Between the classroom and the library : a work in progress
The educational philosophy we most closely identify with is constructionism (Harel & Papert, 1991), which is one of a family of constructivist educational philosophies that denies the ‘obvious truth’ that the way to improve learning is through improving instruction (instructionism). From this perspective, “learning is always a reconstruction, not a transmission of knowledge” (Psenka, Kim, Okudan Kremer, Haapala, & Jackson, 2017, p. 9).
Constructionism does not call into question the value of instruction as such, nor is it dismissive of teaching because it is minimalist; rather the goal is to teach in such a way as to produce the most learning for the least teaching (Papert, 1993, p. 139). However, this cannot be achieved simply by reducing the quantity of teaching and leaving everything else unchanged.
We believe that this teaching philosophy is best served by an inquiry-based pedagogical approach, which is at odds with a transmission-based pedagogical approach, pockets of which persist in most schools in the UK. This creates a twofold problem. Firstly, on a theoretical level, inquiry is grossly misunderstood, a situation aggravated by opposition to inquiry that is often ideological. Secondly, on a practical level, creating and sustaining the conditions for effective inquiry requires, amongst other things, effective collaboration between professionals in an environment that is often hostile to collaboration, especially between teachers and librarians.
This twofold problem requires a complex response, at the heart of which lies a reimagined model of professional collaboration that is authentically child-centred in focus and empowering in intent – a response that is urgently needed if we are to equip our children for their future, a future that we have made more challenging and less certain.
By adopting a collegiate model and working more widely and collaboratively, teachers and librarians are better able to develop and defend their pedagogical knowledge base through rigorous, continuous professional development and an informed engagement with research evidence and best practice in what Hargreaves refers to as postmodern professionalism (2000). A depressing alternative is post-professionalism; a hollowing out of professional expertise and the slow but inexorable replacement of teaching and information specialists by ‘graduate technicians’ with limited pedagogical knowledge and little choice but to accept that ‘government knows best’ in matters of the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy (Hargreaves, 2000).
Our experience is that collaboration is most fruitful when it is approached with humility. We will describe how a meeting of teacher as expert on subject knowledge and pedagogical subject knowledge and librarian as expert on sources of subject knowledge and information literacy is one in which both parties can learn from each other, although this is still a work in progress in our school.
Harel, I., & Papert, S. (Eds.). (1991). Constructionism: research reports and essays, 1985-1990.Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Hargreaves, A. (2000). Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning. Teachers and Teaching: History and Practice, 6(2), 151-182.
Papert, S. (1993). The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. Hemel Hempstead: Harverster Wheatsheaf.
Psenka, C. E., Kim, K.-Y., Okudan Kremer, G. E., Haapala, K. R., & Jackson, K. L. (2017). Translating Constructionist Learning to Engineering Design Education. Journal of Integrated Design and Process Science, 21(2), 3-20.