Application of Information-Learning Theories

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
John Dewey ( 2013)

At this stage in my teaching career, I concede  to applying a number of philosophies to my classroom practice that have not always reflected a 21st century approach to information literacy . The new understandings as acquired through the Learning Nexus unit has made me wince at many of my past mandated textbook approaches. Encouragingly though, it has also made me realise that there are aspects of my art teaching pedagogies that have been unknowingly ‘constructivist’ or ‘inquiry based’ in both their intent and  their delivery.  At the end of Blog One, and in keeping with the nature of many inquiry theories, it is appropriate to reflect upon my Information Search Processes(ISP) and to draw a few connections between these and many of the inquiry models described through the unit.

If I were to be quite analytical in my breakdown of the associated phases of my ISP, I would arrive at 8 stages or points of connection to acknowledged inquiry models. For want of an easier way to define each stage, I have named these stages by using various processes as defined by those inquiry models that I have cited. These models are: Callison’s Information Inquiry (2006), Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry (2012), The Big 6 (n.d), the Research Cycle (2000), the Inquiry Process (2002) and Pathways to Knowledge (2002).

Stage 1:

·         Open – Kuhlthau: Guided Inquiry

·         Presearch – Pappas & Tepe: Pathways to Knowledge

At the onset of the ISP and prior to the Learning Nexus unit beginning, I became invested in the  ‘invitation to inquiry’ and ‘stimulation of curiosity’ ( 2012, P.2) as is described through Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry model. Whilst I had no real concept of where the  unit might lead me on my TL journey, there was an inherent need to begin positioning myself to find out more. Pappas & Tepe’s Presearch  stage suggests that this is where I should begin by making connections to what I already know. Contrary to their suggestion, I do not utilize a mind map at this point as I feel I do not possess sufficient prior knowledge relating to this learning philosophy upon which I can attach any new findings. I realise at a later stage that I do in fact benefit from this process and that perhaps I had underestimated what I initially knew, or was unaware that I knew. Kuhlthau’s Model of the Information Process (2007, P. 19) reflects the thoughts and feelings that were quite apparent at this stage: Feelings – Uncertainty and Thoughts – Vague.

Stage 2:

·         Immerse – Kuhlthau: Guided Inquiry

·         Task Definition – Eisenberg & Berkowitz: The Big 6

·         Assimilation – Callision: Information Inquiry

The framework of the ISP was then clarified in a tutorial session and again through the handbook (Lupton 2013: p. 8-10) : to search for documents relating to our Information Learning Activity (ILA). To use an analogy, I have always been a learner who jumps in first, swims around in the deep end and then realises that I can’t swim as well as I had first thought and head back to the edge of the pool for my floaties ( or the search requirements) . Without considering the specifics of my search, there came an immersion into any information that might be relevant and help me to form connections to the content and ideas behind the inquiry process. These are both components of the Immerse stage of the Guided Inquiry model. The Big 6 defines this clarification of the ISP as Task Definition as the ‘information problem’ has been established and the information needed specified. Callison’s Assimilation stage of the Information Inquiry model (2006), suggests that this is the point, unlike Pappas & Tepes earlier recommendations, that I make connections between my prior knowledge and the ideas that are to be considered. My feelings are optimistic and  my thoughts are still vague.

Stage 3:

·         Explore – Kuhlthau: Guided Inquiry

·         Search– Pappas & Tepe: Pathways to Knowledge

As Kuhlthau proposes in the Explore phase, I began to search through a variety of databases looking for information pertaining to my ILA. The terms that I use at this stage however, lead my search off course. I search specifically for terms that are more unit related than curriculum subject related . This meant that rather than searching for a broad term such as ‘visual art’, I was becoming perturbed in my search for inquiry learning, relating to a unit on ‘Aboriginal art’. Needless to say there was very little information, causing me to become confused and doubtful of my directions. These feelings aligned with Kuhlthau’s  model of the Information Search Process. Pappas & Tepe describe the Search stage of the Pathway to Knowledge model as the time to plan and implement a search strategy that will help me to find more relevant information (Pappas & Tepe, 2002, p.8).   

Stage 4:

·         Pose Real Questions – Brunner: The Inquiry Process.

·         Identify – Kuhlthau: Guided Inquiry.

·         Questioning– McKenzie: The Research Cycle.

Whilst McKenzie (2000) places Questioning first in the Research Cycle, I found that questions were not generated until I had positioned myself with the new knowledge obtained during the Immersion and Explore phases. Once this had been established I was able to formulate questions as a result of my mind mapping, which I also now revisited with my new understanding of the information perused . It was time, as Kuhlthau’s Identify and Brunner’s Pose Real Questions stages suggest, to  focus my inquiries through more specific intentions. These enabled me to find precise information that I had been unable to locate using narrower search terms. My searches also lead me to find information that I hadn’t considered which broadened my knowledge of theories, pedagogues and strategies relating to the use of inquiry learning philosophies and pedagogues  in a school visual art context.

Stage 5:

·         Gathering- McKenzie: The Research Cycle.

·         Gather: Kuhlthau: Guided Inquiry.

·         Locate and Access – Eisenberg and Berkowitz: The Big 6.

·         Find Relevant Resources – Brunner: The Inquiry Process.

·         Search – Pappas & Tepe : Pathways to Knowledge.

The search and gathering of information, now relevant due to a more refined focus, can be compared to the above stages from varying models. The search strategies I now use can be compared to ‘questions’ that I now use to search for  information.  My searches allow me to select an array of documentation from the education databases that I have explored: Proquest Education, A+ Education, Google Scholar and Google. Kuhlthau states that such searching is meaningful selection and therefore significant to my inquiry needs and interests. ( 2012, P. 4). McKenzie also highlights the ease, efficiency and swiftness that gathering can become once information is located.  He also mentions another process that I now begin to use; structuring and classifying the information, or as he terms; ‘Sorting and Shifting’.  I am aware of the difficulty that large quantities of information can create if not sorted during the gathering process.

Stage 6:

·         Cyclic Nature of Inquiry– McKenzie: The Research Cycle.

Whilst the term Cyclic Nature of Inquiry that used at this stage is not derived from the stages of an inquiry model, I have included it because McKenzie acknowledges inquiry as a cyclic process, and because this cycle became an important component of my ISP. There was a definite cycling of the  Questioning, Searching and Gathering stages as I revised and evaluated my search terms and strategies and returned to these stages again and again. This highlights to me the importance of the questioning phase and the need to extract and associate what is already known to new information. This zone of proximal development ( Kuhlthau, 2012. P.20) enabled me to draw my sources together into the next stage.

Stage 7:

·         Synthesizing- McKenzie: The Research Cycle.

·         Synthesis– Eisenberg & Berkowitz: The Big 6.

·         Interpretation- Pappas & Tepe: Pathways to Knowledge.

·         Interpret Information– Brunner: The Inquiry Process.

With all my sources gathered and reviewed, the ISP required a synthesis or interpretation of the information collected in an annotated bibliography. Papas & Tepe’s assertion that “information requires interpretation to become knowledge”( 2002, p. 19) became apparent as connections between each of the sources, even though they covered an array of topics and focuses, provided me with a broad and holistic view of the evidence of Inquiry learning in the visual arts education. Brunner’s reminder that the information collected should be relevant to the original inquiry question could have lead me back to the questioning phase again. Of course I knew this would just raise more questions, and so it should…but for another inquiry. McKenzie concurs saying that this is the stage at which my inquiry leads me to return through the Research Cycle to once again refine and gather.

Stage 8:

·         Share- Kuhlthau: Guided Inquiry.

·         Report Findings – Brunner: The Inquiry Process.

·         Evaluation – Eisenberg & Berkowitz: The Big 6.

·         Evaluating- McKenzie: The Research Cycle.

·         Evaluation- Pappas & Tepe: Pathways to Knowledge

The final stage of my ISP involves the sharing of my new findings. McKenzie suggest a number of presentation approaches  for schools such as multimedia. In keeping with the 21st century information approach that this unit encourages us to employ, a multimedia blog format has been used. A blog enables others in the group to follow my progress and make their own evaluations of my progress. Eisenberg & Berkowitz would examine the work in terms of the efficiency with which I was able to find information and the effectiveness of the final product. In all,  I think Brunner’s perception is closest to my intentions through an evaluation of this ISP; “The emphasis should be on telling a particular audience the personal story of the “learning Journey” ( Brunner, n.d)


Brunner, C. (n.d) The Inquiry process. [webpage] retrieved from:

Callison, D. & Preddy, L. (2006) Chapter 1: Information inquiry: concepts and elements. The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy. Westport, Conn Libraries Unlimited. [webpage] retrieved from:

Eisenberg. M, & Berkowitz, B.(n.d): The Big 6. [webpage] retrieved from:

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes. L.K., & Caspari. A. K. ( 2007) Guided Inquiry Design : learning in the 21st century.  Libraries Unlimited  pp. 167.

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes. L.K., & Caspari. A. K. ( 2012) Guided Inquiry Design: a framework for inquiry in your school.  Libraries Unlimited  pp. 185.

Mckenzie. J, (2000) The Research Cycle.[webpage] retrieved from: 

Pappas, M. L. & Tepe A. E. (2002) Pathways to Knowledge and Inquiry Learning. Libraries Unlimited


One thought on “Application of Information-Learning Theories

  1. Rob, the analysis of your own learning process compared to other learning models is very comprehensive. You have been able to draw from a variety of models and the fact you have related your personal experiences to all of these, shows a thorough reflection of your learning process. I admit that I found my own reflection to a variety of models confusing and difficult. I myself chose to compare against Kahlthau alone. I think one of the main factors I found difficult, was actually identifying my stages of learning. Seeing your approach has helped greatly and I will refer back to your reflections and how you have referred to the different models in the future. I have come to realise that I need to explore further and gain a deeper understanding of the different guided inquiry models, to effectively guide students through inquiry learning activities.

    Although my own reflections are not as broad as yours, I could relate to some of the stages you have mentioned. For example, your analogy of jumping into the deep end of the pool is a perfect description of how I saw my initial learning when presented with the tasks for Blog Stage One. I too jumped in with gusto only to realise that my searching was not specific enough. I also found I didn’t have a solid understanding of inquiry learning to ground my new findings on. Also, your reference to Brunner that ‘the information collected should be relevant to the original inquiry question’ was very relatable. I found it difficult to remain focused on what specific information I needed, to broaden my understanding of inquiry learning relating to the ILA in my classroom.

    In reference to your opening paragraph, I would imagine there would be many who are questioning their “past mandated text book” approach to teaching after completing Blog Stage One. I know that has certainly been the case for me! Thank you for an insightful read!

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