Lambusta, P., Graham, S., & Letteri-Walker, B. (2014). Rocks in the river: The challenge of piloting the inquiry process in today’s learning environment. Knowledge Quest, 43(2-), 42-45.
This article reviews the steps the librarians and teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools in Newport News, Virginia took to further incorporate a more detailed and thorough Inquiry Process Model into instruction. Most significantly, these educators, after putting in place an initial model, took the time to reevaluate that model, then remove and adapt that model in order to improve their students’ experiences and final results.
The most significant idea they discovered in implementing their inquiry process, and the main reason I share this article here, is the “Explore” stage they added after the fact. At all levels of education, elementary through high school, they realized that students were not engaged in the process because they had not had time to get “hooked” by exploring their own ideas. Starting with a research question, like so many inquiry processes do, was problematic because “students often did not have enough background knowledge to generate questions…many of us individually modified the model in our practices to give students opportunities to search for information on a topic before they began to generate questions” (42). For an inquiry process to be successful, students need time to be inquisitive.
This seems like such a simple idea, but it was revolutionary to me. I work in high school, and I figured that most of the students I encountered as they were doing research already had a subject/area in mind when beginning. But by allowing them time, even if it is just a little, to explore topics within a subject, I agree with the authors, it will increase student engagement and buy-in, and further develop inquiry skills.