Methods for Gathering Data


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In order to examine the development in students’ skills and understanding, as well as any change in attitudes and emotions, over the course of the inquiry, my primary method for collecting this data was via a questionnaire.  As the school has a 1:1 laptop program, and is currently promoting digital literacy, I created an online questionnaire (click here to access) using Google Docs.  Apart from being visually appealing and easy for students to access and use, this tool provided me with the added benefit of automatically saving and collating all responses, so I did not have to worry about losing or sifting through paper responses.  I would highly recommend this tool for surveys, questionnaires and quizzes, with high school students in particular – it can be accessed as part of the Google Drive section of any Google account.

The format and content of this questionnaire is based on the School Library Impact Measure (SLIM) toolkit, developed at the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, by Todd, Kuhlthau and Heistrom (2005).  This toolkit was designed as a means of assessing student learning throughout a unit of guided inquiry, and enables teachers “to chart students’ knowledge and experiences throughout the process” (Todd, Kuhlthau, & Heistrom, 2005, p.5).  I have used a version of the SLIM toolkit, which has been used by Lee FitzGerald (2011, p.29) with Australian Year 11 History students, as this is closely linked to my ILA students.

One difference between the original SLIM and the newer version is the inclusion of feelings/emotions – I chose to include this, as emotions are a big component of most guided inquiry models, and I was interested to see the emotional change in my ILA students from the start to the end of their inquiry.  Another difference is asking WHAT interests the students about the topic, rather than HOW interested are the students – I included this, as my Year 10 students are capable of articulating this, and their level of interest should be evident in their responses; I also wanted to see if the nature, as well as level, of their interest in the topic changed as a result of the inquiry.  The final questionnaire, in line with Todd, Kuhlthau and Heistrom’s recommendation (2005, p.19), included an extra question – “What did you learn in doing this research unit?”  This was included for students to reflect and share any new information skills or understandings that they believe they have acquired.  As well as observing student changes through the research process, all questions are also very useful for teachers in regards to future planning e.g. to see what interests the students, and to find out information literacy areas in need of further development.  Questions used by FitzGerald can be seen in Figure 1 below:

SLIM toolkit

Figure 1 – SLIM toolkit questions, taken from FitzGerald, 2005, p.29


My ILA is a Year 10 Geography class, researching the health of the Swan River.  This is not a class I teach, and I was present purely as an observer.  As the unit of work was only running for four to five weeks, two of which were school holidays, and given that they were only allocated four lessons to work on their inquiry in class time, I chose to employ only two questionnaires – one at the start of the inquiry and one at the end.  I undertook the questionnaire across two classes, each with the same mix of abilities, and with the same teacher, and collated their responses as one group.  Each class consists of 25 students, but I knew my chances of obtaining two completed questionnaires from every member of one class was unlikely, given that some were planning early or late holidays, some have music lessons during class time, and some might have to complete other work in class and not have time for the questionnaire.  Out of 50 students, I received completed responses to BOTH surveys from 31 students, which is a useful number to work with, in terms of this analysis. 

Each questionnaire was completed during class time, and each one took approximately 15 minutes.  I was present during the completion of each questionnaire, to direct the students to the online survey, which I had uploaded onto their Year 10 Geography Moodle page, to personally clarify the task, be available to answer queries, and to thank them for their assistance and participation.  I explained to the students that their responses would not be shared publicly, and that the information would be used to give teacher librarians (of which I am one) and Humanities teachers a better understanding of how the students feel about the research process, and what areas of information literacy need to be addressed to a deeper extent in future planning i.e. for the benefit of students, as well as teachers.



As well as conducting the questionnaire, I was also able to observe the students, while they undertook their research, and to observe the methods the teacher used to facilitate the inquiry, including task documents and frameworks.  By observing classes in action, I was able to gain a better understanding of reasons for questionnaire responses, and to acquire additional information about how the students undertook their research.


I observed each of the two Year 10 classes on three occasions, during their inquiry task.  I was able to walk from student to student to observe, ask questions and answer questions.  I also presented a brief revision workshop with each class, concerning using the online bibliography generator.  The class teacher was very helpful and supportive of my project, and emailed me any relevant documents and frameworks, related to the students’ inquiry task.


Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41.

Todd, R. J., Kuhlthau, C. C., & Heinstrom, J. E. (2005). School library impact measure (SLIM): A toolkit and handbook for tracking and assessing student learning outcomes of guided inquiry through the school library. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, Rutgers University.


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