I grew up on cyberpunk science fiction, which deals with the moment when the future collapses into the present. This is our moment, when this future is both many years away and collapsing – in bits and pieces, here and there – into the present around us.
This, I think, is the twofold value of this document, both of which the discussion so far has touched on.
On the one hand, it reminds us that what education is for, and how we go about it, is contested. In this regard it is helpful because it enables us to more compellingly add our voices to this debate at whatever level we are given a voice, which may prove decisive at that level. The reason for this is that a contemporary liberal education as described in this document is fundamentally aligned with inquiry as we understand it, which means that we can use either to inform and strengthen the other. Think globally and act locally, but in the knowledge that enough local change can bring about global change
On the other hand, because a Signature Work, which by definition is inquiry-based, is a key component of a contemporary liberal education, we can either argue for a Signature Work where there is an openness to liberal education, or we can argue from a Signature Work, where it already exists (such as the EPQ), to a liberal education more broadly.
I will illustrate this more concretely, hopefully later this week.
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.
Thanks, Elizabeth, and Matt for asking the question.
I would definitely transition to the 2019 framework, even though the 2009 framework is still fundamentally sound.
As Barbara writes, the 2009 framework was reimagined in 2019 “to adapt to the changing information, education, and technology environments, as well as the increasing diversity in our student populations”. Furthermore:
The re-imagined ESIFC includes increased or new attention to pre-kindergarten, multiple literacies, digital citizenship and civic responsibility, multiple perspectives, personalization of learning, design thinking, student voice and agency, and social and emotional growth. Different sections provide a PK-12 continuum of skills, identification of priority skills for every grade level, and graphic organizer assessments for the priority skills.
I am hopeful that I will soon be able to write about this more fully, because Blanchelande College is a PK-12 school and have begun to think more purposefully about how to align each phase of the school with the 2019 framework.
I will also flag this question / topic with Barbara, who, as originator of both frameworks, will be best placed to shed light on the intention for their use.
If I am not mistaken, S1 – S3 equates to Year 7 – Year 9 in England (and Grade 6 – Grade 8 in America).
The existing structure of 6 lessons lends itself well to framing induction through FOSIL, although 50 minutes would be preferable to 20 minutes for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the skills / skill sets that are currently taught, while important, are logically part of a larger learning process (see Figure 1 below), and broadening out induction to meaningfully include representative and developmentally-appropriate skills / skill sets from all the stages in this learning process in 20-minute lessons will be difficult, though not impossible.
Figure 1: FOSIL Inquiry Cycle Skill Sets (click on image to enlarge and download as high resolution PNG image from here)
Secondly, engaging students in an inquiry is an effective way to both induct them into the inquiry learning process, and for you to teach and for them to learn / practise the skills that enable the process, which include media and information literacy skills.
Thirdly, by embedding these skills within an inquiry learning process, which is necessary for independent learning, you create an opportunity to collaborate with classroom colleagues on identifying how best to make the induction / inquiry relevant to subject area learning. Three examples serve to illustrate our efforts to meaningfully relate induction to subject area learning:
Our Year 9 FOSIL Inquiry Skills Project (S3 / Grade 8) is very effective and has served to inform our work both higher up and lower down the school (see also the associated LibGuide: F3 Inquiry Skills – this particular LibGuide is for a highly-condensed version of the Project necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions, so 1 x 50-minute lesson rather than the normal 5 x 50-minute lessons, which we are intending to return to in September)
Indeed, Nicola, thank you for sharing this very encouraging development.
Yes, this is why the IFLA School Library Guidelines stress the importance of having a systematic framework for teaching these skills and that they must be introduced progressively through stages and levels.
Following our presentation – Thoughtful REACTionS to The Day: Framing Inquiry-based Learning, which may be downloaded from here – at Real-World Learning Live!, we have two further opportunities for thoughtful reactions to The Day.
Firstly, Richard Addis, Founder and Editor of The Day, has asked us the following questions for a LinkedIn article:
What is inquiry-based learning?
Why is it so important?
What is the FOSIL Group’s theory on how we develop young people’s thinking skills?
What is your view on how we teach young people to think more critically about world issues?
How can teachers apply inquiry-based learning when using The Day in the classroom?
Barbara has drafted our answers and will post them in due course.
Secondly, I have drafted the following questions to put to Richard for a FOSIL Group Forum post:
Our working definition of inquiry is 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 for responsible participation in community.
This dynamic process of making sense of the world from information about the world is a learning process.
The IFLA School Library Guidelines frame learning through inquiry and advocate for the effective development of media and information literacy (MIL) skills within a chosen model of the inquiry learning process.
Question: How would you define news in relation media?
The Day is both “news to open minds” and explanation of the news.
Question: How does The Day manage this apparent tension?
More specifically, there is an apparent tension between telling children what to think and provoking/ encouraging/ developing independent thought. This likely accounts for recent instructional design decisions relating to the format of The Day that make the inquiry learning process visually explicit, and so encourage an inquiry-based pedagogical approach.
Question: What was the motivation for these instructional design changes, and what are the desired outcomes, which may be subtly different?
However, references to this article are often misleading.
The positive correlation demonstrated since 1992 by the library impact studies is between “high-quality library programs and student achievement”. While Lance and Kachel state that “the mere presence of a librarian is associated with better student outcomes,” which extend beyond student achievement, this is still in the context of the school library program (i.e., what the school librarian does).
Ironically, while most of us understand the profound limits of standards–based testing—not to mention the devastating toll it has taken on U.S. public education—it is a simple fact that a quarter–century of impact studies would not, and could not, have happened had it not been for the ubiquity of such testing and the high stakes put on their results. Except for their ubiquity, the data necessary for the research would not have existed. Except for the high stakes, nobody would have cared enough to bother funding research like ours.
This, in my opinion, is the real value of the IFLA Guidelines, which is that they apply the lessons of the school library impact studies to an international research context stretching back over 60 years.
The key point, then, is that the distinguishing features of a school library as outlined in the IFLA Guidelines – professional and paraprofessional staffing levels appropriate for the size of the school and its unique needs, delivering a high-quality pedagogical program based around the core instructional activities, supported by targeted high-quality diverse collections, and subject to an explicit policy and plan for ongoing growth and development – are the optimal conditions for the school library to produce said positive correlations with student achievement, and related desirable outcomes.
It is fine if we – individually and/ or collectively – do not yet have all of this, but it is vital to our success that we be clear about what we need to be striving for.
I should have added that the IFLA Guidelines elaborate on the first distinguishing feature at some length (pp. 38-45), identifying the core instructional activities that constitute the school library’s pedagogical programme as:
literacy and reading promotion (pp. 39-40)
media and information literacy (MIL), which may be developed within the chosen model of the inquiry learning process (pp. 40-41)
inquiry-based learning, which may include the development of MIL skills within the chosen model (pp. 41-44)
technology integration (p. 44)
professional development for teachers (p. 44)
“School librarians recognize the importance of having a systematic framework for the teaching of media and information skills, and they contribute to the enhancement of students’ skills through collaborative work with teachers (p. 8) … These [inquiry and lifelong learning, self-directed learning (i.e., metacognitive), and collaborating] skills are best developed progressively within a subject context, with topics and problems drawn from the curriculum” (p. 42).
This makes FOSIL – as a sound instructional model of the inquiry learning process undergirded by a detailed framework of skills covering Inquiry & Design Thinking, Multiple Literacies, Social & Civic Responsibility, Personal Growth & Agency (ESIFC, 2009 & 2019) – a compelling choice, I think.
More broadly, I am beginning to understand that FOSIL in its fullest sense addresses all 5 of the core instructional activities of the school library’s pedagogical programme as outlined in the IFLA Guidelines.
Simon Sinek (2009) makes the point that people do not buy into what we do (mission), but why we do what do (purpose).
Purpose, as I understand it, is the reason why we exist, and why it would matter if we didn’t.
The difference between why (purpose) and what (mission) is subtle, but profound, and I would bet that most cases for the school library would start with what the school library does.
This is the reason for starting my presentation with Harold Howe’s observation that what a school thinks about its library is a measure of how it feels about eduction – our focus is not what the school thinks about the library, but how the school feels about education. The fact that a school has committed itself to the IB MYP and DP – in which inquiry is a curriculum stance (Tilke, 2011) – strongly suggests that it feels a certain way about education, which predisposes it to thinking about its library in a certain way. Being clear, therefore, about how the school feels about education must be our focus and starting point.
While it will not be possible in the time available to develop this line of thought more fully, or even summarize it more helpfully, the following may be useful.
(All Guidelines are inspirational and aspirational – the more inspirational they are, the more aspirational they can be.)
It is not possible to discuss library staffing, especially in this country, without clarifying what we understand a school library to be within a broader educational context, which is why Harold Howe’s observation that “what a school thinks of its library is a measure of what it feels about education” is so insightful.
Definition of a school library (p. 16) | A school’s physical and digital learning space where reading, inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity are central to students’ information-to-knowledge journey and to their personal, social, and cultural growth.
Distinguishing features of a school library (p. 17) | More than 50 years of international research, collectively, identifies the following distinguishing features:
It has a qualified school librarian with formal education in school librarianship and classroom teaching that enables the professional expertise required for the complex roles of instruction, reading and literacy development, school library management, collaboration with teaching staff, and engagement with the educational community.
In order to meet the teaching and learning needs of a school community, it is essential to have a well-trained and highly motivated staff, in sufficient numbers according to the size of the school and its unique needs. … The operational aspects of a school library are best handled by trained clerical and technical support staff in order to ensure that a school librarian has the time needed for the professional roles of instruction, management, collaboration, and leadership. (p. 25)
It provides targeted high-quality diverse collections (print, multimedia, digital) that support the school’s formal and informal curriculum, including individual projects and personal development.
It has an explicit policy and plan for ongoing growth and development.
Role of the school library (pp. 17-18) | A school library operates within a school as a teaching and learning centre that provides an active pedagogical program integrated into curriculum content, with emphasis on the following:
Resource-based capabilities – abilities and dispositions related to seeking, accessing, and evaluating resources in a variety of formats, including people and cultural artefacts as sources.
Thinking-based capabilities – abilities and dispositions that focus on substantive engagement with data and information through research and inquiry processes, the processes of higher order thinking, and critical analysis that lead to the creation of representations/products that demonstrate deep knowledge and deep understanding.
Knowledge-based capabilities – research and inquiry abilities and dispositions that focus on the creation, construction, and shared use of the products of knowledge that demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding.
Reading and literacy capabilities – abilities and dispositions related to the enjoyment of reading, reading for pleasure, reading for learning across multiple platforms, and the transformation, communication, and dissemination of text in its multiple forms and modes to enable the development of meaning and understanding.
Personal and interpersonal capabilities – the abilities and dispositions related to social and cultural participation in resource-based inquiry and learning about oneself and others as researchers, information users, knowledge creators, and responsible citizens.
Learning management capabilities – abilities and dispositions that enable students to prepare for, plan, and successfully undertake a curriculum-based inquiry unit.
Conditions for an effective school library program (p. 18) | Research has shown that the most critical condition for an effective school library pedagogical program (i.e., a planned comprehensive offering of teaching and learning activities) is a qualified school library professional.
Human resources for a school library (p. 25) | Because a school library facilitates teaching and learning, the pedagogical program of a school library needs to be under the direction of professional staff with the same level of education and preparation as classroom teachers. … In order to meet the teaching and learning needs of a school community, it is essential to have a well-trained and highly motivated staff, in sufficient numbers according to the size of the school and its unique needs. … The operational aspects of a school library are best handled by trained clerical and technical support staff in order to ensure that a school librarian has the time needed for the professional roles of instruction, management, collaboration, and leadership.
For comparison, the IB definition of a school library (Ideal libraries: A guide for schools, 2019, p. 2) | A combination of people, places, collections and services that aid and extend learning and teaching … The library and the librarian can be thought of as an interdependent system or a library/ian…that supports all learners’ and teachers’ progress towards becoming better inquirers, consumers and creators of information.
Libraries and inquiry (p. 9) | Libraries are where most forms of inquiry, not just academic ones, begin…and the librarian is responsible for energizing and maintaining the inquiry process. Ideally, the librarian is trained in many ways of creating conditions for inquiry within and beyond the classroom … Inquiry is more expansive than research, and facilitating it requires expertise beyond research methods (Callison, 2015 and Levitov, 2016).
Conclusion (p. 12) | The IB strongly recommends that the library system of people, places, collections and services—or what is referred to as the library/ian—be designed to support and energize academic learning, service learning, and social and emotional support for the community. The library/ian should be directly represented in curriculum planning and development in the school community.
The IB Programme standards and practices (2018 and updated 2019) requires the school to maintain a functioning and active library consisting of adequate combinations of people, places, collections and services that aid and extend learning and teaching (p. 8).