I was having an interesting conversation with Ruth Maloney the other day who was asking me how to use FOSIL when you were only given the opportunity to be involved in one lesson. This could be something like ‘creating bibliographies’ for example. How could this be a lesson using FOSIL when it felt and looked like a skills lesson?
I said that even though this was one skill that was being taught she could help the students see where they were in the cycle and explain what skill set they would be using to help ground them in FOSIL.
Would you say anything different to someone who feels like they are still teaching information literacy skills?
This goes back to the very start of the journey that led to FOSIL. While we can teach these and related skills in isolation, they do not exist in isolation and are part of a process, whether we recognize and acknowledge that or not. To use your example of creating a bibliography (which is actually a complex of skills).
Firstly, there is a technical dimension to this, which requires assembling references according to the conventions of a given style appropriate to the students’ level of skill. This is clear from the snapshot of the development of this priority skill below (click on image to enlarge), from a style provided by the teacher in Year 6, to a house style in Year 7, to a standard style in Year 10 (we make the shift to a standard style in Year 9 for practical reasons). This skill may further require the use of a computer and a desktop or online application (we use the desktop application of Word).
Secondly, and this becomes explicit in the shift to a standard style, the reference to a source only exists in the bibliography because that source is cited in the text, and this introduces an academic dimension to creating a bibliography, and necessarily involves us in a learning process (which could be a research process, or if broader, an inquiry process). In terms of FOSIL, we have moved from the Express stage of the learning process, and specifically Academic Integrity, to the Investigate stage (with a more or less thoughtful pause in the Construct stage along the way).
Practically, we may be limited in our single lesson to the mostly technical assembling of references into a bibliography, but it would not take long to do so against the backdrop of the FOSIL Inquiry Cycle, as much for the benefit of the students as for their teacher. This may seem pointless, but we must work what we have and work always to enlarge that, because we cannot know what doors this will open, with our students and/ or their teacher(s). A lesson on creating a bibliography against the backdrop of FOSIL may, with increased awareness, lead next time to a lesson on finding sources to cite and a lesson on creating a bibliography, and the introduction of something like the Investigative Journal below, which is a tool for finding information to think with, involves us in Construct. In time, and possibly quite some time, we may find ourselves collaboratively designing an inquiry, provided we don’t lose heart and give up (there were many times when I almost did).
Sorry, I should have added that many of the FOSIL-based inquiry skills are information literacy skills. However, what I discovered and have since argued, is that these information literacy/ media and information literacy (MIL) skills are logically part of the inquiry process, and so it makes sense to develop them systematically and progressively within the inquiry process (or more narrowly within the research process). This approach is reflected in the IFLA School Library Guidelines (2015), but this shift was well underway before then – for example, the PK-12 framework of skills that undergirds the FOSIL, which includes MIL skills, was first developed in 2009 (and reimagined in 2019).
A further advantage of advocating for the development of skills (including MIL skills) within the inquiry process – and we need our professional associations to also be advocating for this – is that inquiry is directed towards learning subject content. Importantly, this means that we are not looking to compete with classroom colleagues for their precious lesson time to teach ‘our’ skills; rather, we are looking to collaborate with them to teach their subject content through an inquiry process, and developing a wide range of learning skills, including ‘ours’, in the process. As we – collectively and individually – get better at demonstrating that inquiry, if done properly, is actually an effective way to learn subject content (and does not exclude more or less explicit/ direct instruction), so opportunities for inquiry-based learning will grow, whether in a full inquiry or not.
Hi Elizabeth and Ruth. Darryl has provided an excellent response on both a theoretical, developmental level and a broad ‘big picture’ view, which I don’t need to add to. I wanted to provide a social/emotional angle and a practical example. You have both been on this journey for a long time and are very good at what you do, so I am sure you already know much of what I am going to say below, so I am in part speaking to other readers who have less experience.
On this forum we all tend to share the very best of what we do. Our time is limited, so if we only have time for one post we tend to go for the whole inquiries that really move things forward in our schools. It is important to note that this isn’t all we do though – and even more important not to feel guilty about that or to feel that those times when we are invited in to deliver one isolated session, perhaps for students conducting a coursework inquiry, are somehow less important.
What differentiates a librarian with a concern for inquiry from one whose main focus is on the stuff that they do, whether that be information literacy, reading for pleasure, or any of our other very important functions in isolation, is stance. An inquiry librarian adopts, promotes and facilitates “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” Stripling and Toerien (2021), enlarged from the GEN definition. This pervades all that we do – whether that is full inquiries, isolated ‘information literacy skills’ sessions, reading lessons, schemes and promotions, displays or lunchtime activities. Inquiry is not just something we do, it is fundamentally about who we are, how we view the world and what we regard our educational mission to be.
Having said all that, there are many reasons why we should be excited rather than disappointed by an invitation to deliver what we might previously have regarded as an information literacy session. The teacher has invited us into their inquiry, whether they recognise it as such or not, because they believe we have something important to offer the students. This is now an opportunity to:
Locate this stage of what students are doing within the broader inquiry process (for students and teachers).
Equip students with transferable skills that they will be able to bring to other inquiries (that we might or might not be involved with).
Get a window onto what this particular inquiry involves so that we can offer support at other points (perhaps next year). I would always ask the teacher about the scheme of work/ exam syllabus and do my research into what is being asked of students, even if I am only asked to deliver a ‘traditional’ citing and referencing session. This is particularly important where there is external coursework involved. I always feel that my better grasp of the formal requirements of the coursework must be at least as good at the teacher’s, if I am in any way involved in the instruction.
Build relationship with teacher and students. Let them know what we can offer and where else we might fit into the process.
Gain insight into the inquiry skills that are necessary at this level and fit that into our big picture of what is being taught and practiced where. Would it help to be preparing students for this work lower down the school? Where could we do that? Are there opportunities in this subject, perhaps even with this teacher, to develop inquiries lower down the school that would feed into this one in a few years’ time? Can we let them know what is already being done so they can build on it?
With that big picture in mind, demonstrate that our role as a vital co-ordinator and bridge between different school levels and different subject areas. ‘Do you remember when you did this in Year 9?’, ‘As some of you have seen in your EPQ course…’, ‘We did an overview of this during our Year 12 induction course, but now it is time to go deeper’. Students and staff need our experience to create a coherent and joined up educational journey – and to point out to SLT where the gaps in that journey are so we can work on filling them.
So, what does that look like in practice? This year, alongside our ‘full inquiry’ work, I have been invited in to teach Year 13 English students about citing and referencing, and to help Year 13 French students understand how to locate sources to prepare for their research based A-level speaking assessment. Last year we also offered two sessions for Year 13 History students on finding resources for their historical investigation Non Examined Assessment, and on citing and referencing – the only reason we haven’t done that this year is that the student concerned was one of my EPQ students, so having completed that she did not need extra ‘skills’ instruction.
To give you an idea what that looks like in practice, here are the presentations I used:
The English groups are taught this year by our Director of Studies, who is an astonishingly talented teacher and manager. As far as I am aware, she began her own journey with inquiry eighteen months ago when she joined Blanchelande at the same time that we moved here. Although my only involvement with the Year 13 English coursework this year was this one session, I am hopeful that we might have more involvement next year. However, out of the relationship that we have built with her over the last two years, two weeks ago she suddenly presented me with an inquiry she had designed by herself for her Year 10 students and asked for my input. She had done an amazing job, but was also very happy to accept my advice for changes that would make it better. She then ran the inquiry entirely by herself – although I saw much of it in progress and she was very happy for me to attend the final presentations. I will post on this separately elsewhere because the inquiry is worth its own thread.
My point, however, is for us not to despise the day of small beginnings as we never know where they will lead.
[Aside: I could feel threatened that this teacher can now design and run an excellent inquiry all by herself, with minimal support from me. I’m actually delighted because it shows that what we are doing is working, and that it has a future that does not depend on us. It also gives me more time to work with other teachers who may need my help more, and to support her on other occasions when she may not have the time or the expertise she needs.]
Good afternoon and thanks to all for opening this conversation
I am so pleased to read this thread and find that not only did it cement the conversation that Elizabeth and I had had but it also reinforces much of my thinking. This is the basis on which I had been working without really realising and now I feel reinvigorated and more able to explain my position to staff.
As you know we are and IB school and I work with the 3 year MYP and DP programs and I am using Darryl’s ATL/FOSIL map and combining it with our curriculum to support the explicit teaching of ATL at our school. I had been battling with how to explain the value of FOSIL in this situation but this has bought clarity to my thinking.
I need to keep the idea of ‘stance’ in my mind. I certainly feel like that kind of Librarian but sometimes that gets lost in the day to day of the library and while I find this kind of work extremely stimulating and rewarding it it is not always the easiest part of my job to prioritise. One of the sadnesses of working in isolation is that these conversations only happen online, in writing, where I’m not in my natural habitat. Thanks so much to Elizabeth for her membership, I do have the opportunity to have these conversations in person which is very useful and has brought me back here.
Thank you so much for bringing up this teaching scenario because I believe this is one that we often find ourselves in. This could be because teachers are often pressed for time (this is what I have found working in international schools) or because this is a model of teaching teachers are used to from their experience with previous librarians.
For me I have learned to use this opportunity to teach the best lesson I can (so that my colleagues perhaps discover that I am a teacher). I also find ways to create future work for myself during and after the unit.
Some ways I do this include:
1. Discovering what AtL skill students will use to succeed at the criterion (I teach at an IB World school being pre-assessed or assessed during the unit, it could be that a different AtL skill will be assessed and it offers me knowledge for future collaboration with this teacher,
2. Having the students self-assess their skill level at this AtL skill after teaching my lesson. I have begun using this survey, where I’ve mapped the AtL skill I am teaching to the relevant skill from the FOSIL Framework of skills (at the moment I have only mapped three as I building it as I teach those skills during lessons with teachers). I began doing this last semester this year and I discovered that the student’s feedback on their skill level was useful knowledge for beginning conversations with other teachers about the skills students need to develop.
3. If I am available I offer to have the class back in the library during the next lesson after the lesson I taught or I offer to come to their class. Just because a lesson has been taught does not mean that all students are done practicing the skills I have taught during their inquiry. Students need to get used to me being in the classroom as they are using the skills I have taught them. That way I am available to help them if they need it.
4. Along the same lines as above, I offer a followup time closer to the end of the project where students can come see me if they are still having trouble. This works very well in the case of bibliographies as students are often finishing them at the same time that they are all working on the final aspects of their project. If a teacher can say during class, “if you are having trouble with any aspect of completing your bibliography, you can see Mr. Rose in the library during this period” then this is the right time for me to be teaching them.
5. Lastly, I use a single-shot lesson to advertise my online booking sheet where students can book 15 minute appointments with me (I also encourage students to just drop by the library to speak to me during breaks or lunch if they have questions that stem from the lesson I teach).
It is a real challenge when we see our role as supporting students to develop a continuum of skills as they move through multiple inquiries over subsequent semesters if we are only invited in for single-shot research lessons. I am finding that when I remain conscience of the teachers time and am flexible in how I engage with them over time I can move to higher levels of collaboration with a few of my teaching colleagues.
In your post you mention “Darryl’s ATL/FOSIL map. Can you direct me to where I can find this document? The library team and AtL coordinator at my school are working on a project to cross-walk the FOSIL Framework of skills to our AtL scope and sequence. It is our hope that doing this will create a more useable planning document. At this time we are only creating a prototype to share to our IB program leaders as proof of concept. I would be very interested in seeing how another has done this.
Matt, there is a topic for our work on Integrating FOSIL with MYP ATLs. Unfortunately, for this work, we left Oakham shortly after our last post to the topic (which has two pages), and have not had cause to return to it as we are no longer in an IB school. Hopefully some of this will prove to be useful to you.
Thanks Darryl, notifications for this forum come to my school email address and I can only read that using my school laptop so I didn’t see this post.
I am working on a slightly different iteration of Darryl’s map which I am very happy to share when I have finished. It is my holiday project to keep filling it in and adding comments to suggest what the skill might look look at each level. I have added a screen shot here – our systems make it very hard to share a doc externally so I will wait until it is more complete but I am very happy to take feedback or comments.