Inquiry and the 21st Century Nest
Go to Graphic Inquiry for the Dustbowl example.
Let's explore Callison's components of inquiry including questioning, exploring, assimilating, inferring, and reflecting. Consider how the AASL standards could be addressed within this framework.
What is the question I’m trying to answer, the problem I’d liked to solve, or the key issue I need to resolve?
The questioning component includes AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners such as
- 1.1.1 Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects,
and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.
- 1.1.2 Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.
- 1.1.3 Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new
- 1.2.1 Display initiative and engagement by posing questions and investigating the
answers beyond the collection of superficial facts.
- 1.2.5 Demonstrate adaptability by changing the inquiry focus, questions, resources,
or strategies when necessary to achieve success.
- 4.4.1 Identify own areas of interest.
As yourself, "how do I encourage students to ask deep questions rather than surface level questions?"
Generate a list of questions about Egyptian mummies. Then, look at photographs from Wikimedia Commons and refine the questions. What's the impact of the visuals on your ability to generate questions? How could audio, video, or animation be used in another situation?
A photo of a firefighter might help generate questions such as "Why does he have stripes on his coat", "Why is his helmet yellow.", or "Does he like or hate fires?"
Use historical drawings and painting to stimulate questions about the American Revolution.
- Molly Pitcher: Fact or Fiction?
- Was this a real person or a myth?
- When was the event?
- When were the images made?
- Were all the pictures based on an earlier image?
- Is the illustrator bias in some way?
- Is the image realistic or invented?
- How are these images alike and different?
- Which is most accurate?
- Which is most effective?
- Which would I choose to use?
Visual stories are also an effective way to jumpstart an inquiry.
- What are the most important ideas in the story?
- Could the story be told from a different perspective?
- What other types of visuals could be used?
- How would the story be different in another setting?
- Could you tell the entire story without words? How?
- What questions do you have about the story’s topic?
- What are your questions about the people and place?
Brainstorm books that jumpstart questioning related to a particular curriculum-related topic.
Contrast dueling images such as an animal in a cage and in the wild.
How could sets of images be used to encourage different perspectives?
In Q Tasks Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan provide questions to get students and teachers thinking about their questions and information to deepen the investigation. Below are som examples.
- What other questions might be useful?
- How are the ideas alike or different?
- How will this information help me answer my questions?
- What would this look like from another perspective?
- What are the causes and effects?
- What are the consequences of?
- What if ..?
- What does this imply about…?
- What evidence supports this argument?
- What do you mean by…?
- What do you see?
- What objects go together? Why?
- Which objects should be separated? Why?
- What would you name this group? How would you describe it?
- In what other ways could these objects be grouped?
Explore a set of photographs and use the questions above to deepen an investigation.
In How To Use Your Eyes, James Elkins urges us to “stop and consider things that are absolutely ordinary, things so clearly meaningless that they never seemed worth a second thought. Once you start seeing them, the world – which can look so dull, so empty of interest - will gather before your eyes and become thick with meaning.” (p. xi)
The exploration component includes AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners such as
- 1.1.4 Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.
- 1.1.5 Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.
- 1.2.2 Demonstrate confidence and self-direction by making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.
- 1.2.3 Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.
- 1.2.4 Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information.
- 4.1.1 Read, view, and listen for pleasure and personal growth.
- 4.1.2 Read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and previous reading.
- 4.1.3 Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.
- 4.1.4 Seek information for personal learning in a variety of formats and genres.
- 4.1.5 Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience.
- 4.1.6 Organize personal knowledge in a way that can be called upon easily.
- 4.1.8 Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.
- 4.2.1 Display curiosity by pursuing interests through multiple resources.
- 4.2.2 Demonstrate motivation by seeking information to answer personal questions and interests, trying a variety of formats and genres, and displaying a willingness to go beyond academic requirements.
- 4.3.2 Recognize that resources are created for a variety of purposes.
Encourage students to explore unusual aspects of a common topic. For instance "I’ve seen many images of WWII in Europe, but I never really thought about the war impacting Australia. I’m going
to refocus my inquiry."
Students often begin by exploring library and online resources. When guiding graphic inquiries remind students about the use of visual resources such as photo collections, atlas, artwork, and illustrated books. Consider the wide range of graphic resources that might provide different perspectives on a subject. For instance, use The Center for Cartoon Studies graphic histories on topics such as Satchel Paige and Houdini.
Provide opportunities for focused exploration. Encourage online nonfiction reading and systematic notetaking with tools such as Weather and Painting.
- Archeology for Kids
- Ben's Guide to US Government
- Biographical Information
- Butterflies and Moths of North America
- Especies Fact Sheets
- Kids in the House
- Great Plant Escape
- Ology Big Ideas - Archaeology, Astronomy, Biodiversity, Earth, Genetics, Marine Biology, Paleontology, Water
- Blogs and News
- San Diego Zoo Recipes for Kids
- Scott Foresman Science
Middle/High School Suggestions
- Bigraphical Information
- CNet - consumer information
- Fact Check
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Oyez - Basics of Supreme Court Cases
- Blogs and News
For other great sources of nonfiction reading, go to my online workshop Straight from the Horse's Mouth: Nonfiction, Technology and Information Fluent Thinkers.
Some students may need scaffolding for visual note taking. Use tools such as Microsoft PowerPoint to provide prompts, starters, and electronic worksheets for visual information organization.
Go to the Digital Dog Ate My Notes for lots of ideas on digital notetaking and research.
Exploring leads back to questioning. Questions may be refined, restated, or new queries may emerge. Encourage inquirers to be risk-takers. Ask:
- What can I answer and what new questions do I have?
- How can I focus and narrow my questions?
- Did we miss anything the first time around?
- Are there other ways to think about the same thing?
- Are there other points of view that should be considered?
- Can I think of unusual approaches or different ways of thinking?
Students often forget that inquiry is recursive rather than linear. How will you help students remember to address these questions?
Many students are looking for the quick answer. Encourage students to move from the shallow to the deep end of thinking through supporting cycles of questioning and exploring. In Info Tasks for Successful Learning, Koechlin and Zwann (2001) suggest evaluating the quality of student research questions by asking:
Focus - Does your question help to focus your research?
Interest - Are you excited about your question?
Knowledge - Will your question help you learn?
Processing - Will your question help you understand your topic better?
The assimilation component includes AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners such as
- 1.1.7 Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.
- 1.2.6 Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges.
- 1.2.7 Display persistence by continuing to pursue information to gain a broad perspective.
- 1.3.2 Seek divergent perspectives during information gathering and assessment.
- 2.1.1 Continue an inquiry-based research process by applying critical-thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, organization) to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge.
- 2.1.2 Organize knowledge so that it is useful.
- 2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.
- 2.4.1 Determine how to act on information (accept, reject, modify).
- 2.4.3 Recognize new knowledge and understanding.
- 3.3.1 Solicit and respect diverse perspectives while searching for information, collaborating with others, and participating as a member of the community.
- 3.3.2 Respect the differing interests and experiences of others, and seek a variety of viewpoints.
The process of assimilation involves reinforcing and confirming information that is known, altering thinking based on new information, or rejecting information that doesn’t match the student‘s belief system. In an inquiry, assimilation leads to consideration of new options and points of view. (Callison, 2006, p. 7)
As you explore, look for unique aspects of at least 3 pieces of evidence and make comparisons.
Examine images that represent the different phases of mitosis. How are these images alike and different? What are the key elements that reflect each phase?
Help children build arguments. For instance, a child might conclude "I’ve been reading stories from around the world, examining old and new artwork, and learning about what’s real and make believe
about dragons. I found a website that said there are dragons in caves, but I didn’t believe it. The Komodo Dragon is the only real one."
The Trash or Treasure approach is effective in helping young people collect evidence and build arguments.
Many variations of “Trash & Treasure exist. Share your favorite.
Apply the Ds of Evidence to a problem:
- Discover Identify new ideas and ways of thinking about the evidence
- Discern Identify the origins of information and underlying thinking
- Detect Seek out fallacies, flaws, and misinformation along with reasons for these errors.
- Deduce Identify possible conditions and consequences
- Divide Organize information by comparing how people, places, and events are alike and different. Also, classifying information into categories based on commonality
- Dictate Identify themes, patterns, and generalizations
- Devise Build arguments by organizing evidence
Select an image that represents the main idea of an investigation. Apply the Ds of Evidence to this image. Use a topic such as The Lost Colony as an example.
Although assimilation occurs deep within our brain, we can use visual activities to build these associations. Marzano, Pickering and Pollock (1997) identified six graphic organizers that correspond to six common information organization patterns:
- Descriptive patterns. Webs are used to represent facts about people, places, things, and events.
- Time-sequence patterns. Timelines and cycle diagrams organize events by chronology.
- Process/cause-effect patterns. Fishbone charts and “how do” diagrams organize information into a causal network or into steps leading to products.
- Episode patterns. These visuals organize information about specific events including setting, specific people, duration, sequence, and cause and effect.
- Generalization/principle patterns. Use hierarchies to organize information into general statements and supporting evidence or examples.
- Concept patterns. Use concept maps to organize classes and categories about people, places, things, and events.
Apply these patterns to an investigation of syrup production.
The inference component includes AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners such as
- 1.1.6 Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.
- 2.1.3 Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real-world situations, and further investigations.
- 2.1.5 Collaborate with others to exchange ideas, develop new understandings, make decisions, and solve problems.
- 2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.
- 2.2.1 Demonstrate flexibility in the use of resources by adapting information strategies to each specific resource and by seeking additional resources when clear conclusions cannot be drawn.
- 2.2.2 Use both divergent and convergent thinking to formulate alternative conclusions and test them against the evidence.
- 2.2.3 Employ a critical stance in drawing conclusions by demonstrating that the pattern of evidence leads to a decision or conclusion.
- 2.2.4 Demonstrate personal productivity by completing products to express learning.
- 2.3.2 Consider diverse and global perspectives in drawing conclusions.
- 2.3.3 Use valid information and reasoned conclusions to make ethical decisions.
- 3.1.3 Use writing and speaking skills to communicate new understandings effectively.
- 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.
- 3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic, real-world contexts.
- 4.2.3 Maintain openness to new ideas by considering divergent opinions, changing opinions or conclusions when evidence supports the change, and seeking information about new ideas encountered through academic or personal experiences.
4.4.4 Interpret new information based on cultural and social context.
Evidence is necessary to support a claim, justify change, or make an informed decision. Students must learn to identify, process, and judge evidence. This begins with looking for patterns of evidence. Ask:
- What evidence is most useful in addressing my questions?
- How does this evidence connect with what I already know?
- How is this evidence relevant for my question?
- What are my assumptions?
- What am I guessing about and what do I know for sure?
- What evidence is from primary versus secondary sources?
- Which sources are bias and which are credible?
- What are all the possible perspectives and viewpoints?
- Why would someone consider one viewpoint better/worse?
- What pieces of evidence support and refute a perspective?
- What are the most important pieces of evidence?
- What are the supporting pieces of evidence?
- What are the patterns of evidence?
- What new questions does this evidence raise?
Rethink an assignment.
Focus on the collecting evidence and building convincing arguments.
Arguments provide evidence to support a claim. To develop useful arguments, inquirers must evaluate evidence, examine different points of view, and determine the most logical approach or meaningful conclusion. Ask:
- How does the evidence fit together?
- What claims and supporting arguments could be made?
- How can the evidence be arranged to support a conclusion?
- What’s the core of the argument?
- What pieces of evidence support what perspectives?
- How do the arguments fit with my understandings?
- What is the reasoning behind each argument?
- What are the limitations of these arguments?
- What are the errors in reasoning?
- Where are the holes in the evidence?
- How could this information be misleading?
- What are the problems and barriers?
- How could it be corrected or improved?
- What are the relationships/causes/effect?
Discuss the different perspectives on how wildfires should be managed.
Use the questions above as a guide.
Deductive arguments apply general principles and theories to specific situations. This
is the most effective educational technique. Students are asked to explain their
hypotheses, experiments and conclusions.
Provide opportunities for students to try out their ideas and apply what they've learned to real-world problems. For example, children might apply the four principles of flight to predict which paper airplane will work best. Rather than simply reading about machines and write a report, children design and test an invention. Go to the Forces of Flight website.
Another approach is to ask students to turn facts into a visually convincing argument that can be shared. For example, show me why you think the penny should or shouldn't be discontinued. Or, show me that this computer game is or isn't an accurate reflection of history.
When designing persuasive messages, ask:
- Who is my audience and what do they need to know?
- What are examples and nonexamples?
- In what ways can the evidence be presented to communicate the argument?
- How can my messages be shared in an effective, efficient, and appealing way?
- How can my message be conveyed in a number of different ways?
- What parts of the argument are difficult to understanding?
For instance, children may become "machine detectives." After collecting information at EdHeads about simple machines, their job is to collect evidence of simple machines by identifying and photographing them in the library.
In most academic situations, inquiry involves accumulating evidence that supports inferences that seem reasonable, logical, and persuasive. Students ask:
- What inferences can I make based on the evidence?
- What conclusions can I draw?
- What decisions can I make?
With each inquiry cycle, inquirers must revisit questions with an open mind.
- What evidence do I still need to gather?
- What has changed since my last cycle of questioning, exploring, assimilating,
- Have I visualized the evidence in many different ways?
- What pieces of information still need to be connected? What’s not obvious?
- Are there alternatives I haven’t considered? Are there opinions I should seek?
- What are the risks and benefits of each approach?
- What generalizations can I draw based on the evidence?
- Do I have enough information to draw a conclusion or make a decision?
- How do I most effectively present arguments and cite evidence?
- How can graphics be used to better understand the data and my conclusions?
The reflection component includes AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners such as
- 1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within the learning community.
- 1.4.1 Monitor own information-seeking processes for effectiveness and progress, and adapt as necessary.
- 2.3.1 Connect understanding to the real world.
- 2.4.2 Reflect on systematic process, and assess for completeness of investigation.
- 2.4.4 Develop directions for future investigations.
- 3.1.1 Conclude an inquiry-based research process by sharing new understandings and reflecting on the learning.
- 3.1.5 Connect learning to community issues.
- 3.2.1 Demonstrate leadership and confidence by presenting ideas to others in both formal and informal situations.
- 3.2.2 Show social responsibility by participating actively with others in learning situations and by contributing questions and ideas during group discussions.
- 3.3.3 Use knowledge and information skills and dispositions to engage in public conversation and debate around issues of common concern.
- 3.3.5 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within and beyond the learning community.
- 3.3.6 Use information and knowledge in the service of democratic values.
- 3.4.1 Assess the processes by which learning was achieved in order to revise strategies and learn more effectively in the future.
- 3.4.2 Assess the quality and effectiveness of the learning product.
- 3.4.3 Assess own ability to work with others in a group setting by evaluating varied
roles, leadership, and demonstrations of respect for other viewpoints.
- 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.
- 4.4.5 Develop personal criteria for gauging how effectively own ideas are expressed.
- 4.4.6 Evaluate own ability to select resources that are engaging and appropriate for personal interests and needs.
After rounds of questioning and exploring, assimilating and inferring, ask students to revisit the questions and goals of their inquiry. How did the project evolve?
Rather than just copying from Wikipedia, I thought about what a tourist would really want to know about the desert.
I’ve created both a family timeline and a Civil Right Movement timeline so we can talk about how each member of the family might have been impacted by what was happening nationally.
My exploration of music from the 1850s lead me to songs about fashion. I create a song in GarageBand that’s a parody of the fashion industry.
Inquiries may go in different directions depending on the questions. While some inquiries look for answers, others seek solutions. The goal may not be apparent in the first round of the cycle. By encouraging inquirers to reflect throughout the process, inquiry becomes a cycle building deep understandings. Ask:
- Did my question(s) reflect my need or problem?
- Have I been successful in answering my question(s)?
- Were my search strategies flawed?
- Could my information be biased or incorrect?
- Is this the best information to address this question?
- Could I have made incorrect connections?
- Could the inferences identified be flawed?
- Have I addressed the needs of my audience?
- What new questions have arisen from the evidence?
- Have I chosen the best conclusion or decision?
- Am I satisfied with my progress?
- What are my strengths
Go to Graphic Inquiry for the Dustbowl example.
For a more in-depth exploration, read the graphic book Graphic Inquiry by Annette Lamb and Danny Callison available from Libraries Unlimited, 2010.