Giving and taking

About fifteen years ago, I was fresh out of high school, and embarking on my first year of Art School. The structure of learning in that degree was to attend lectures where we learnt about techniques, and then spend time on our own producing a cohesive body of work that we would present at the end of the semester to a panel of lecturers. These ‘critiques’ would involve setting up the work that you had completed over the semester, along with your journals and visual research and answer questions about the work and receive feedback form each of the panellists. While most of the lecturers were supportive, these feedback session would be very stressful, especially as they were passing judgement on work that sometimes dealt with personal issues and were the product of hard work, tears and sweat. I remember feeling very nervous about each one and often felt like quitting based on the feedback. The point of this story is that we each bring personal experiences to giving and receiving feedback, which can definitely influence how we feel about it and how we present feedback to others.


Giving feedback in this unit was made very easy by the blog structure of the assignment. Each student’s blog already had the mechanism in place to allow others to add their thought and opinions. Our group, however often chose to use email as well. This meant that we felt more comfortable discussing things that we might have felt were not appropriate to discuss in a public forum, including questions about specifics of the assignments or requests to review things that were written. On both forums, the feedback received was always supportive, informative and helpful and I found it very comforting to have contact with people who were having the same experiences.


I think the feedback I gave could have been more consistent, especially when commenting on the blogs. I found myself forgetting to read the other blogs in our group, as they were not always checked, like I do with email and Facebook. I struggled sometimes to comment constructively on blog posts, and I felt that some of my responses were not really helpful at all, unlike some of my peers who were able to make some suggestions, especially about issues like proof reading and technical problems such as videos not working.


I think feedback is a very important aspect of a professional career. Without it, it is hard to judge how you are progressing, where you might be not meeting expectations or completing tasks successfully. However, those giving feedback have to careful about how it is delivered and how it affects the receiver. This is increasingly important with the popularity of social media and forums such as blogs and message boards. My experience in this unit has been extremely positive and supportive and I appreciated the nature of the assignments and the opportunities to create mini- communities of peers within the subject.






The information learning nexus rug…

Image: Heidi Edwards


Over the semester, I have been teaching myself to crochet, something that I have always wanted to do and a good way to stay stress free. I have sufficient skills now to make a (somewhat wonky) rug and rosettes, but it took hours of reading beginner crochet books and blogs, sore fingers and metres of unravelled wool. I suppose my experiences with learning how to crochet are an apt metaphor for the pulling together of numerous threads that have lead me to the end of this unit.


At the beginning of the unit, I was faced some activities and concepts that I was unfamiliar with and daunted by the challenge of trying to reach a point where I thought I could successfully construct some kind of response to the assignment that met the requirements, but also made sense to me, my understanding of the profession and where I wanted to go with it. As I travelled through the semester, I could see how my knowledge of the subject was increasing and this gave me more confidence to make conclusions and to construct ideas and direction. However, this process was often accompanied by feelings of anxiety. For me, trying get out of the LIS role and to see things from an educational viewpoint was particularly stressful. I think we tend to forget how much of a role emotion plays in our learning and research. Although anxiety is unpleasant in the moment, it can drive the researcher or student to take actions that help them out of that state. I guess we do have to be careful, especially when working with students to ensure that anxiety doesn’t have the opposite effect and drive them to quit.


At the end of the course, I think one of the major threads in my information learning nexus rug, is thinking differently about a career in a school library. I think spending some time in a school library and having a delightful TL as a mentor have also helped this along. Another thread is an understanding of the significance of information literacy. I have an interest in the environment and social issues and I think one of the solutions is going to be a population who can question and think critically about the information they are being fed by governments, but more importantly big business. Librarians, and in particular teacher librarians, are at the forefront of promoting these skills in society.


So, at the end of this semester, my information learning rug might have a few pulled threads, a couple of holes and more than one glass of red wine spilt on it, but it has also has a few section of rich learning and experiences that are definitely worth saving and will keep me intellectually warm over my career as a librarian.




How does it all fit together? Critical Evaluation and Recommendations

This blog post will make links between the ILA (discussed here) and current literature and models regarding Inquiry Based Learning. The first section of the blog will position the ILA in current literature and look at how teaching and learning in this unit fits in with inquiry and information literacy models. The second section will critically evaluate the ILA against GeST Windows and Blooms Digital Taxonomy to ascertain its success as an Inquiry Based project. The final section will draw on these evaluations and the interviews to make recommendations about how the ILA could be improved in the future.

Information learning theories and the ILA

Previous posts have looked at the ILA itself and how students engaged with seeking information and learning over the semester. This section of the post will look how the ILA fits in with current Inquiry Based learning literature. While some of these ideas have been briefly discussed in the annotated bibliography, this post will makes links with these ideas and the ILA

Inquiry Based learning (IBL) allows students to make their own discoveries and to create new knowledge, which are meaningful to them and their learning (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007). In a tertiary setting, IBL has the added benefit of linking research and learning, elements of a university that might not necessarily be experienced by students (Cox, et al, 2008). IBL gives students the unique opportunity to construct new knowledge through problems solving, even if this knowledge is not necessarily new to the discipline (Lee, 2012). Levy and Petrulis (2012) stress that while not all students will become researchers, all students will benefit from the process of research and synthesising information. They go on to say that IBL assist in developing;

‘Self-authorship, intra-personal and inter-personal maturity characterised by awareness of knowledge as constructed and contexted, belief in oneself as possessing the capacity to create new knowledge (Levy & Petrulis, 2012, p.87).


As evidenced by the responses in the interviews, and to a certain extent the questionnaire, the ILA certainly gave students the chance to create new knowledge. While students were required to engage with existing knowledge in the form of class readings and some of the research involved simple fact finding (Limberg, 2000), the process of writing blog posts meant that student had to explore and create new knowledge and to scrutinise and analyse  it in order to arrive at these new meanings (Limberg, 2000). For example, one blog post requires students to interview a young person about the texts they engage in and to write about the findings. Here, students are conducting their own research and producing meaning from that experience, instead of relying on the research and observations of others.

Inquiry Based learning is crucial in promoting higher order thinking skills in students. By promoting such skills, universities are able to meet graduate capability outcomes, which are vital in preparing students for the challenges of the workforce and a life in an information rich environment (Cox, et al, 2008, Levy, 2012, Lee, 2012). These graduate outcomes may include problem solving, critical thinking and judgement, creativity, self management and collaboration (Levy, 2012). Critical thinking outcomes may not be achievable in traditional lecture based models of teaching and learning, where information is transferred form the lecturer to the students with little opportunity for the students to think critically about what is being learnt (Allen and Greeves, 2005). An IBL based course, on the other hand, promotes critical thinking and deeper understanding by providing students with opportunities to follow their own interests and create new meaning for themselves (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007).

Evidence of critical thinking can be seen in the ILA through student’s responses in the interviews. Students move from fact based responses in the first questionnaire, to reflecting about how learning in the unit has affected their teaching practice and awareness of how their learning and research present social and political consequences for them and their students. R2 commented on how program and software learnt about in the unit cannot be used in the classroom due to restrictions imposed by education authorities in the state;

It is difficult in a way… you are thinking in the real world about how you can apply all of the ideas presented to you… and then have those restrictions put in place’

Limberg (2000) looks at similar shifts in student’s experience of information literacy and outlines three categories as a way of describing how students approach their information seeking. The first category (A) is fact finding, where students are seeking the correct answer to a question. Category B sees the students using information to form a viewpoint and students in the third category use information to understand a topic and to place their knowledge and understanding into a wider context (Limberg, 2000) Students response to interview questions show a shift from category A experiences on information learning to category C where they can see how the information and learning they have encountered in the ILA over the semester has consequences on their lives and how their students learn.

Kuhlthau (et al, 2007) points to the ability of Inquiry Based learning to engage all students, including those who may struggle academically. While this may not be an issue for Master’s students who are presumably academically proficient, high levels of engagement in university units is still desirable. Allen and Greeves (2005) recount their experiences in redesigning an Asian Studies course to embrace IBL concepts, and how this was beneficial for the student’s engagement. The authors reported positive feedback after students were able to follow their own interests, and a shift to an online discussion format for tutorial where students were able to ask questions and discuss ideas with their lecturers (Allen & Greeves, 2005).

Students in this ILA were encouraged to comment on the class blog and their colleague’s posts, as well as construct and maintain their own blog platforms and posts. While this meant that students could actively engage with the material and be involved, barriers were created when students struggled with the new technology especially if they had spent some time away from study. R2 commented on how the technology was overwhelming, saying;

About the technology… when I first started using some of the things… there were so many different things we had to start getting on too… even when we had blogs YPCT and for ILN … and there’s FB, there’s Evernote… I feel sometimes in a way there is too many places and technology that I have to keep a handle on and make

While R1 considered learning new technology to be a part of the Inquiry process, she felt that some support might have been beneficial;

But I guess that is a part of the inquiry isn’t it? That you flounder around and find it our for yourself… but it could have been good to have a few tips earlier on

Allen and Greeves (2005) address this concern in their article, saying that students participating in an IBL course need to be supported by the lecturer and be assisted when they experience difficulties. Levy (2012) supports this, adding that it is especially important when students are working in groups or have problems with information literacy.

Information and literacy models.

Several of the articles reviewed in the annotated bibliography and for this section of the blog, stressed the importance of choosing appropriate models for Inquiry Based learning in universities. Lee (2012) believes that basing all IBL teaching and learning on a model means that the unit can be analysed, assessed and compared to IBL courses in rival universities. However, trying to fit all disciplines to one IBL model may present challenges, as not all models are appropriate to all subjects (Lee, 2012, Levy, 2012). Levy goes on to say that it is vital for the teaching of content to support the development of skill and research, and must be reflected in the model chosen.

While there is no information available in regards to whether or not the design of this unit is based on Information Literacy or Inquiry models, it is possible to evaluate how the unit stands up against established IBL, information literacy and critical thinking models. The following section of this post will break down teaching and learning in this ILA and compare it to two models.

Critical Evaluation

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy builds on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, but takes into account digital ways of learning, presenting and aspects of information literacy. It also includes collaboration, which other versions do not do, but considers it as a separate element as it beneficial to learning, but not necessary (Churches, 2009). The following table looks at each step in the model and how the ILA has met those steps. The table will then be followed by a discussion of some of the conclusions reached in the table.

Term Description Evaluation
Lower order thinking skills Remembering Recognising, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, finding, locating At this stage in the student’s education and career, it is assumed that these lower order thinking skills already exist and do not need to be covered in the unit, but were essential to complete assignment, especially the essay section. The students would have encountered many of these skills in the selection, exploration and formulation stages of their project (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007). However, according to the interviews, some students struggled initially with some of the skills required, such as using Boolean operators and ICTs.
Understanding Interpreting, summarising, inferring, paraphrasing, classifying, compiling (Churches, 2009)
Applying Interpreting, carrying out, using, executing(Churches, 2009). Students had the opportunity to apply what they were learning in their own classrooms and libraries;

‘I have learnt that what young people are reading is very relevant to what we are doing  in the classroom… we start asking them questions about what kinds of things they are doing on FB and what sorts of things they are looking at on the internet and the type of texts that they are reading’

(Interview, R1)


Analysing Comparing, organising, deconstructing, attributing, outlining, finding, scrutinising (Churches, 2009). The skill of analysing was crucial to writing many of the required blog posts. For example;‘Play a video game or watch a young person play a video game for at least half an hour and analyse the learning experiences involved’ or ‘’Compare the popular culture text offerings of an accessible public library and school library’ In both cases, student had to use some of the knowledge they had encountered over the semester to deconstruct elements of what they were observing or investigating in order to see how the compared to other ideas or activities.


Evaluating Checking, hypothesising, critiquing, experimenting, judging, testing, detecting, monitoring (Churches, 2009). Evaluation was carried out by commenting on each other’s posts. Here, students were required to critique each other’s work, if not in a formal sense. Formally, students were asked to reflect on their learning, which is evaluation of their own progress and how they have understood the concepts and creates personal meaning from these concepts.
Higher order thinking skills Creating Designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing, devising (Churches, 2009). Students were asked to establish and publish their own blog and posts. While there was an element of creation, the actual blog posts concentrated on evaluating, analysing and applying.
CollaborationCollaboration is not officially included in the taxonomy, it has added to the digital version to stay up to date with the need to collaborate in the workplace (Churches, 2009). Students were required to construct their blog in a small group and to choose a theme and focus between themselves. After this process had taken place, the student’s individually produced and published posts.


The ILA required students to use some of the lower order thinking skills such as remembering and understanding to help establish a background for the higher order thinking skills and to prepare them for assignments and class activities. Some of the activities students could choose from to complete their blog did not go beyond the analysing stage, but a majority of the activities were higher order thinking skills.

GeST Windows

While Bloom’s taxonomy is a model for looking at higher and lower order thinking skills, GeST Windows is an information literacy model which focuses on how information literacy is informed by sociocultural factors and the effect that this may have on learner’s experiences (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). The model views information literacy through three windows; the Generic, Situated and the Transformative window. Information literacy may be experienced as these windows being separate, opposing each other, or inclusive (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).

The Generic Window

In this window, students may experience information literacy as;

  • ‘Skills and processes used for finding and managing information’ (Lupton & Bruce, 2010, p. 11).
  • Measurable skills
  • Not effected by the user
  • Experienced as information retrieval classes, ICT skills and library classes (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).

As discussed in the section on Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, some of these information literacy experiences were assumed, despite some student’s having difficulties with ICT and information retrieval skills. This is evident in Questionnaire 1, where only 7% of students used Boolean operators when they were researching. Students may have experienced this in the initial stages of the project where they were exploring ideas and concepts and making decision about where they wanted to go over the semester (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007).

The Situated Window

The Situated window sees students experience information literacy as;

  • Contextual, that is based in their work or lives
  • A variety of texts, including images and film
  • Meaning is constructed through interaction with information
  • Personal (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).

Teaching and learning in this subject is mostly based in this window. Students were constantly required to relate their research and writing to their own lives, students and work and information took on a personal focus. Students were also asked to interact with different kinds of texts, including video games, movies and television shows, as well as traditional printed sources of information. Some of the responses from the students in the interviews demonstrate meaning constructed through interaction with the information. For example, R1 talked about how she thought about games after learning about them;

‘I think I am more interested in the topic after researching and writing about it, particularly about using games… I think they are very motivating for kids at school… and the reading I was doing about that for my last blog post and that sort of thing… I was amazed at how much you can learn and how you can use these games and how many things are out there that you can use that don’t even cost any money… it was really interesting to see how games are being used in different schools’

The Transformative Window

Students encounter information literacy in the Window as being;

  • Used to change self and society
  • Questioned
  • Ideological
  • Challenging to the norm.
  • Has outcomes; personal or for society (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).

While student may not have enrolled in the unit to change an aspect of society, as described in Limberg’s (2000) article about how students seek information, information encountered in the unit definitely helped them challenge elements of the education system considered to be normal. According to the interview, this change happened toward the end of the semester when they had explored topics such as using games and software in the classroom, and discovered that this was disabled or banned at their schools.


Lupton and Bruce (2010) stress the importance of having a model that is inclusive and sees information literacy as a continuum, rather than an exclusive set of elements. Their reasoning is that to be critical, an individual must also have a set of generic skills which allow them to find and explore information (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). While not necessary an information literacy model, this exclusivity can be seen in Bloom’s Taxonomy, where each of the thinking skills stands alone and not concession is given to their independency. GeST Windows are the best fit for how students have experienced learning and information in this unit. Each experience of information literacy was at least based in the Generic or Situated Window, and students had the opportunity to explore the topic in a Transformative way as well.


The unit is already ticking several Inquiry Based learning boxes;

  • Students have the opportunity to create new knowledge (Lattas, 2009)
  • Students select topics that interest them (Oxenford, et al, 2012).
  • Students collaborate
  • Students have autonomy from the lecturer (Cox, et al, 2008)

So the unit would not have to undergo drastic change to meet IBL criteria. However, according to the critical evaluation and some of the points raised in the interviews, some changes could be made to support students


In the interviews, students commented on how some assistance with technology would have been useful. Cox (et al, 2008) supports this view, saying that while students are largely autonomous from the lecturer, they still need to be supported, particularly with ICT, Information literacy and working in groups (Cox, et al, 2008 and Levy, 2012). It was clear from the structure of the unit, and the class blog that students were well supported throughout the semester; the following things could be implemented to enhance this support;

  • Support for ICT skills and problems by peers through a separate blog or Facebook page. This would mean that students were solving problem collaboratively.
  • Master classes conducted separately from main classes and tutorials for students who need extra help with technology
  • Links with Librarians, beyond the Faculty Librarian, to assist with information retrieval and information literacy skills. This Librarian could be present at tutorials to answer questions and to support students with directing their research and technical information literacy skills

Real Life problem solving

Students did have the option over them semester to explore their own interests and to observe and interact with young people. However, more could be done within the unit to allow students to identify problems, issues, or areas of interest in the workplace and to create solutions to these problems. This would allow students to follow up on the Transformative Window (Lupton & Bruce, 2010) aspect of their course, which they had began to interact with at the end of the unit. Some suggestions would be;

  • Implement extended units which would enable students to formally explore issues if they wanted to, beyond the semester long unit. This unit could be offered as an option.
  • Provide students with opportunities to observe and interact with students if they felt it would enhance their understanding and to document this observation in their blog.
  • More opportunities to embark on semester long projects and to present the findings publically. This would give students the chance to fully explore areas of interest and to identify and help to solve problems that are based in the profession and have some effect on it (Levy, 2012). This could be carried out collaboratively, and would have to remain as an option, as it may not be feasible for some external students.


This blog post has positioned the ILA in current literature regarding Inquiry Based Learning in a tertiary setting and conducted a critical evaluation using Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and GeST Windows models. The evaluation has found that the unit already meets several criteria of Inquiry Based Learning, however several recommendations have been offered, and are designed to give students extra support through the unit.

Completing this evaluation has made me think about my own information seeking in this unit and what kind of thinking skills I have used or developed over the semester. This will be discussed further in the next blog post, where I will reflect on what I have learnt, and my attitudes to the topic.


Allen, P. & Greeves, H. (2005). Inquiry Based Learning- A case study in Asian Studies. HERDSA News, 27(1), 21-23. Retrieved form

Churches, A. (2009). Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Retrieved from’s+Digital+Taxonomy

Cox, A,. Levy, P., Stordy, P., Webber, S. (2008). Inquiry-based learning in the first-year Information Management curriculum. ITALICS, 7(1). Retrieved from

Kulhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided Inquiry; Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Lattas, J. (2009). Inquiry-based learning: A tertiary perspective. Agora, 44(1), 12-46. Retrieved from;dn=033484430965006;res=IELHSS

Lee, V.S. (2012). What is Inquiry Guided learning? New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012(129), 5-14. Retrieved from

Levy, P. (2012). Developing Inquiry-Guided Learning in a research university in the United Kingdom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012 (129), 15-26. doi: 10.1002/tl.20003

Levy, P. & Petrulis, R. (2012). How do first year university students experience inquiry and research and what are the implications for the practice of inquiry-based learning? Studies in Higher Education, 37(1). pp 85-101. doi  10.1080/03075079.2010.499166

Limberg, L. (2000). Is there a relationship between information seeking and learning outcomes? In Bruce, C. and Candy, P. (Eds.) Information Literacy around the world: Advances in programs and research (pp.193-207). Wagga Wagga, CIS, Charles Sturt University.

Lupton, M. & Bruce, C. (2010).  Windows on Information Literacy Worlds : Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives in Lloyd, A. & Talja, S. (Eds). Practicing information literacy : bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, pp.3-27.

Oxenford,C., Summerfield, L., & Schuchert, M. (2012). Marymount University: Inquiry- Guided Learning as a catalyst for change. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012(129), 71-80. Retrieved from

Looking at results: interpretation and analysis

This post will look at the data gathered and interpret the themes present. It will do this by first considering the responses to the Questionnaire, then discussing the themes expressed by participants in the interviews.


The Questionnaires


At this stage there in no data available for questionnaire two, meaning that the student’s progress during the middle stage of the semester cannot be considered. However, there is enough data to make some comparisons about progress and how the student’s attitudes and skills change over the semester.


Question one:

What do you already know about the topic?


This question asks students to summarise what they know about the topic, before any learning has commenced. As demonstrated in the graph below, student responses were overwhelmingly fact based, with only 4% responding with an explanation and 7% with a conclusion. The high level of fact based responses corresponds with the timing of the questionnaire, which was delivered before the student had a chance to engage with the topic. According to Kulthau’s (et al, 2007) Model of the Information Search Process, the students would be in the initiation stage, where the higher level thinking skills require to formulate explanations or conclusions based statements has not yet been reached.


Ogle (1986) discusses the KWL teaching model, saying that the first steps in the process, or gaging what the students already, know is important as it helps students access their prior knowledge of the topic and takes into consideration what they are bringing to the project.


What do you already know about the topic?



Question two:

How interested are you in the topic?


Question two asked students what their level of interest was at the beginning of the project. Except for one student, responses were ‘quite a bit’ or a’ great deal’, as demonstrated by the graph below. Students were given the opportunity to explain their answer. Several students explained this response, saying that they were interested due to their roles as teacher librarians and educators and that it would be useful to know more about what the student are interested in. For example, respondent three wrote


As a secondary TL, I’m very interested in what makes my students tick in the reading department’



How interested are you in the topic?



Question three:

How much do you know about the topic?


This question required students to score their prior knowledge of the subject. According to the graph, ten of the students answered ‘quite a bit’ with the rest answering ‘a great deal.’ This level of prior knowledge in the topic could be due to the fact that a majority of the students already work in a school or a school library and are familiar with popular culture texts and how young people engage with them.



How much do you know about the topic?




Question four:

Where are you most likely to go to find information about this topic?


As demonstrated by the graph, most students relied on the internet or course material to find their information. This trend is discussed by Korobili,( et al 2011) who also found that students were more likely to use the internet to source information for its ease of use and accessibility.


Where are you most likely to go to find information abou this topic?


These results may also be effected by the timing of the questionnaire in the course. Students were responding to the questions at a time in the course where they were still in the initiation, selection and exploration stage of the project (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007). As the students moved through the semester, their sources of information may have become increasingly varied as they searched for more sophisticated information. Unfortunately, due to the lack of responses for questionnaire three it is difficult to investigate this further.


Question five:

How are you most likely to search for information?


This question asked students if they collaborated with other while they researched, and if so how? Kuhlthau ( et al, 2007) indicates that research done in small groups makes it a social process where students can share perspective and ‘co-create.’ Korobili, (et al, 2011) also found that students in their study preferred to have input in their research from others


However, as indicated but the graph, only one person chose to research with others, with the rest of the respondents researching individually. This may be a result of the structure of the course, which is offered externally. Students may not have the time or opportunity to collaborate personally with other students, choosing to research online with others, as it is easier.


How are you most likely to search for information?


Question six:

How often do you use Boolean operators?


Question six required students to think about how they search for information and attempted to gauge the level of their searching. According to the graph, 64% of students occasionally used Boolean operators when they were searching, with 29% saying they never used them and 7% always using them.


How often do you use Boolean operators?


These results may give an indication of the level of information literacy of the respondents. However, this does not necessarily have a direct influence on their level of understanding or synthesis of the topics and ideas looked at in the course. Limberg (2000), in her article about the links between information seeking behaviour and learning outcomes, discusses the idea that there is little or no relationship between the technical skills of researching and being able to compare, synthesis and analyse information, saying;


‘No relationship was found between learning outcomes and the more technical aspects of information searching such as the formulation of queries, the combination of search terms, or the technical skills connected to computer use’ (limberg, 2000, p.200).


The interviews

(please note the respondents will be referred to as R1 and R2 to protect their identities. Unit names have also been omitted)


Links between learning and pedagogy


Question one asked the participants to reflect on how they had progressed through the semester, and how their knowledge of the topic had changed. The participants did not go into specifics about what they knew, but related how their knowledge of the topic was reflected in their day to day lives and jobs. R1 commented on how she began to look differently at how her students were interacting with the Internet and social media;


we started asking them questions about what kinds of things they are doing on FB and what sorts of things they are looking at on the internet and the type of texts that they are reading…’


R2 reflected on her how she felt positive about her ability to help her students after completing the course;


The shift that I have made from Q1 is that I feel like I have made some progress there and feel positive about the response that I got from the class that I was teaching…in that they were actually happy with how I was helping them find websites’


These responses show that at the end of their project, the students are starting to make connections between what they are learning and how this information and knowledge will affect their teaching practice or work in the library.


The link between learning was also evident in question two, which asked students to gauge their interest levels in the subject after almost completing the semester. R1 stated she became interested after she saw how some of the popular culture text she was learning about could help motivate her students;


‘I think I am more interested in the topic after researching and writing about it, particularly about using games… I think they are very motivating for kids at school…’


R2 on the other hand, was increasingly interested in the subject for her own personal interest, but was still wary about implementing it in the classroom, saying that inquiry based learning in the classroom could have some challenges;


‘You try to put it into an actual classroom… and its really difficult because you don’t have time and the teacher might be telling them something and then you’re telling them something else.. and then they’ve got their own ideas as well… I have a year four class, so 9- 10  years old and they’re like ‘do we really have to do this question? I really want to play this game right now” so just getting them to be structured and keep researching… they just didn’t seem to have that push to keep continuing.. so I am actually more interested and I suppose for myself as an adult I felt quite engaged in doing this Inquiry Based learning… I feel like I want to keep learning more about it and I am not going to stop here at the end of this subject’


R1 went to on say how it became difficult for her to reflect on aspects of her learning without linking it to teaching


‘I found it difficult to just reflect on something without saying how I would use it in the classroom because a lot of the literature we were reading was about how it related to education… It was difficult for me to try to separate that and make it just a reflection rather than an aspect of pedagogy’


At this point in the course, students are applying their knowledge to their life and making connections between the topics and the discipline and enjoying their exploration of the themes and ideas (Lupton, 2008).


Reflecting on technology and research.


Several questions in the interview asked the respondents to reflect on how their research had changed over the course of the semester, and if they found research easier after they had engaged with the topic. Both respondents found the research easier. R2 commented on how skills learnt in other subjects helped her with the research for this subject


I used the research skills from that to help me find stuff for [the course]… so research didn’t really become more difficult..’


R1, on the other hand, spoke about how group work helped her research, as members were able to support each other;


‘Like our groups where we support each other and talk about our assignments and help each other out’


This response is a contrast to questionnaire one, where most respondents indicated that they preferred to search for information alone, as demonstrated by the graph below. A possible explanation for this is that as the course progressed, students felt more comfortable asking each other for help as they developed relationships with their peers


How are you most likely to search for information


Another theme that was apparent when the respondents were asked about the difficulty of research was the problems that they encountered using new technology. The course required students to develop their own blog in groups and to communicate via a class blog. R2 commented on being overwhelmed by the multitude of platforms that had to be used in order to complete the course;


When I first started using some of the things… there were so many different things we had to start getting on too… even when we had blogs [the course] and for [the other course] … and there’s FB, there’s Evernote… I feel sometimes in a way there is too many places and technology that I have to keep a handle on’


R1 saw this as an opportunity to learn new things which could help in her teaching practice and spoke about the sense of achievement felt when thing went right, despite initial feelings of anxiety;


‘[and] just learning not to be afraid I think, of the web tools and to just embrace them and learn about it’


‘… but at the same time I have felt a huge feeling of achievement when I have actually got it all together’


R1 also made links between the inquiry process and her own experience with learning new technology,


‘But I guess that is a part of the inquiry isn’t it? That you flounder around and find it our for yourself… ‘


Real world problems


Both respondents spoke extensively about their experiences with blocked sites in the classroom and how it prevented the students they were observing from finding relevant information. Powell (et al, 2001) speaks about teaching critical literacy and how it can lead to social action as ‘students begin to discover and internalise the problems of society (Powell, et al, 2001, p.779).’ As the students moved through the course, they began to see the potential of the Internet and software in teaching and learning, but encountered barriers to this in the form of restrictive censorship by school authorities. R2 commented;


‘It is difficult in a way… you are thinking in the real world about how you can apply all of the ideas presented to you… and then have those restrictions put in place’


Students in this instance are moving away from considering the assignment simply as fact finding to meet assignment requirements, and seeing their involvement in the course as an opportunity to identify and solve problems (Lupton, 2008).



The data collected through the questionnaire and the interview has identified several trends and student attitudes towards the ILA and how they learn and research. These themes  and issues will be used to help critically evaluate the ILA and to form the basis of the recommendations.


Korobili, S., Malliari, A. & Zapounidou, S. (2012) Factors that influence information-seeking behaviour: The case of Greek students. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(2), 155-165. Retrieved from

Kulhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided Inquiry; Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Limberg, L. (2000). Is there a relationship between information seeking and learning outcomes? In Bruce, C. and Candy, P. (Eds.) Information Literacy around the world: Advances in programs and research (pp.193-207). Wagga Wagga, CIS, Charles Sturt University.

Lupton, M (2008) Evidence, argument and social responsibility: first-years students experiences of information literacy while researching an essay. Higher Education Research & Development 27(4) pp.399-414

Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39(6), p. 564-570. Retrieved from

Powell, R; Cantrell, S and Adams, S. (2001). Saving Black Mountain : the promise of critical literacy in a multicultural democracy.   The Reading Teacher, 54 (8), 772-781. Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Course Materials Database.



[a big thank you to Megan and Katie for collaborating on the data collection]



After the initial stress of having to change the focus of my ILA, the process of collecting the data and analysing began.

Gathering data was complicated by the fact that the participants and researchers were not in the same location, and all had extremely busy timetables, juggling work, life and university. This made it almost impossible to interview person to person or to observe learning in context.

The Questionnaires
Taking these factors into consideration, questionnaires one and two were conducted online using SurveyMonkey. This meant that the participants could complete the surveys at any time with little interruption to their schedule. Results could also be shared easily between researchers.

The questionnaires themselves were based on the SLIM questionnaires, but were modified to suit tertiary students. For example questions 4 and 5:

When you research, what do you generally find easy to do?

When you research, what do you generally find difficult to do?

were replaced with

Where are you most likely to go to find information about this topic (e.g. textbook/s, internet search, database search, blogs/wikis)?

How are you most likely to search for information?

How often do you use Boolean operators?

The change in questioning meant that more targeted information could be obtained about how students researched for the ILA and takes into account that student’s have existing research skills at this stage in their education.

The Interviews
Instead of the last SLIM questionnaire, interviews were carried out with the participants using the universities online collaboration site. This site allows participants to talk to each other using microphones, meaning that it as close to a natural interview process as possible. The questions used for the interview followed that same pattern as the SLIM questionnaires, but again, the last three questions were modified so that researchers could follow up on themes explored in the previous questionnaires.


Responses from questionnaire two are yet to arrive. Due to the structure of the units and people’s schedules, it was decided to run the interviews before these results were received.

Questionnaire one was analysed using the guideline set out in the SLIM toolkit. This involved coding each response as fact, statement, explanation or conclusion and arranging the results into graphs. These graphs indicate changes in student’s thinking and attitudes over the semester. Below is an example graph.

An example graph (no data from Q2 available yet)

As the interviews are not quantifiable, themes had to be picked out of the responses. This process was made easier by transcribing the interview, which allowed to researchers to read through each participant’s response and draw out the relevant themes. Only two participants were involved in the interviews, but both were able to speak extensively about their experiences and raised a lot of interested ideas and issues (these will be discussed in later blog posts).

Where to from here?

Now that the data has been gathered, organised and the main themes identified, it will have to be interpreted and critically evaluated. This will mean making links with inquiry and curriculum standards and other relevant literature, and also drawing conclusions about the success of the ILA based on current literature.

Deep breath! Here we go!


Talking to a person about something you are thinking about can help to focus your thoughts and can often point you in new directions. In making these presentations about my ILA and data collection, the simple act of putting together a PowerPoint and formulating a script to go with it, acted as a catalyst for thinking and got me past the confusion/doubt stage for starting my blog stage two.




Links and references for presentation 1

SLIM toolkit





Links and references for presentation 2

Korobili, S., Malliari, A. & Zapounidou, S. (2012) Factors that influence information-seeking behaviour: The case of Greek students. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(2), 155-165. Retrieved from


Kulhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided Inquiry; Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.



Links and references for presentation 3


you can find my Annotated bibliography here

Churches, A. (2009). Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Retrieved from’s+Digital+Taxonomy

Lupton, M. & Bruce, C. (2010) Windows on Information Literacy Worlds: Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives. In Lloyd, A. & Talja, S. (2010) Practising Information Literacy: bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together (pp. 3-27) Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies.

ILA revisited

Sometimes things do not go as planned, and we need to stop, rethinking and head in a new direction. This is exactly what happened to me with my data collection. After not getting as many responses as I had hoped with my original ILA, I have transferred my data collection to another unit in the MA of Teacher Librarianship course at the same University. I realised that this would have been a sound original choice, as there are already other students using this as their ILA and  most of the students in this unit are also studying the Inquiry unit. Oh well, you live and learn!

The new ILA involves students studying popular culture texts in order to gain an understanding of how they  play a role in forming the identity, values and attitudes of teenagers. This is important for a Teacher Librarian as it helps them to understand the needs and wants of this age group, so they can provided meaningful resources and programs for them in the school library.

The topics covered in the unit are:

  • Key concepts, issues and emerging trends relevant to popular culture and youth
  • Tools for analysing texts and concepts
  • Reflective tools and activities design to help develop knowledge, skills and learning.

Assessment in the unit involves individual work, combined with a Blog, which is complied collaboratively with other students in the unit. Students are able to choose form a list of nine different activities, including interviewing young people about the type of texts they read, playing video games and analysing the leaning experiences involved and describing a cultural phenomenon and looking at the cross- media and intertextual features. Students also have the opportunity to explore topics that interest them, in negotiation with a course supervisor.

The Blog itself is a live and publically accessible. Students are required to negotiate with their team mates to arrive at a theme and look for their blog and to follow Blog conventions such as hypertext, tags, links and formatting. While the blog is a collaborative effort, students are required to submit individual posts, and are marked individually. Each student has to prepare two long posts, which reflect on what is learnt in the unit and the implications of what is learnt in the unit on school libraries and Teacher Librarians or how learning can be used in future practice.

Despite the initial stress of having to start my data collection from scratch, I am feeling very positive about this new and am excited to actually be a at the stage where I can interpret data and start making sense of it. In relation to Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process, I am moving away form Exploration stage, and feelings of confusion and doubt, to the Formulation stage, with some clarity finally starting to shine through!

Questionnaire 3….

Time really has flown! I remember filling out questionnaire 1 and thinking how far away questionnaire 2 and 3 were… and here we are!


1. Take some time to think about your topic. Now write down what you know about it.
•Inquiry Based learning has many names!

• It allows students to focus on their own interests and personalise learning
• The teacher and teacher-librararian acts as a facilitator and support the student through their inquiry
• IBL has a basis in Constructivist educational theory
• It can be implemented at all stages of education
• It promotes working collaboratively, both with fellow students, teachers and experts
• It links the real world to learning
• It promotes life long learning, ;eadership, critical thinking, creativity and helps students to synthesise inforamtion in a way that is meaningful.

2. How interested are you in this topic? Check (•) one box that best matches your interest.
Not at all ☐ not much ☐ quite a bit a great deal ☐

3. How much do you know about this topic? Check (•) one box that best matches how much you know.
Nothing ☐ not much ☐ quite a bit a great deal ☐

Saying that, I feel I have more to learn and I am definitely no expert! But, if someone asked me what Inquiry Based Learning is, I could give them a decent idea.

4. Thinking of your research so far – what did you find easy to do? Please mention as many things as you like.
5. Thinking of your research so far – what did you find difficult to do? Please mention as many things as you like.

For me, the answers to these two questions have not changed since the first questionnaire. However, for a student who is learning skills as well as content, these answers may change as they progress. Having this response to these questions the second time around makes me wonder if this questionnaire will be relevant to tertiary students, especially those who are a Masters level and would presumably have adequate research skills. Maybe the questionnaire will need to be changed for my investigation.

6. How do you feel about your research so far? Check (•) one box that best matches how you feel.
Frustrated – I can’t find what I want ☐
Overwhelmed – I’m finding it hard to sort through the information ☐
Confused – I don’t really know what I’m looking for ☐
Confident – I think I know where I’m heading ☐

At this point, I am feeling all four! I feel confident that I can successfully negotiate the topic, a fact that I was nervous about, being out of education for so long, and confident that I have completed everything as best I could so far. However, I am definitely feeling a bit confused, frustrated and overwhelmed by what I have to achieve in the second half of the unit, and even more so after having a disastrous response to my questionnaire and really having no data to work with ( but more about that in future blog posts!).

ERIC and Booleans: My nemesis?

I have always struggled with the concept of Boolean operators, even though it really is quite straight forward, it is just one of those things that I can’t seem to click with. I found that having a diagram helped me understand Boolean Operators better, and you can find some great ones here. I think the best way to approach them is not to sweat the mechanics too much, just get in there and experiment and see what kind of results you get, which is exactly what I did with ERIC and ProQuest.

Usually, befor searching I like to have a look at the rules of the database. Doing this helps me refresh my memory and to see if there are any tricks to searching that are unique to the database. you can find the search tips for ERIC here, but you will find they are the same for any ProQuest database.


(you can find my last expert search, mentioned in the video here)

Results: Time to reflect!

The results from my search of ERIC

I though this search went relatively well, and resulted in some interesting articles. Here is a break down of what I found.

Outline Results Reflections /comments
Science Inquiry 3 I was not interested in these articles as they do not relate to my ILA
Articles based on library research skills 1 Had some relevant points.
Article about Inquiry based learning in higher education, but do not discuss the role of the library 5 These article would provide good background reading, which has already been carried out in previous searches
Article about the role of the library in Inquiry Based Learning at university 5 These articles are the most relevant.
Articles about library management systems 2 I was surprised that these came up in an ERIC search!
Inquiry Based Learning and universities form a policy point of view 2 These could provide a background, but were mainly irrelevant for this investigation
irrelevant 4

I think one day, Boolean operators and I will be best of friends, but I wonder if they will be relevant if databases go the way of Google and start using natural language searching? I wonder if it will be easier or harder to find relevant articles?

Something to ponder!

Me and Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process: Best of friends

After looking at Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process diagram, my initial thought was that as a university student, my search process might be totally different, or at least have more steps. But, after a couple of days reading and reflection, I came to the conclusion that it is EXACTLY THE SAME!! The following table demonstrates why:

Kahlthau’s Model of the Information Search Process My Journey
1. Initiation

  • Apprehension
  • Uncertainty
This step was relatively straightforward. Enrol, read study guide, listen to first lecture, panic.
2. Selection

  • Choose general topic
  • Questioning
  • Weight topic against personal interests
  • Anxiety
This step for me was really dictated by circumstance. Not being in an educational setting meant I had to base my investigation and data gathering on a university unit. I was elated to have arrived at that decision, but also anxious about how I proceeded by there and would I have the ‘smarts’ to complete the tasks, considering I was so out of touch with current educational discourse.
3. Exploration

  • Exploring information
  • Find a focus
  • Inconsistencies and incompatibilities in information
  • Challenges to preconceived notions
  • Confusion and wanting to drop topic
  • New knowledge to form a new perspective


Beginning to explore the topic was like coming back to my comfort zone and the familiar routine of researching and reading. I definitely began to see some incompatibilities in the literature, in that some of the articles were for secondary or primary education and did not fit with the tertiary context.Kuhlthau describes this stage as being difficult, confusing and not unusual for the student to want to drop their topic, which I experienced. After more reading, however, things began to make sense and I think developing an understanding of the topic and the assignment helped.
4. Formulation

  • Focus for research, through personal interest, available material and time available
The formulation and collection steps in this investigation were often repeated, especially as the research progressed and new information was found, or new ideas about how to approach the topic were formulated.
5. Collection

  • Gather information to support and extend focus
6. Presentation

  • Culmination of the Inquiry process
  • Different feelings; happy or disappointed
  • Reflection and self assessment


Presentation in this unit is an ongoing, so this step was often repeated as well. Kuhlthau describes mixed feelings about this step, which I experienced. Mostly I was elated at finally getting to post something, but anxious about whether it was ‘right.’

  • Teacher and students judge how they went
  • Important step- reflection on what worked and what did not work
(Hopefully good *winning smile* )I think this step has been present throughout the process in that blog and each step of the research has been reflected on (not always meaningful reflection, I might add, sometimes it was as basic as ‘wow, that took longer than I thought’).