Note: These are my take-aways from Carol Collier Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. from January 2010. Read it online.

Thanks to my Twitter PLN–especially Carolyn Foote (@technolibrary), Leslie Maniotes (@lesliemaniotes), and Jennifer LaGarde (@jenniferlagarde), as well as Dee Dee Davenport (@deelibcoord) for introducing me to Information Search Process (ISP) and Guided Inquiry. DeeDee was kind enough to send me A Model Third Grade Guided Inquiry Unit. (I’ll have to check that out in more detail!)

Source: as cited by NEISD

This article was written in 2010, based on research the author conducted even farther back; to be blunt, there is nothing here that is “earth-shattering” and new. However, there is comfort in that fact…it means ideas have certainly taken in hold somewhere, if not in practice.

In the article, the author suggests that the partnership involve the teacher-librarian.  One idea that suggests itself is that an edtech coach could certainly play a significant role in this process.

I love the simple 3-step process. A lot of work has been done around these 3 steps, and it’s tough to imagine they could be so easily accomplished. To gain systemic support (step 1), it seems essential to have an awesome team of leaders committed to building support…a PLC, perhaps. An implementation plan and timeline will have to take into consideration a variety of factors. The network required for sharing, well, Twitter or social media can play a part.

Again, how this gets implemented is key.


  1. A new way of learning is needed that prepares students for living and working in a complex information environment. 
  2. Mobile devices provide instantaneous communication any time and any place. Multifunctional hand-held devices are ubiquitous around the world from cosmopolitan urban centers to remote rural outposts. Web 2.0 tools help us interact, connect and collaborate in new ways. Technological tools that have become part of our everyday life have great benefit for people across the world. 
  3.  We need to move beyond teaching how to use technology tools to teaching technology in use for creativity and meaning.
  4. Learning all of the bells and whistles of a new device isn’t the hard part of information technology use. The hard part is learning to use the technologies for creativity and enlightenment.
  5. Inquiry is a way of learning new skills and knowledge for understanding and creating in the midst of rapid technological change.
  6. The underlying concept is considering a question or problem that prompts extensive investigation on the part of the student.
  7. Inquiry that is guided by an instructional team to enable students to gain a depth of understanding and a personal perspective through a wide range of sources of information is called Guided Inquiry (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007). 
  8. Guided Inquiry equips students with abilities and competencies to meet the challenges of an uncertain, changing world.  
  9. Collaborations with teachers in a team can create the necessary climate for students to inquire, participate, create and learn in an information environment.
  10.  If we think of the student’s world outside of school and the student‘s cumulative knowledge and experience as first space and we think of the curriculum as second space, the question arises of how to make these two very separate spaces intersect. 
  11. When first space and second space overlap third space is created. 
  12. Third space is where the most meaningful, lasting learning takes place. 
  13. The teacher’s main challenge is to create third space as often as possible.
  14. Inquiry provides the opportunity to create third space and Guided Inquiry enables students to make their own connections within the inquiry process that motivates learning and builds ownership and expertise.
  15. Guided Inquiry recommends a three member core team that plans and supervises the inquiry with an extended team of other experts joining in when most needed. 
  16. Although two member collaborations between a school librarian and a teacher are common, three member teams provide a synergy of ideas for developing inquiry learning. 
  17. Three member teams also provide the additional professional guidance and ongoing support student inquiry requires. 
  18. The third member joining the librarian and the subject area teacher may be second classroom or subject area teacher or any of the other specialists in the school, such as a teacher specializing in reading, technology, music, art, or drama
  19. The SLIM Student Learning Inquiry Measure ( provides assessment throughout the stages of the inquiry process.
  20. Five kinds of learning are accomplished through inquiry (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 9): 
    1. information literacy – “the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information.” Five criteria for evaluating information–expertise, accuracy, currency, perspective, and quality–are applied for making good choices in inquiry learning.
    2. learning how to learn – Guided Inquiry enables students to learn how to learn by becoming aware of their learning process. Each time they work through the stages of the Information Search Process (ISP)– initiating, selecting, exploring, focusing, collecting and presenting–they learn the process of inquiry as well as how they personally interact within that process. Guidance is provided at critical intervention points to teach strategies for learning from a variety of sources of information. Inquiry is a fundamental way of learning in the information environment of the ‚real world‛ where everyday tasks require learning from information. Through guidance students personalize the inquiry process recognizing that ‚this is my process, this is the way I learn.‛ 
    3. curriculum content – Four common themes in subject area standards are fundamental to Guided Inquiry: 
      1. constructivist approach to teaching and learning; 
      2. information explosion–too much to learn it all; 
      3. focus on broad themes and big ideas; and 
      4. meaningful instruction through integration and problem solving (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007)
    4. literacy competence – Students need to go beyond learning to read, to reading to learn. They need to be able to comprehend informational texts as well as understand stories in fiction. Determining importance in informational texts is an essential skill in the information environment in which they live and learn. The basic skills of literacy, reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and presenting are enhanced through inquiry learning.
    5. social skills  – Students gain the ability to interact with others in situations that require cooperating and collaborating. Organizing small work groups is a strategy applied in Guided Inquiry called inquiry circles (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007). 
      1. Adapted from Daniels’ (1994) literature circles, inquiry circles are structured work groups with each student assigned a different job. Jobs are rotated to give students an opportunity to practice each task independently. 
      2. In Guided Inquiry each task represents one aspect of inquiry that students need to learn. 
      3. Eight jobs essential to inquiry recommended in Guided Inquiry are: 
        1. word hunter (finds key words and definitions); 
        2. evaluator (evaluates the source); 
        3. messenger (summarizes big ideas and main points); quiz kid (raises questions); 
        4. connector (makes connections between self, texts and the world; 
        5. note taker (takes specific notes on content); 
        6. image maker (creates visual scheme of ideas); and 
        7. interpreter (asks, ‚What does it mean?‚ and ‚Why is it important?‛) 
  21. Getting Started and Sustaining Change – 3 steps:
    1. First, you need to gain systemic support.
    2. Second, you need to develop an implementation plan. You will need a plan with a timeline for implementing an inquiry approach. You can begin by organizing one three member team to collaborate on an inquiry project with one group of students as an example of how it works. This can form the basis for implementing a flexible team approach in your school. 
    3. Third, you will need to create a network for sharing stories of success and problems you encounter

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure