Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry

Yesterday was a big day for me!  About a month ago I had been invited to speak to student teachers studying at Otago University in Dunedin about the process of scaffolding research and guided inquiry as part of their Literacy Across the Curriculum paper. I was a little nostalgic and it felt even more surreal walking into a lecture theatre I had sat in during my year at teachers college back in the early 1980’s, only this time I was the one standing at the front talking to students, some of whom had already completed degrees and were now training to go into classrooms as teachers.

The time allocated just wasn’t long enough! There was so much to tell them, share with them and discuss with them.  I easily had enough content to spread across two sessions, but we were constrained to one and so I made the best of it.  My hope is that our short 50 minutes has only just opened up potential discussions as they all contemplate graduation and beginning in their own classes next year.  To that end I have invited them to join me in the new Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry Group on the Virtual Learning Network.  I hope we can continue to discuss what guided research and inquiry can look like in classrooms, as these skills are relevant to all subject disciplines in all schools across every year level.

From little conversations …..

I am always banging on about collaboration. Anyone who knows me, knows this.  And one of my favourite things is when a small conversation turns into an opportunity for me to get myself in front of a class, talking about research.  This happened again last week, and all it took was for me to ask a simple question:  “How is your class getting on with their research?”

An English teacher was working with her Year 10 class in the library.  Each student is researching an individual topic that they then have to write a persuasive, point-of-view essay about.  When I asked her how they were getting on, she commented that they were struggling to come up with three suitable research questions for their topic and then finding quality information to help them justify their point of view.

I immediately thought of the Gale Cengage Opposing Viewpoints in Context database which is an excellent source of reference material with the added bonus of point of view essays from both sides of a contentious issue.  After looking at this database together with the outcome for students in mind, she asked me if I could go through this resource with her class, which I gladly did this morning.


  • Students were exposed to another quality source of information for research
  • Students were able to find good resources they couldn’t find just by using Google
  • Students who were struggling with their chosen topic were able to find something they felt more confident researching by using the browse issues facility
  • Happy teacher who now has another tool in her bag of tricks to pull out and use with other classes

So the message is simple, really ……. Just

  • Show interest
  • Ask questions
  • And wherever possible, offer solutions