iInquire… iLearn… iCreate… iShare: Guided Inquiry at Broughton Anglican College

Alinda Sheerman provides an overview of a guided inquiry project for Year 10. Included are some reflections from students.

An image of Alinda Sheeman, teacher librarian at Broughton Anglican College
Image: Alinda Sheerman, teacher librarian at Broughton Anglican College

The learning context

Established in 1986, Broughton Anglican College is an independent, coeducational,

Preparatory to Year 12 day school at Menangle Park NSW that is committed to quality education for students from all backgrounds and cultures.

After a staff presentation in 2009 on the application of the Guided Inquiry process to four Year 7 History classes, Brad Gillion approached the teacher librarian, Alinda Sheerman, with a request to be supported in its implementation for one of his classes in 2010.

For this purpose, he selected Option 12 School-developed option of the NSW Commerce Years 7–10 syllabus in which the students undertook research of a personally selected topic. A class wiki was used to share and present learning. The teacher librarian supported the teacher and students in a teams approach to learning and also undertook action research to assess the use of Guided Inquiry in the teaching and learning process.

Strategies used to gather evidence of the learning

The Student Learning through Inquiry Measure (SLIM) toolkit was used to analyse individual needs at three stages of the inquiry process so that individual support could be given at the point of need. This analysis was also an indicator of learning and was used in action research.

Additional evidence was recorded by

  • asking questions and recording students’ responses about their journey throughout the process (using a small Flip Mino camera)
  • competing an online survey at the evaluation stage
  • sending a brief questionnaire home to parents.

This gave a complete picture of how the students travelled at all stages and on all fronts. The teacher librarian analysed all of these results and discussed them with the class teacher and later the team shared the experience at a K-12 staff meeting to promote the use of Guided Inquiry across the school.

Key learning achieved by students

It is amazing how many syllabus outcomes and objectives were met through using the Guided Inquiry process. In analysing the work done by the class, it was very evident that every student achieved almost all outcomes and objectives.

The teacher and teacher librarian shared the assessment of the tasks evaluating both content and skills. The content for the unit of work was varied as students could select an issue of personal interest. Consequently, through sharing on the wiki, in completing peer evaluation and through listening to presentations, students gained and shared a vast amount knowledge about many issues in society – on topics such as Eco-Consumerism and The use of sow stalls.

Joshua Little and Nicola Breward produced outstanding work. All students, without exception, achieved well above their usual level of work and all made excellent presentations to their peers both through their wiki pages and in oral presentations.

Joshua’s reflections

In 2010, the Year 10 Commerce class at Broughton Anglican College studied the topic ‘Current issues in Australian society’ using the process of Guided Inquiry. This was a new and at times daunting experience, but was very rewarding and exciting in the end. My topic was inspired by the 2010 Federal Election, in particular the issue of asylum seekers and border protection.

This involved posing the following research question:

Evaluate and assess (with recommendations) which border protection policy services the needs of both the Commonwealth of Australia and refugees.

Forming my own recommendations was the highlight of my Guided Inquiry research. I completed a policy analysis of the asylum seekers policies of each of the major political parties, as well as the views of the United Nations. I designed a 12 point policy, which I felt met the needs of Australia and asylum seekers/refugees. I placed a strong emphasis on encouraging legal migration and a high intake of bona fide refugees from the United Nations High Commissioner.

After studying the various forms of visas available to asylum seekers (including permanent protection and the former temporary protection visas), I developed my own class of visa – the Refugee Protection Visa. My policy discouraged illegal immigration through initiatives such as third country mandatory detention, while still seeking, where applicable, to protect the rights of children and families during detention.

When I reflect about the Guided Inquiry process, I can see how it challenged and extended my learning. The Guided Inquiry process allowed me to shape a question which I passionately and actively desired to answer thoroughly. This was the aspect of Guided Inquiry that I found most pleasing – posing a question that I had designed which was of great interest to me. The scaffolds and especially the use of Wiki pages to present information relevant to my question were very beneficial. The structured nature of Guided Inquiry – the stages of information research (for example, exploration, formulation, collection ...) were of great assistance in building knowledge of my topic.

The work I have completed through Guided Inquiry has made me feel extremely satisfied. I have been able to develop my own policy from the detailed research I completed. It is a fantastic feeling when you have used knowledge through the process of Guided Inquiry to create your own practical ideas to be seen and have an impact upon the world.

Nicola’s reflections

I took part in Guided Inquiry on the topic of ‘Current issues in Australian society’. The issue I studied was ‘Depression and Self Harm’. I found the process extremely rewarding. I learnt ways to look deeper into the topic and found I could apply the skills of gathering information to my everyday life both in other topics at school and in general.

My teachers guided every step of my inquiry. I learnt to look at numerous different sources before deciding on the information I would include. I also learnt much about copyright laws. I went through stages of confusion and desperation throughout the inquiry process from all the information. Sometimes it was like I was drowning in facts and figures! What I felt most though was excitement and anticipation towards the final product!

I conducted surveys for my classmates to complete on the topics of depression and self harm. They were anonymous and I found the information gathered in these surveys were on par with the information I had gathered about the rest of Australia.

I was incredibly proud of my work! It wasn’t just any assignment; it had become my own project. By the end of the process the information really had become my own. I knew my topic like the back of my hand and I had become extremely passionate about it. This is still the case now. It was honestly the most fulfilling piece of work I have ever completed.

Keywords: student reflection; student-centred learning

How to cite this article: Sheerman, A. 2011, ‘iInquire… iLearn… iCreate… iShare: Guided Inquiry at Broughton Anglican College’, Scan 30(1)

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