Intimidating, isn't it, when you delve into the great unknown. Information retrieval can seem like a huge, mysterious monolith when you don't feel skilled in that area. Like the far-from-welcoming industry that Sam (the character in the film clip above) enters, the world of information may appear to be unfriendly, imposing, and bewildering. As Sam ends up taking an elevator that doesn't quite stop on the right floor, learners may feel that they are taking (or being led down) the wrong path. Information retrieval might look like a place without clear directional signs where at first you wander seemingly aimlessly, searching for something that makes sense and will help you in your quest. Suddenly something catches your eye, maybe a flash of colour, motion and sound like the flurry of businessmen Sam spies and then is swept up in. You ride along with the whirlwind, then suddenly find you have arrived, as Sam does; unfortunately, you're not quite sure where you are. Was this where you needed to go? Did Sam want to arrive at a closet-sized office that looks like a dead end?
Hopefully that is not the impression you have about Guided Inquiry or information retrieval. Remember, Guided Inquiry is a process, not an end. Therefore, the retrieval stage of the inquiry is also a process that does not end with a pre-determined answer, but a search that may result in differing consequences for each student. Although it may have seemed in the past that in the retrieval phase of inquiry students simply located information, research shows that learners are often constructing meaning during their search. Kuhlthau has asserted that information retrieval is a “process in which a person is actively constructing a new understanding from the information encountered”. The concept of haphazardly amassing a large body of information and then sifting through it and trying to make sense afterwards is not a useful plan. The personalized nature of a guided inquiry also means that each student will have their own feelings, ways of thinking about retrieving information, their own information retrieval plan, and their own reflection on the process.
What are some of the ways the role of a teacher-librarian or teacher change or grow within the context of the information retrieval stage of guided inquiry learning?
Kuhlthau, Carol C. (1999) "Accommodating the User's Information Search Process: challenges for Information retrieval System Designers." Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, vol. 25, no 3, 1999. Available from: http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Feb-99/kuhlthau.html