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).
I have uploaded the presentation that I prepared for Blanchelande College to FOSIL Presentations, which broadly outlines the case for a school library that is an enabler of FOSIL-based inquiry learning, and which is informed by the IFLA School Library Guidelines and the IB’s Ideal libraries: A guide for schools.
The PowerPoint presentation – Not for Lack of Vision – may be also be downloaded from here (some of the slides have explanatory notes).
I am reminded by these two essential questions of Francis Fukuyama’s preface to Our posthuman future : consequences of the biotechnology revolution (2003), in which he revisits his argument that “Hegel had been right in saying that history had ended in 1806, since there had been no essential political progress beyond the principles of the French Revolution [which signalled] a broader convergence toward liberal democracy around the globe” (pp. xi-xii). This convergence toward liberal democracy, he argued, was tied to human nature, and he goes on to explore the greatest challenge to this end-of-history thesis, which is the very real potential of biotechnology to fundamentally alter human nature. Given this near-total collapse of the boundary between non-fiction and science fiction, the power of these essential questions becomes clear: on some level human nature gives rise to technological invention, which, in turn, calls into increasingly literal question what it means to be human in nature.
As Barbara touches on, once you adopt an inquiry stance of wonder and puzzlement on the world, essential questions serve the dual purpose of focusing the inquiry [lest we get too carried away] and energizing it [carrying us away].
Our instructional designs for a contracted and extended inquiry experience follow:
Lesson outline (click image to expand):
Unit outline (click image to expand):
Fukuyama, F. (2003). Our posthuman future : consequences of the biotechnology revolution. London: Profile Books.
More specifically, I intend to cover the following:
Inquiry as a process and a stance
Overview of FOSIL and Stripling Model of Inquiry
Relation of FOSIL to Six steps to discovery
Overview of REACTS Taxonomy and how to use
Importance of collaboration between librarians and classroom teachers to blend an inquiry stance with curriculum content
The article that we will be basing our workshop around is A fable in search of a great humane vision (see below for excerpt in old format).
Barbara will discuss use of the article in two teaching scenarios – one in which severe time constraints limit inquiry to the article under discussion, and one in which more generous time constraints extend inquiry well beyond the article under discussion. This discussion will include:
Multi-disciplinary examples (English, Science, Technology, Social Studies, Arts)
Suggestions for inquiry skills that might be taught in both scenarios
Student products at different REACTS levels
It is essential to establish a conceptual frame at the beginning of a learning experience in order to focus on the core ideas that will drive the instructional design. An inquiry frame introduces the major concept(s) to the students and, at the same time, opens the possibilities for student-driven inquiry guided by that frame or lens.
When I first stumbled into school librarianship from teaching in 2003, I also stumbled across Jesse Shera’s seminal work, The Foundations of Education for Librarianship (1972), which was “the first attempt to systematically view the librarian’s professional education and to explore their role in society’s “total communication system'”.
In it, he observed (p. 177) that:
Increasingly, research as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning is being introduced into undergraduate as well as graduate programs. This undergraduate research, or more properly, inquiry, has its own characteristic information needs, though academic librarians generally have given these requirements slight attention, while the faculty has tended to ignore them almost entirely.
Since then, inquiry as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning has increasingly been introduced into school programs – the International Baccalaureate is an obvious example, but not the only one, and the IFLA School Library School Guidelines, as another example, frame learning though inquiry, which is a core instructional activity within the school library’s pedagogical programme.
Equally formative was Curriculum connections through the library, which was edited by Barbara Stripling and Sandra Hughes-Hassell, and published in the same year that I first came under Jesse Shera’s influence. I still have two chapters bookmarked: Inquiry-Based Learning, by Barbara Stripling, and Librarian Morphs into Curriculum Developer, by Charlotte Vlasis. Little could I have known then that these two concerns would combine in FOSIL in 2011, and eventually lead to the formation of the FOSIL Group in 2019.
Which brings us to today.
While I have the deepest respect and admiration for what Barbara has done, as Barbara herself will point out, what has been done only matters insofar as it lays a solid foundation for what must still be done. And not by her alone, but any and all who have resolutely adopted inquiry as a stance of wonder and puzzlement that gives rise to a dynamic learning process that is truly empowering for our children, and therefore transformational, both inwardly and outwardly.
In this spirit, Barbara has made her work freely available under Creative Commons, without which FOSIL and the FOSIL Group would not exist, and in this same spirit we meet today to share our part in this important and urgent work that is beyond us on our own.
Our discussion today is framed by two paradigm shifts.
The first requires of us a deeper understanding of the characteristic information needs of inquiry as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning. The second requires of us a deeper understanding of what happens to these characteristic information needs in a digital environment.
With thanks and apologies to Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution will not be televised.