How IDEA Utilizes Guided Inquiry to Help Students Find Their Interests and Career Path

A Q&A with Veronica Armour and Dr. Leslie K. Maniotes - by Scott Rubin

In an endeavor to peel back the layers of educational innovation at the Rutgers IDEA Program, I met with Veronica Armour, one of the primary architects behind IDEA Program's unique educational blueprint, and Dr. Leslie K. Maniotes, PhD, a beacon of inquiry-based learning. My mission was to understand the essence of Guided Inquiry and its pivotal role in carving out individual paths of discovery and growth for students in various applications.

Dr. Leslie Maniotes' expertise in inquiry learning, literacy, and instructional design, combined with Veronica Armour's forward-thinking approach to education at Rutgers, paints a vivid picture of what the future of education could look like. The start of their collaboration can be traced back to a pivotal meeting between Veronica and Rutgers SCI Distinguished Professor Emerita, Carol C. Kuhlthau, a renowned library and information science researcher and co-author of Guided Inquiry Design with Dr. Maniotes. This encounter marked the beginning of a partnership aimed at redefining learning for the next generation of thinkers, creators, and doers. The following Q&A is a synthesis of my conversation with Dr. Maniotes and Veronica Armour.

Veronica Armour
Leslie Maniotes

Q: How is Guided Inquiry defined?

Dr. Maniotes: Guided Inquiry is rooted in understanding Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process, emphasizing the need to navigate through various phases—such as opening up to curiosity, immersive learning, exploration, and focusing on personal interests. It is designed to cultivate an environment where learning is driven by the students own questions and curiosity. This approach champions a learner-centered methodology, recognizing that meaningful learning occurs when students are actively engaged in the process of seeking, understanding, and applying information. Its about creating a supportive framework where educators guide students through the complex maze of information, helping them to construct knowledge that is both personal and deeply rooted in authentic inquiry.

At the IDEA Program's, it looks like they have adapted this model to suit the unique needs of students involved in innovation, design, and entrepreneurship. It provides a framework that respects the journey from initial curiosity to the formulation of insightful, personal contributions in their projects. This translates into a dynamic educational experience where students are not just passive recipients of information but active participants in their learning journey, applying the principles of Guided Inquiry to real-world challenges in innovation and entrepreneurship. This process not only deepens their understanding but also fosters critical thinking, creativity, and a sense of ownership over their educational outcomes.

Q: How does the IDEA Program utilize Guided Inquiry to help students like myself find their interests and potentially their career paths?

Veronica Armour: From my perspective at IDEA, Guided Inquiry is not just an academic tool; it's a transformative approach that mirrors real-life problem-solving and innovation processes. It's about creating an environment where students are encouraged to explore their interests deeply, to understand that uncertainty is a part of learning, and to see the value in collaboration and reflection. We aim to prepare students for the complexities of the global, interconnected world they're stepping into, equipping them with the skills to navigate and thrive in this dynamic landscape.

At the IDEA Program, we use Guided Inquiry as a foundational framework to support students in their exploration of interests, academic paths, and career trajectories. The process begins with nurturing a student's innate curiosity and guiding them through immersive learning experiences. By engaging in this personalized inquiry process, students are encouraged to delve deep into subjects or problems they are passionate about, often uncovering previously unrecognized interests or talents. This reflective and explorative journey is critical in helping students like you to not only discover but also align your academic pursuits with potential career paths. The structured flexibility of Guided Inquiry allows us to tailor support to each student's unique journey, facilitating a more meaningful and impactful exploration of their future.

Dr. Maniotes: The beauty of Guided Inquiry lies in its ability to transform uncertainty into a powerful tool for discovery. For students embarking on their academic and professional journeys, this approach equips them with the skills to ask deeper, more meaningful questions. By learning how to navigate and evaluate information critically, students can forge their own paths, informed by a process of discovery that is both personal and academically rigorous. In the context of the IDEA Program, Guided Inquiry acts as a catalyst, sparking curiosity and inspiring students to explore diverse interests and career possibilities. The result is a self-directed learning experience that not only prepares students for the challenges of today's world but also empowers them to envision and pursue a future that aligns with their deepest interests and aspirations.

In this way, Guided Inquiry serves as a bridge between students' current academic experiences and their future professional lives. Through my personal journey within the IDEA Program, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of this approach. The opportunities to engage in hands-on projects, collaborate with peers and mentors, and reflect on my learning have been instrumental in clarifying my interests and goals. This reflective practice, rooted in Guided Inquiry, has not only shaped my academic journey but has also provided a roadmap for exploring potential career paths that resonate with my passions and skills.

Q: Can you discuss the development of Guided Inquiry and its importance in education today?

Dr. Maniotes: The evolution of Guided Inquiry was a response to a critical need in education—to bridge the gap between traditional learning and the demands of the information-rich, technological environment of the 21st century. By fostering a culture of collaborative inquiry within schools, we're preparing students with the competencies needed to tackle the challenges of a changing world. This method encourages students to become active participants in their learning, critically engaging with information and developing their perspectives.

Veronica Armour: Adding to Leslie's point, the significance of Guided Inquiry in today's education landscape cannot be overstated. It represents a shift towards more holistic, student-centered learning experiences that value the process as much as the outcome. In the context of the IDEA Program's and broader educational goals, it's about fostering resilience, creativity, and the ability to engage with complex problems—skills imperative for success in today's interconnected and rapidly evolving world.

To weave in the utilization of faculty and resources effectively into your detailed exploration of Guided Inquiry at the IDEA Program, consider inserting a new question and answer right after discussing the definition and application of Guided Inquiry. This will allow a smooth transition into exploring the practicalities and support mechanisms that underpin the program's success. Here's how you might integrate it:

Guided Inquiry Design Framework Diagram

Q: In implementing Guided Inquiry within the IDEA Program, how are faculty and resources utilized to maximize student outcomes?

Veronica Armour: Central to the success of Guided Inquiry in the IDEA Program is the active involvement of our dedicated faculty and the strategic use of resources. Faculty members, who are experts in their respective fields, play a crucial role as mentors and guides. They help students navigate through the phases of Guided Inquiry, from sparking initial curiosity to facilitating deep exploration and personalized learning paths. Our faculty's commitment to adopting an inquiry stance themselves enriches the learning environment, creating a dynamic space where students feel supported in their journey of exploration and discovery.

Furthermore, the IDEA Program leverages a wide array of resources, including cutting-edge technology, collaboration tools, and access to industry and academic networks. These resources are carefully curated to complement the Guided Inquiry process, enabling students to immerse themselves in real-world problems and projects. Workshops, seminars, and hands-on labs offer practical experiences that bridge theoretical knowledge with practical application, thus preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Dr. Maniotes: The synergy between faculty expertise and the thoughtful integration of resources amplifies the impact of Guided Inquiry. It's this combination that empowers students to take ownership of their learning, encouraging them to pursue their passions while developing essential skills for lifelong learning. The IDEA Program's approach illustrates how creating a supportive, resource-rich environment fosters an inquiry community where every student has the opportunity to thrive.

Q: Reflecting on the experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, how has Guided Inquiry adapted to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by remote learning?

Dr. Maniotes: The pandemic challenged us to rethink and adapt the Guided Inquiry approach for a virtual context. Despite the obstacles, it also unveiled new avenues for inquiry-based learning. The shift to online platforms prompted innovative methods of collaboration and exploration, highlighting the adaptability and resilience of both educators and students. These experiences have enriched our understanding of Guided Inquiry, demonstrating its applicability beyond traditional classroom settings and into the digital learning environment.

Veronica Armour: The pandemic underscored the importance of flexibility and innovation in education. At the IDEA Program's, we embraced these changes, finding new ways to support student inquiry and collaboration remotely. This period has been a testament to the strength of the Guided Inquiry framework in fostering engagement and deep learning, even in the most challenging circumstances. It's also been a learning opportunity for us to explore how digital tools can enhance the inquiry process, opening up new possibilities for post-pandemic education.

Q: Looking forward, what do you envision for the future of Guided Inquiry in education?

Dr. Maniotes: As we look to the future, I see Guided Inquiry becoming even more integral to education, transcending traditional boundaries to embrace a more interdisciplinary and collaboration approach. By continuing to bridge the gaps between librarians, educators, and students, we can create a more cohesive, inquiry-driven learning community. This evolution will ensure that students are not only information literate but also equipped with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to navigate the complexities of the modern world.

Veronica Armour: I envision a future where Guided Inquiry is a foundational element across educational disciplines, promoting a culture of lifelong learning and curiosity. By further integrating this approach, we can foster a more connected and engaged student body, prepared to address global challenges with creativity and resilience. The IDEA Program's's work is a step towards this future, showcasing the transformative power of inquiry-based learning in developing the next generation of innovators and leaders.

Expanded Student Perspective: Scott Rubin's Journey of Self-Discovery Through Guided Inquiry at the IDEA Program

My (Scott Rubin (RBS 24)) journey through the IDEA Program from freshman year (2020) to now an upcoming graduating senior in May serves as a compelling testament to the power of Guided Inquiry in facilitating student growth and self-discovery. Initially enrolling with a general interest in sports and a vague notion of becoming an athletic director, I found myself navigating a path filled with uncertainty and exploration. My engagement with the IDEA Program, prompted merely by an opportune email, became the catalyst for a profound transformation. Through the Program's structured yet open-ended approach to learning, I was encouraged to delve into unfamiliar territories, challenging my preconceived notions and gradually uncovering a newfound passion for healthcare and technology through a hackathon IDEA introduced to me and later a byrne seminar and IDEA micro internship in vaccine hesitancy. This unexpected pivot not only reshaped my academic focus transferring to the business school from arts and sciences but also led me to significant opportunities, including consulting for Merck and a full-time position at Johnson & Johnson post-graduation.

The Guided Inquiry model, as implemented in the IDEA Program, offered me a framework within which I could explore my interests, question assumptions, and refine my goals in a supportive, collaborative environment. This process of guided exploration and reflection was instrumental in my college  journey, allowing me to discover and leverage my strengths, and ultimately, to carve out a niche that resonated with my evolving interests and aspirations. By participating in various design labs and actively engaging with mentors and peers, I not only gained valuable skills and insights but also developed a clearer sense of direction and purpose. My experience underscores the transformative potential of Guided Inquiry in empowering students to navigate the complexities of their academic and professional journeys, fostering a culture of curiosity, resilience, and lifelong learning.


What emerged from this conversation was stories, insights, and revelations that showed the core foundations of the IDEA Programs success. It also showed the amazing applications of Guided Inquiry and the profound impact it has on students' personal and academic growth. Through the shared experiences of Veronica Armour and Dr. Leslie K. Maniotes, PhD, I gained an unparalleled view into how Guided Inquiry not only fosters a culture of curiosity and exploration but also equips students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for navigating the complexities of today's world. This journey illuminated the transformative power of inquiry-based learning in cultivating an educational environment where students are not only learners but also innovators, ready to contribute meaningfully to the global community.

To learn more about Dr. Leslie K. Maniotes’ work, check out Leslie K Maniotes ( To learn more about Guided Inquiry Design (GID), check out the GID website.