Teachers and Teacher Librarians doing GI

The basics for teachers and TLs wanting to get started with Guided Inquiry

What is Guided Inquiry?

Guided Inquiry is “A way of thinking, learning and teaching that changes the culture of the classroom into a collaborative inquiry community”(Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2015, p3) It is based on the Information Search Process and enriched with its mirror image, the Guided Inquiry Design Process (GID)  This is a picture of the GID process:

Syba Digital. Guided Inquiry Design in action: Middle school downloadable resources. Adapted with permission from Guided Inquiry Design in action: Middle school/ Leslie K. Maniotes, LaDawna Harrington, and Patrice Lambusta: Foreword by Carol Kuhlthau, Libraries Unlimited, Copyright 2016.

The process is the most important element of GI, which sets the scene for task design, feedback,  interventions, and metacognition.  These are the main reasons why the GId is a consistent and reliable information process:

  • It is research-based: Professor Carol Kuhlthau observed the stages of ISP (which has become the GId) as typical of any researcher in any setting in many studies. That is, the process is not a created one.
  • It allows students to understand the scope of the topic BEFORE they choose an aspect of it – through the stages, Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify.
  • It delays the formation of inquiry questions until students have developed a broad understanding of the topic and chosen an aspect in which they are interested at Identify.
  • It deals with emotional aspects of information seeking and use, and predicts a dip at Explore.

Why is an information process necessary?

An  information process provides the framework for designing inquiry units, while giving students a metacognitive scaffold to use whenever they have an information need.  GId mirrors the information to knowledge journey of any researcher, predicts points which are difficult for any researcher, and differs from other processes in asking students to delay creating inquiry questions until they have some idea of the parameters of the topic at Identify.

Read The Down Under Devil’s Advocate: Ten ways to derail a Guided Inquiry project – for what NOT to do with GI!

What is unique about teaching inquiry using GID?

  • Because it takes time for students to gain a broad understanding of a topic,  it doesn’t make sense to ask them to choose a topic at the beginning of an inquiry task. They are not able to choose a subtopic, or create an inquiry question, until they have an idea of the parameters of the topic.  This means that the inquiry unit must focus on broad and engaging early stages of research, where curiosity is raised, and fostered by using overview sources, where students do not get bogged down in too much information.
  • Third space (Maniotes, 2015) is engaged, particularly in the design of the unit, and at the Open, Immerse and Explore phases, where the world of the student intersects with curriculum, to arouse curiosity.
  • Because it is possible it is predict emotional responses to the phase of inquiry students are experiencing, it is practical to ask them to reflect at these stages – Explore, and Create/Share.
  • Inquiry tools for students are minimal – an inquiry log (for keeping bibliographic details); an inquiry journal (for developing notes and reflecting); and an inquiry chart (for synthesising information).
  • Inquiry circles can be used at various phases of the GId.

In the chart below, find all you need to investigate Guided Inquiry and to create and deliver your own GI

From CSU student 2021, Diana Brien, an engaging introduction for students to the GId process!  

More about GI

Teachers teaching inquiry:

From Kath Murdoch, Education Consultant:

Teacher Librarians teaching inquiry:  What can they do?

Resource curators:

  • Curate resources for inquiry – broad to begin with at Immerse and Explore, moving to specific, deeper resources at Identity
  • Provide high quality library resources
  • Extend access to outside resources.

Information literacy specialists:

  • Provide information literacy expertise and teaching
  • Promote learning from a variety o.f sources
  • Model lifelong learning.

Collaboration catalysts:

  • Provide a technology infused learning environment
  • Collaborate on all learning teams to plan, deliver and assess inquiry units.
  • Keep communication flowing.
From Kuthltau, C., Maniotes, L. & Caspari, A. (2015) Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st century, 2nd edition.  Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. P129, Figure 9.4
Some unit planners and scaffolds

Unit planner GI_Aust Curriculum

MYP unit planner with GId

Unit planner PBL

Process booklet scaffold

 Student overview scaffold

Student booklet example

Scaffold for lesson plans for each phase of the GID:

Open/ Immerse/ Explore/ Identify/ Gather/ Creat & Share/Evaluate

Inquiry circles:

Inquiry circles are small groups of students which form at various phases of the GID process – they can be useful at Explore, to share the work of gaining an overview of the topic;  again, at Identify, to work together to form inquiry questions;  at Create/Share, to discuss and share the work of synthesising information.  The composition of the inquiry circles should vary throughout the process.  If an inquiry circle creates a group presentation at Create/Share, it is important to ensure all members are contributing equally.


Theory behind the GID process is that there are phases in inquiry that students find more difficult than others.  The first is at Explore, when they begin to realise the size of the topic, and the effort involved in coming to understand a broad overview of it – this was observed repeatedly in research studies led by Kuhlthau.  Another difficult phase is at Gather, moving into Create, when synthesis of information is required.  And so it is good for students to reflect at these stages of their inquiry, and to receive feedback from teacher and TL, if they need it.  At Evaluate, it’s important that students reflect on their learning through the inquiry unit, calling for reflection on the whole unit.  Reflection will be carried out in the Inquiry Journal.

A useful reflection tool is the SLIM Toolkit, (Heinstrom, Kuhlthau & Todd, 2005)  to be used at the phases of GID mentioned above.

For your reflection

  • Can you outline your understanding of the ISP/GID which supports Guided Inquiry?
  • Do you think there’s a good fit between Guided Inquiry and the inquiry learning favoured in the Australian Curriculum, in NESA syllabuses and the NESA curriculum review? Explain why/why not?
  • What has your experience been thus far of Guided Inquiry in your school?
  • What obstacles do you see in the way of Guided Inquiry?
  • What benefits do you see of approaching school research projects with the ISP/GID?
  • What role do you see the teacher librarian playing?
  • What further questions do you have about Guided Inquiry?


Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. & Caspari, A. (2015)  Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st century, 2nd edition. Libraries Unlimited

Heinstrom, J., Kuhlthau, C, & Todd, R. (2005)  School library impact measure. Centre for International Scholarship in School Libraries, Rutgers University.

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