Piquing curiosity

This year, I have been provided the opportunity to be part of a Teacher Led Inquiry Fund (TLIF) into the nature of eLearning and Personalisation. These two terms are loaded with meaning, and are easily confused. According to the TLIF application, these terms can be defined as follows:

Personalising education involves: a highly-structured approach that places the needs, interests and learning styles of students at the centre, engages learners who are informed and empowered through student voice and choice, assessment that is related to meaningful tasks and includes assessment for and by students and  a focus on improving student outcomes for all and a commitment to reducing the achievement gap. This pedagogical approach is seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to teaching and learning. 

As part of the project, we are not aiming for individualised learning and will avoid this confusion by making the distinction clear. According to Pollard and James (2004)  a focus on individualised learning is likely to limit knowledge creation. What we seek is “participation in communities of learning and partnerships between teachers, parents and young people” to enable us to build a solid basis for 21st century education on the Kāpiti Coast. Personalisation leads to students collaborating on areas of interest, focus and also areas where personal learning needs have been identified.

e-learning is defined as learning and teaching that is facilitated by or supported through the appropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). E-Learning can cover a spectrum of activities from supporting learning to blended learning (the combination of traditional and e-learning practices), to learning that is delivered entirely online.

I was invited to conduct three separate teacher inquiries. For this first iteration of the cycle, I am interested in curiosity. Essentially, my question boils down to: …

…how can I pique the curiosity of learners in my classroom?

If students enter and are curious about the world, then I reckon half of my work is over. If students are not curious, then it’s an uphill battle trying to do any teaching. Below is an adapted version of the presentation that I gave to other colleagues participating in the TLIF project and summarizes my understanding so far:

I find myself in Nottingham’s (2015) Learning Pit, in a process of “self-examination” (Foucault, 2001) trying to figure out the best way forward. My questions are threefold and surround firstly, the nature of eLearning itself; secondly, the underpinning philosophy of personalisation; and thirdly, the expectations on my personal well-being. Taking each in turn, I examine these questions below.


1. The problems with eLearning

The problem I find in my classroom setting with eLearning is that while this is an excellent tool, my experience rings true of the inequality of access to eLearning experiences as identified by Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010). As described in the TLIF proposal:

“In analysing evidence of equity, access and use of technology, Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010, in Biancarosa and Griffiths, 2012) found that high-achieving students were more likely to use technology for interest-driven activities such as researching topics or collaborating online to create new media, and they were more likely to have adult guidance in its use. They also found that lower-achieving students were more likely to use digital media for socially-driven activities such as chatting and playing games using social media. This led Biancarosa and Griffiths to question if the differences in the way students use technology may not only do little to shrink the knowledge gaps, but may in fact exacerbate them.”


2. The underpinning philosophy of personalisation

Personalisation has a great many components and a strong theoretical basis for tailoring learning and educational approaches to the individual. Gone are the mass-produced models of learning, the challenge for teachers today is to provide personalised approaches to the learning environment. As Mark Treadwell argues in “The Conceptual Age and the Revolution,”

…Education has reached a critical point at which it is unable to improve performance without a paradigm shift (Treadwell 2008). He asserts that no matter how much money we put into the system or how much effort we make to improve it, there is no possibility of any ‘substantive increase in performance’. Treadwell compares education to other ‘technologies’ and points out that as a technology reaches its upper limit of efficiency, new technologies based on innovation rather than ‘an iteration of present technology’ emerges. Thus, for example, the technology of flight transitioned from ballooning to gliding, to powered flight, to jet engine, to scram-jets. In contrast, schools have moved ‘backwards’ to basic skills and standardised tests rather than leaping into a new paradigm. Treadwell argues that if we are going to substantially improve education then ‘doing nothing is simply not a choice unless (we) wish to deliberately empower learners with a dysfunctional set of competencies, skills, knowledge and belief about learning which are now almost totally irrelevant in the 21st century’.

The problem with this approach lies with the underpinning neo-liberal assumptions. That teaching and learning is a process that can be maximised for its outcomes is highly problematic. I find myself in disagreement with the many assumptions enclosed within this philosophy, trying to maximise learning, at the expense of the well-being of those involved in the learning process seems to kill off any sense of curiosity and wonder.


3. Expectations on personal well-being

Hunkered down, I’m seriously questioning Tanim’s (2011) assertion that technology boosts learning by 12%. How does this work? Is a 12% gain measurable? In what type of classroom is this technology used and what does this look like? Examining Puentedura’s SAMR (2012) model, is this 12% at the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification or Redefinition stage? Many questions arise at this stage regarding this improvement that is identified.

Clarity comes from the UDL Guidelines (CAST), an approach already employed by the Ministry of Education and CORE education, of which I attended a session.

All of these UDL Guidelines are aspirational but overwhelming to be honest, requiring new training and an enormous amount of effort from staff to learn these new approaches. How do I sustainably teach in such an environment? Who will support me? How will I effectively teach in my classroom with all these best practices competing for attention, meanwhile Matt Groening’s depiction of the classroom is happening everyday I walk into the classroom. Have you ever experienced this situation in a classroom?!

My Teacher Led Inquiry

Nottingham’s Learning Pit gives significant opportunity for self-reflection. I find myself employing David Rock’s (2008) SCARF model to work through the anxiety that I currently find myself in. Rock’s SCARF model refers to aspects of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. I feel high levels of anxiety currently as I approach this “brave new world” of eLearning at the bottom of Nottingham’s learning pit. The many and varied questions I have are majorly based around the premises of the project with its assumptions surrounding eLearning and personalisation discussed above.

Examining the barriers and facilitators to these two intertwining ideas, provides some navigation through the situation. The barriers I can identify are threefold and include: firstly, social media and the distraction from learning are real and hugely problematic for lower achieving students in my care. Secondly the “fad” of the latest shiny toy distract from deep learning is evident throughout learning as we engage students in surface level learning to keep “engagement” high but lacking real substance. Finally, Puentedura’s (2012) SAMR analysis reveals that much of eLearning is merely just substitution, and in my own pedagogical frame of reference, I find that this is enormously true still. In contrast to this idea, however, my mentor for this TLIF project says about the SAMR model:

“It might pay to also look at some of the critiques of SAMR, such as this one here. Sometimes I wonder if SAMR puts too much emphasis on the technology, rather than the learning. For this reason, I prefer the eLearning Planning Framework (and just focusing on the Teaching and Learning strand in this context), and sometimes TPACK.”

Against these barriers, are a number of facilitators, including Hattie’s (2009) analysis of computer-assisted instruction (or pedagogy as Osborne labels it in the slide below); UDL and literacy strategies.

Despite my many reservations therefore, I am reminded of Kuhlthau’s ISP model (below), pertinent to this discussion and significant at driving the necessary curiosity proposed by Callison’s inquiry cycle (next page).

Hattie’s (2009, p. 220) findings on the diversity of teaching strategies rings true for me moreso, and I’m wanting to explore this further in my context. One student voice from my 2016 teacher inquiry indicated that more project-based social inquiry with reduced screen-time gave the ability for “freedom of what I wanted to study and learn”. I appreciate Cardno, Bassett and Wood’s (2016) guidance therefore in this process on being: “open-minded, fallible and persistent.”

The key to success? Duckworth’s Grit ( 2014).

I am interested therefore in the process of the social inquiry model and would like to explore how a diversity of eLearning teaching strategies can lead to transformative learning (with deep engagement) at Puentedura’s (2012) M/R depth of understanding, piquing curiosity and this deep learning in students to optimize peer learning and maximise feedback.



I started out this unit with high hopes. Having heard a lot about inquiry learning, I was keen and excited. Looking back on what I learnt in writing this blog, however, gives me cause to reflect. At the start of this journey, I began with the analogy of maps and exploration. Evidently, this changed. It’s become a journey with an open road and new horizons beyond.

I began by questioning where inquiry learning comes from in Geography, wanting to know how learners learn best and what changes would occur as a result of national curriculum. My essay generated further questions about the pedagogy of Geography and my own practice. Having analysed the theories and models that underpin geographical inquiry, I now have more questions than when I started.

What did I learn?

The most significant thing that I have learnt in doing these three modules is an appreciation for the emotional or affective domain. Nottingham (2009) provides the analogy of the “learning pit” which was very helpful for my journey. In this model, learners experience different emotions as they approach learning. I started started off nervous and excited but as I entered into the learning, this changed. For one thing, I certainly got mad with some of the digital literacies that I needed to learn! Blogs are a whole new world for me and I had to contend with two of these beasts this semester. Having completed this stage of the blog, I’m feeling pretty happy which is where Nottingham (2009) predicts learners end up.

Nottingham, J. (2009). The learning pit.
Nottingham, J. (2009). The learning pit.

This model is similar to Carol Kuhlthau’s (2004) model of the Information Search Process. I have mentioned this multiple times throughout my blog, so will not repeat the explanation here. Suffice to say that it covers the same territory as James Nottingham’s (2009) learning pit. In addition, Kuhlthau (2004) examines the physical and cognitive domains and I found this to be a true estimation of the process that I encountered. So too, in my experience of teaching my unit on Sustainable Communities, students also encountered all of these domains, making progress through all of these.

A nice connection was made for me when examining Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Krathwohl, 2002). I realised that teaching is a linear process in many ways (my unit plan for instance has a list of the weeks and lessons from start to finish and runs from the top of the page to the bottom). The problem I came across when I tried to fit Bloom’s taxonomy with my learning plan became that I had to invert the pyramid into a pit. if I was to overlay the following picture onto my unit plan now, this is not a bad estimate of the deeper knowledge created in learning. I thought this made a good connection to Nottingham’s (2009) model as well as the theoretical explanation provided by Kuhlthau (2004). In my inverted pyramid, I began digging with my students as we delved into topics, removing layers of misunderstanding, analysing the soil before getting to the evaluating and creating levels beneath.

Figure 3. Smith, R. (2014). Bloom's inverted taxonomy. Image credit: Calistemon (2010). The open pit at Sunrise dam gold mine, Australia.
Figure 1. Smith, R. (2014). Bloom’s inverted taxonomy. Image credit: Calistemon (2010). The open pit at Sunrise dam gold mine, Australia.

One of my frustrations in this process has been a lack of scaffolding. I felt that I became that annoying student in class who says ‘I don’t get it.’ I can now empathise because I couldn’t ‘see  the forest for the trees.’ While the requirements for each post were spelled out in great detail, I found it difficult to learn the new digital literacies and missed the interaction of being in a physical classroom. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari (2012) outline that a team approach is needed for students to make the most of their learning. This team approach appropriately extends the model of social-constructivist frameworks as developed by thinkers such as Bruner (1961), Dewey (1916), Piaget (1950), and Vygotsky (1978). In such a team, there would include such people as industry representatives, librarians, teachers and other specialists.

In this process, it’s felt a little lonely to be honest, sitting at a laptop tapping away at a virtual world. There hasn’t been any real connection to a team of teachers who could help in this regard. No disrespect is meant to my lecturer. She works tirelessly and would respond to emails at all hours, I’m certain there are reasons that the class remained external. Some tutorials on the digital literacies required would have been super helpful, which highlights the critique of Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006).

I agree to an extent with the critique made by Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) criticise the guided inquiry approach by arguing that as learners, we need an enormous amount of guidance in our journey. Unguided discovery learning is not helpful to maximising learning. Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn (2007) provide a helpful response by showing the distinction between unguided discovery learning and inquiry learning. Hmelo-Silver, Duncan and Chinn (2007) argue that inquiry learning is not unguided. Scaffolding is key in such inquiry learning projects. Interesting then. Universities are able to produce fantastic research with such insight into the learning process. Yet the learning and teaching environment does not always follow these guidelines. Interesting. Why is this so?

While efforts were made to create online spaces for learning and increasing this interaction, as a learner, I feel that the prerogative lies on the teaching team to provide such a physical space. Perhaps I’m a “technophobe” and need to adapt to this new digital online environment. Or perhaps, there is reason to believe that real classrooms provide an excellent space for learning to occur. Or is it instead, that this is the way that I’ve learnt in the past and I just need to adapt? This was not the focus of my blog I understand, but it is probably more relevant to discuss given the modality of the learning that I encountered.

Like many things then, it is probably a matter of tension. I don’t think that learning should be completely teacher centred, nor should it centre on the student. Rather a middle ground approach is useful in teaching and learning processes. Lupton’s (2013, p. 11) “inquiry learning continuum” is helpful to this discussion therefore. If learners learn best by co-constructing meaning and knowledge from their experiences, it makes sense that this should also continue in the classroom. Perhaps then, rather than the continuum pointing outwards in Figure 2, the arrows in the following diagram should probably turn inwards to indicate the guided approach.

Figure 1. Smith, R. (2014). An inquiry learning continuum. After "Inquiry pedagogy and the Australian Curriculum." By M. Lupton, 2013, Primary and Middle Years Educator, 11, p. 2. Copyright 2013, Australian Curriculum Studies Association.
Figure 2. Smith, R. (2014). An inquiry learning continuum. After “Inquiry pedagogy and the Australian Curriculum.” By M. Lupton, 2013, Primary and Middle Years Educator, 11, p. 2. Copyright 2013, Australian Curriculum Studies Association.

What has challenged my pedagogy?

The most challenging thing for me apart from the learning environment and digital literacies would be the model of GeST windows (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). This allowed me the opportunity to critique my own practice and that of the unit I taught. I realised that the vast majority of my teaching and learning fits squarely within the generic window. In fact, I’m quite accomplished at this. On occasion, I venture into the situated and transformative windows with my students and can recall some incidents in my teaching career where this has happened. Mostly though, my teaching is preparing students for university and a neo-liberal view of the economy. In critiquing the geography syllabus, I realised the opportunity it afforded to enter beyond the generic.

Perhaps I’ve become too critical of myself also and students are afforded the opportunity to critically examine their worlds. After the QCS this year, my class and I were reflecting on the unit of Sustainable communities and revising for our upcoming exam. In our reflections, I asked my students what helped them prepare best for the QCS test. One student surprised me by saying:

“I’ve learnt most of my opinions about how the world operates through taking Geography.”

Having engaged this particular student extensively in discussion over the course of Geography, I hope that’s a good outcome. Like Barnett (2012) argues, the more important feature of schooling has to be an impartation of values. Like Lupton and Bruce’s (2010) GeST windows, emphasising values allows students the chance to move beyond “disciplinary initiation” towards an ontology of “human beings as such” (Barnett, 2012, p. 72). This means that the values and ideals that students form are far more important than many of the generic skills I competently impart. I wonder then, what is the best way to engage students. If this student learned “most of his opinions about the world through geography,” what values come to the surface?

Pedgogical options: A scheme. Adapted from "Learning for an unknown future." By R. Barnett, 2012. Higher Education Research & Development, 31, p. 72. Copyright 2012, HERDSA
Pedgogical options: A scheme. Adapted from “Learning for an unknown future.” By R. Barnett, 2012. Higher Education Research & Development, 31, p. 72. Copyright 2012, HERDSA

My epiphany this afternoon was that if teaching is more cyclical than linear, inquiry learning estimates a fractal. As we learn, we are constantly gathering new information, and this generates questions for new learning. With apologies to Daniel Callison’s (2006) model, I propose a fractal as a backdrop to his original model to indicate the tangents that we encounter in our learning cycle as follows.

Smith, R. (2014). Cycle and interaction of information inquiry elements. From The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Smith, R. (2014). Cycle and interaction of information inquiry elements. After D. Callison (2006). The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited. {image credits: Chrapek (2012). Fractal circle. Retrieved from DeviantArt.}

After all, the world is just awesome!

Discovery Channel. (2008). The world is just awesome [Video file]. Retrieved from Youtube.

Talking of fractals, an awesome world to discover and further questions…. I have a few further questions:

  1. What is the best way of negotiating the guided approach? Is it student or teacher led? Is this the wrong question?
  2. How can I approach my pedagogy in a way that promotes transformational literacies in student learning?
  3. What is the best question to ask in geographical inquiry?
  4. How do online spaces change the way that students learn? Is this the best approach for inquiry learning?
  5. How will geographers need to adapt to these new digital literacies?


Anderson, L. & Krathwohl, D. (Eds.) (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Barnett, R. (2012). Learning for an unknown future. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(1), 65-77. doi:10.1080/07294360.2012.642841

Bruner, J. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31(1): 21–32.

Callison, D. (2006). Information inquiry: Concepts and elements. In D. Callison & L. Preddy. The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York, NY: WLC Books.

Hmelo-Silver, C., Duncan, R. & Chinn, C. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-bsaed and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107. doi:10.1080/00461520701263368

Nottingham, J. (2009, June 15). The learning pit [Web log post]. Retrieved from SustainedSuccess.

Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational psychologist, 41(2), 75-86. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep4102_1

Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview.Theory Into Practice , 41(4), 212-218. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2

Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C.; Maniotes, L. and Caspari, A, (2012). Guided inquiry design: The process, the learning, and the team. In C. Kuhlthau, L. Maniotes, & A. Caspari. Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school (pp.1 – 15). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Piaget, J. (1950). The Psychology of Intelligence. New York, NY: Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

A non-continuum of learning in ICT

Smith, R. (2014). A comparison of Curriculum.
Smith, R. (2014). A comparison of Curriculum. [Screenshot]
In this brief post, I compare ACARA’s curricula with some key theorists and commentators for their take on Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and Creative and Critical Thinking (CCT).

Smith, R. (2014). A comparison of Curriculum against Lee (2014) and Lupton & Bruce (2012)
Smith, R. (2014). A comparison of Curriculum against Lee (2014) and Lupton and Bruce (2012)

In this analysis, it seems that there are a number of key differences between the Creative and Critical Thinking of Learning in ACARA as well as the ICT Capability learning continuum. Mal Lee’s (2014) post was scathing of the cookie cutter approach, and yet ACARA (2012; 2013) seems to be advocating such a way of doing things for the classroom. Bruce and Lupton’s (2010) GeST Windows is highly informative in helping to locate many of these skills, deemed essential for the 21st century. In reality, there are certain neo-liberal imperatives at play here and ideas of creativity and social transformation rank fairly low on such a list.

Are these generic skills identified by ACARA (2012; 2013) irrelevant for the 21st century? Highly unlikely, more than ever, approaches such as the Information fluency continuum (NYCSLS) are crucial for these learners and need teachers who are able to inspire such creativity and social transformation.



ACARA. (2012). ICT Capability Learning Continuum. Retrieved September 8, from the Australian Curriculum.

ACARA. (2013). Creative and Critical Thinking Learning F-10. Retrieved September 8, from the Australian Curriculum.

ITU. (2014). The World in 2014. ICT Facts and Figures. Retrieved April 1, from ITU.

Lee, M. (2014). The educational fallacy of an ICT continuum [Web log post]. Retrieved September 08, from MalLee.

Lupton, M & Bruce, C. (2010). Windows on information literacy worlds: Generic, situated and transformative perspectives. In A. Lloyd, & T. Sanna, Practising information literacy: bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, (pp.3 – 27). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies.

Where is it exactly?!


"North?" () Retrieved from http://www.animated-gifs.eu/transportation-boats-compass/0030.gif
“North?” (2009) retrieved from Animated Gifs.

My inquiry in the Australian Curriculum Geography culminated in my essay. I find myself now at the end of my journey having learned a lot in the process. What follows is a reflection on my learning in the inquiry so far, using John Barell’s (2007) KWHLAQ Model and Carol Kuhlthau’s (2004; 2012)  Information Search Process and Guided Inquiry.

Final post: Where is that darn magnetic north pole?!

Reflecting on Barell’s (2007, p. 6) KWHLAQ Model, and the journey that I have taken, I now raise some new questions that I seek answers for. Throughout my search, I have used the analogy of maps to highlight the limit of my knowledge. Reproduced above is a likening of the extent of my current state of knowledge as a figurative estimation.  Dunn’s (1794) Geographicus is considered the first European map of the world and if you examine it closely you’ll appreciate the limits of knowledge in 1794. Likewise, my understanding has huge limitations but I feel like I have some understanding of the state of knowledge within Geographical inquiry. I ask about the magnetic north pole, because I started my blog post with this as an analogy of searching in a postmodern world. I still don’t know how all of these inquiry models fit together, just like in Dunn’s (1794) Geographicus, the keen observer will notice that the Northwest passage above Canada is not yet opened. I too, have a long way to go in inquiring about inquiry.

Barell’s (2007) questions are reproduced in the image below but I have changed these in the headings underneath to the past tense so that I can use them for my reflections.

Barell, J. (2007). KWHLAQ Model. From Problem based learning: An inquiry Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.
Barell, J. (2007). KWHLAQ Model. In Problem based learning: An inquiry Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.
What did you already know?

It surprised me how much I already knew about inquiry in Geography. While I’d never thought about the theoretical or philosophical underpinnings, there was a large amount of experience that I could draw from to make sense of many of the readings that I encountered. I knew for instance that my experience of Geography was vastly different to that of my parents. I knew that Geography in Queensland today uses a thematic based approach and that my lecturer in Geography Education at the University of Queensland, was pretty upset at the introduction of this approach, preferring more of the traditional approach with its emphasis on skills. I also found one of his articles in one of my readings and this confirmed his emphasis on setting out the inquiry questions for students, which is probably not how I’d design a curriculum, knowing what I do now.

Examining my initial starting point in this journey, I posed three questions:

  1. Geography uses “inquiry learning” as its approach. Where does this come from? What are the different frameworks that Geographical Inquiry uses around the world? What is the literature basis for this?
  2. How do learners learn best? Are the current models of learning sound? Are these the best ways of engaging students?
  3. Will changes to the national curriculum and the roll out of Senior Syllabuses increase or decrease engagement of students with Geography?

On reflection now, I can see that these were enormously complicated and provided enough scope for somebody to spend a huge amount of time trying to answer them all. Ambitious to say the least! My “eyes were probably bigger than my stomach,” and I felt that I haven’t fully explored all of these questions yet. I have more of an idea obviously than when I started and I feel confident that inquiry learning is well placed in Geography to engage students (see my essay) but I’m less certain about the first two questions. I raise further questions based on these initial questions below.

What did you want/need to find out about?

Going into the second and third questions particularly, I felt that there was a vast ocean of information that I needed to swim through in order to find out answers to these questions. I’m not certain that I’ve nailed these exactly but feel that I’m a long way closer to understanding how inquiry works in Geography and that it needs to become more student focussed if it is to encourage the dispositions towards learning necessary for the future. Something that I overlooked in my annotated bibliography which is pretty obvious now that I reflect on things, was the exclusion in my search of the Australian Curriculum. Oops! It was only when I started writing my essay that I realised that I needed to go and look at the actual curriculum so that I could conduct my own critique. Mandy Lupton’s (2012) article is excellent but for my own learning, I needed to find out my own information.

Okay, this is embarrassing (and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with disclosing this now)… but doing the search to find the url for Mandy’s (2012) article above, I found another article by Mandy Lupton (2013), titled Inquiry pedagogy and the Australian Curriculum. Don’t you hate it when that happens!! You do all this research and then when you’re finished you find all of these sources that you should have found right from the start?! I assumed that these two articles were the same information reproduced in different journals, however, this would have been excellent information, especially for question 2. Oh well, better late than never.

How and where did you search for answers?

My process for finding answers to these questions is documented in my expert searching strategies. In short, I found the answers to my questions through databases, the internet, my peers and also through my lecturer. The peer learning aspect is interesting in this course. A major source for my learning has been my peers. In particular, I learned a significant amount on the expert searching strategies from Grove’s (2014) blog Inquiry Learning – My Journey. I knew many of the expert searching strategies already but hadn’t documented these. So it was useful to be able to articulate this on my blog as a guide for others.

What have we learned?

The largest thing that I have learned in this journey has been the role of the teacher. Having taught now in a local high school for seven years, I am normally on the other end of this process, driving students to learning. In many of the subjects that I teach in the humanities field (Legal Studies, Geography, English and History), I ask my students to go out and find answers to various questions. What I didn’t realise is the importance of the affective nature of learning. Carol Kuhlthau emphasises this in her models and has documented this process in detail with empirical research to support her arguments. I deal with this in greater detail below.

The other aspect in this journey that I definitely underestimated was the amount of learning that I would undertake with creating and using blogs. To begin with, I started out writing my ideas and posts in a word processor and then copying and pasting this to the blog. As I progressed, I gained greater confidence in this process and now realise that the platform I am using saves things automatically and inputs this information in a rich format for the world to see. Unfortunately, this has been a slow process for me. It’s taken me ages to do this effectively  and I remember last week spending the same amount of time writing up one post as I did in writing a whole essay for another subject that I am completing. The nature of producing texts has definitely changed here. My audience is no longer just an anonymous marker at a university behind a centralised assignment submission box but I am starting to have a conversation with the world. That’s a little nerve racking. I guess the tipping point came for me when I had to produce the video. It’s a little scary!

My reflection is that this process is not nice and linear like Carol Kuhlthau’s (2004, p. 82) Information Search Process implies. A scan (apologies that it’s not precisely square!) from Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2007) is reproduced below.

Kuhlthau, C. (2007). Figure 2.2 Model of the Information Search Process. (p. 19). In C. Kuhlthau. (2004) Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2007). Figure 2.2 Model of the Information Search Process. In C. Kuhlthau. (2004) Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

In my opinion, the process reproduced here is true of my searching, however in other aspects is quite different. I feel today as though I have “accomplished” something (phew! that module is nearly done!) but there were moments where I was definitely frustrated with my re-searching process. Indeed, I have also moved from seeking “relevant information” towards “pertinent information” and so can relate to Kuhlthau’s model above.

The strength of this model lies in its identification of the affective or feelings attributed to learning. In a PowerPoint from this Rutger’s University webpage, Carol Kuhlthau identifies the level of uncertainty  throughout the stages of the Information Search Process. I have examined this above in discussing my feelings in completing this blog but it highlights the need for “intervention” by the teacher in assisting those inquiring about various topics. Inquiry learning is far from a passive learning strategy that allows a teacher some “down time” away from teaching! I don’t feel that I have taught like this in the past but it does highlight the importance of the teacher in this process, especially at the beginning of the inquiry process. I have probably not intervened at the right stage of student learning in many of my classes, as Kuhlthau (2013) shows below.

Kuhlthau, C. (2013). Information search process. Retrieved from Rutgers University.
Kuhlthau, C. (2013). Level of uncertainty in the information search process. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from Rutgers University.

In contradistinction to Kuhlthau’s linear approach (despite the validity of the overall picture that she creates, especially on the associated feelings), I found that my process was more like a network of feeling, action and thinking. I would bounce around between asking questions, finding articles, writing up an idea , deleting an idea and then going and re-searching for further articles or ideas for my arguments.

So my process is somewhat akin to that of Callison’s (2003, p. 5) Cycle and interaction of information inquiry elements, reproduced below. I feel that I have questioned and explored certain ideas to begin with and then the blog has driven me to reflect on these ideas as I have inferred “new knowledge” from these understandings.

Callison, D. (2006). Cycle and interaction of information inquiry elements. From Key words, concepts and methods for information age instruction.
Callison, D. (2006). Cycle and interaction of information inquiry elements. In D. Callison & L. Preddy. The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy. Westport, CO: Libraries Unlimited. Image retrieved from Information Inquiry for Teachers.

Another model that also resonates is that of Bruner’s (2012) Inquiry Process Model, reproduced below. I indeed started with posing questions, set out to find resources, interpreted this and then reported on my information but also hopped back to my resource searching and interpretation to chisel away at my findings to sharpen these up somewhat.

Bruner, C. (2012) . The Inquiry Process. Retrieved from The YouthLearn Initative at EDC, created by the Morino Institute.
Bruner, C. (2012) . The Inquiry Process. Retrieved from The YouthLearn Initative at EDC, created by the Morino Institute.

Another model that also rings true is that of Stripling’s (2009) Teaching with primary sources. My ideas have bounced around and this reflects more of my process in a non-linear fashion as per the diagram below.

Stripling, B. (2009). Teaching inquiry with primary sources. TPS Quarterly, 2(3), 2-4. Retrieved from TPS Quarterly
Stripling, B. (2009). Teaching inquiry with primary sources. TPS Quarterly, 2(3), 2-4. Retrieved from TPS Quarterly.

So the updated version of Carol Kuhlthau’s (2012) Guided Inquiry model reproduced below, now seems a fairly good estimation of my process. This maps the Guided Inquiry against the Information Search Process. I feel that I have jumped between each of these stages alternating between each process and am now at the stage of reflection, evaluating my performance. In some senses I am satisfied and in others a little disappointed. I reflect on these further below.

Kuhlthau, C. (2012). Guided inquiry design. Retrieved from the School of Communication and Information, Rutger's University, NJ.
Kuhlthau, C. (2012). Guided inquiry design. Retrieved from the School of Communication and Information, Rutger’s University, NJ.
How will we apply what we have learned?

As a teacher then, what I have learned from completing this blog has been enormous. I wonder whether I could implement the use of blogs in one of the units that I used to teach in an independent inquiry. It’s very difficult however, and students are resistant to critiquing others work in such a public fashion. I have also realised the importance of increased scaffolding at the start of the inquiry and that this decreases towards the end of the process. I think that my teaching has reversed this process somewhat. I have tended to let students loose to begin with and then scaffolded more of a landing pad, attempting to get my students to aim towards the criteria and standards expected. The other thing that I have been fairly ignorant of is the affective aspect or feelings of learners. Not in a cold-hearted way but I definitely can empathise more with these learners having been in the position of the student once more. I like the model that Carol Kuhlthau puts forward that combines the Guided Inquiry model with the Information Search Process. It’s valuable for the humanities  but requires more work from me as a teacher to immerse students with the material and also for evaluating the process.

What new questions do we have following our inquiry?

Dunn’s (1794) map above, kind of feels like my map of my understanding of the world of Geographic inquiry now. A horrible Eurocentric view of the world that has totally misrepresented many places in the world but has also gained some useful tools and processes for inquiring about inquiry. I have lots of questions going forward to sharpen up my map of the world.

Having completed some of the initial readings for the module ahead and thinking especially about my Information Learning Activity, I want to find out more about frameworks of inquiry and learning. Below are some of these key questions.

  • How is it that learners learn best? Are constructivist student centred approaches the best way for the future?
  • Do geography students feel engaged with the subject?
  • Does my teaching reflect best practice?
  • How can I improve my practice so that the learning is both interesting and engaging?
  • Will the argument from my essay, that the senior secondary Australian Curriculum, Geography increases the engagement and interest of students, come true?


Barell, J. (2007). Problem based learning: An inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Bruner, C. (2012) . The Inquiry Process. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from The YouthLearn Initative.  Waltham, MA: Education Development Center.

Callison, D. (2006). Cycle and interaction of information inquiry elements. In D. Callison & L. Preddy. The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Stripling, B. (2009). Teaching inquiry with primary sources. TPS Quarterly, 2(3), 2-4. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from the Teaching with Primary Sources Quarterly.

Off we pop then…

In Sight of Our Goal
Marston, G. (1919). “In sight of our goal, nearing South Georgia” (published in Ernest Shackleton’s book, “:South,” London, UK: William Heinemann). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:InSightOfOurGoal-NearingSouthGeorgia.jpg

The crossing of the James Caird

I think that one of the most courageous stories that I have ever heard is that of Ernest Shackleton’s return from the Imperial Atlantic Expedition as told by Alfred Lansing (2001). I remember one holiday staying up all night to read this epic story, thinking that these men should have died umpteen number of times! The expedition was an absolute failure by any measure.

Shackleton was stranded at the absolute end of the world (in the middle of WWI) , with no chance of outside help. Shackleton was forced to make a 1200km trip across one of the most treacherous seas in the world if he had any hope of rescuing his fellow compatriots left behind on Elephant Island. Shackleton set off in the James Caird, aiming for South Georgia Island, facing 18m waves in a tiny open whaling boat, as depicted below by Australian photographer Frank Hurley.

The James Caird
Hurley, F. (1919) “Launching the James Caird” (published in Ernest Shackleton’s book, “South”, London, UK: William Heinemann). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/LaunchingTheJamesCaird2.jpg

Frank Worsley was given the almost impossible task to navigate the tiny boat in horrendously rough, open seas with hurricane force winds. If he missed the destination of South Georgia, they would not reach rescue and all of the men on the trip would perish, never to be heard of again. Worsley was not able to gain more than a few sightings during the 16 day trip. They encountered heavy storms during this time with Worsley describing one sighting as:

“…cuddling the mast with one arm, swinging fore and aft round the mast, sextant and all …to catch the sun when the boat leaped her highest on the crest of a sea” (Worsley, 1999, p. 133).

Worsley's Sextant
Sextant used by Frank Worsley aboard the James Caird (Retrieved from http://fer3.com/arc/m2.aspx/Beating-Dead-Horse-aka-Worleys-Sextant-BrendanKinch-jan-2014-g26501)

Using the sextant depicted above, to make his calculations, Worsley was able to bring the crew to South Georgia Island however, on the wrong side. Shackleton then set out to cross South Georgia in a marathon 36 hour effort to finally reach help at Stromness, a remote whaling station at the utter end of the earth. Lansing (2001, p. 269) picks up the story:

“When they finally were taken and then appeared before the factory manager, he didn’t recognize them. “Who the hell are you?” he inquired. “My name is Shackleton,” the Boss replied.”

I’ve missed out many of the details of the story but Alfred Lansing’s story is well worth a read. I think this journey has many salient parallels to the inquiry learning process, albeit a little less treacherous!

My expert searching begins here.


Lansing, A. (2001). Endurance: Shackleton’s incredible voyage. London, UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Worsley, F. (1931). Endurance: An epic of polar adventure. London, UK: Philip Allen.

Worsley, F. (1999) [1940]. Shackleton’s Boat Journey. London, UK: Pimlico.

Keyword searching using mind maps

I’m a very visual learner. I appreciate diagrams and am usually able to understand a concept if it can be represented to me in a visual format.

Looking around at some of the previous blogs and also others from this cohort, I noticed that many had mind maps in some bright fancy colours, that are helpful for setting out one’s search terms.

So I searched for various terms without any success before typing in “keyword search mind map.” About the fifth result on my search engine was bubbl.us.

I think this is a very helpful tool to visually represent search terms. I came up with the following diagram that represents my search terms, thus far:

Inquiry Learning in Geography (created using bubbl.us)
Inquiry Learning in Geography (created using bubbl.us)






The search begins…

Initial Readings

After completing the initial readings by Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (2007, 2012). I felt that I was able to gain an overview of the main ideas of Guided Inquiry. Our lecturer, Mandy Lupton explains that Carol Kuhlthau is the world expert on “Guided Inquiry” and that some terms (Guided inquiry, inquiry learning, inquiry-based learning) are used interchangeably. Initially, I thought that Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari, (2012) was quite convincing. I really like the model of the Information Search Process model put forward by Kuhlthau (1991). but I was simultaneously sceptical, perceiving this model as yet another model or “fad” to sweep through education. This article especially uses all of the “buzzwords” but I thought upon reflection that my “jury” is still out to lunch. At this beginning stage, I realised that I had to trust my lecturer in her depth of understanding within this topic and hope that the model put forward here holds true.  It seems that there is a world of information out there and my job is to go out there and begin to sift through these to find out how Geographers construct information.

It wasn’t until I read Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari (2007) that things really started to come together for me. These authors guided me through the constructivist literature of Dewey (1915; 1933), Bruner (1977), Kelly (1963), Vygotsky (1978) and Piaget (1972) before arriving at their own model. These constructivist theories in my teaching experience hold true and provide a sound basis for further work in this area.

I began to search for terms related to my field of teaching and connected with learning, pedagogy and inquiry. As a result of these reflections and readings, I have three questions that I would like to investigate:

  1. Geography uses “inquiry learning” as its approach. Where does this come from? What are the different frameworks that Geographical Inquiry uses around the world? What is the literature basis for this?
  2. How do learners learn best? Are the current models of learning sound? Are these the best ways of engaging students?
  3. Will changes to the national curriculum and the roll out of Senior Syllabuses increase or decrease engagement of students with Geography?



Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2012). Guided inquiry design: The process, the learning, and the team. In C. Kuhlthau, L. Maniotes, & A. Caspari, Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school, (pp. 1 – 15). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2007). The theory and research basis for guided inquiry. In C. Kuhlthau, L. Maniotes, & A. Caspari, Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century, (pp. 13-28.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.


Welcome! I have created this blog for a Masters of Education course, “Inquiry Learning” and takes as its theme that of mapping and curiosity. I love maps and on my wall at home, hangs a huge map, printed on canvas and I could spend hours exploring the details contained in places unknown. I think it serves as a helpful metaphor for this journey that I will undertake in this unit, perhaps a little cliché but useful for the Geographers who I teach. As Alexander Graeme Bell, second president of the National Geographic said, exploration ought to involve discovering “the world and all that is in it.”

The World
World Map (National Geographic Magazine)

I begin my journey of searching for information with a high sense of curiosity. I have been a high school teacher at a local Brisbane high school for seven years now. I really enjoy the outdoors and exploring the world. Prior to coming to this unit, my initial understanding of “Inquiry Learning” is where students are given the initiative in a classroom to engage with content. In my experience as a teacher, students have been given the freedom to ask their own questions. I think of the past seven years where I have taught Senior Legal Studies and in particular the Independent Inquiry unit.  In this context, students have engaged with a wide range of content to produce an essay or report and have had to reflect on their learning through this process.

Having completed some initial reading on the subject (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, ,2012; Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2007; Powell, Cantrell, & Adams, 2001), there were many ideas that interested me. The thing that struck me most, however, was the effect of emotions in learning. I had not previously examined the effect of these upon the learner but could readily identify with what was presented by these authors as they looked at the ups and downs of emotion through learning.

An idea that I came across in these initial readings also was the idea by James Nottingham of the “Learning Pit”. I felt that I could relate with these first stages of being happy, nervous, excited, and then moving on to distracted, sad and angry way too easily. After my first day of engaging in the unit, I felt that I was well and truly in the middle of the pit. Here’s to hoping that there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

The Learning Pit
The Learning Pit (James Nottingham, 2009)



Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2012). Guided inquiry design: The process, the learning, and the team. In C. Kuhlthau, L. Maniotes, & A. Caspari, Guided inquiry design : a framework for inquiry in your school, (pp. 1 – 15). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2007). The theory and research basis for guided inquiry. In C. Kuhlthau, L. Maniotes, & A. Caspari, Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century, (pp. 13-28.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Powell, R., Cantrell, S., & Adams, S. (2001). Saving black mountain: The promise of critical literacy in a multicultural democracy. The Reading Teacher, 54(8), 772-781. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1936-2714

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