Recommendations for future action
Student outcomes were of an acceptable level for this inquiry, however recommendations can be made to improve the depth of understanding and practice.
What should we do as a school?
- Choose an Inquiry Learning Framework and apply across whole school
- Choose a questioning framework for upper school – KWL is used for lower
- Develop a scope and sequence for Information literacy skills to be taught in the library
- Involve the teacher librarian in collaborative planning at year level meetings so she can support your curriculum.
- Collaborate with teachers in year levels, teacher librarians, HOC for in-depth curriculum planning
In-depth curriculum planning helps teachers plan for deep understanding of concepts skills and ideas. A planning web may be used.
Figure 1. Brainstorming the inquiry
Figure 1 is an example of a mind map made using bubbl.us where I have brainstormed the different elements needed for in-depth planning of this unit. This would be used for planning of specific questions, web-site lists, and opportunities for students to practice, rehearse, consult resources, and receive feedback. Planning should identify a final project that demonstrates understanding. The use of the public speech in this case was beneficial, as students had to look for information that their class mates would find interesting and explain what they had found so that others would understand. A backwards planning method as proposed by Wilhelm (2007) working from the presentation and identifying classroom activities, conversations, questions from students and teacher would help to develop concepts and procedures necessary to conduct the inquiry. The next step would be to plan from current knowledge, from visual to non-visual, from concrete to abstract, from short amounts of text to longer passages, from directly stated main ideas to implied main ideas (Wilhelm, 2007). For effective implementation, a wide range of resources in a variety of formats presented through different activities and opportunities for reading listening, viewing and observing, joined with writing, speaking, performing and producing would encompass a holistic experience (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007, p. 27).
Information comes, not just from text, but from visual and aural sources and the learner’s emotions. Resources using multiple modes of literacy should be selected to improve information literacy. Information literacy is using information to learn.
Literacy is a social construct. The simplest form of literacy is generic, which are the skills required to work productively. They include reading, writing and using the Internet and Email. The generic skills here would be the search skills, which should be taught and practised. Situated information literacy occurs in context and inquiry learning fits in here as students collaborate, participate and solve problems. The students could be asked to present their speech as a group activity, with each person discussing a different aspect. They could collaborate in searches and help each other find useful websites. There could be a class blog reviewing sites. Transformative information literacy is the concept of using information to transform yourself or society. More could have been made of comparing ancient civilisations to modern times. Transformative information literacy can also be expressive where meaning is conveyed by creative practice. They could have made an audiovisual presentation or used images in their speech. Figure 19 shows the four types of information literacy. They are not hierarchical, but are embedded (Lupton & Bruce 2010).
Figure 19. GeST Windows Model Adapted from Lupton & Bruce (2010)
Information literacy are the skills used to determine the information needed to answer the inquiry questions (Callison, 2006; Harada, 2004). These skills should be taught to the students when searching for information. Information literacy is the ability to search efficiently, and to sort out what is irrelevant or misleading. Information is selected based on age, authority, completeness, relevance to task, argument and audience. Students should be able to identify bias and choose the most useful resources. Information literacy includes ethics in obtaining information and citing the source of the information. Students reflect on the limits of the information acquired, and changes needed to improve access and effectiveness of the information for the future (Callison, 2006; Harada, 2004; C. Kuhlthau, 2010). Information literacy is not just the skills of finding and using the information, but evaluating and expressing ideas. It is ‘most important’ that students are able to determine the perspective of the author (Kapitzke, 2003).
Flow charts and continuum should be used to inform planning (Barell, 2010; NYC, 2012). These elements are missing in this inquiry and should be included when planning future inquiry. Flow charts and continuum would enable in depth planning across the school, across the year level and for each class, so that skills were developed sequentially, when the students were cognitively ready, to allow in depth inquiry and deeper understanding.
Students should be moving toward forming a focused perspective (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007). Planning should accommodate the task to the students’ level of cognitive development. Prior to age 12, students ask questions, seek answers and share discoveries. These students in this ILA are on the cusp of the next stage, which is to explore ideas from various sources and integrate those ideas into their own thinking. Using more resources and a variety of resources would enable this exploration. Resources such as games, videos, on-line museums, songs, plays would all present information in a different way and bring more depth to the learning.
To enable this focused perspective, students need to explore good questions. When planning, curriculum standards can be used to form focus questions using what, how and why (Wilhelm, 2007). For example: Why were the homes of ancient Greece different to ours? Questions can be enriched using why and how.
What should we do at a class level?
- Make more use of the Teacher Librarian to teach information literacy
- Make use of flexible timetabling
- Use text books to start research and reteach skills of finding information in books before we move to the computer lab
- Use search engines other than Google
- Teach students how to do advanced search in Google
- Use Higher Order Thinking Skills with technology
Web-sites were a source of much of the information for this ISP, and improvements could be made in how they are used. With students of this age, the teacher should be choosing some websites. When selecting Websites, teachers should consider font size, use of illustrations and suitable language to enable effective engagement. Prior knowledge of the Web and how search engines work is essential (Kuiper, 2005).Teaching the use of proper keywords and Boolean operators would help students improve searches and reduce the frustration caused by an overload of information from too many Websites. Effective questions would have assisted with both of these issues of too much information, and difficulty with summarising or putting information into their own words. (Bowler, 2001; Hwang, 2011; Kuiper, 2005).
The teacher has given instruction and practise with information summary, and this ability will improve with further practise and use of good questions. Hwang (2011) suggests using 5Wh and 1 H to evaluate data on a Web-page. What is the topic? Who is the important figure? Why did those things occur? Where did the events occur? When did they occur? How did they happen? Hwang’s (2011) study found that abilities in searching and summarising on the Internet improved with use of proper keywords and identifying the main points in information. Even low achieving students improved when they understood that the first sentence of a paragraph is very important. Kuiper (2005) states that students must learn to assess relevance and reliability of information and ask the question: Can I use this to answer my question and do I think what it says is true? It would be useful to apply the ten-step procedure for on-line information searching (Ackerman and Hartman, 2005).
- Identify important concepts about the problem to be solved
- Select keywords that match these concepts
- Identify possible synonyms within the keywords
- Select a search method such as Boolean search
- Choose a search engine
- Read instructions on the main page of the search engine
- Create appropriate words and phrases for the search engine
- Evaluate the search results and check the relevance with the questions
- Fix the search method and repeat steps 2-4 if necessary
- Try a different search engine.
Number 10 may not always be used as Kuiper (2005) does not advocate use of alternative search engines in every case, as they are not used by students out of school and school-based learning should be transferable and relevant to students’ outside of school activities.
Questions should be learning area specific. There are specific questions to ask in history and SOSE. I have adapted some history specific questions which would have been useful for this research project from Cheney (2010) Questions to ask at a site (Cheney, 2010).
- When was the civilisation powerful?
- Who lived then? What was their social structure? Who had power? What was life like for rich v poor people?
- What structures did they build? Why were they built? What were their values? What social purpose did the structure serve?
- Who was the intended audience of the building? What values did they leave for us today? What does the site ask us to go and do?
- What form of government did they have? Who was the government?
- What points of view are ignored?
- Are there interesting symbols used? Are any of these still used today? Would any of these cause problems if used today?
- Did they have any rituals? Are any of their sites still used for rituals today? If so, have the rituals changed?
- What historical sources tell us about this time in history? How do we know about their lives?
- What was the world like during that time? Were there other powerful civilisations? Were there other civilisations that were very different? Why do you think this was so?
Schultz (2007) recommends 5 Ws and an H.
What systems – political, legal, economic, ecological
Where – global location
Who – people, cultural background, group association, power, socio-economic status
The first four questions should lead to further, more specific questions.
Why and How are used to analyse and evaluate information using higher order thinking. Is information authentic and relevant to their search?
Inquiry learning models have effective questioning frameworks. SOSE and history inquiry have topic specific questioning frameworks. A very useful questioning framework for these subjects, is the TELSTAR model (QLD Dept of Education 1994) reviewed in Schultz (2007). This framework has distinctive stages and could be used for planning an inquiry unit.
Figure 4 TELSTAR Questioning Framework from (Schultz, 2007)
One model that effectively addresses the above characteristics is the 8Ws Model. The teacher is the facilitator and guides students through critical stages. The Internet is not just used to provide information access but also to teach search strategies, critical evaluation, decision making, problem solving and communication skills.
Figure 5 8Ws information literacy (Lamb, 1997)
Inquiry learning models can be used to support and extend curriculum documents. The history curriculum documents developed by ACARA to be implemented next year, state that the students will identify questions to inform an historical inquiry, identify and locate a range of relevant resources, compare information from resources, identify points of view and use a range of communication forms and digital technologies (ACARA, 2012). To fit with the ACARA model for history inquiry, more resources would need to be used in this ILA and students should compare information from sources. The QSA assessment bank has resources that would be useful for this inquiry. As the QSA page is password protected I cannot publish them here. If you have access to the assessment bank you can retrieve them from the teacher resource link. There is a concept organiser (mindmap) sheet, a affective reflection sheet, a checklist to review a peer’s work and a checklist for research. The checklist for research needs some modification to update it, but is a good starting point for ideas. With changes in technology, resources such as these would need reviewing and updating annually. https://assessmentbank.qsa.qld.edu.au/assessmentbank/
In conclusion, the main recommendations I would make are that more questions are used to enable students to follow the phases of inquiry and develop deeper understandings. ICT information search skills of using effective keywords, Boolean operators and advanced search should be continuously revised. Collaboration should be encouraged between students and extended on a professional level to include the teacher librarian.
ACARA. (2012). The Australian Curriculum – history-year 6. Retrieved 26/08/2012, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Year6#learningarea=H
Ackerman, E., Hartman, K. (2005). Searching and Researching on the Internet and World Wide Web (4th ed.): Franklin, Beedle and Associates.
Barell, J. (2010). Problem-Based Learning: The Foundation for 21st Century Skills 21st century skills : rethinking how students learn (pp. 175- 199). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Bowler, L., Large, A., Rejskind, G. . (2001). Primary School Students, information literacy and the Web. Education for Information, 19(3), 201-223.
Callison, D. (2006). Information Inquiry : Concepts and Elements The blue book on information age inquiry, instruction and literacy (pp. 3-16). Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Cheney, M. (2010). Ten Questions to Ask at A Historic Site. Retrieved 25/09/2012, from http://sundown.afro.illinois.edu/content.php?file=liesacrossamerica-tenquestions.html
Harada, V., Yoshina, J. (2004). Chapter 1: identifying the inquiry based school Inquiry learning through librarian-teacher partnerships (pp. 1-10). Worthington: Linworth.
Hwang, G.-J. (2011). An information-summarizing instruction strategy for improving the web-based problem solving abilities of students. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(2), 290-306.
Kapitzke, C. (2003). Information literacy : a review and poststructural critique. Australasian Journal of Language and Literacy, 26(1), 53-66.
Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., Caspari, A. (2007). The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry Guided Inquiry : Learning in the 21st Century (pp. 13-28). Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.
Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 1-12.
Kuiper, E., Volman, M., Terwel, J. (2005). The Web as an Information Resource in K-12 Education: Strategies for Supporting Students in Searching and Processing Information. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 285-328.
Lamb, A., Johnson, L., Smith, N. (1997). Wondering, Wiggling, and Weaving: A New Model for Project and Community Based Learning on the Web. Learning and Leading With Technology, 24(7), 6-13.
Lupton, M., Bruce, C. (2010). Chapter 1: Windows on Information Literacy Worlds Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives. In A. Lloyd, S. Talja & Charles Sturt University. Centre for Information Studies. (Eds.), Practising information literacy : bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together
NYC. (2012). New York City School Library System Information Fluency Continuum. Retrieved from http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/27A1E84E-65EB-4A54-80DF-51E28D34BF4F/0/InformationFluencyContinuum.pdf.
Schultz, J. (2007). The Future of SOSE? Integrative Inquiry is the answer. The Social Educator(December), 11-16.
Wilhelm, J. (2007). Asking the Guiding Question : Reframing the Existing Curriculum into Inquiry Units Engaging readers and writers with inquiry (pp. 41-71). New York: Scholastic.