Discovery and Guided Inquiry

To create a school-wide focus on the inquiry process, participants in the Learning Commons collaborate to promote the use of an inquiry model which:
  • Expands personal horizons and knowledge base
  • Encourages the collision of ideas
  • Engages the learner in rich, real-world tasks that interest and motivate
  • Embeds essential and recurring skills and knowledge
  • Provides a strategy for processing information
  • Benefits from intentional, guided intervention
  • Scaffolds learning for success
  • Promotes open-ended thinking in all phases of the process
  • Extends learning through diverse strategies, resources, technologies, and products
  • Balances sequential learning with holistic learning and differentiated instruction
  • Develops multiple literacies
  • Fosters metacognition, i.e., learning how to learn in both familiar and new contexts
  • Encourages a collaborative approach to learning


 Phase of Inquiry
 Student Feelings
(adapted Kulthau, 2007)

Students explore by initiating the inquiry, choosing an appropriate and personally engaging topic, and developing deep questions around the topic chosen.
  • Apprehension at work ahead
  • Uncertainty, confusion, anxiety
  • Brief elation after selecting topic

Students investigate their topic by designing a plan for inquiry, finding sources and selecting appropriate information, and formulating a clear and interesting focus. 
  • Anticipation of prospective task
  • Optimism
  • Realization of extensive work to be done

Students process what they have found by analyzing the information, evaluating their ideas and those from selected information, and organizing and synthesizing their findings.
  • Confidence in ability to complete task
  • Increased interest

Students create knowledge by making products that present the results of their inquiry, assessing their product and the process they used to construct it, and extending and transferring their learning to new context and inquiries. 
  • Sense of relief
  • Sometimes satisfaction
  • Sometimes disappointment

See The Inquiry Process for further development of the Model of Inquiry and Ontario Curriculum Expectations

Creating a Culture of Inquiry

Inquiry is a complex process of constructing personal meaning, applying critical thinking skills, solving problems, creating understanding, and questioning.

In its truest form, the inquiry process requires an individual to look deeper and beyond the obvious, examine information for validity, point of view and bias, and construct meaning from all of these endeavours.

Effective application of an inquiry model can transform novice learners into interdependent and independent learners, confident of their information power.

To implement an inquiry model, teacher-librarians and teachers can establish a culture of “Guided Inquiry” which integrates inquiry skills and content knowledge.

The Learning Commons is essential in helping students see the school as a dynamic learning place where they can continually connect new ideas and the curriculum to their own world.

Ideas to Consider

Instructional Staff
Teacher / teacher-librarian directed
  • Delivers integrated curriculum
  • Acknowledges background information
  • Establishes the context
  • Guides the process
  • Scaffolds instruction and learning throughout
  • Designs inquiries based on real world situations
  • Encourages developing open ended questions
  • Models and teaches specific information literacy skills (e.g., information organizers, online databases, social media tools, presentation formats)
Learner generated
  • Individually explores area of interest
  • Makes connections to other texts and transfers experiences
  • Generates deep inquiry questions
  • Uses a wide variety of print, media, electronic and human resources
  • Displays learning in personally significant way
Teacher / teacher-librarian enabled
  • Allows for flexible groupings based on interest
  • Facilitates inquiry process
  • Connects learning partnerships with outside experts, using technology
  • Monitors outside experts consulted
  • Contributes to/joins learning partnership(s)
  • Models learning during process
  • Leads with questioning
Learner enabled
  • Determines scope of partnerships
  • Seeks expertise beyond the school setting
  • Contributes to a team according to own learning style and aptitudes
  • Contributes to collective knowledge creation
  • Reflects on learning with others
  • Shares in the responsibility of ownership of collaborative products
Teacher / teacher-librarian enabled
  • Emphasizes multiple sources
  • Emphasizes safe and responsible use of information
  • Provides template for source validation
  • Provides guidance in effective search strategies
  • Targets specific lessons necessary to build reflective practice
  • Conferences at significant stages of the inquiry
  • Fosters the metacognition of the skills being learned and emotions encountered
  • Models reflective thinking/practice
Learner enabled
  • Applies prior experiences, synthesizes with new information and transfers the learning
  • Seeks multiple sources
  • Validates multiple sources for authority, bias and relevancy
  • Uses effective search strategies
  • Reflects on learning and shares feelings, findings and perspectives with different audiences
  • Reaches understandings which are personally significant
  • Thinks creatively to solve problems and make decisions