Learning: Pedagogical practice for teacher librarians
Libraries are intrinsically connected with learning because they have consistently preserved and shared the documented histories and cultural knowledge of society (Ryan & Swindells, 2018). However, my time at ACU Library for my placement showed me that academic libraries differ because being an information repository is secondary to supporting their community in developing critical thinking, knowledge construction and independent inquiry (Higgins, 2017, Ch.1).
This active assistance that academic and school libraries offer is pertinent because the way people learn has changed significantly. From ancient times, learning was seen as a transfer of knowledge from one generation to another either through the forms of oral traditions or from written texts. However, evidence has shown that learning is increased when a learner is able to build new knowledge upon prior learning. This constructivist approach to learning is appropriate for diverse classrooms because the method and product is dependent on the learner’s histories and perspectives. Additionally, constructivist pedagogies such as inquiry and literary learning promote the development of a range of ‘soft skills’ such as problem solving, communication, collaborative practice, as well as critical and creative thinking, which is ideal for a knowledge economy.
Inquiry learning (IL) requires students to ask questions, design investigations, research information, interpret evidence, draw conclusions and communicate their findings in a variety of formats (Dept of ESE, 2021). As a constructivist pedagogy, IL puts the onus of knowledge construction onto the learner and in the process students learn valuable skills (Garrison & FitzGerald, 2016; Kuhlthau et al., 2015). Therefore it is clearly evident that access to information resources and sufficient information literacy skills to achieve positive learning outcomes is required. This means that TLs are integral to IL because they are information experts and can explicitly and implicitly embed information literacy skills throughout the inquiry process (ASLA & ALIA, 2004; Levitov, 2016, p.29).
Unfortunately there is no IL embedded within the Australian Curriculum, however there are elements of IL in Science, Geography and History key learning areas (Lupton, 2014). But as Lupton (2014) pointed out, whilst these areas address general inquiry skills, they are not consistent between the KLAs and as such, are not a connected framework. This clearly indicates the importance of TLs in creating and implementing an integrated framework of IL because they are able to see how inquiry is taught across the curriculum and then scaffold the skills appropriately.
TLs can also support IL through team teaching and collaboration with department leaders. In 2020 I collaborated with the Year 8 Science and Year 8 English team leaders to help them implement inquiry learning in their respective disciplines. Both team leaders were concerned about the robustness of student research questions and were concerned if it would sufficiently address the learning outcomes. So from my prior knowledge as a science teacher and learning in ETL401, I created a reverse’ lotus chart with embedded questions to assist students in creating their inquiry questions for tasks. The integrated questions increased critical thinking and enabled students to connect to their topic to a deeper level. It also allowed teachers and students to visualise their learning. The experiment worked so well that I presented my findings at ASLA’s 2021 School Library conference and the corresponding article was published in ACCESS’s Volume 35, Issue 3, September, 2021 (Check out the contents page!).
Here is an example of another cross curricular inquiry task that I created for my school:
2. Literary learning
Literary learning (LL) is the embedding of literature across the curriculum in order to convey subject specific information. It turns students from codebreakers into participants by using texts for learning and analysing. This means LL can be effectively used across the curriculum, in all year levels and can be adapted to suit diverse learners because literature based learning allows students to construct their own bank of knowledge from information that is more easily accessible to them.
From a personal viewpoint, I really engaged with this aspect of Teacher Librarianship. Liz Dereout was fantastic at explaining the value of Literary Learning and I learned a great deal from ETL402 as the blogs I wrote illustrated. It was hard to get the mind to shift from Shifting from ‘Learning to Read’ to ‘Reading to learn’. However, classroom teachers did come around to using Text sets, Literary Circles, Book Trailers and Book Bento Boxes. Text sets proved to be the most useful because teachers were more willing to use extracts of text rather than whole books. Here are some examples of my practice in the interactive below.
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Part B – Theory into Practice – Literature.
Australian School Library Association & Australian Library and Information Association. (2004). Australian professional standards for teacher librarians. ALIA. https://asla.org.au/resources/Documents/Website%20Documents/Policies/TLstandards.pdf
Cornett, C. E. (2014). Integrating the literary arts throughout the curriculum. In Creating meaning through literature and the arts: arts integration for Classroom teachers (5th ed., pp. 144-193). USA
Derewianka, B. (2015). The contribution of genre theory to literacy education in Australia. In J. Turbill, G. Barton & C. Brock (Eds.), Teaching Writing in Today’s Classrooms: Looking back to looking forward (pp. 69-86). Norwood, Australia: Australian Literary Educators’ Association. CSU Library
Garrison, K., & Fitzgerald, L. (2016). ‘It’s like stickers in your brain’: Using the guided inquiry process to support lifelong learning skills in an Australian school library. In A School Library Built for the Digital Age 45th IASLC Conference. CSU Library.
Higgins, S. (2017). Managing academic libraries: Principles and practice [ebook]. Amsterdam. Chandos Publishing. CSU Library.
Kuhthau, C., Maniotes, L., and Caspari, A. (2015). Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century. 2nd Edition. Libraries unlimited, USA.
Levitov, D. (2016). School libraries, librarians and inquiry learning. Teacher Librarian 43 (4), p.28. CSU Library.
Lupton, M. (2014). Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum v6: a bird’s eye view. Access 28 (4) p. 8-29. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/78451/1/Lupton_ACCESS_Nov_2014_2pg.pdf
Maniotes, L. (2019). Guided Inquiry Design: Creating curious inquirers. SYBA Academy workshop. Sydney
Ryan, M., & Swindells, G. (2018). Democratic practice: Libraries and education for citizenship. Portal: Libraries and the Academy 18 (4), pp.623-628. John Hopkins University Press. CSU Library.