For the IB Regional Conference in 2011 we explored the relationship between Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay more deeply in a presentation titled Research as a Way of Knowing: The Extended Essay in TOK. One of the sessions I attended at the Conference was on dynamic curriculum mapping using the Mondrian Wall. This marked the start of a long and extraordinarily productive collaboration with Kevin Heppell, the architect of the Mondrian Wall.
By early 2012 we had integrated our version of the Mondrian Wall with the FOSIL framework of inquiry skills, and in May I delivered a presentation to the Rugby Group of schools, titled Planning for learning with the Mondrian Wall.
While the presentation considered the benefits of using the Mondrian Wall to dynamically map the taught curriculum against a progression of FOSIL inquiry skills, its focus was the strategic value to librarians of this level of curricular knowledge.
What follows are my largely unedited notes/thoughts from that presentation that I post here as a starting point for a discussion about the purpose and value of a curriculum map.
Planning for Learning with the Mondrian Wall
“Even the most nearly ideal curriculum can be only the beginning of the educational process, and the student’s years of formal education can accomplish little more than create an awareness of the knowledge s/he must master and the ways in which such mastery may be achieved over her/his entire professional life” (Shera, 1972, p. ?). In other words, “wisest is she who knows she does not know” (Gaarder, Sophie’s World, 1995, cover). The real value of an accurate curriculum map lies, therefore, as much in what is not charted as in what is charted. Furthermore, this highlights the vital importance of a systematic approach to developing the capacity for independent learning, foundational to which are skills that constitute the discipline of information literacy as well as the willingness to use them.
Why the Wall?
“dynamic” curriculum mapping and planning [for many/most attempting to map what is will precede what ought to be]; i.e., determine what is being taught to whom and when -> curricular coherence -> interdisciplinary synergy
embed [habits and] skills necessary for mastering the taught and untaught curriculum; i.e., enable taught, guided and independent learning
inform resource development to support the taught and untaught curriculum
The Role of the Librarian?
The librarian has traditionally had a professional concern with the classification of human knowledge [into ‘subjects’]. Knowledge, by nature, is interdisciplinary; i.e., knowledge does not reduce neatly to distinct subjects, hence the need for interdisciplinary cross-references in the catalogue record. The librarian, therefore, by training, is ideally placed to assist with the task of mapping and planning for the transmission (teaching) and acquisition (learning) of knowledge via the curriculum (taught and untaught), particularly when the curriculum (as a body of knowledge), is viewed as a coherent whole rather than an incoherent collection of disjointed parts.
The librarian, furthermore, has traditionally had a professional concern with arranging human knowledge for maximal use. This arrangement is both physical (e.g., books and navigational features of books) and virtual (OPAC, subscription databases, search engines, etc.). Importantly, this concern with arranging knowledge for maximal use means that the librarian is [ought to be] an expert guide when it comes to accessing this knowledge; i.e., a traditional concern with the ways and means of scholarly practice. This is both the source [and substance] of the librarian’s concern with the discipline of information literacy, as well as why information literacy is inextricably bound up with and foundational to independent learning.
It almost goes without saying that the school librarian in particular has traditionally had a professional concern with optimising the collection of resources, both print and digital, in support of the taught and untaught curriculum. The clearer the needs of the curriculum, therefore, the better those needs may be met.
Building a Wall Three Layers Deep
“The historical advances in cartography didn’t simply mirror the development of the human mind. They helped propel and guide the very intellectual advances that they documented. The map is a medium that not only stores and transmits information but also embodies a particular mode of seeing and thinking. As mapmaking progressed, the spread of maps also disseminated the mapmaker’s distinctive way of perceiving and making sense of the world. The more frequently and intensively people used maps, the more their minds came to understand reality in the maps’ terms. The influence of maps went far beyond their practical employment in establishing property boundaries and charting routes. ‘The use of a reduced, substitute space for that of reality,’ explains the cartographic historian Arthur Robinson, ‘is an impressive act in itself.’ But what’s even more impressive is how the map ‘advanced the evolution of abstract thinking’ throughout society. ‘The combination of the reduction of reality and the construct of an analogical space is an attainment in abstract thinking of a very high order indeed,’ writes Robinson, ‘for it enables one to discover structures that would remain unknown if not mapped.’3 The technology of the map gave to man a new and more comprehending mind, better able to understand the unseen forces that shape his surroundings and his existence“. (The shallows: how the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember, by Nicholas Carr, pp. 40-41; emphasis added).
NB: Marshall McLuhan – the medium is the m(a/e)ssage; i.e., the message is the change in human relations that the adopted medium brings about, hence massaged.
 curriculum The content and specifications of a course or programme of study (as in ‘the history curriculum’); or, in a wider sense, the totality of the specified learning opportunities available in one educational institution (as in ‘the school curriculum’); or, in its very widest sense, the programme of learning applying to all pupils in the nation (as in ‘the national curriculum’) – A dictionary of education.