A+ Education

from too many trees to barren wasteland…



In this post I am reaching beyond Google and Google Scholar in my expert search for “Inquiry Learning and Neurodiversity” resources.  Our post-graduate student body has been directed to A+ Education: an Australian database of research published in Australian journals which looks favourably upon Australian spelling.  At this early stage, I’m not sure how this will bode for my search given the bulk of my educational research results from Google and Google Scholar originate in the United States.  But I will save my cynicism until the searches are done.  Google and Google Scholar searches have helped me hone my search terms and now I am looking to drill down in more detail. Again, here are my questions posed and current search term dendrogram. I’m preserving the grouping of my search terms and now define them for searching specifically within the sphere of education.

Research Questions

  1. What are the advantages or disadvantages for Neurodiverse Learners and Inquiry Learning?
  2. How is Inquiry Learning intertwined with Executive Function, Theory of Mind, and Central Coherence and other cognitive skills and abilities, such as self-awareness?
  3. How do specific teacher and classroom practices enable Inquiry Learning for Neurodiverse Learners.
Figure 1: Vertical Tree Dendogram of Search Terms. Image by site author CC by 2.0

Throughout the Expert Search process I’ve gathered  many synonyms as I can imagine for the various search terms I feel are relevant.  A+ Education provides a Thesaurus as part of its search offering, but I stumble as I find the A+ Education graphic user interface (GUI) non-intutitive and hard to navigate towards the Thesaurus aid. If it is difficult for me then it may be difficult for another one of my readers, so here is a visual guide on how to get there:

Figure 2: A+ Education wayfinding guide to using Thesaurus function. Image created by site author CC by 2.0.
  1. Go to the Login section and either login as a guest via your tertiary education institution, or open an account.
  2. Choose Advanced Search
  3. Select Thesaurus
  4. Choose Select Thesauri
  5. Chose relevant Thesaurus – in my case Australian Thesaurus of Education Descriptors.

I spent some time browsing terms in the Thesaurus and consolidating my search terms along my four main synonym groups.

Thesaurus Search Results

A Thesaurus search for synonyms for all of my current search terms has given some new angles, far more than realised via Google and Google Scholar. This aspect of A+ Education is greatly adding to terms within my domain of Classroom and Academic Learning Environment. The A+ Education Thesaurus searching ability has a questionably far greater role than just finding synonyms. By searching a dbase that is aligned to education, I’m stretching the parameters of my re-search into the education arena.  I had hoped this to be the case and now it is true. Specifically I am able to focus on Inquiry Learning and Cognitive Abilities & Skills.  From the outset I was always trying to understand Inquiry Learning and the process from a neurodiverse learner’s perspective.  In a way, I was reverse engineering Inquiry Learning down to its distinct parts so that I could assess its potency as a whole for this group of learners (an example of combining parts to make a whole, or big picture thinking). A+ Education has added this angle to my re-search:

Figure 3: Dendrogram and A+Education terms for Cognitive Ability and Cognitive Skills. Image by site author CC by 2.0

If I was going to parlay this re-search into a more extensive form, like for example a literature review,  I would spend time investigating all research and implications for neurodiverse learners for each of these terms.  But for the purposes of getting to the end of this initial re-search, I’ve selected the poignant terms that continually effect education outcomes for neurodivergent learners.


Figure 4: Cognitive Skills and Abilities added to dendrogram of search terms. Image by site author CC by 2.0

Probing the cognitive skills needed to participate in an Inquiry Learning process is therefore important to my search and again my initial lines of questioning have shifted. I am looking for resources that show both barriers to entry and opportunities for neurodiverse students within Inquiry Learning processes. What skills do students needs to bring to the Inquiry Learning table?  What skills can be developed?  And can they be developed without scaffolding?

So on to searches.  A+ Education uses similar search mechanisms to Google and Google Scholar – basic Boolean terms, with the addition of symbols to replicate words, for example: + for AND or new symbols such as ? for truncations.

Search #1

I find no resources after my first “cover-all” advanced search to “Inquiry Learning” AND “autism” and have similar disappointing results searching all terms in my current search term tiers one and two, I am disheartened to find no more, but I am not surprised.

Figure 5: A+ Education Advanced Search Results screen shot

Just when I think its time to let this portion of my research go, focus on Neuropsychological and Cognition skills and get rid of any social construct of neurodiversity, I remember my own diagnosis … Aspergers!

This is very short-sighted of me to omit this term, but as Asperger’s Syndrome

Figure 6: A+ Education thesaurus synonyms for “autism” screen shot

is it is no longer a diagnosis via the current DSM-V, I try not to use it anymore, opting for High Functioning Autism instead. I did use A+ Education’s Thesaurus for “autism” synonyms but out-of-handedly rejected the list when it included psychiatric terms and negative descriptions.  So personal bias and mindset interjected here and that has affected my Inquiry Learning process.  (So it would stand to reason that others with single-mindedness and lack of Theory of Mind would also struggle through the Inquiry Learning process if it wasn’t monitored!). Eureka! Or as Oprah would say “this was a lightbulb moment”.

And just to prove what a mistake it would have been to ignore “Aspergers”, the search provided a relevant resource.

Figure 7: Search results “inquiry learning” and “autism” A+ Education shot

Search #2

I’m forming a new interim question: What cognitive skills and abilities are employed through Inquiry Learning?  This is pivotal to my re-search.  A+ Education’s thesaurus function has honed the portion of my search strings Cognitive Considerations and Barriers: these search terms may allow me to posture some sort of score card for the Inquiry Learning as a tool either for or against (or both) neurodiverse learners, given the cognitive abilities and skills they must bring to the table.

Where A+ Education’s Thesaurus promised so much in increasing searchable terms, existing and newly formed search strings offered little results given the amount of search strings I applied. However, I managed to uncover a number of relevant resources and feel confident I can move to my next search engine ProQuest without fear I’ve missed something.




Figure 8: Relevant resources from Australian Education Journals


While I have gathered some good resources, A+ Education has left me a little disappointed at the low level of research published in Australian Journals for Australian educators on aspects of Inquiry Learning as they relate to neurodiverse learners. I also found the A+ Education search environment a little clumsy and not always intuitive.  Plus active searches time-out very quickly leaving the user to log in, via their institution many times during an intense episode of Expert Searching and note-taking.

I go into my next search of US-based ProQuest with a little more hope knowing how much of the world’s research on autism and education originates in North America. Actually ProQuest is my great white hope for scholarly articles as the following search is across social media, and I generally have no idea what that will bring. Following Expert Searching in A+ Education, my posed questions have been tweaked for ProQuest:

  1. What are the advantages or disadvantages of the Inquiry Learning Process for Neurodiverse Learners.
  2. How are Executive Function, Theory of Mind, Central Coherence and other cognitive skills and abilities either 1) required for, or 2) developed by Inquiry Learning?
  3. How do specific teacher and classroom practices enable or obstruct Inquiry Learning for Neurodiverse Learners?

Mapping the Journey

Figure 9: Inquiry Process and Information Search Process. Image by site author CC by 2.0


Andreiuc88 (Photographer). (n.d.). Man Walking Through a Fairytale Forest [photograph], Retrieved August 20, 2016, from http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-102692894.html?src=download_history

Audet, R. and L. Jordan (2008) Integrating inquiry across the curriculum. Heatherton, VIC: Hawker Brownlow. p. 14

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004) Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services, 2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT.

2 thoughts on “A+ Education

  1. Your vertical dendrogram looks amazing and I would love to be able to explore it – is there a way to make it larger? You use of a flow chart to track your journey through the Process and information search is also excellent.

    Good idea to use the word Asperger’s – I understand why you had not initially, but there is still so much research out there with this term that to carry out searches without using it could be very limiting.

    Your use of the A+ Thesaurus to gather synonyms to use in your searches is very thorough and your use of Boolean operators and brackets is efficient – I understand your frustrations with the lack of results – but as you have alluded, it is a very niche area you are bravely exploring! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mel, good point about the dendrogram – I will see if I can enlarge it in a separate window because it is very detailed and probably not going to be able to be viewed well on all devices. And yes, HUGE oversight of me not to use Aspergers – Learned my lesson there! Re: A+ Education, for me its greatest contribution was the Thesaurus function. thanks again Mel – I really appreciate your feedback


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