HomeAuthorSAUCEQuestioningInquiry LearningLearning LinksArticles and Handouts

ICT in Learning and TeachingInformation Literacy ModelsFuture Learning Now BlogQuestioning Skills Wiki


All Inquiry Learning Models

are Not Born Equal  


There are many Inquiry Learning models and many Information Literacy models ( follow this link to see a sampling ), and there is a constant turnover as models appear and disappear. I have heard it said that "all models are the same" and "there is little difference", if this were true there would be no need for the proliferation of models in these fields. Understanding of Inquiry Learning and Information literacy has changed over the years, as has pedagogy and our understanding of learning and teaching. As this understanding changes so do available models. There are certainly commonalities amongst many of the models and this is to be expected as all the models address a a fairly common set of information, learning and thinking skills.

I believe that there are four major aspects that can be used to differentiate between models, and I believe that many schools need to be far more critical of the available models.  The following three issues should provide a sound basis for for schools that are looking for a 'good' model to implement, or to guide them as they develop their own model, or to assist them in modifying a model that is already in use.


A good model should be recursive rather than linear.

Many models, as they are presented to students are either linear in structure or are presented visually as being linear. Good inquiry learning is never going to be linear. Learning is about insights and connections and learners will always be re-visiting aspects of the process.


Self Assessment and Review should be integral aspects of a good model.

The bulk of models have an evaluation aspect at the end of the process, as they should.

However there is also the issue of Review.

Review belongs in non-linear processes because this is what helps learners decide 'where to next'. A learner should be able to consider and reflect on how well they have gone with the stage or step just finished, and then use that review to help them decide which part of the process the need to go to next. As an example, perhaps a student has just finished finding the answer to one of their questions. Review will now help them to decide if that information has created the need to ask another question, or it has shown the need to go back and revise and modify their question, or if that information needs validation, or if they can now go back to their original questions and start working on the next one. A large number of models do not do this well, if at all.


Application not Presentation.

Many models and processes include stages where learners 'communicate' or 'share' what they have found. When I critique models, one of the major aspects I  consider is related to the question  "What are the students being asked to do with the information they have found?"

As I look at a range of models there seems to be three main ways this issue is dealt with.


1.. Many models simply ask students to feed back in some way the found information and this approach is common. I also believe that this approach dis-empowers Inquiry Learning and Information Literacy. I call it 'the gather/present approach'. In this approach students research a topic, issue or need and then share back what they have found ( see The 2 Shoppers analogy ).


2.. Many models have been developed because people have seen this as an issue and have appended another stage on the end of an earlier model. Most of these models still retain the 'present information' section and then have students do some form of 'So what' or 'Now what' section added in. The problem I see with this approach is that often the 'so what' is forced or weak because it is really sitting in the model as an afterthought.


3.. A much smaller grouping of models target usage and application of information from the start. The whole process targets students finding, evaluating and applying information to build understanding.

We need to look very critically at the models we are using, developing or implementing to make sure the process really does fit with our understanding of learning processes.

All models are NOT created equal. teachers and schools need to look very critically at the models they are implementing and ensure that they are doing the best possible for their students.