spontaneous is one of my favourite perks of the job.

I see moving to a guided inquiry approach as beneficial for the students in that they will learn themselves to emphasize the process as they design the outcome to their own learning.  Benefits for teachers too will be that they will have multiple opportunities to connect with students and be able to identify weak areas, or lack of effort and motivation early.

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

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