Unit Redesign

In my previous post, I offered an analysis of the English inquiry unit ‘Consumer culture: Are we being bought?’ and offered recommendations as to how it might be redesigned into a more aspirational inquiry unit. A summary of those recommendations is below.

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Created by author.

I selected this unit for two main reasons. First, I thought the unit’s focus question and its investigation into the persuasive techniques used by advertisers were particularly relevant to students in grade 7. That is, in today’s society children are becoming consumers at a time in their development when they can be easily influenced by what they see and hear in the media, and being consumer savvy is therefore a very important skill. Second, I wanted to continue exploring my inquiry focus: how teacher-librarians might foster the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) framework in the 21st secondary school library. To this end, I hoped to demonstrate how an English inquiry unit (a curriculum area that does not specify the development of inquiry learning skills) could become an authentic inquiry unit without negatively impacting the integrity of its intended English curriculum outcomes. The English strands of language, literature and literacy are still explored in similar depth and breath in this redesign, but the unit is enriched further as it now also encompasses content descriptors and knowledge from the Australian Curriculum: The Arts-Media Arts. The only loss in the new unit is the removal of Numeracy (General Capability), as the survey activity was removed to accommodate information literacy/information seeking skills opportunities. The following slideshow shows these changes.

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The following table demonstrates the key changes made in the redesign.

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Created by author.

 

The redesigned unit.
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Click to download the unit.

 

Inquiry Approach 

Guided inquiry offers an integrated unit of inquiry, planned and guided by an instructional team of a school librarian and teachers, allowing students to gain deeper understandings of subject area curriculum content and information literacy concepts. (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, Caspari, 2007 p.1)

Using Bloom’s taxonomy alongside the GID framework during the redesign process, this unit attempts to provide more opportunities for students to work consistently at the higher levels of thinking throughout their student-directed inquiry.

The first change to the existing unit was the essential question: from ‘Are we being bought?’ to ‘What if we are being bought?’ The objective of this change was to frame the inquiry around a powerful question – one that would require learners to pose a wide range of process, generative and evaluative questions during the inquiry. I thought the original ‘are’ question was not powerful – it merely required an evidence-based yes/no answer. Conversely, the new ‘what if” question still requires students to provide an evidence-based answer to whether they think we are being bought or not, but also requires them to go much deeper and broader in their inquiry in order to provide their answer.

One of the most significant impacts of redesigning the unit using the GID framework was the change to the classroom teacher’s role. The teacher’s new role is as a core member of a collaborative team of teachers and experts. As seen in the redesigned inquiry unit (see above), the classroom teacher provides some explicit instructional sessions, along with the other team teachers and experts, and operates as a facilitator to the students’ inquiry, rather than the leader of their inquiry. The teaching team works together as monitors, participants, advisors and specialists to support students as they undertake their own inquiries around the key unit question. This change has worked to move the unit from a teacher-directed to a student-directed level of inquiry.

 

Development of Inquiry Skills

In my analysis and recommendations post, I identified two main areas where the existing inquiry unit could be enriched: the inclusion of skills development in questioning and in the information literacy/information seeking process. As previously noted, authentic inquiry learning requires three components: questioning frameworks; an information literacy/information seeking process model; and an action research cycle (Lupton, 2012). This redesigned unit now incorporates these components.

First, questioning frameworks have been embedded in the redesigned unit to help students develop their questioning skills. Explicit instruction and activities (such as completing their KWHLAQ and Formulating Good Questions handouts) are used to introduce the skills, which are then further developed organically as students’ progress through their inquiry. Students are positioned so that they will consider, formulate, challenge and answer generative, process, essential and evaluative questions with their Inquiry Circle* and Inquiry Communities*, and during individual research and reflection – all while being provided with appropriate support from the teaching team. Students are encouraged to allow for new questions to arise that may shift their focus in a more meaningful direction. (*See Inquiry Tools diagram below).

Second, to address the lack of information literacy/information seeking skills in the existing unit, the Information Search Process (ISP) framework and explicit instruction have been included in this redesign, along with ongoing support from the teaching team. As mentioned in my previous post, while adding more instruction and experience with information seeking processes falls under the most simplistic of Lupton’s (2016) GeSTE windows (Generic), they are important foundation skills that will help students work with greater academic rigor and more easily navigate their way through the inquiry

Third, the GID framework has its own explicit action cycle: the Information Search Process (ISP).

Student Engagement & Evaluation of Information

In my previous post, I recognised the high level of student engagement with the information they encountered in the existing unit. However, one recommendation I made was that by allowing students more autonomy in their inquiry, they might engage with, and use, information in more genuinely meaningful and proactive ways. This sits within the Transformative and Expressive GeSTE windows (Lupton, 2016), particularly from the personal involvement perspective. Another recommendation was that by reframing the unit using the GID framework, students would be able to gain important generic information process skills and experiences, which were lacking from the existing unit, and are fundamental for an open level of inquiry. This need was addressed in the redesigned unit, with explicit instruction and ample opportunities for development of these skills, while simultaneously formulating their own powerful questions to drive their inquiry. It was the intention that, having redesigned this unit using the GID framework, student engagement with information would now operate more authentically within the Transformative and Expressive windows from both the critical evaluation and the personal involvement perspectives. Some methods used to achieve this were the inclusion of guest speakers (speaking from very different perspectives), explicit instruction and development of information literacy/information seeking and questioning skills, reflective writing in Inquiry Journals, and interaction within Inquiry Circles* and Inquiry Communities*. (*See Inquiry Tools diagram below).

Finally, the assessments have only changed slightly. First, adopting GID has resulted in the incorporation of several inquiry tools to facilitate students in their inquiry and to provide teachers with a method of assessing students’ learning. Second, the Fad campaign has become a smaller formative assessment task. Third, while the final summative/productive assessment remains the production of a guide for being a savvy consumer in the 21st century, students are afforded more autonomy over it. In this respect, as this inquiry is now student-directed and grounded by authentic inquiry skills, students will have branched off into many different, though still relevant, inquiry directions. Therefore, students are now given choice over the guide’s presentation format, its content and underlying message, and the target audience.

Inquiry Tools Diagram.png
Diagram created by author. Adapted from Maniotes, Harrington & Lambusta (2016)
Reflection

Finally, while this aspirational inquiry unit now reflects the GID framework, it is not a ‘true’ Guided Inquiry in the sense that a collaborative team was not involved with the planning. It is therefore missing the ideas and experiences of a collaborative team that would otherwise enrich the unit further. Nevertheless, I would be excited to implement this inquiry unit, as is, or redesigned with a collaborative team.

References

Kuhlthau, C. C., Caspari, A. K., & Maniotes, L. K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.
Lupton, M. (2016). Critical evaluation of information – GeSTE windows overview. Retrieved https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/critical-evaluation-of-information-geste-windows-overview/
Lupton, M. (2012). What is inquiry learning? Retrieved from: https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/what-is-inquiry-learning/
Maniotes, L. K., Harrington, L., & Lambusta, P. (2016). Guided inquiry design in action: Middle school. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
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