Student Driven Inquiry: A Personal Research Journey


Published: February 5, 2019 by Dr. Shelly Buchanan

The first months of 2018 presented me with significant professional shifts when I joined the iSchool full-time faculty and shortly thereafter in March earned my Ph.D. for my dissertation titled, “The lived experience of middle school student engaged in student-driven inquiry: A phenomenological study.” In my research with middle school students engaged in the Independent Project — a student-governed quarter-long research study on a topic of personal interest designed and implemented by individual learners — I gathered qualitative data on this student learning experience through individual student interviews and identified the affordances and challenges in this work.  With this information, I am currently developing a flexible model for Student Driven Inquiry (SDI) implementation in a variety of school environments.  This model will be laid out in detail in Student Driven Inquiry: Give the Kids the Keys, a K-12 to be published by Libraries Unlimited.

While working on developing this learning model, I bumped into educators interested in implementing SDI with high school seniors with my guidance during the 2018-2019 school year, an opportune confluence of intentions! I’m meeting regularly with school administrators, teachers, and students embarking on this SDI experience for the first time and am gaining more evidence (high school here compared to middle school in my research study) of student learning experiences and content development, which is generating additional ideas for designing useful materials to support model implementation. Watching teachers and students co-adapt my SDI framework-in-development for their situational needs injects additional information and energy into this current work.

Relatedly, I will be sharing the SDI learning model at two upcoming conferences.  First up is the California School Library Association State Conference in February where in addition to introducing SDI to school librarians, I will co-lead a workshop with Mary Ann Harlan on developing inquiry collaborations between school librarians and classroom teachers and also present on SDI in a concurrent session.  Second, I will be co-leading an SDI workshop for educators with JoAnn Groh, Director of Paolo Freire Freedom School in Tucson, Arizona, at SXSW EDU, an internationally recognized conference for creative professionals working in the arts, business, and education. 

Looking further, I’ll be focused on: publishing from my dissertation; collaborating with classroom teachers, school librarians, and other interested educators; and continuing my lecturing and collaborations here in the iSchool where I am currently teaching INFO200, INFO233, INFO237, and INFO254.  Connecting and collaborating with others for learning into the future means continued growth and development — that’s what fuels me in this work.