Inquiry-Based Teaching

Oakes, Constance

Topic:  Educational Theory and Practice (ET)

Bibliographic Citation: Kohn, A. (2013, October 29). A dozen essential guidelines for educators. Retrieved from Alfie Kohn website:

Summary:  An article by Alfie Kohn, an author, and lecturer on education and parenting. This is a short listing of the core principles used in progressive education that nicely explain what an inquiry-based or project-based classroom should look like and what it shouldn’t.  

Evaluation/Opinion:  I find this article/list to be a great way to quickly get an understanding of how inquiry-based learning works and looks.  I like that it does say it is messy. I think it also lets teachers see that it can be a shift out of their comfort zone as their thinking and teaching will change as they move into an inquiry-based program.

Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project (Keys to PBL Series Part 5)

Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project (Keys to PBL Series Part 5)

This 2-minute video is a must see.  This video is part 5 in a 5-part miniseries. The video teaches how to embed assessments in the beginning middle and end of your teaching.  The tools in this video are real-world connection, core to learning, structured collaboration, and student driven.

Allen, M. (2008). Promoting Critical Thinking Skills in Online Information Literacy Instruction Using a Constructivist Approach. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 15(1/2), 21-38. doi:10.1080/10691310802176780. Retrieved from
This article discusses how the constructivist approach is becoming an increasingly popular way of teaching literacy skills in the library.  In this approach, the teacher works as the facilitator or the guide to learning. This is a trend that increasing in the library. Librarians are learning ways in which they can achieve these goals within their libraries. They are learning ways to make learning in ways that are more online and asynchronous instead of the typical one-shot lecture method.  This way is being embraced more and more and seems to be something that we need to embrace. 

KOHOUT, J., & GAVIGAN, K. (2015). The Years of Our Learning Commons. Teacher Librarian, 43(2), 18-23. Retrieved from

The following article discusses the journey from inspiration to innovation as several librarian are inspired by our own professor David Loertscher.  This article discusses how two librarians who had attended a conference decided they were going to implement what they learned in their own school district. It outlines their project from the idea stage to full implementation within several libraries within their district and what they did in order to bring their idea to life.

Genius Hour

Felix Davila III
RUSH, E. B. (2015). Genius hour in the library. Teacher Librarian, 43(2), 26-30. Retrieved from
In this article, Rush details her approach to developing “Genius Hour” within her school library, noting that approach can be daunting because the purpose of the hour is to allow students to thoroughly research using methods by the librarian for a topic of their choice. The amount of variance may be hefty, but the research time is invaluable for students to become more acclimated to the research process, research methods and progressing through a project with such freedom. Most importantly from this article is Rush’s point that librarians should take care to provide some structure, having at least one physical book pertaining to each topic a student chooses and having a plethora of resources that can advance research goals from a tech perspective too, that way students receive a blended exposure to investigating topics.

This particular article was incredibly important, in my eyes, and it seems to really provide a positive effect on professional goals. During this semester, a class booked the library for a week long project of investigating anxiety, explaining what respectively affects them and how to counteract it or what they do best to handle it. Their research immediately began with running to the stacks, but my library team scrambled together a listing of resources, including websites, apps and community peer support groups that allowed students to supplement their research and find ways to combat their own anxiety. Rush’s explanation is applicable in more ways than just my example, but it goes to show that providing a thin framework from a multitude of sources can go a long way.

Beyond The Bird Unit

Robins article is a stellar demonstration of how to complete thorough and strong collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians. While she initiates the article with a detailed examination of constructivist theory and its umbrella topics, she uses the theories to support her advice on collaboration. Robins notes that teachers are the spearhead of the operation, and teacher librarians must realize that it is the teacher lesson plan that is the ultimate goal and journey of the activity and research. The librarian must facilitate and enhance it in order to maximize learning goals. She warns, however, that the amount of work can be of high demand, so she recommends using “asynchronous collaboration” using online tools, messaging apps and the like to bolster communication and combined effort. Robins strongest point, though, lies in her admission that students must have motivation to learn. They must recognize the importance of their work, their research and understand how much is demanded of them. In addition, students must find legitimacy or “rationality” in their work, knowing everything is supported by factual evidence.

The importance of this article, I believe, is supported by the notion that collaboration is key but is rooted in the idea that librarians must encourage students to truly embark on an informational journey. They must accept the prescribed methods that the teacher and teacher librarian have set up for them in order to succeed. But because the librarian is important to this process, just as Rush details, the need to guide and provide the necessary tools for effective self-instruction must be available and provided.


Campbell, Renee

Reale, Michelle. (2016). “Hands-off “ teaching: facilitating conversation as pedagogy in library instruction. Digital Pedagogy Lab. Digital Pedagogy Lab. Retrieved from

Discussion on the theory and practice of conversation-led, instead of librarian-led, inquiry. Based on the pedagogy of the radical educator, Paulo Freire, Reale outlines a librarian’s role to not just front-load inquiry “tools”, but to first join in conversation with students to find out what their information needs really are. She emphasizes the importance of creating a safe place, oftentimes by meeting them in their classrooms, “to lay a foundation for students to create their own process, to show them a way to begin, and to reassure them that it is okay not to know what you don’t know”.

Reale’s article was the perfect balance of inspirational pedagogy and practical application. Coming from a MEd. program ten years ago that focused on social justice education, her article reminded me of why I love teaching. The organic methodology is what I have hoped librarianship could be.

Pedagogy for Practical Library Instruction

Karla Morones


Montgomery, M. (2015). Pedagogy for practical library instruction. Communications In Information Literacy, 9(1), 19-23.

This article touches on the fact that many librarians have no background knowledge on educational theories.  The author gives personal experiences with her learning process and fish out of water feeling when she first started her position at an academic library.  The author explains how much knowledge a librarian really needs to know and how to obtain the knowledge to become effective instructors.


I very much enjoyed this article.  I felt the author was talking about my particular feelings and experiences.  I, too felt like fish out of water, and I appreciated her humor and tips on pedagogy. The author, much like I did, kept returning to constructivism theory as the best way for her to engage her students.  She had to begin teaching herself theory and pedagogy through books and journal articles.  She also joined organizations such as ALA, ACRL, Library Juice Academy, OCLC’s WebJunction, and others that provided both free and fee-based training via webinars and online classes. She then proceeded to focus her studies on this theory and began applying it to her classes.  She found student led activities had much better outcomes than other activity she had planned.  

Teaching to Interrogate –A Humanities Research Project


Schmidt, R. K., Giordano, E., Schmidt, G., & Kuhlthau, C. C. (2015.). A guided inquiry approach to    teaching the humanities research project. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Summary and Response:
This book is a really comprehensive guide towards introducing a humanities research project as a collaboration between TL and classroom teacher, whereby student, TL, and teacher are “each…a partner to the others” (p.8).  The students are guided through the process of understanding the purpose of the research paper – to draw their own  conclusions by looking at a variety sources from various formats.  Students are provided with a choice of pathways to hunt for information in which they may either begin with reference materials if they already have a  topic in mind or they can begin with magazine articles and examining their own interests in order  to identify a possible topic of cultural significance to research.
Students are guided through how to interrogate types of sources, including 11 questions to ask when looking at primary source, 11 more for a secondary source, and 11 for the tertiary source.  These questions aim to help students build a sense of how to locate bias, understand the influence of perspective, how inclusion or exclusion of information play a role in this, how to interpret user-generated comments, and more.  Ultimately students are also provided with a more extensive set of questions to use to interrogate 16 formats, including pottery, an allusion, a garment, graph, musical performance and so on.  Students are encouraged to look beyond print sources for their research, and they are also encouraged to write their own questions for these and other source formats.  I find these interrogations very helpful myself, and many of the questions they provide for a student examining a pottery sherd are questions I would have done well to consider years ago, not only as a student, but as a teacher.  Reading the questions they pose provides a paradigm for the types of questions one might ask in encountering a variety of artifacts and print genres.
As with the other two books by Schmidt I have read and reviewed here, students are carefully guided through the outlining and organizing of their information into a final product.  Even within this guidance, students are encourage to  find a system for tagging, sorting, and ultimately organizing information that makes the most sense to each individual student.  
Ultimately, the book paves the way for great collaboration between students, teachers, and librarians. There are many aspects of the research process that I recognize in my own process, but have never quite articulated so explicitly to myself.  Her work always strikes a balance between explicit guidance and freedom that I find nearly perfect.  The projects are time-consuming, but if I can find more teachers to collaborate on these projects, I feel it will be really transformative for all of us.

Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments

Panneck, Brook


Huang, H. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(1), 27. Retrieved from
This article views adult online learning through the lens of constructivism. If you ever took part in online learning when it was first getting off the ground, you may remember the typical bird unit/behaviorist methodology employed. Many of these online learning experiences utilized televised technology to deliver instruction, where the sole source of information came from the instructor. Online learning has, for the most part, come a long way since then, though you will still find the typical bird units still being used, and quite often. This article explores the need for constructivist methodology for adult online learning, by first exploring this history. The last sentence of the first introductory paragraph, perhaps sums it up best- “…adult learners always bring their unique learning characteristics to the learning situation, so an effective instructor should recognize learners’ characteristics to help them learn best” (Hang, 2002, p. 27). Though that particular outlook should be applied to all learners of any age.

The article justifies the need for newer constructivist online learning formats for adult learning based on their unique circumstances of work, family and other responsibilities not typically present with other types of learners. It explores a history of constructivism theories, which by the way, I would recommend that classmates explore this article to find great references to constructivism theories, and adult learning theories. It also explores online learning technologies and addressed how these “cognitive tools” provide support for the online learner, in their learning processes (21stcentury skills can be found here also).

After reviewing various theories mentioned above, the article addresses issues associated with constructivist approaches to online learning, both for the instructor and for the learner. It then explores, through the lens of constructivism, interactive learning, collaborative learning, facilitating learning, authentic learning, learner-centered learning, and high quality learning. It then concludes with a justification, need, and proposal for applying these constructivist theories to the adult online learning environment.

This is an excellent article. It reviews educational theories- specifically online learning/instruction. It also includes a lot of great information relevant to 21st century skills, constructivism, and adult learning theory. The references to other articles are a bonus, making this a great article for other classmates to check out and keep in their personal libraries.