Dr Ross Todd – inspirational mentor – his legacy lives on

It seems fitting to dedicate this last post to Dr Ross Todd as his influence over teaching and learning at Broughton has extended over many years through his mentoring of our practice of Guided Inquiry and Evidence Based Practice. (This blog is moving to a new site within our school domain so this will be my last post here but the new address will be published when it is established soon. This site will remain as it stores so many results and examples of Guided Inquiry in practice.)

The two people in the image above have inspired and mentored me over my professional life as a teacher librarian. I met Dr Lyn Hay as a lecturer when completing my teacher librarian Master’s degree and she inspired me, and continues to inspire me, to extend myself and experiment with using technology in my role as a teacher of information literacy across all ages and integrated into curriculum areas.

In 2008 I met Dr Ross Todd when I attended a conference in Sydney and he totally inspired me to encourage student participation and voice in their learning through research-based units of work called “Guided Inquiry”. At that conference another teacher librarian, Lee Fitzgerald, demonstrated a unit of work she had completed using Guided Inquiry the previous year with her senior students at Loretto College. (She also continues to be an inspirational colleague.) One teacher and Year 7 class at Broughton worked with me that year to initiate a Guided Inquiry unit with very positive outcomes both from students being engaged in learning and in their meeting curriculum outcomes in content and information literacy.

During 2009 the Association of Independent schools (AIS) offered grants for teacher librarians to undertake action research into Guided Inquiry as a pedagogical practice. Together with nine other schools in NSW, I took up this challenge. Dr Ross Todd came to Australia and closely mentored us through the process of using Guided Inquiry, and the AIS mentored us in the action research process.
We were all astounded at the results of the research showing how much our students appreciated having a say in choice of topic areas for research within curriculum areas and in how much they learned overall from their research and from sharing learning with their peers. Their engagement in their work was obvious. In 2010 I undertook a second round of action research with AIS. Students excelled, not only in the engaged learning of subject content but also in extending their information literacy skills.

In 2010 I was invited to present my action research findings at another Syba Signs conference in Sydney at which Dr Ross Todd, again, was the Keynote speaker. I took with me two students who gave examples of their work and discussed the research process, inspiring other teacher librarians to use Guided Inquiry to integrate information literacy with content learning through Guided Inquiry research units of work. (This process s now called Guided Inquiry Design (GID.)

Broughton took up this practice of guided research across many classes, from Year 2 to Year 11, until 2019, with the occasional collaborative participation by a few teachers and classes since then. This blog stores many examples of practice in the drop-down menu.

Dr Ross Todd constantly spoke of “Evidence-based practice” (before this became a commonly used term) and promoted the use of action research upon which to base all teaching and learning.

Dr Ross Todd always had time to mentor – either through emails, over a meal or afternoon tea when he came to Sydney. To hear that this inspirational mentor, to all teacher librarians globally, has passed away has left us all devastated.

Please take the time to read about his incredible achievements, always willing to share research, knowledge and expertise.

Future Skills – How do we teach for these today?

An interesting blog post by @refthinking giving us much to ponder about. I know that the collaborative, differentiated method of learning with Guided Inquiry Design we do at Broughton certainly assists students to develop many aspects of the skills mentioned here. According to educational technology researcher Dr. Ahmed Kharrufa, this list was ‘formed by the World Economic Forum following their Future of Jobs report’.


Guided Inquiry Democracy Unit – student evaluation

Year 5 completed their Guided Inquiry ‘Democracy’ unit with one day to spare before the Christmas holidays! Last week parents came for a presentation of their StopMotion videos and a question/answer time that took the form of a Game Show. The ‘surprise’ host was one of the parents dressed as Cleisthenes!

Today was the final evaluation of the unit and took the form of a colour/symbol/image response to the Hardest Part and the Best Part. Data has also been collected via a Survey Monkey questionnaire for our ongoing Action Research into using Guided Inquiry as pedagogy. Students accessed this from a link in their Edmodo learning group for this unit.
Response to the “Easy Part”
Best part









Response to the “Hard Part”
Alexis_theHardest Part

Year 3 Guided Inquiry ‘Voki’ reports

Year 3 are finishing their unit of work on ‘Minibeasts’ this week and their final report summaries were made using Voki software. These have been published in the Guided Inquiry tab above. Unfortunately Voki cannot be viewed on iPads. We hope this software will be upgraded soon.

3T Report Summaries     3W Report Summaries

The IRC place and space for Year 3 Guided Inquiry

Year 3 are all studying Minibeasts – having selected their favourite minibeast they have constructed some ‘wondering’ questions and are finding answers. The IRC space means they can work…



Students are only using library books and all work in in workbooks with scaffolds pasted in before they began. The teachers are now experienced in Guided Inquiry and students are very focussed and excited about learning. Reading and Writing are integrated with Science for this unit of work.

Projects versus Learning through Projects

Terry Heick‘s visual comparison of traditional projects versus how current projects can assist in deeper learning is helpful for understanding the changes to pedagogy in our schools today. Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 11.14.18 am

Completing ‘Projects’ and using the Guided Inquiry Design Process do have similarities but Guided Inquiry has built in scaffolding for support throughout the process of personalised inquiry. It also takes into account the affective domain of students at various stages of an inquiry.

Have you watched a TED-Ed video lately?

Noah Tavlin works for TED-Ed and has watched over 500 of the videos. In this blog post he concludes that:
“Every innovation begins with a question.”
“Discovery doesn’t begin with knowledge — it begins with questions and curiosity.”
“Learning from educators and animators has inspired me to think more deeply about things — not just to skim the surface.”
Videos make a great “OPEN” lesson for Guided Inquiry – inspired thinking leads to deep questions.
Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 10.48.30 am

Learning frameworks and Guided Inquiry

Champlain Valley Union High School have sent this infographic via their Twitter feed. It visually illustrates the important role of Critical Thinking in learning.
Learning Framework

So many different learning frameworks and discussions are taking place but the more I look at them and compare them the more I realise just how encompassing the Guided Inquiry Design Process is – as it embeds all elements found in the others.

During Guided Inquiry students discover ‘content’ according to their interest in a topic area then go on to analyse and finally to share and evaluate their learning. This infographic illustrates this process very well.

In the Guided Inquiry Design Process, assessment occurs throughout the whole process – Assessment ‘for’ learning,’in learning’ and ‘of learning’. Students share in Inquiry circles at various stages and all learning is transparent and shared. The support of the teacher and teacher librarian make it a truly collaborative experience.

S.E.X.Y. acronym for writing a report

Year 11 PDHPE is entering the final stages of their Guided Inquiry unit of work.
I have been team teaching with their teacher and we have used Edmodo to introduce, structure and support all their work. This in itself was a new experience for the teacher and we found it to be a perfect environment for Guided Inquiry in the Senior High.
I have come across S.E.X.Y. as a structure for writing before, but today the class teacher introduced it with reference and examples to the reports being written. It was outstanding as a support structure for these students writing reports on their health issues and programmes for improvement within groups in Australian society.
S= State your argument
E= Explain your point
X= eXample to demonstrate
Y= whY
Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.43.51 am

Year 10 Guided Inquiry students share their research

Once again this year the Year 10 Commerce students have really connected with Issues in Australian Society, researched them and taken them to heart. The final ‘Share’ presentations were very moving. (More will be available from the GI 2013 page of this blog at a later date.)

Project Based Learning

At Broughton we have been using the Guided Inquiry approach to research for a number of years. Project Based Learning (PBL) uses many of the same elements with similar goals.
This video by the Buck Institute for Education explains how learning can be relevant and interesting and is far removed from the Industrial Age model of education in previous centuries.
Collaboration in teams and shared knowledge make the ‘project’ relevant to each student.

Web Based Bloom’s Taxonomy

The use of Guided Inquiry or any Inquiry learning framework can be integrated with the use of web-based tools that extend creativity or assist in the organisation and documentation of the shared learning experience.

This post by Med Kharbach, the founder and author of Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, introduces web-based tools for each level of Blooms Taxonomy. These tools can be selected strategically to support learning in each step of Guided Inquiry.
Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 6.41.12 PM

Year 3 share their Guided Inquiry experience with their parents

Last Friday afternoon two classes of excited Year 3 students came to the IRC with their parents to show them their work. After the teachers spoke of how the Guided Inquiry process had worked for them in practice, some of the students’ Vokis were demonstrated on the whiteboard. The parents then spent time with their child looking at their bookwork, their PowerPoints and their Vokis.

The students had used the Guided Inquiry process, with Teacher Librarian support, to investigate their personally selected aspect of the human body. Besides learning about the Human Body they also learned a lot of reading skills, writing skills, thinking skills and ICT skills.

Books were the main source of information as our IRC collection has so many good books suitable for this age group. The students read a lot about the human body before selecting their favourite aspect to study. Writing their own questions was a lot of fun and some fabulous ideas emerged!

The practical science experiments for this unit were also suggested and created by the students!

Finally after they had investigated and written answers to their questions, they made a PowerPoint to teach the other students about their work. Then, for fun, they made a Voki summary. This also incidentally taught them a lot about spelling and punctuation as they tried to make their computer generated avatars ‘speak’ their presentations.

Cardboard projects of the past cannot be compared to this exciting learning process!




Year 3 Guided Inquiry Presentations – Vokis

Last Friday all 51 year 3 students and their teachers shared a summary of their ‘reports’ on a selected aspect of The Human Body via personally created Voki avatars. We all enjoyed the variety of information and also the reflection of each child’s creativity in their selection of avatar, background and voice. A lot of laughter and peer learning took place! All Vokis are available from the 2013 Guided Inquiry page

Issues in Australian Society – Year 10 Guided Inquiry at Broughton

Every year Broughton’s Year 10 Commerce class uses Guided Inquiry to research a personally selected Issue in Australian Society. This unit of work will also be part of an ongoing Action Research project for the Teacher Librarian – looking at the impact of Guided Inquiry on student learning.

The initial ‘OPEN’ stage of Guided Inquiry gives the teachers and students an initial experience within the topic area that initiates interest and enthusiasm. The following TED Talk could be used for this – as could many others. This clip could help to emphasise that students need to think about the ‘action’ they could personally take at the end of their research… How could they personally assist to overcome or reduce the impact of the issue they choose to research?

We will also look at some clips of the ABC’s program Q&A where the audience asks politicians and invited experts questions about current issues.

Michael Green wants to solve architecture’s biggest challenge — meeting worldwide housing demand without increasing carbon emissions — by building with carbon-sequestering wood instead of concrete and steel.