The power of FOSIL lies in the simple and logical way that the stages combine to guide students through the inquiry process:
Connect: knowledge builds on knowledge, so pausing to take stock of what you already know reveals more clearly what you do not yet know
Wonder: gaps in what you know give rise to questions, some more fruitful than others
Investigate: these questions guide your investigation, which is aimed at sourcing reliable information that you can work with
Construct: this is the point of learning by finding out for yourself – building knowledge and understanding from information in response to the questions that you have
Express: once you know what you are talking about, you need to be able to share it appropriately, effectively and ethically
Reflect: Doug Engelbart said it best when he said that the better we get at getting better, the faster we will get better, and this is desperately needed in a world facing increasingly complex and urgent challenges
More fully, FOSIL is a way of enabling students to learn by finding out for themselves.
However, the fullest understanding of what FOSIL is will only emerge out of a discussion of what FOSIL makes possible, so please share your thoughts and experiences.
“A map is not the territory” (Korzybski, 1994, p. 58). FOSIL is a map of the inquiry process. Like all maps, it is an abstraction, a simplification of reality. It shows the stages inquirers go through, allowing the map reader to anticipate areas that might – to extend the metaphor a little further than perhaps it deserves – be a bit boggy or steep. However, the FOSIL framework should not be mistaken for the inquiry process itself.
Can I ask how students, particularly in primary schools, relate to the key terms used in the FOSIL cycle? I’ve been looking at various IBL models, and many seem to use language which is more accessible to primary/lower secondary age pupils.
Just to check, do you mean the stages in the cycle – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express, Reflect – or something more detailed?
The Empire State Information Fluency Continuum (ESIFC), which FOSIL is based on, is a model and continuum of skills that stretches from PK (Reception) to Grade 12 (Year 13), and has been in use in New York State – more than 3.2 million children in 4,236 schools – since 2012 (or 2009 in New York City – the ESIFC is also in use in at least British Columbia and Rhode Island).
We have experienced no problems using FOSIL with our Year 6 students, and I can’t imagine why this would not be the case lower down, although the challenge would be developing age-appropriate graphic organisers to support the development of the relevant inquiry skills – something that we would be very interested in helping with.
In addition to the graphic organisers that we have developed (Resources), see also the ESIFC Assessments by Grade and/ or Standard, which is where I first started.
Hello Darryl, thanks for your response. Yes, I did mean the language used for the stages in the FOSIL cycle. I work in a school with pupils ages 3 – 18 years, and have been looking at adopting a whole school framework for information literacy in order to bring a coherent approach to our teaching. I’ll have a closer look at your graphic organisers and reflect on how we might use these. Thank you.
I would be anxious about changing the names of the stages because Barbara Stripling put much thought into them (see here and especially here), and, having spent some considerable time looking at other models, I think they accurately describe each stage in the inquiry process. However, the expanded descriptions of each stage (see Figure 1 below), which I formulated to help me/ us understand what was basically happening in each stage, could be adapted for younger students. Having said that, at what point it is developmentally appropriate to actually name the stages with these words would be up to you – an earlier version of the FOSIL Cycle used Screen Beans to illustrate the description of each of the stages (see Figure 2 below), and images could conceivably serve as the ‘names’ of the stages for a while, but you would still need to explain what they meant. Also, the use of colour in each of the stages is deliberate and has served a very useful instructional role in this regard with younger and older students (although, admittedly, colour does not work equally for all students).
This has reminded me of the following Topic – Primary FOSIL Display – which touches on what we are talking about here, and I will flag this with Mary-Rose. I will also flag this with Barbara on Sunday.
Interestingly, BCTLA combined Connect and Wonder in their model, which is called Points of Inquiry (see Figure 1 below). Given the time and thought that went into the development of Points of Inquiry, I would be very interested to know more about why they decided to do this, because Connect and Wonder are still clearly distinct. It might be as simple as Points of Inquiry being a clever idea/ name that did not work well graphically with a 6-pointed star. I will see if I can find out more.
The BCTLA K-12 Information Literacy Task Force moved, over a period of more than three years, to deeper understanding of the importance of learners being able to think critically about information, about sources of information, and about constructing and answering their own questions. The goal posts had shifted well beyond the search for a right model for research for the BC curriculum to the capacity for drawing new knowledge from an inquiry-based approach to information, reading, and 21st Century learning.
The model no longer puts a focus on information literacy skills. Rather it embeds these skills under broader inquiry-based cognitive abilities and within curriculum to empower and position young British Columbians to become strategic and independent lifelong learners.
There are resources for Elementary School, Middle/Junior School and Secondary School, which, like FOSIL and the ESIFC, are free to download.
Figure 2: Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Guide | About This Project (SLRI, 2019)
Figure 3: Rhode Island School Library Curriculum Guide | Introduction (SLRI, 2019)
I have been in touch with Mary-Rose about her Primary FOSIL Display, to which she replied, “Funnily enough, I have been thinking about this a lot this week. We have got this far (see Figure 4 below), and it’s now ready for the dual coding/explanation.” We shall look forward to hearing more.
Figure 4: Primary FOSIL Display (Hartland International School Libraries)
Thanks so much for responding so quickly to my query re FOSIL for the lower primary year gropus below yr 6. I think that perhaps Kay above and I as primary school librarians are thinking along the same lines!
I agree with you that even for lower years the FOSIL headings could stay. After all in year 1 they are used to words such as ‘phonetic’, ‘grapheme’, ‘trigraph’, ‘reciprocity’, ‘reflective’ ‘resilience’ and ‘resourceful’ as part of the 4Rs, so Connect, Wonder, etc are well within their grasp.
But as you already have pointed out, the wording of each explanation at the learning cycle points per year group, would need to reflect their ability to understand what they are being asked to do. It might be possible to use the same wording for KS1, LKS2 yr 5 and then Fosil yr 6, but I would consult with teaching colleagues around that.
I think it is important to keep as close to the FOSIL set up and graphics as possible, so as to ensure uniformity as children move up the school.
I actually attempted a whole school approach to inquiry learning for my school when I undertook the SLA Libraries Learning Programme for their librarians conversion course, which started with what you would expect from yr 6 inquiry learners then worked down the years simplifying each one. But what with one thing and another I didn’t get nearly far enough in its implementation across the whole school.
The main obstacles I think are:
that the primary school curriculum is so packed that any inquiry learning is incorporated into, for example, a 30 min topic and therefore there is very little time to complete the whole inquiry cycle. Checking for understanding therefore is tricky when undoubtedly primary children need much more support for inquiry learning than secondary school children, who are expected to and are able to learn independenently in that process. However, just having the basic cycle inquiry points that continue throughout out as children move from yr 1 to 6 would be invaluable. The sooner they are familiar and learn the cycle the better.
And I agree the graphics are important but not sure if it would be better to have different graphics for each year group or keep to key stages, or keep graphic changes to a mimimum.
Thanks for pointing me to this forum where it’s great to read about the discussion on the inquiry process for younger children.