Guided Inquiry Design and Making in School Libraries

  • Norman Public Schools (Norman, OK) received a National Leadership Grant for Libraries from the Institute of Museum and Libraries Services for a three-year research project in 2016.  The grant entitled  Learning in Libraries: Guided Inquiry Making and Learning was funded for over $540,000.00. This research extends our knowledge about participatory learning in K-12 school libraries through the investigation of learning by Making (Maker Media, 2013, p. 21) and the Guided Inquiry Design® process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2015) within the regular K-12 standards-based curriculum. The project included school librarians, classroom educators, resource specialists, and more than 400 learners at three schools at elementary, middle, and high school levels. This study included learners from diverse backgrounds, as well as multiple grade levels and subject areas. In this collaborative effort between K-12 school administrators, school librarians, classroom educators, and university researchers, practitioners and researchers worked closely to design research, collect and analyze data, and disseminate findings. This research study has resulted in a model that school librarians can replicate in school settings with a standards-based curriculum.

    This research has extended the current knowledge on how  learning occurs when combining an inquiry pedagogy with Making in school libraries as part of the regular school curriculum. 

    A goal of the grant team was to develop a replicable model that results in: 

    • Increased engagement for all students
    • Increased academic achievement for all students
    • Increased student interest in STEAM
    • Increased student persistence, autonomous learning, and participatory learning
    • Increased teacher and librarian collaboration and co-teaching
    • Expanded use of the school library as a participatory learning environment


    Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2015). Guided inquiry design: learning in the 21st century (2nd ed.).CA: Libraries Unlimited.
    Maker Media. (2013). Makerspace Playbook School Edition. Retrieved from 


  • Purpose

    The purpose of the Guided Inquiry Making and Learning research was to examine the feasibility of integrating Making into a standards-based inquiry pedagogy, and to develop a framework for other educators. This framework can be adapted to different curricular areas and grade levels to promote increased learner engagement and autonomy. It provides valuable knowledge for educators and school librarians to understand the role of Making within the school library and to facilitate conversations about best practices in school libraries. The framework is dependent on the work of school librarians and other educators working in collaboration to co-teach using a research-based inquiry pedagogy and Making.

  • Background

    Norman Public Schools (NPS) is a school system with a diverse student body in a mid-sized suburban community in Oklahoma.  Learners are empowered to solve real problems, communicate, collaborate, and innovate.  Norman Public Schools provides opportunities for all students to reach their full potential. Learner voice and choice and personalized learning are an emphasis of the District.  Three schools were selected to participate in this grant: Norman High School, Longfellow Middle School, and Lincoln Elementary School. The schools have several important commonalities: diverse student populations, qualified full-time certified school librarians with MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science) degrees, and sustained implementation of Guided Inquiry Design units. All three schools enthusiastically agreed to participate in this study.


    Grant Team & Participants

    The project was directed by Kathryn Roots Lewis, Director of Libraries and Instructional Technology for Norman Public Schools. Co-directors from Norman Public Schools were  Dr. Shirley Simmons, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services and Dr. Lee Nelson, Technology Integration Specialist.  Arian Davis and Dr. Janessa Doucette served as the grant managers. 

    The principal investigator for the project was Dr. Kyungwon Koh, Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. The co-principal investigator was Dr. Xun Ge, Professor, Instructional Psychology and Technology Department of Educational Psychology, Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, The University of Oklahoma. Our project advisory board  included: Dr. Leanne Bowler, Dr. Leslie Maniotes, and Leslie Preddy.

    An elementary, middle school, and two high school librarians participated in the study. Two middle school language arts educators participated in both the Year 1 pilot study and the Year 2 study. Two second grade and two high school English educators also participated in the Year 2 study. During Year 3, thirteen teachers participated in the study including two first grade, two fifth grade, two eighth grade science, one sixth grade social studies, two high school physical science and two algebra 2 educators. Over 400 learners were enrolled in the observed grant classes. See The Learning Team page for more information about how educators collaborated.


    Research Overview

    The research team collaborated with classroom educators, resource specialists, and school librarians to implement standards-based units at elementary, middle, and high school coupling Guided Inquiry Design® and Making (GID + Making) within the regular curriculum. This balanced comparison study examined Guided Inquiry Design® alone, and Guided Inquiry Design® integrated with Making. Researchers investigated the value that the learning by Making approach could add to guided inquiry, and if it would provide learners with more meaningful learning experiences, deeper understanding, creative problem-solving skills, increased engagement and increased self-regulation. The study also examined the perceptions of all stakeholders (learners, classroom educators, school librarians, administrators, and parents) about libraries, inquiry units, STEAM, collaboration and co-teaching. The project employed a pilot study, survey data, classroom observations, artifact analysis, focus groups, and individual interviews. For further information on our research, please visit our Presentations and Publications pages.


  • This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services LG-81-16-0151.

    The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the
    Institute of Museum and Library Services.

    If you have any questions or comments on the project, contact Dr. Lee Nelson at

    The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 123,000 libraries (link is external) and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook(link is external), Twitter(link is external) and Instagram.

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