I am hard-pressed for time at the moment, but am grateful for and excited by this opportunity to begin discussing how we feel about education and, therefore, think about the school library. Having chosen this important and helpful document, some context from the AAC&U page that the document is downloadable from might be helpful.
Recalling Neil Postman’s contention that “without a transcendent and honorable purpose schooling must reach its finish, and the sooner we are done with it, the better”, the AAC&U’s advocacy for “the economic and civic value of liberal education, its relevance to students’ career aspirations, and its essential role in equipping students for lifelong learning, civic involvement, and personal flourishing” is a promising place for us to start.
This advocacy for a liberal education “is grounded in equity and inclusion”, a deep concern shared with the IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto and the IFLA School Library Guidelines.
Moreover, “this signature AAC&U publication clearly describes the learning all students need for success in an uncertain future and for addressing the compelling issues we face as a democracy and as a global community—regardless of where they study, what they major in, or what their career goals are”. More specifically, “liberal education is an approach to undergraduate education that promotes integration of learning across the curriculum and cocurriculum, and between academic and experiential learning, in order to develop specific learning outcomes that are essential for work, citizenship, and life”.
This closely aligns with our working definition of inquiry as a stance of wonder and puzzlement that gives rise to a dynamic process of coming to know and understand the world and ourselves in it as the basis of responsible participation in community.
By way of clarification:
The “liberal arts” are a specific set of disciplines (the humanities, the arts, and the natural and social sciences). “Liberal arts education” is an education grounded in the liberal arts. A “liberal arts college” is a type of higher education institution whose curriculum is designed to provide a liberal arts education. A “liberal education” includes study of the liberal arts and is the approach undertaken at most liberal arts colleges, but it is not exclusive to those disciplines or that institutional type.
Of particular interest to us are the key components of a contemporary liberal arts education, and especially (but not exclusively) the signature work:
Essential Learning Outcomes: a framework that defines the knowledge and skills required for success in work, citizenship, and life and that can be used to guide students’ cumulative progress through college.
High-Impact Practices: specific teaching and learning practices that have been widely tested and shown to be beneficial for all students, including and especially those from demographic groups historically underserved by higher education.
Signature Work: an inquiry-based exploration of a significant problem that the individual student identifies and defines, that is conducted over the course of at least one semester, and that involves substantial writing and reflection.
Authentic Assessment: an approach to learning outcomes assessment that uses rubrics to evaluate the work students produce across their diverse learning pathways and whose results inform efforts to promote student success.
While the AAC&U’s focus is American colleges and universities, a liberal education is not limited to American colleges and universities – in fact, the impetus for this discussion came from the fact that my specific context is positioning inquiry-based learning within a liberal PK-12 (UK Years Reception-13) education.
Postman, N. (1996). The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School. New York, NY: Random House.