Inquiry learning – thinking about it – Module 4.1b

PoseMuse / Pixabay


Standardised testing has been present in Australia for almost two centuries.  From parochial schools and their itinerant school inspectors; external examination boards and modern day NAPLAN; testing was designed to determine the quality of teaching and learning (Munro, 2017).  This trend has lead to schools and teachers being held accountable for what students learn and achieve within the classroom, often to the detriment of learning. Often this scenario is described as high stakes, as test scores often correlate to level of status for student, teacher and school.  Unfortunately, this accountability has inadvertently forced many teachers and schools to ‘teach to the test’ to bolster up their average scores. Teaching to the test as Popham (2001) points out is when teachers use learning activities that mimic the test conditions in that the cognitive demand is unchanged between the learning activity and the test.    

A curriculum based on content is easier to teach and to test.  Facts and figures are straightforward to assess compared to creativity and critical thinking which require understanding of nuances and emotional intelligence.  This is especially true for automated tests in which answers are displayed in a multiple choice format. But are standardised test truly identifying if learning is actually occurring?

Education is changing and it is inevitable in this information age that fundamental basis of teaching and learning practices is to prepare students for the future.  This preparation should include the opportunity to generate ideas, build creativity and encourage critical thinking as a process in order to create either a product or an idea (Markham, 2013).  Markham (2013) even goes further to suggest that skills based assessments will eventually overtake content as markers of achievement.

Skills that are easily acquired, explained, evaluated and estimated are known as hard skills.  These skills can be quantified and scaled against other people’s results. As this competence can be taught in stages, it can also be assessed with ease.  Soft skills though are harder to teach as it requires more than just rote learning (Doyle, 2019). It requires a student to actively engage with the information and using their own cognition, construct this new information into their knowledge bank in order to create something from it.  In this process of learning, students assemble their own learning content and develop a mastery of skills. Constructivist pedagogy is based upon the theory that people build or construct their own understanding of their world based upon what they already know and experience and what they discover in their learning (McLeod, 2018).  Constructivism is the foundation of inquiry learning.

Inquiry learning as defined by LEQ (n.d.) is a constructivist approach in which the goal of learning is that students construct their own meaning from the task.  As the learning is student centred, it requires the teacher to set the parameters and guide the students through the process as their motivation is intrinsic. The Melbourne Declaration of 2008 clearly describes the goals of education as enabling young Australians be successful in their learning, confident and creative in their endeavours and active and informed citizens (MCEETYA, 2008).  Therefore, this form of learning has been included into the Australian national curriculum but only recently aligned with subject areas (Lupton, 2014). Whilst the research shows the widespread benefits to inquiry learning in schools there are a several barriers into implementing this process across the country.

The main issue with the implementation of inquiry learning is that it requires the teacher to hand over control of the learning to the student.  The power of a content based curriculum lies within a teacher, and it’s entrenched traditions of ‘chalk & talk’ and ability to control learning outcomes within a prescribed time frame.  It requires the teacher to understand that each student will maximise their learning if it is their individual third space and that collaboration is essential. Another facet of this disinclination in implementing inquiry learning is that teachers can be confused as to what aspects of the content needs to be taught explicitly and what strands need to be discovered.  This is a fine art as Markham (2013) points out. In some circumstances, content is best taught explicitly before and or during an inquiry project. In other times, it can be taught at at the end of a unit as a ‘mop up lesson’ to address any learning outcomes that were accidentally missed. In some cases the skills need to also be taught such as the ability to question prior to commencing a task. This shift of educational thinking is more psychological rather than logistical.  

Inquiry learning requires teachers to work along with their colleagues and para-professionals.  Once again, it is a psychological shift in thinking that forces a teacher to realise that they are not the only font of all information but rather it is the collaboration of minds that build the best teaching and learning experiences for students.  Classroom teachers who practice inquiry learning in its entirety need to be open to collaborating with their teacher librarian and other teachers. They need to create a safe learning space for their students to engage with other members of staff and not feel like its a personal rebuke.  This can be difficult for many practitioners who through their teaching years have isolated themselves within their departmental and or classroom silos.

Inquiry learning requires redefining success within teaching and learning as measures of success cannot be simplified to a percentage or a score, but rather a demonstrated ability on a rubric (Markham, 2013).  A performance rubric that identifies a students level of expertise in an individual strand. As the current standardised testing is aimed at an individual’s ability to address content, it needs to evolve to identify student’s cognitive ability along a continuum of growth and not restricted to age levels like the current system of NAPLAN.  


Doyle, A., (2019) The hard skills employers seek. The Balance Careers. Retrieved from

The Educator (2018) Inquiry based learning: what the research says. Retrieved from

Lupton, M., (2014) Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum v6: a bird’s eye view. Access November 2014.

Lutheran Education Queensland (n.d.) Approaches to learning. Inquiry based learning. Retrieved from

MCEETYA (20019) MCEETYA four-year plan 2009 – 2012. Retrieved from

McLeod, S., (2018) Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

Markham, T., (2013) Inquiry learning vs. standardised content: Can they coexist? KQED. Retrieved from

Munro, J., (2017) Support for standardised tests boils down to beliefs about who benefits from it. Retrieved from

Popham, W., (2001) Teaching to the test. Educational leadership. 58:6. Retrieved from


A dying profession?

When I told my friends and family that I was starting my Masters in Teacher Librarianship, the most common answer was why?  After recently losing my previous career as a scientist to automation and downsizing, my family was worried that I had once again picked a career with a terminal illness.  

After all, it is a rather inauspicious time to become a teacher librarian.  A recent report by BBC News (2016) highlights the loss of 8000 librarian jobs just within the United kingdom.  Did I really need to go into debt to pay for a course that would be redundant in a few years time? What are my motives for even wanting to complete this course and becoming a teacher librarian?  What does a teacher librarian do that is so different from a classroom teacher? After all, we all went to university and obtained our teaching qualifications and registered with the appropriate governing bodies.  Why could I not do the role with just my education degree? Dewey isnt that hard and I do know my alphabet so … What’s the problem?

I posed a question on my Facebook wall to all my to ask them if their children attend a school with a library, the frequency of their attendance and if they knew their librarian was qualified.  Out of the thirty five responses, only five of my friends knew with authority that their children’s school librarian was qualified and two were not even sure if they were teachers. As a parent I was astounded, as a teacher I am outraged.

There is no way we would accept unqualified teachers teaching our children english, maths, science or music.  Then why are we as parents and voters accepting our children having a library not staffed with a qualified teacher librarian?

It then occurred to me that they did not know if the person their kids saw weekly was even qualified at their job.  Teacher librarians are  not on the forefront of the parent-school interaction and Bonanno (2015) corroborates that the profession is often invisible to the community.  Upon thinking further, I realised that this is so true. The work that many T/Ls do is often behind closed doors, in meetings, collaborating with staff after hours, working late at night working on curriculum mapping, organizing resources, embedding technology into teaching practice.  Quite often, even our own teaching colleagues are unaware of the work that is done behind the scenes. So teacher librarians and libraries need  marketing tools to showcase their importance to the school, community and society.

One way of definitely promoting the profession is data analysis. We live in a world of budgets, KPIs and performance markers.  School boards, P&C committees and the money holders are servants to data and data analysis and outputs are calculated carefully and measured against various markers. Teacher librarians need to make their contribution to the school and learning community tangible like actual data.  Not just that the kids read more and are happier, but specify that reading rates are up 40% and wellbeing up by 15%. Be definite with data. Use the school’s NAPLAN scores to elucidate how effective the programs are within the school, or the lack of programs causing lower results.    

Evidence based research is the most authoritative way on bolstering a library and a teacher librarian position within a school.  Consider using research from around the world to prove your point. Bonanno (2015) points out very specifically, the direct correlation between the number of qualified staff members within a library and learning outcomes.   Point out how literacy outcomes directly correlate to the library budget. Share educational articles and journals highlighting the importance of libraries to student wellbeing. Organize student surveys and evaluate the data.  Teacher librarians know that they are highly capable and confident professionals with an innate sense of leadership but need to seen as part of the school community rather than a separate entity (Bonanno 2011).

So the next time some buffoon suggests that teacher librarians are not integral to a school community, remind them that in the information age, digital literacy is an essential skill and teacher librarians are the experts in information literacy.  After all, who else will assist teachers in the planning and implementing of the curriculum, integrate multimodal resources into teaching and learning, as well as be the information expert of the school? We live in a complex digital environment, and a qualified teacher librarian is the gateway that connects curriculum to resources and classroom dynamics.  Don’t you want that gateway in your school?




BBC News (2016) Libraries: The Decline of a profession? England.


Bonanno, K,l (2011) A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. ASLA conference. Retrieved from


Bonanno, K,. (2015) A profession at the tipping point (revisited). Access


Burton, S., (2017) Does the digital world need libraries.  [BLog] Internet Citizen. Retrieved from


The Guardian (2017) What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Retrieved from


Stripling, Barbara K 2014, ‘The peril and promise of school libraries’, Advocating for School Librarians, American Libraries. from http://www. advocating-school-librarians


Endangered or Adaptable

Once upon a time, when the air was clear, there lived a family of moths with pretty white 

wings speckled with black spots.  This moth thrived in the woodland, blending in nicely with the fungus covered trees, living merrily among the birds, bees and butterflies of 18th century England.  Their cousins, the melanic moths, with their black wings were the poor cousins that hid in the shadows, hiding from the daylight hours that would highlight them against the drab grey green tree trunks.  

Courtesy of Flickr

But then, darkness descended upon them.  The Industrial age had arrived and with it, smog and soot filled the air and covered the trees.  The poor little speckled moths stood out with their white wings and soon became prey to all the predators around them.  They were dismayed and cried for help to their unfortunate cousins. Instead, the tides had turned. It was the time for the melanic moth to fly.  Their black wings blended in with the soot and coal dust covered trees and buildings. It was their time!! It was their day!! But, being the kind and caring moths, they shared their genetic material with their erstwhile peppery cousins and soon their little speckled moth cousins became black too and life was merry.  

Courtesy of Flickr

Adaptation.  The ability to adjust or change your behaviour, physiology or structure to become more suited to the environment (NAS 2019).  Those peppered moths defied extinction by adapting to the world around them.


This is exactly what libraries have done.  They have evolved from hallowed grounds, sanctified and silenced by volumes of knowledge,held in trust for the future generations; to hubs of energy and have completely embraced this fourth age, known as the digital age.  This digital age, Rouse (2005) elaborates is one in which information, its control, creation and conferment are the basis of the economy. Individuals who are not actively involved cannot call themselves digital citizens and the ramifications of this are immense.  But thats a whole other post – Read it now.

Back to libraries and teacher librarians.  Have they become an endangered species?

Arguably, everything in the modern world is at risk from extinction with the advent of automation and technology. An article from the Guardian (2017) finds  that in about 60% of occupations would face partial employment reduction due to aspects being phased out by technology. Combined with BBC News (2016) doomsday report about the slow extinction of libraries, one could extrapolate that teacher librarian role would soon become a figment of the past and unable to exist with the digital age.  


Teacher librarians are another of these defiant species.  Like our moth mates, rather than lay stagnant and shrink away, teacher librarians, consummate professionals as always, have embraced the digital age and evolved with it.  Libraries are now filled with computers and other technology. Wifi is synonymous with public libraries and Burton (2017) found that almost a third of patrons visit a library just to access the internet.  For many, libraries are the bridge between them and rest of the world. Burton (2017) points out that libraries are becoming the information hubs of society by providing this crucial access to information

Courtesy of Flickr

The question though lies, whilst libraries have evolved into knowledge hubs, has society as a whole, sufficiently evolved to engage with this new age of information.  Is the world equipped to work with Google?

Besides providing access to technology, librarians more importantly provide programs that teach digital literacy.  Todd (2012) found that whilst there is an obvious trend in the proliferation of personal digital devices, and that this technology is the dominant platform for information access and use, he did query the ability of students to actually engage with the content and its medium.  

The question must be asked… are young people, who have used an ipad before a crayon actual able to navigate the digital world successfully? Are they able to use this technology for more than just games and social media? If not, then how are they going to become citizens of this digital world.  Herring (2007) theorized that students needed to be taught how to use search engines based upon the evaluation and understanding of the content rather than the simple act of seeking an answer. As you can plainly see, the demand is for digital citizenship education.

Digital education most commonly happens in schools and and theoretically are programmed into the curriculum by a qualified teacher librarian.  But these days of tightening budgets, schools are often forgoing the need for a qualified teacher librarian and replacing them by either a classroom teacher or an administrator, often under the false assumption that Google can solve everything.  

The problem with this is according to Bonnano (2015) is that the specialist skills that a TL brings is missing, such as understanding learner needs, comprehensive knowledge of the curriculum INCLUDING the general capabilities.  Todd (2012) goes on further to say that teacher librarians have “recognised multimodal nature of literacies that emerged from digital environments and its importance of addressing these literacies”. It is information expert component of a teacher librarian role that can ensure these literacies are addressed properly (ALIA & ASLA 2016a).  

Teacher librarians are tasked by ALIA/ASLA (2016b) to implement programs that embed information literacy within the curriculum so that students become adept at seeking and using relevant and authoritative information.  It is our profession duty, that we teach students to be able to analyse, create and disseminate information ethically in multiple formats. Teacher librarians are tasked with ensuring that students become active and informed digital citizens.   

The absence of a school library and or the absence of a qualified teacher librarian will only be detrimental to the educational outcomes of the learning community.  It is clear to me that the presence of a teacher librarian is essential for the educational outcomes of the students. Teacher librarians are certainly not endangered, rather I think the profession will soon become a necessity if society is to survive.  


ALIA and ASLA (2016a) Statement on teacher librarians in Australia. Retrieved from


ALIA and ASLA (2016b) Statement on information literacy. Retrieved from

BBC News (2016) Libraries: The Decline of a profession? England. Retrieved from

Bonanno, K,. (2015) A profession at the tipping point (revisited). Access. Retrieved from


Burton, S., (2017) Does the digital world need libraries.  [BLog] Internet Citizen. Retrieved from


The Guardian (2017) What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Retrieved from

Herring, J., (2007) Libraries in the 21st Century. Chapter 2. Retrieved from

National Academy of Science (2019) Definitions of Evolutionary terms. National academies of Sciences, Engineering Medicine. Retrieved from


(Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33


Todd, Ross J. School libraries as pedagogical centres [online]. Scan: The Journal for Educators, Vol. 31, No. 3, Aug 2012: 27-36. Availability: <;dn=585228491693277;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 2202-4557.

Benign or Malignant?  How do you diagnose? – Module 2


Scientist diagnose cancerous cells using a set of predetermined criteria.  As a practicing cytologist for over a decade, I used certain characteristics to determine if a cell was benign or malignant.

Tim Ereneta -with permission by Flickr

Parameters such as presence of a nucleolus and or mitotic figures, nucleus to cell ratio, cytoplasm pigmentation and or irregular arrangement were the most common identifying characteristics of a tumour cell.  If these markers were detected within a cell or among similar cells in a sample, then a report written up and a diagnosis made.

Now as a teacher librarian, I use predetermined criteria to determine which resources to add to the collection.  These predetermined criteria are listed in the collection development policy so I do not have to come up with them, but rather I have to apply them to the books, magazines, ebooks and multimedia that flow into our information centre.

Selection in the school, are professional concepts that guide T/Ls to what resources are appropriate to the school collection that meet the teaching and learning needs of the school community.  Unlike public libraries, school libraries have to also meet curriculum demands. To put it bluntly, in a school context, the needs and requirements of a school community are the driving force for resource selection.  

So whilst I was contemplating this fact, I then thought about what selection criteria I would create.  Whilst I agree with Hughes-Hassell & Mancall (2005) with the criteria present in their diagram, I disagree with the idea of a flow chart, as not every resource will follow all steps and thus even great resources could be excluded.  This is especially true for high school libraries where often specialist information may be required for niche teaching and learning contexts.

The criteria I came upon was loosely based to the criteria in Hughes-Hassell & Mancall (2005) flow chart but I had four general categories with sub sections.  Resources do not have to match all the specific criteria, but must fulfill the major ones of teaching and learning needs; curriculum needs; school requirements and school ethos.  This system will give more flexibility to the TL in creating a school collection that is balanced yet addressing the needs of the community.

Cassia Beck – Used with permission from Flickr

Selection Criteria – My way.

  1.      Teaching and learning needs
    1. Resources are of high quality and appropriate. Have authority, accuracy, validity and currency.
    2. Meets scope of learning needs and styles – including recreational reading
    3. Integrates digital technologies ie multimodal resources in print, media, audio and ebooks that enrich T&L
  2.     Curriculum needs
    1. Provides information about curriculum content
    2. Addresses other curriculum requirements ie cross curricular priorities, capabilities and learning outcomes.
    3. Challenges thinking about past, current and future global issues.
  3.      School needs
    1. Supported by current IT network and library management system
    2. Cost efficient
  4.       Consistent with the values of the school
    1. Consistent with the values of  love, compassion and respect.
    2. Acknowledge diversity of religion, ethnicity and languages. 

I included a subsection on challenging thinking on past, present and future global issues’, because of the framework decided by the MCEETYA (2008) .  The policy desires that “All young Australians (are to) become successful learners, confident and creative individuals (and) active and informed citizens”.  It is a personal belief, but in order for students to become the active and informed citizens that our society needs, they need to be able to critically analyse and evaluate the maelstrom of information that besiege them constantly.  They need to be able to seek and use information critically and ethically.

Maybe we should be structuring our selection criteria based on what we want our learners to be.  Active, engaged citizens who are able to seek and use information as well as think critically and logically,  and who are able to make informed opinions. I wonder how that selection criteria will look

Hughes-Hassell, S., & Mancall, J. C. (2005). Collection management for youth : Responding to the needs of learners. Retrieved from

MCEETYA (2008) Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Curriculum Corporation. Australia. Retrieved from



Information Society – The Second Industrial Revolution – Module 2.3 & 2.5

Society is full of catch words or phrases that attempt to manage or label an era of great advancement or stagnation.  

Prehistoric generations were characterised by ‘stone age’ or ‘bronze age’ because they were defined by their advancement of particular tools.  

Other times of great advancement in thinking in the history of Homo sapiens sapiens were achieved during the Renaissance and Industrial revolution.  These latter two movements dramatically changed the social, cultural, political and economical landscapes of their societies.  The Renaissance was dominant in metamorphing the arts, science and medical fields due to the promotion of new thinking and creativity.  Erasmus’s Utopia, Gutenberg’s printing press and Protestantism were products of this time, where current thinking was challenged by new ideas.  The industrial revolution sought to improve efficiency and productivity so as to theoretically improve quality of life. Unfortunately, this improvement in quality of life was divided sharply by those that could afford it or those that could not.  The adage “have and the have-nots” was apt then and now as many of us would recall that sweatshops and horrible working conditions still exist in parts of the world today.


Our society is currently undergoing a digital transformation, which will be known in the generations to come as ‘the digital age’ or ‘information society’.  Information society as (Rouse, 2005) details is “a society in which the creation, distribution, and manipulation of information has become the most significant economic and cultural activity… (where) the tools of the information society are computers and telecommunications rather than lathes and ploughs”.  To put it in plain language, it means that the majority of society currently uses various forms of technology across all aspects of employment, social interactions and recreation. Unfortunately, like the Industrial revolution where the divide lead to great inequality of income, health and educational outcomes, the digital divide is also causing a schism within society.  


Citizens of the ‘information society’ are defined by their ability to participate everyday with information intensity through workplace and organizations; possession and ability to use technology to access business, social and learning outcomes and thirdly, the ability to communicate using digital technology.  Non-citizens of the information society, are elucidated most commonly by their inability to participate with the digital economy due to lack of access to hardware such as devices and or insufficient access to resources such as NBN or wifi and or their ability to communicate using the technology. The ADDII (2016) surmised that “there is a divide between people on lower incomes, compared to those on higher incomes” with sub groups of society such as the disabled, the elderly and persons of Aboriginal and Torres strait the most likely to be excluded from the digital age.  This divide leads to poorer overall outcomes, especially in health and education, as the the ability to share knowledge and ideas as well as give and receive information in its various formats as an important aspect of overall well being (ABS 2012).


The role of libraries and teacher librarians is pivotal in closing this divide.  In Australia there is no constitutional right to information. But, as a nation, the right to access information is implied by the endorsement of UN Human rights charter.  Article 19 of the charter is defined by “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (UN, 1948).  This means that everyone has the right to access information irrespective of their geography, finances and literacy levels.


The presence of libraries and public libraries is an attempt by various government and legislative bodies to ensure all members of society are able to participate in this digital age, and they are able to send and receive information through all forms of media (Graham 2012).  The role of a teacher librarian is two-fold. The first aspect, as the information specialist within a school, the TL is required to provide opportunities for the entire school cohort access to information in all formats across various platforms. The second role of the TL, in conjunction with other educators is to ensure digital literacy programs are embedded within the curriculum.  The importance of digital literacy cannot be more emphasized than this. It is absolutely irrelevant if a person has a device and access to the internet but they cannot communicate successfully using the the technology available to them. Digital literacy is becoming more and more relevant as the technology is constantly evolving and the user must be literate in order to use it effectively.  Our role as emerging TLs is to understand the landscape of the world we live in and guide our students in providing access and appropriate teaching strategies to equip them for their future.



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2015). Information and communication technology (ICT). Retrieved Nov. 2016

Graham, I. (2012). The State of Censorship – Australia. Libertus. Retrieved Nov. 2016.

Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE). (2009). Australia’s digital economy: Future directions. Retrieved Nov. 2016. Early report.

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. (DIIS). (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved Nov. 2016.

Parliament of Australia Joint Standing Committee First Report( 2017) The rollout of       the National Broadband Network. retrieved 13/3/2019

Rouse, M. (2005). What is Information Society? Whatis. Retrieved Nov. 2016.

United Nations (1948) Human Rights Charter. Retrieved from 13/3/19

Web Finance Inc. (2016). Information Society. Retrieved Nov. 2016.

Webster, F. (2014). Theories of the information society. 4th ed. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.