Supporting Articles

Inquiry Learning in Primary School Geography Classrooms

Following is a collection of sources discovered during the expert searching process. The ILA focus for Module 2 have parameters which feature inquiry learning within geography in a primary school environment. The collection of sources within this annotated bibliography have a combination of two or more of these key elements, with a variety of point of views featured. To ensure the quality of these chosen sources, I utilised the CARS checklist, to develop an evaluation criteria for selection.

 Sources need to be:

  • a trustworthy source with author’s credentials
  • current, comprehensive, and reflect intention
  • a source that engages the subject reasonably
  • able to support claims with listed sources and documentation
  • able relate to the focus of inquiry learning in primary schools in the subject area of geography
  • a combination of professional resources and scholarly writings applicable to inquiry learning
CARS Checklist for Source Evaluation

CARS Checklist for Source Evaluation

The aim of this collection is to aid my investigation into geography in primary schools – what does it smell like, feel like, and look like, especially to the children involved. These articles cover topics such as social change and world awareness, inquiry learning approaches with unit planning and framework overviews, and the impact technology has and will continue to have on student learning.

Source 1 – found via Google Scholar

Chu, S (2008). Grade 4 students’ development of research skills through inquiry-based learning projects. School libraries worldwide, 14 (1), p. 10.

This research paper is based on a study of an inquiry based learning project with 141 Year 4 students in Hong Kong, and examines how they develop their knowledge and skills within the process. It promotes the introduction of IBL into the general studies curriculum as a way to help students develop basic inquiry, investigative, and problem-solving skills. It argues that rote learning is still the dominant way of teaching and learning worldwide, and promotes the use of inquiry based learning projects as a way to help bridge the gap for learners of the 21st century. It highlights how the supportive roles of the teachers can influence the development of the research skills in the students. Furthermore this article identifies and describes a four-step ‘Process of students’ knowledge Cultivation’ – topic information, data collection and evaluation, findings and analysis, presentation and reporting, and highly recommends working collaboratively throughout the process. This study demonstrates how a collaborative approach involving three kinds of teachers and the school librarian, can equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to conduct IBL projects works effectively.

Initially, I chose this article for the target age group of students involved, as it matches my group of students for the ILA, and papers written for the middles years of primary school inquiry learning have been hard to find. Although the documented scenario is on a grand scale, the promotion and application of IBL projects described could provide a guide of how small schools initiate through the students’ knowledge cultivation process. It is a starting point for teacher-librarians to work collaboratively with teaching staff to develop custom made inquiry learning designs during planning. This article has strong credibility with supportive references and research colleagues highly accomplished in this field.

Source 2 – found via Google Scholar

Kerawalla, L. (2013). Personal inquiry learning trajectories in geography: technological support across contexts. Interactive learning environments, 21 (6), p. 497.

The intention of this article is to understand the ways in which the development of young people’s inquiry learning trajectories across contexts when supported through their use of nQuire . nQuire is a personal inquiry tool kit, originally designed for science, however is implemented as a new technological approach to aide within the geography fieldwork. The Personal Inquiry (PI) project has developed a scripted personal inquiry approach which supports teachers’ and students’ understanding of the inquiry process in terms of inquiry phases (e.g. plan my methodology) and associated activities. It promotes the engagement of students in the design of inquiries, as a way of learning about the inquiry process and the domain being studied, and differs to other types of learning experiences where they are less involved in creating lesson content and activities. The aim of this article is to shed light on the ways in which the teacher and her students used nQuire and whether it played a role in mediating the students’ progression through their inquiries. The findings illustrate how the students’ use of nQuire supported their understanding, and planning, of what they needed to do, why, how, when and where, all in relation to their geography fieldwork.

Reading this article suggests the very nature of thinking outside the square by using a science web-based tool and applying it to geography fieldwork. In the teacher-librarian role, we are required to modify resources and accommodate for new learning experiences frequently. This approach showed a flexible, evolving, collectively constructed inquiry space, in which the groups’ unfolding understanding of ‘doing an inquiry’ was being constituted. It also reminds us as educator how important the value of technology is within the inquiry learning process for the modern learner, and to be brave enough to venture into ideas that could compliment a learning opportunity. Be ground breaking in your planning and implementing of inquiry learning units!

Source 3 – found via Google Scholar

Pappas, M.L. (2009). Inquiry and 21st-Century Learning. School library media activities monthly, 25 (9), p. 49.

In this article, Pappas discusses the framework and new standards for 21st Century learning, which incorporates information, media and technology skills, and reflects on the effectiveness of geographical pedagogy worldwide. Further discussion comes from rote learning as a result of passing standardised testing, and Pappas debates that the emphasis on learning content is in direct contrast to the world outside the school walls. The technological capability to provide access to content already exists and students are extremely capable of sourcing it. However, it is what students do with the information at their fingertips, which leads to the suggestion of guided inquiry bridging the gap. With a brief description of different models suitable for use by the library media specialist in collaboration with classroom teachers, Pappas advocates that guided inquiry requires the engagement of the classroom teacher or the library media specialist, to use questioning and reflection to help guide students to a deeper understanding that ultimately leads them to ask, “What did I learn?”. In conclusion, there is a push to develop evaluating skills in the digital natives of today, to determine the usefulness of the data recovery, and therefore increasing the relevant use of technology as part of the learning journey.

It is made clear throughout this article that the importance of developing information literacy skills in students is paramount. The 21st century learners have information at their fingertips, and may be expert ‘surfers’ but not expert ‘searchers’. I have seen this scenario demonstrated countless times when a research task has commenced. This article also provides a comprehensive list of web tools and inquiry-focused web resources.

Source 4 – found via Google Scholar

Kidman, G. (2012). Geographical inquiry in Australian schools: a retrospective analysis. International research in geographical and environmental education, 21 (4), p. 311.

This entertaining article explores the autobiographical context of Kidman’s geography education, to expose the inquiry learning opportunities, and the lack thereof, made available during the 1970’s and 1980’s. It provides an overview of school geography courses and frameworks from 1911 – 1987, with the descriptive nature of textbooks and lack of qualified teachers impinging on the geographical pedagogies. Students and teachers were encouraged to enjoy their own environment and to visit other environments but student inquiry work done in their own time. This article also emphasises a dual role: teaching by inquiry (general inquiry) and the notion of teaching as inquiry; teaching as inquiry stresses active student learning and the importance of understanding a topic. Kidman also points out that although the Australian Curriculum: Geography heavily advocates for geographical inquiry, it is crucial to acknowledge the issues in regards to the lack of teacher professional learning, to ensure successful implementation of inquiry in geography. Through the process of geographical inquiry, we can construct understanding of the natural and human-designed worlds. It is important for schools to change from a focus on “what we know” to an emphasis on “how we come to know.”

Kidman advocates that geographical inquiry should be seen as activities, which allow us to study the characteristics and functioning of our world, or the problems in our world and that we need to start this process in the early grades of primary school. This notion supports my thoughts that inquiry-based learning skills should be consistently nurtured and developed during the primary years, and where possible should be presented via co-curricula formats. If we were to think of inquiry skills as part of our learning toolbox, we would need to pack them on a daily basis, just like our lunchbox.

Source 5 – found via A+ Education

 Ashworth, W. (2002). The primary geographer : inquiring and thinking : using the inquiry process and De Bono’s thinking hats to investigate. Interaction, 30 (4), p. 41.

This brief article features a trial developed by the Greenvale Middle Years team, who collaboratively developed a unit of work based on an inquiry approach to learning. With the application of De Bono’s 6 hats of inquiry, this SOSE unit of work planned to develop – deciding, locating, using, recording, presenting, and assessing skills. It aims to bring focus onto the students, and have them recognise what part of the process they are in and what is their job in a particular phase, while wearing a coloured hat. The very nature of this unit requires students to think about the way they are travelling from point A to point B in the learning process and incorporates a strong sense of student ownership. From observations, this article reports that there was a positive shift of emphasis from product to process by teachers and students, and as the learners actively constructed their own understandings, there was increased student responsibility for learning.

This ground level paper ticked all of the boxes for my ILA: inquiry, geography, middle primary years, even though it was not as current as I would have liked. It is easy to read, understand and put into action from a teachers point of view. I would consider using this article as a starting point with teaching colleagues during a planning session, to assist the process of unit development. Its prescriptive nature offers a step-by-step process with examples. It also stands as a testament to the need for explicitly teaching questioning skills, so that students can continually add to their learning toolbox.

De Bono's 6 Hats

Source 6 – found via A+ Education – advanced search

Green, G. (2012). Inquiry and learning : what can IB show us about inquiry?. Access, 26 (2), p. 19.

This brief paper looks at some of the guiding principles that underpin IB approach inquiry, with specific reference to the Middle Years Program (MYP). The International Baccalaureate (IB) approach to inquiry has the learner firmly at the centre of the inquiry. Green describes the MYP framework, whereby students have the autonomy to make decisions about what they want to investigate, the product and how to go about this process. Within this process, the teacher support is more of a supervisory role and one that encourages individualised learning and decision-making. Importantly, the MYP model is not the driver of the learning, as it is the learning, the task or the students that sit at the heart of inquiry. Green goes on to promote the IB approach to inquiry as one that provides a rich tapestry of opportunity for the teacher-librarian, as it affirms many of the sound pedagogical underpinnings of inquiry-based learning that we already employ. In conclusion, it challenges us to look more flexibly at our role and in a wider educational sense, to see in what ways we can engage with our learning communities beyond research and Guided Inquiry.

I see this article as a promotional text for the success of inquiry learning, and I am easily convinced. It covers many of the advantages of the IB framework, as well as encouragement to get involved in inquiry learning. It does highlight a key concern for teacher-librarians in regards to the challenge of trying to be more involved in the collaborative planning stage, with a focus on inquiry units that promote interdisciplinary learning across more than one learning area. This is suggested on the notion that deeper meaning will emerge if learning areas can immerse students in varied but contextual frameworks. I would use this more academically written article to share with colleagues, to entice them to the other side – inquiry learning and co-teaching with me.

Source 7 – found via A+ Education – browse publications

Hutchinson, N. (2011). A geographically informed vision of skills development. Geographical Education, 24, p.15-33.

This article by Hutchinson, skims the pedagogical content knowledge and skills development present in the shaping of the Australian Curriculum: Geography, and argues that skills development, along with literacy and numeracy has become one of the significant mantras of contemporary educational discourse. In addition, it presents Geography as a discipline founded on robust concepts, and therefore skills-based learning should aspire to assimilate these big ideas in students’ existing knowledge structures. Judgments are made in reference to primary teacher’s geographical subject knowledge coming from geographical life experiences, formal geographical experiences after school, and experiences at school as a learner of geography, as oppose to high school teachers who are seen as better informed
by geographical scholarship. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of geographical pedagogy, viewpoints, concepts and methodologies that incorporate elements such as:

  • teaching and learning geography that is neither values free, nor subject free
  • discussing the values, educational ideologies and skills
  • making comparisons of learning theory and skills from Theorist, offering skills exemplars
  • comparing research on classroom skills development and cognitive neuroscience research

It concludes with the focus on Geography as a tool, to activate practitioners in teaching and students in learning journeys, to create a better world.

While reading this article I am struck by the simple mechanics of geography – it is all about the skills development of students, which inform them and therefore build well-connected young people to real world problems. It is an empowering concept, which teachers would get excited about worldwide. The world is a work in progress, let’s all get involved.

Social Awareness

Source 8 – found via ProQuest Education

Jacklin, R. (2008). Building student knowledge: A study of project-based learning to aid geography concept recallWalden University. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 214-n/a.

In this doctoral study, Jacklin aims to find whether the use of project-based learning might impact the delivery and content retention of geography concepts. It is suggested that if implemented, project-based learning could bridge education to societal improvement, as students will have a greater learning and understanding base from which to draw as they mature and live in today’s world. Jacklin argues that the issue of schools not meeting objectives for student learning is critical, and the nature of this study could help other teacher leaders carry out their own investigations within their classrooms as they strive to improve student learning. Furthermore, Jacklin provides extensive literature reviews, that cover the perspective of the learner, motivation, social learning, cognitive theories, PBL and IBL, and concludes with the role that teachers and teacher-librarians could play in the process. The ultimate goal of this research paper is to highlight that contributing to social change by positively influencing tomorrow’s adults, could be achieved through broader experiences in thinking, collaborating and solving problems, made available by project-based learning.

This paper echoes a similar notion as source 5 in this annotated bibliography, with the need for information literacy skills development for the modern learner highlighted. However, it also overtly adds humanity and social change implications to geography inquiry learning, which I found very interesting. Previously I had not thought to promote the powers and talents of inquiry learning this far. In a nutshell, this concept supports the real world, student ownership that teaching staff aim to provide in well-rounded unit of work. This is something to aspire to for all teachers and teacher-librarians.

For more information and resources on inquiry learning visit ……


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