mrs c in the library

Reflections of a Teacher Librarian


Inquiry-based learning

ETL401: Assessing Information Literacy and Inquiry Learning

Current literature indicates that the opportunities for Teacher Librarians (TLs) to assess Information Literacy (ILit) and Inquiry Learning (IL) are wide and varied (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2007; Stripling, 2007; Brown 2008), irrespective of the process of ILit undertaken. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007) advocate Guided Inquiry, Stripling (2007) has developed her own Stripling Inquiry Model consisting of 6 phases – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect; and Brown generalises across models of ILit and IL.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007), when discussing Guided Inquiry, draw the distinction between assessment and evaluation – assessment advises what students have already learnt and what they need further assistance with during the unit, whereas evaluation advises what they have learnt and achieved throughout the whole unit (page 111). The Guided Inquiry process requires formative assessment to be undertaken throughout the unit and it is the results of formative assessment that indicate students’ zone of proximal development and therefore intervention required. They also assert that “..assessment should be part of the student’s own learning process”. Becoming self-aware and knowledgable, developing metacognition about how they learn and how to improve their ability to learn is often identified as part of the evaluation process of Guided Inquiry.

Similarly, Stripling (2007) suggests that assessment should be naturally included in the Inquiry process. She sees assessment as an examination of students’ information fluency, a term that she says replaces information literacy. Information fluency recognises that students are no longer required to just know the skills of IL but they must also be able to apply them fluently, in learning situations, whether at school or at home. (page 25).

Stripling’s (2007) Inquiry Model consists of 6 phases – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect. She matches three types of assessment to these phases. Diagnostic assessment, such as the K part of Know, Wonder, Learn charts, or other pre-tests, lend themselves to the Connect phase, as students are required to make connections between the topic and their personal, past experiences. Formative assessment suits the Wonder, Investigate and Construct phases, where students’ actual research results, predictions, evaluations of evidence and conclusions can be assessed through forms, templates, conferences and portfolios. Summative assessments clearly match the Express and Reflect phases, where students’ construction of new knowledge and creation or use of it in a new way (information fluency) can be measured against their previous knowledge and reflected in their metacognition of the learning process. Stripling’s incorporation of assessment into the various phases of her model also incorporates the zone of proximal development approach. She says, “Formative assessment is the measurement of knowledge and skills during the process of learning (the Wonder, Investigate and Construct phases of inquiry) in order to inform the next steps” (page 27).

Brown’s (2008) approach to assessment is a little different. She suggests a rubric approach that can be used from early years learning all the way up to college. Brown says that the benefit in developing rubrics lies in their inherent value as an authentic method for assessment that allows us to clearly identify whether or not a research project has used information appropriately and if conclusions drawn are accurate and useful. Produced as part of the programming process, in collaboration with the classroom teacher, rubrics seem to be most effective as an evaluation, but they can also be used throughout the inquiry process.

Some important considerations must be made: Does the rubric limit us? Are we only looking at those elements pre-determined by the rubric, and if we provide them to students so that they can do ongoing self-assessment, are we limiting their expectations of what’s required? Would we get richer results if it was open-ended, both in our minds and on paper?

On the other hand, rubrics do create an opportunity for TLs to collaborate with teachers on a shared vision of what should be achieved and therefore create a physical and cognitive connection between evaluation and the school library program. They are also a significant element of student feedback – indicating a “0” for achievement level on a specific dimension makes it quite clear for the student that what they have produced is unacceptable. When conducted as a formative assessment, this provides the student with concrete information about where they can improve and therefore allows them the opportunity to reach the final intended outcome successfully.

Whatever approach is used in assessment and evaluation in Inquiry Learning, one thing is true – Librarians are in an excellent position to provide longitudinal assessment of learning over time as they typically see each student in a school throughout their school years. This makes our evidence powerful and creates a sense of urgency in ensuring that assessment and evaluation become embedded in our practice.


Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing informative fluency: Gathering evidence of student learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(8), 25-29.

Brown, C.A. (2008). Building rubrics: A step-by-step process, Library Media Connection, January, 16-18. Available


ETL401 – Exploring Information Process Models

After reviewing the plethora of information process models I am finding myself going through the same process as our students! The uncertainty that Kuhlthau asserts is necessary for the construction of personal knowledge is being evidenced first hand. Unfortunately I do not have a kindly teacher to be my soundboard, to make things clearer and guide my approach as I refine my practice.

Nevertheless, I have found that all of these models have merit and some make more sense than others in particular contexts. The Research Cycle, Focus on Reading, Guided Inquiry, Big6 and all the other variations have many similarities. The old cliche is true – the devil is in the detail. I think that there is great merit in the emphasis of metacognition in the information seeking process. This reflects the new Australian Curriculum’s focus on thinking about thinking and thinking about learning. It also marries well with my current Primary School’s Focus on Reading strategies; Comprehension, Reading and Vocabulary Enrichment (CRAVE) strategies and Mathematical Problem Solving Strategies.

For me, in my current context as a Teacher Librarian, attempting to implement collaborative programming where possible, where teachers are willing to collaborate on shared programs, the simplicity of the Big6 and the revised, Super3 appeals. Like most models, it has a sound metacognitive development framework and can easily incorporate more affective dimensions, similar to Guided Inquiry. Big6 and Super3 require the TL to explicitly instruct students at their zone of proximal development. It is also non-linear which means that specific steps in the process can become a focus if there is an identified need. This approach is also consistent with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training’s, Information Process Model.

The simplicity of Big6 and Super3 means that I may be able to extend collaborative programming beyond those few teachers who are willing to collaborate on research-based projects. I think that the principles are easy to promote to the Principal and other teachers and tracking transference of skills can be achieved. By showing teachers (through action research), the contributions that Big6 and Super3 can make in student writing, planning and organising throughout school learning, enough evidence should be gained to implement it inside AND outside of the library.

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