Unit Redesign

The previous post, Analysis and Recommendations, considered the History Teachers’ Association of Australia (HTAA) Year 4 unit of work ‘First Fleet’ in relation to aspirational elements associated with inquiry learning. In brief, the unit was found to lack key features that could be considered essential within authentic inquiry pedagogy.   Centered on the findings of the analysis, recommendations were posed for a redesign of the unit. To view Recommendations click here 

The redesign has significantly revised and expanded on the original unit.  Included in the redesign document is a unit outline, curriculum priorities, and an explanation of the revised pedagogical approach, including description of key tools and strategies to be employed in the unit.  A sequenced and detailed teaching and learning plan describes activities to be implemented at each stage. Relevant Australian Curriculum content descriptors, elaborations and cross-curricular links are also specified.  A snapshot comparison of the original unit and redesign can be found at Fig.1.

Fig. 1 Snapshot comparison of changes made in the redesign. Click on the image to enlarge.  


The full unit planning document can be accessed by clicking the image below.  Annotations throughout the unit signpost redesign elements.


The following rationale describes key features of the redesign in regards to the recommendations and their implementation.


The original HTAA unit planning reflected a conventional, traditional unit planning approach, facilitating discipline-based learning in a structured, teacher-centric model. To reframe the unit as inquiry, a focus toward how students pursue knowledge, and away from a linear, vertical and compartmentalized traditional education structure (YouthLearn, 2016) was necessary. The unit redesign aspires to shift the student and teacher experience from the conventional to a constructive, complex process of learning that is student centred (Maniotes and Kuhlthau, 2014). Further, the new unit aims to embed inquiry learning pedagogy and a process approach (Fitzgerald, 2015), providing a means through which Australian Curriculum priorities can be implemented. The ultimate goal of the redesign is a transference from value on student duplication of knowledge, to the engendering of students’ intrinsic interest, in both what is learnt and in the process of learning.

The most significant modification to the unit is the application of the explicit inquiry model: Guided Inquiry Design (GID) (Kuhlthau et al, 2012) see Fig.2.  The eight-phase model provides the organisation for the unit planning, embedding essential inquiry elements such as stimulating thinking, questioning, information literacy and an iterative research cycle (Lupton, 2016). The GID model allows for the creation and delivery of an inquiry task while also incorporating Kuhlthau’s (2004) Information Search Process (ISP) steps taken by individual researchers (Fitzgerald, 2015). At the centre of any inquiry process is data collection and information gathering, culminating in the construction of new knowledge and understanding (Lupton, 2012). The GID model phases require students to identify a focus framed by a question, followed by a investigation of sources, analysis, communication and evaluation. For learning to be engaging and meaningful to the student, the inquiry needs to meet in the ‘third space’ connecting to what is relevant and important to students (Kuhlthau, 2012).  GID comprises phases that aim to open up possibility thinking by stimulating curiosity, allow students to build background knowledge while connecting to content, and foster exploration of interesting ideas of personal significance.  In addition, the resourcing of the unit redesign with more engaging and meaningful source material, such as museum artifacts and National Library of Australia sources, also supports teachers in providing thought-provoking learning contexts.  Further, the GID phases consider the affective domain on the levels of confidence students experience as they progress through the inquiry process.

Fig.2  Unit Overview using Guided Inquiry Design model.  Full description of activities found in unit planning.  To enlarge image click here.


The role of the teacher has also changed significantly in the redesign. Firstly, a teaching team, rather than single teacher, deliver the unit. The role of the teaching team is to provide specialised skills and knowledge that will facilitate students’ journeys through the inquiry phases. The unit redesign also includes reference to specific points during the inquiry process where teachers can create, what Kuhlthau (2012) calls, ‘zones of intervention’.  These junctures allow the teaching team to assist and guide students, as a class or individually, to a clearer mindset that is conducive to deep personal understanding, and in order to progress learning (Kuhlthau, 2012). Further, a questioning approach in the unit redesign encourages teachers to listen and support students to ask questions, gaining an understanding of students’ background knowledge. The table below in Fig.3 demonstrates how the redesign positions the new unit as student centered inquiry, as well as exploring its demonstration of aspirational inquiry elements .

Fig.3  Redesign explored in Comparison Table using Common Inquiry Stages and Level of Inquiry Continuum.  Click to enlarge.


Another key feature of the redesign is the framing of the unit as a whole with an essential, overarching question.  Essential questions invite the inquirer to ask more questions to support it, putting focus on depth and diversity of thinking around the question, rather than simply looking for an answer that has been predetermined by the teacher or curriculum (Wiggins, 2007; Murdoch, 2012).  In addition, the redesign includes a greater variety of questioning framework models. Focus on expanding questioning frameworks and critical evaluation in the unit redesign enables teachers to not only provide ways to interrogate and evaluate, but also to create a climate which supports reflection and creativity that is required for students to formulate high quality questions (Lupton, 2012). These changes also seek to address the GeSTE windows models of critical evaluation of information (Lupton and Bruce, 2010).  More complex questioning focused on critical perspectives, such as those found in the Identify Phase of the planning document, address a move towards the Transformative window.  In addressing the Expressive window the redesign focus is on the attention to student affect in each inquiry phase, and in creative choice in use of an inquiry journal and in presentation of understanding.  These enable both creativity and emotional responses to information be valued.

The original unit was found to address lower to mid order thinking when considering cognitive skills addressed by Blooms Revised Taxonomy. Higher order thinking skills are embedded in the teaching and learning activities provided in the unit planning redesign. Opportunities for complex thinking common to the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy are developed across the eight phases within the GID framework. The use of the verbs and questions associated with each stage of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy helps to clarify the task and ensure that students have the opportunity to work at the higher end of the Bloom’s Cognitive Processes Dimension instead of remaining at the fact gathering and retelling end of the Cognitive Processes spectrum.  Supporting higher order thinking throughout each phase, the GID process in the redesign goes beyond fact finding to active interpretation, construction of new ideas and deep understanding (Kuhlthau, 2012).  Annotations in the unit planning signpost examples.

Finally, a significant issue for the original unit was its out-dated reference to version 7.5 of the Australian Curriculum.  This impacted upon the level of academic rigour in regards to the development of inquiry skills. The new unit reflects the most recent version of the syllabus, with greater detail provided in both elaborations and cross-curricular links.  This element of the redesign provides greater depth for teacher understanding, aiding in a plan for implementation that encompasses content and knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions as set out in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA, 2008; ACARA, 2016).  The table in Fig.4 demonstrates how the redesign ensures that all areas of the curriculum are addressed.

Fig.4  ACARA Curriculum priorities addressed in new unit design. Click to enlarge image.



Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). V8.2 Foundation to year 10 curriculum:  General Capabilities: Creative and Critical Thinking: Learning Continuum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/critical-and-creative-thinking/continuum#layout=columns

FitzGerald, L. (2015). Opportunity knocks: The Australian curriculum and guided inquiry. Access (Online)29(2), 4.

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. ABC-CLIO.

Lupton, Mandy (2016) Inquiry learning: A pedagogical and curriculum framework for information literacy. In Sales, Dora & Pinto, Maria (Eds.) Pathways into Information Literacy and Communities of Practice: Teaching Approaches and Case Studies. Chandos Publishing. (In Press)

Lupton, Mandy (2012, November 28) Collecting questions  Retrieved from https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/collecting-questions/

Maniotes, L. K., & Kuhlthau, C. C. (2014). Making the shiftKnowledge Quest, 43(2), 8.

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.  Melbourne, Victoria: MCEETYA.  Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf

Murdoch, K. (2012, October 28). Walking the world with questions in our heads…. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from https://justwonderingblog.com/2012/10/28/walking-the-world-with-questions-in-our-heads/

Wiggins, G. (2007). What is an essential questionBig ideas. Authentic Education.  Retrieved from http://www.authenticeducation.org/ae_bigideas/article.lasso?artid=53

Youth Learn. (2016). Inquiry-based Learning PDF. Education Development Centre.  Retrieved from http://youthlearn.org/wp-content/uploads/Inquiry_Based_Learning.pdf


One thought on “Unit Redesign

  1. divermin says:

    Hi Michele,

    You unit redesign is incredibly thorough and demonstrates how passionate you are about your teaching. I am impressed with the idea of a teaching team to deliver the unit. Are all members of the team required for the entire unit? I also like your table linking Critical and Creative thinking and HASS inquiry and skills and knowledge and understanding with GID.

    Some things I noticed:

    Are you comparing to both Bloom’s taxonomy and to Bloom’s revised taxonomy? I was slightly unclear. Also, maybe a hyperlink or reference to Bloom’s?

    You have referenced your sources real well, however just wondering if some hyperlinks throughout would make it easier for the reader to link to them instead of going to the reference list.

    The images are really effective, however i noticed that the first table doesn’t open with a click. I had to right click and select open in another tab/window. Also, just wondering if you were providing a link to Wiggins in your reference list.

    Amazing effort! Thanks for letting me read your work.



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