FOSIL Group member Darryl Toerien has written the first in a feature series – Between the Library and the Classroom: Becoming Integral to the Educational Process – for The School Librarian, the Quarterly Journal of the School Library Association.
The School Librarian, Volume 69, Number 1, Spring 2021
The IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto proclaims that the school library is integral to the educational process. The fact that it is not says much about the educational process, or at least the prevailing one, but it also says something about the school library. For the school library to become integral to the educational process – without which it cannot fulfil its educational purpose, and upon which its moral purpose depends – we urgently need to deepen our understanding of both the educational process and the school library. This is imperative, and not for our sake, but for the sake of our children.
This series takes its title from Norman Beswick’s profound insight that the library does not support the classroom – rather, the classroom leads (or should lead) inevitably and essentially to the library. This is less about the classroom or the library than it is about the sustained collaborative effort of both to equip our children with the kind of knowledge that they most need, which is knowledge that will help them to get more knowledge for themselves. This is desirable, because the principal lesson that school teaches should not be, as Illich charged, the need to be taught. This is also necessary, because the failure of school to help children learn how to distinguish useful talk from bullshit, as Neil Postman puts it, leaves them vulnerable to those who would take advantage of them, especially online.
This brings me to the point of this series, which is to reflect on how the school library becomes integral to the educational process. For this I draw on the collective insight of the IFLA School Library Guidelines, which translate the principles of the Manifesto into practical terms. The Guidelines frame learning through the process of inquiry, which reflects an evolution towards inquiry in and through the school library that can be traced back to 1960, and inquiry, I have come to believe, is the only way for the school library to become integral to the educational process. The reason for this is that inquiry is an educational process – a countervailing one that centres education in the learning process, rather than in the teaching process, encourages initiative and independence on the part of the student, and brings the student to grips with original thought as expressed in books and other media. This, in turn, requires a model of the inquiry process, which is also the means for collaboratively structuring teaching around a framework skills that students must develop at each stage in the inquiry process over their time in school and in the context of subject area learning.
FOSIL is such a model and framework of skills, and the perspective from which I will write this series. For a brief history of FOSIL and the FOSIL Group, see here: https://fosil.org.uk/history/.
The FOSIL Group is an international community of educators who frame learning through inquiry, which is a process and stance aimed at building knowledge and understanding of the world and ourselves in it as the basis for responsible participation in society.