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Reviewed by:
  • Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century
  • Mirah Ingram Dow
Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. 188p. $40 (ISBN 13: 978-1-59158-435-3)

Today, many raise serious questions about educating the next generation for living and working in a democratic, information-rich, global society in America and around the world, and Guided Inquiry offers some solutions. It recasts inquiry learning by proposing an alternative to rote, mechanical repetitions and boring training for standardized tests and goes beyond ideology to describe steps to achieve the goal of successful, authentic learning situations. Inquiry learning reshapes schooling from that of the solo classroom teacher working in isolation to professional librarian and teacher teams involved in integrated instruction. Guided Inquiry presents a convincing plan for the instruction of pre-K–16 students so that they gain new confidence, competence, and expertise while acquiring information literacy skills.

The authors are three educators, a mother and her two daughters, with inquiry at the center of each of their specializations. Their shared authorship is evidence of the value of collaboration and models a community-of-learners environment. Kuhlthau, professor emerita at the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers University, is active today in The Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. She has conducted more than 20 years of research on the information search process (ISP). This process, which can be applied to both children and adults, provides the theoretical underpinnings to support this new practice of guided inquiry as outlined in her books on the topic (Kuhlthau, Teaching the Library Research Process, 2nd ed., Scarecrow Press, 1994 and Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services, 2nd ed.,Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004). Maniotes, a national board certified teacher and Reading Recovery certified literacy specialist, studies the concept of third space as it relates to engaging students in guided inquiry. Caspari, a specialist in museum education, studies the use of community resources and object-based learning. Many relevant examples of the authors’ research studies are found throughout the text.

These authors assert that inquiry learning depends on guided inquiry, which is presented as a planned, supervised, and targeted method by instructional teams. It employs intervention strategies for enabling students to construct their own understandings by moving beyond factual knowledge to higher order thinking skills, including analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. [End Page 339] Guided inquiry is different from traditional research skills instruction, which is based on behavioral learning theories that focus on transmitting knowledge and skills to students in a structured manner with the teacher as the authority.

Using the authors’ innovative approach to guided inquiry, a dynamic, interactive, conversational learning environment emerges. It predicts that students will gain a greater understanding of subject area content; develop competencies in reading, writing, and speaking; and increase social skills through interaction, cooperation, and collaboration. The book describes the benefits that students, teachers, librarians, administrators, and parents realize when they invest time, attention, and commitment to collaborative, learning-centered environments and when they value information literacy for all. These benefits should be considered thoroughly when weighing options for school reform in the 21st century.

There are several fundamental principles in Guided Inquiry that are compatible with the new American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner (Chicago: American Library Association, 2007). The first is that learning is an active, on-going process of construction that continues throughout life. Theories by John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and others are used to support the idea that significant learning takes place when students engage in stimulating, reflective encounters with information and ideas. Guided inquiry, like the new AASL standards, rests on these constructivist theories of learning and takes into account social and cultural aspects of acquiring knowledge.

The second principle is that the expectations and instructions of teachers and librarians are critical aspects of inquiry learning. This principle is based in Kuhlthau’s ISP model. The ISP outlines seven process stages that students experience when expected to construct their own understandings. It explains students’ feelings of confusion and uncertainty that increase through the exploration...


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pp. 339-340
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