Seeking Out the Storm (Expert Search Analysis)

September 7, 2019

When seeking out a storm, a map is essential to ensure you avoid dead-end streets, unsealed roads, or going against traffic down a one-way street. To make my journey into inquiry learning as efficient as possible, a mind map was essential in exploring search possibilities related to my initial research question: “What are the implications for professional learning programs to ensure teachers are adequately prepared to utilise an inquiry learning pedagogy?”



Being Caught in the Storm


Once I had my toolkit of synonyms ready to guide me, I set off in search of the storm. In all honesty, I am a creature of habit; I like to track down storms using a single map: the university library catalogue, often limiting my searches to recently published, peer-reviewed journal articles. In this instance, however, I knew that the journey could be more fruitful if I took the road less travelled. So, to mix things up, and to see what my fellow ‘storm-chasers’ were experiencing in the field of inquiry learning, I started my search with Social Searcher; a tool which allows for the instantaneous Boolean searching of up to 11 social media sites, using search words, hashtags, authors or trends. I started very basically, with my initial search simply involving the hashtag #inquiry learning, with no filters applied. The results were fruitful, yielding 660 instances where #inquiry learning was used by a total of 415 authors.




This search provided many route options in my pursuit of the storm. Given that many of the Facebook links were simply images of classes engaging in inquiry learning, and videos from YouTube and Vimeo contained explanations of inquiry learning, but were dead ends in pursuit of evidence-based research, adjustments to my search were necessary. In order to make my search for the storm more efficient, I excluded Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo from my search, and entered the search term inquiry-based learning. Doing this reduced the number of results available, but proved to provide a clearer path in search of the storm.


By refining my search, I had gone from using an old-school refidex to determine the best route, to using online maps which provided me with the quickest route to my destination by accounting for traffic. An example of this is the journey that a single link took me on. By simply clicking on a link to Edutopia, for instance, I was led to a teachers’ recount regarding her initial experience in attempting to implement Inquiry Learning in the classroom. This article contained direct links to three journal articles which helped to inform the teachers’ progress, and from there, my route options opened up. From these articles, I was able to add to my list of synonyms the terms ‘professional growth’ and ‘inquiry-based instruction’ and refine my research question to include the secondary schooling context. From here, my research question morphed to the statement “Inquiry-based learning in secondary schools: implications for teacher professional development”. 


Now that I had a greater range of synonyms from which to draw upon, and a superficial understanding of Inquiry Learning and the implications for teacher professional development, the weather was becoming gloomy. I began to have more questions than answers. This meant I was getting closer to the storm, and led me to embark on a Google Scholar search.


Initially, I searched Google Scholar using the search terms “professional learning” AND “inquiry learning”. This search produced 14,700 results, but included articles regarding the use of an inquiry approach to professionals’ professional learning. As it was not my intention to investigate professional learning that adopted an inquiry approach, I decided to eliminate the term ‘culture’ from my search, as this term appeared repeatedly in the unwanted search results. Consequently, my refined search: “professional learning” AND “inquiry learning” - culture yielded a much more poignant 5020 results.


Eventually, by refining my search to “professional development” AND “inquiry learning” AND “secondary school” OR “high school” -culture, a more realistic 3020 results emerged. I was also able to reduce my level of frustration by adding ‘Queensland University of Technology’ to my list of libraries within my account settings in Google Scholar, so that I could see the articles that I would definitely have full access to. Beyond this, the search results were a mixed bag of full access, abstracts, or articles requiring a subscription or payment for access.


Finally, in order to go in search of Australian storms in particular, I decided to see where Informit (also known as A+ Education) would take me. In order to find paths to relevant texts efficiently, I headed straight to the ‘advanced search’ function. I initially experimented with the search terms “inquiry learning” AND professional development, however, this narrowed the results too much, yielding only 3 in total. I decided that the term “professional development” had too many synonyms and was therefore limiting. As a result, I decided to search “inquiry learning” AND “teacher”, as this would ensure that the results referred, at some level, to the teachers’ role or experience in implementing inquiry learning, leading me closer to the storm I was chasing. This search yielded 35 results, most of which were relevant, proving this tact to be fruitful.



Beyond these sources, I also plan on using the university’s library database to ensure I have covered all bases in the hope of making it through the knowledge storm to so that I can enjoy the ‘beach day’ feeling of new understandings. As my search for the storm has explored a variety of sites, it has been necessary to curate my findings using a social media curation tool - but that part of my journey is for another blog. Until then, I continue to head into the stormy weather of cognitive dissonance.




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