Land is Sighted
At the beginning of my journey I felt totally uncertain about the task before me; just like Kuhlthau said I would (2013). I had to research Inquiry Learning but just what did that mean? What aspect? Even narrowing down my search to primary school and HSIE was totally overwhelming. I was supposed to choose a path and follow it but I really, really didn’t have any path to follow.
“Write an essay” they said.
“What about?” was my alarmed reply!
I felt so completely overwhelmed by the task at hand that I put off starting it until I got to the point that I felt like if I didn’t start I would not have anything to hand in come the due date.
So reluctantly I began…
Initially what I found was what I expected. An overwhelming number of entries on Google about Inquiry Learning. Gradually, as I employed some of the search techniques I was learning, I was able to narrow down the search and make the results more relevant to my area of interest. But what was I meant to do with this information? How was I meant to progress in my learning? What would I write my essay about?
Towards the end of my Google search, I thought that I had a direction to sail; an interest area I thought I would like to pursue. But in the end, this path lead into some particularly murky waters. In part my navigating skills were not as good as I had hoped and in part the direction I was taking was sending me into a vast ocean, much too far to travel before my supplies ran out. I needed to reconsider my direction before I became hopelessly lost, sailing in a circle of information. As I look back on this point now I can see the confusion that Kuhlthau (2013) talks about as being part of the exploration stage of the Information Search Process.
I once again set my sails to head into the prevailing wind with a vague destination of Inquiry Learning, social studies and primary school in mind. On the way I honed my navigating skills and managed to stay pretty much on course but the fabled “Great Southern Land” eluded me.
The last search entry, in the last database produced an unexpected result. This search provided me with a new keyword which intrigued me; “Storypath.” What was a Storypath; why was it coming up in searches about Inquiry Learning? The article grabbed my attention because the abstract mentioned something about making learning about governments interesting to students from a low socio-economic background (McGuire & Cole, 2008). This was my new map. I had just worked with a classroom teacher on what was meant to be an inquiry-based project on this exact topic. I was intrigued by the idea and wanted to follow it up further.
As I look back on where my journey began, I am somewhat surprised to find that I have found substantial answers to my initial questions. I believe I now have a deeper understanding of what Inquiry Learning looks like; I have certainly become more skilled in navigation and I have found an approach to Inquiry Learning that I think would be engaging and motivating for my students.
And yet having sighted my “Great Southern Land”, there is still so much exploring to do, so many navigational skills still to be developed and so much to learn about engaging students. As I travel onward I have one big question that stands out from all the rest: When do I get to take others on the journey with me? I have not arrived safely home yet. Let the journey continue…
Kuhlthau, C. (2013.) Information Search Process. Retrieved from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
McGuire, M. E., & Cole, B. (2008). Using the storypath approach to make local government understandable. The Social Studies,99(2), 85-90.