Essay- A Synthesis of Readings

The engagement and retention of skills and information learned through Inquiry Learning Processes have been tracked and found to be valuable by contemporary research academics such as Harvey and Daniels (Harvey, 2009). As educators committed to not only our students but ongoing professional development, it is imperative that we learn and then apply one or a blend of ILP’s which best suits our clientele and which resonates with our own pedagogical practice. The purpose of compiling a subject specific annotated bibliography was to locate resources which would contribute to my understanding of how ILP’s might enhance my practice, and student personal and academic outcomes

Daniel Callison articulated the co-learning that takes place for both teacher and student when Inquiry Learning Processes are applied, and how liberating it is for students to observe their teachers as a “model as well as a mentor” (Callison, 2006, p. 4). It is perhaps the modelling that proves most beneficial as students see how the process impacts on the affective domain, which may in turn give them the resilience to keep momentum up as they field the roller coaster of frustration which can occur in the exploration of their chosen focus. The student centred nature of Inquiry Learning proposed by Kuhlthau acknowledges the holistic experience that both students and teachers work through. In 1915 Dewy recognised information “as working capital” (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2007, p. 14) and the process of “learning by doing” (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2007, p. 14) applying that capital in a meaningful experiential process; however, it took the work of many Constructivist theorists such as Kelly, Piaget and Bruner to provide the embellishments that have given rise to Kulthau’s broader framing of the Inquiry process, which informs this synthesis of resources gathered from the annotated bibliography. The recognition and interplay that exists between “thinking, feeling and acting” (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2007, p. 15) resonates with the Constructivist pedagogy applied within my classroom and underpins the Inquiry Learning Process shaped for Grade 11 Religion and Ethics students, exploring the context of young Orthodox Jewish women living in Australia. The process pictured in diagrammatic form below, illustrates the importance of this interaction. When students understand that their feelings are recognised and articulated as part of a productive process, they are more inclined to plough through the barriers of frustration and uncertainty. Kulthau’s seven stepped process and Callison’s five  point cyclical frameworks both lend themselves to text and visual text based inquiry which is key to the study of Religion and Ethics.

Figure 1.0 (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2007, p. 19)

The challenge of the Inquiry Learning Process was identified by “Vygotsky’s Notion of Intervention” (Kuhlthau & Maniotes, 2007, p. 23) which draws attention to the importance of intervention in the process to ensure that potential depth of learning is achieved. My interest and commitment to Higher Order Thinking being taught explicitly made Vygotsky’s work resonate. Critical moments arise in any inquiry process and how they are managed can be the difference between total disengagement with the learning activity and substantial success. These core readings provided the foundations from which my own exploration might stem and the resources I found both supported or elaborated on how ILP’s might be used in my classroom.

In one of the few subject specific Religion sources located, Mark Elliot notes in Inquiry Learning in the Religion Classroom (Elliot, 2004) that religious literacy relies on

the flexible and sustainable mastery of a repertoire of practices related to the discourse of religion, using spoken, written and multimedia texts of traditional and new communications technologies. (adapted from Literate Futures: Report of Literacy Review for Queensland Schools in p. 2 of Religious Education Years 1 to 10 Learning Outcomes, 2003)”.

What Elliot is saying in this, is that religious literacy, much like literacy in any given subject matter, hinges on the capacity and ability to use and interpret texts in any given form. Whilst it provides a clear rationale for the implementation of Inquiry Learning in Religious studies, Elliot does not provide a framework within this document, assuming teacher’s prior knowledge or commitment to exploring what Inquiry Learning is. It serves as an anchor for the implementation of the pedagogy in terms of Religion and Ethics. The resources created by Brisbane Catholic Education are firmly founded on a Constructivist pedagogical approach and the teachers within their own classrooms are encouraged to pursue their areas of inquiry based upon these principles, extending upon the materials provided in the Brisbane Catholic Education portal. Professor Peta Goldberg, provided the framework lacking in Elliot’s paper when discussing how ILP’s could inform the Study of Religion syllabus and classroom practice. Her elucidation held Kalthau’s affective considerations and resonated with the Holistic ILP that I favour (Goldberg, 2008). Whilst this paper focuses largely on Study of religion, it discusses an inquiry process on page 18 which is a fluid process “enabling students to move freely between framing, investigating and reasoning before judging” (Goldberg, p. 18). Peta Goldberg is an eminent academic in the area and a very effective educator. Her observations and suggestions will be persuasive in my further reading. I will go back and explore Goldberg’s material in more depth since it applies directly to my area of curriculum and whilst my focus is Religion and Ethics, the techniques and rationale are pertinent.

It was noted in the collection of sources for the annotated bibliography, how many History documents presented themselves as relevant to the compilation. The study of History by its nature necessitates the exploration of Religious beliefs and the study of Religion and Ethics demands an appreciation of the historical context that each faith tradition is expressed within. Whilst the focus for the ILA is that of Religion, Study of Society and Humanities often have resources which lend themselves to adaptation. The syllabus (Naylar, 2004) is particularly useful in identifying different research methods including inquiry learning. It explores the student’s agency in their learning and how the ‘recursive nature of inquiry’ aids the active construction of meaning. It explores the importance of explicitly naming each phase of the process and teaching students how to negotiate their way through the process. The importance of learning in a social context is reinforced in this document and the way that the social setting of the subject being researched frames both the context of the learners and the learning outcomes is discussed in point 3.5 and 3.6 on page 9. The document models strategic questioning which educators can adapt and embellish according to their own classrooms. A model of an inquiry learning process is provided on page 11.

Jones in “Mobile learning: Two case studies of supporting inquiry learning in informal and semiformal settings” (Jones, 2013) draws attention to educator’s need to understand the technologies that their students avail themselves of and the implication of those skills for Inquiry Learning Processes. One of the most notable attributes of Inquiry Learning Processes is that it lends itself to adaptation according to the context it is being used within. It allows for student engagement with processes and skills which can be applied throughout their lives and permits a degree of choice in terms of choosing a focus which engages their interest and which also allows for connections external to the formal classroom. Students are already experts in the use of technologies and to allow them to bring that expertise into the classroom is essential, however it blurs lines that some educators find difficult to manage and when the paradigm shift takes place it needs to be managed in a socially sensitive way. The “transformational outcomes” (Elliot, 2004) of Inquiry Learning in the Religion and Ethics classroom, like any other classroom where students are given reign to have a degree of self-directed learning, builds both confidence and skills in the learner and educator alike. Both take risks and both grow. This inference and assimilation (Callison, 2006, p. 8) is empowering, can be shared and adapted and can become evidential. Students learn to listen to their own judgements and process through to a point where evidence suitable to support their arguments can be justified. Establishing the merits of their justifications establishes a degree of faith in the student’s own capacity to move beyond the regurgitation of facts that might knit together a vague hypothesis, and moves them into a meaningful “change of understanding” of their world and the world of those they share it with (Callison, 2006, p. 8).

It is good however to have weights and measures to keep educators honest and Kiep provides a sincere and provocative commentary where he questions how Inquiry Learning Processes are applied (Kiep, 2012). The resources called upon for the implementation of Inquiry Learning in the context of Religion and Ethics have given me much food for thought and I like many others, I am sure, have felt the full gamut of emotions that my students will have been experiencing. One would hope that the experience will inform my patience with my students as I guide them through the process. The resources explored through the preparation of the annotated bibliography certainly made me ponder and when considered in light of the readings conducted through the course, provide a clearer understanding of what I am trying to achieve and how I might adapt my current practice to best suit the needs of my students. The Holistic model in Figure 2 (Lupton, 2013) resonated most with me and provides a clear structure for the students I teach. It explicitly demands student engagement and provides me with clues and access points to intervene where necessary (Lupton, 2013). Now it is time to apply it.

The Hoistic Inquiry Model

Figure 2.0 The Holistic Model of Inquiry Learning


Callison, D.   (2006). Chapter 1 : Information inquiry : conceptd and elements. In D. &.   Callison, The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and   literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

Elliot, M. (2004,   March 17). Inquiry learning in the Religion classroom. Retrieved from   Brisbane Catholic Education:

Goldberg, P. (2008).   From syllabus development to classroom practice in Study of Religion. REJA.   Religious Education Journal Australia,    Volume 2, (p. 16-19).

Harvey, S. &.   (2009). Chapter 1 : open inquiries. In S. &. Harvey, Comprehension and   collaboration. Inquiry circles in action (p. 228-267). Portsmouth, NH:   Heinemann.

Jones, A. S.   (2013). Mobile learning: Two case studies of supporting inquiry learning in   informal and semiformal settings. Computers & Education, Volume 61 ,   21-32.

Kiep, P. (2012).   Have we lost the plot? : narrative inquiry, good and evil in history   pedagogy. Teaching History Volume 46, 66-69.

Kuhlthau, C.,   & Maniotes, L. k. (2007). Chapter 2: The theory and research basis for   guided inquiry. In C. Kuhlthau, & L. k. Maniotes, Guided inquiry :   Learning in the 21st century (p. 14). Westport, Conn: Libraries   Unlimited.

Lupton, M. (2013,   August 22). Inquiry learning and information literacy. Retrieved from

Naylar, J. (2004,   January 4th). Inquiry approaches in secondary Studies of Society and   Environment. Retrieved from Queensland school curriculum council:…/…‎


3 thoughts on “Essay- A Synthesis of Readings

  1. Pingback: Blog One Assignment One | Bentley's Nexus Blog

  2. Juliette, I really enjoyed reading your essay. You have drawn on a wide variety of sources to inform your learning, and have synthesised the authors’ main points in a clear and cohesive fashion. It is great to see how you personally connect with the theories and research mentioned, such as Vygotsky’s Notion of Intervention, and the Goldberg article. Two of the areas upon which you focus – emotions and social context – are crucial to the inquiry process, and you explain this well in your discussion. I liked how you explored Inquiry Learning in general terms, as well as specifically relating this process to your ILA topic of Religion, whilst also examining how more prolific studies, suggestions and frameworks in Humanities subjects can help guide the use of Inquiry Learning in Religion. You concluded your essay strongly, especially by presenting and justifying the Holistic model you will be utiising. I also like this model, as it implies fluidity, as well as connectivity, between stages, it highlights emotions at each stage, and provides clear points of focus along the journey.

    You engagement and enthusiasm for Inquiry Learning is evident in your depth of understanding and your writing style and comments. I am sure you will be a fantastic exponent and advocate of IL, and look forward to hearing about your ongoing explorations, practice and experiences in this area.

  3. Pingback: Peer Feedback | Ink Why? Re:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s