How might the TL help the school move towards integrated information literacy instruction?
The change in societal expectations of students has meant that students need to have strong fluency in information literacy and the inclusion of inquiry learning within the curriculum was the ACARA’s response to this change. Information literacy is cumulative and needs to be embedded across the curriculum and year levels. Unfortunately, information literacy is not integrated into the curriculum, but rather aspects of it can be found within some subjects and their inquiry strands. This disjointed learning means that the skills that inquiry promotes are taught in a haphazard manner instead of being practiced in sequential and regular intervals. Information literacy is cumulative and thus requires it to be embedded across the KLAs and year levels rather than in ad hoc stand alone units (Lupton, 2014). Therefore, IL needs to be part of the content, structure and sequence of learning.
Fitzgerald & Garrison (2017) reinforce that consistency is important and a school wide focus is important. The central position of the library within a school allows a teacher librarian to have an holistic view of the school’s teaching and learning. This holistic vision means that a TL is able to liaise and collaborate with their colleagues to implement a framework for inquiry learning within the school so that those essential skills can be practiced at regular intervals (Kuhlthau et al., 2015). This framework, once designed by the TL, can be then adapted by the classroom teacher and or TL to suit the needs of the subject and or year level. As the keeper of the framework, the TL is also able to differentiate the scaffolding to suit the learning needs of the students in anticipation of the unit of work.
What challenges lie in the way of such instruction?
The biggest challenge for the implementation of inquiry units is time, or the lack of time. The curriculum is already very crowded and with the prevalence of standardised testing and the emphasis on traditional assessments, there is insufficient time to properly run inquiry units at regular intervals. Additionally, whilst inquiry units are popular in primary schools and in lower secondary, it is deemed less rigorous in senior years. This is a fallacy, but old habits often die hard. The other challenges for inquiry units are lack of collaboration within the teaching staff and reluctance for students to work in collaborative groups. As mentioned in other posts, many teachers struggle to work collaboratively with their colleagues for numerous reasons. Teacher librarians are often excluded from curriculum planning and assessment design due to the presence of subject silos within schools. This inability to collaborate often leads to poorly designed and implemented guided inquiry units that fail to engage students and provide lacklustre results. This inability for teachers to collaborate effectively is then often transferred to their reluctance to let students to work in similar groupings. Inquiry units are best done collaboratively as learning is enhanced when based within social constructs. These groups are often called inquiry circles or focus groups. Unfortunately some teachers are reluctant to have their students working in groups as they differ from the traditional classroom setting and upset their preferred teaching style.
How teacher librarians and teachers might encourage students to transfer information literacy skills and practices from one subject to another?
The library is often a neutral zone and utilised by all subject areas. Therefore, students are able to view the TL as the ‘inquiry teacher’ regardless of the subject that the task is for. This means that it is plausible that students would be able to transfer their skills in inquiry learning from one subject to another simply because the teacher teaching the subject has not changed. Additionally, the TL is already aware of the learning needs of the students and thus can scaffold them appropriately. This scaffolding can be tailored individually to allow all students to participate to varying degrees. Fitzgerald & Garrison (2017) point out that reflection within an inquiry unit forces students to contemplate their learning and ruminate on the processes they used to achieve their goal. This reflection helps students determine their strengths and weaknesses for future tasks and thus be more conscious of their learning. This cognisance of learning is an essential part of the process and can be used as feedback as well as determining the zone of proximal development (Fitzgerald & Garrison, 2017).
Doyle, A., (2019) The hard skills employers seek. The Balance Careers. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-are-hard-skills-2060829
Fitzgerald, L. & Garrison, K. (2017) ‘It Trains Your Brain’: Student Reflections on Using the Guided Inquiry Design Process. Synergy, 15/2
Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L., & Caspari, A. (2015) GI: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd editon, Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Lutheran Education Queensland (n.d.) Approaches to learning. Inquiry based learning. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/media/1360/lutheran-education-queensland-inquiry-based-learning.pdf
McLeod, S., (2018) Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html