There are a number of key recommendations that would enhance the History Information Learning Activity “XXXX Then and Now.”
Significantly teachers need to consider the way in which units are developed. Significant aspects of the Australian Curriculum and Inquiry based learning were largely overlooked in the planning stages of this unit of work. In particular, there was a significant emphasis on the end product, and the predetermined content during the initial planning stages of this guided inquiry unit.
No consideration was given to which particular guided inquiry framework would underpin the unit of work.
The TELSTAR model of Guided Inquiry could be applied effectively to this learning experience. This model in particular has an easy to understand acronym, and uses simple language, making it ideal for younger students. The steps for this model are:
T – Tune In (to topics, issues, Key Question)
E – Explore (both prior understandings and attitudes, and also the mechanics of the inquiry – skills, resources, end products, and students’ own questions)
L – Look (for, collect and organise information; where to look)
S – Sort ( and evaluate information for reliability; analyse information for connections and underlying value positions)
T – Test (evidence to reach conclusions; consider the implications of the findings)
A – Act (by thinking about the real-life application of their findings in their community)
R – Reflect (upon both what they have learned and how well they have learned it). School based decisions should be made in regards to which inquiry model best suits a particular context.
The consistent use of a model such as TELSTAR means that there is “ greater commonality of language among teachers as they design, implement and review teaching/learning units, and that there is increased competence of students and teachers in relation to the use of an inquiry model.” (Nayler) .
In saying this however, consideration needs to be given to which inquiry model will best enhance a teacher’s capacity to support their students as they engage in an inquiry process.
How can learning opportunities assist students to develop effective Information Literacy skills. Information Literacy skills being “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.”
Significantly there is no explicit inquiry model or information literacy skill framework suggested by the Australian Curriculum, so it is up to individual schools to determine which skills are most relevant to their particular context. In my role as a future teacher librarian I am in the process of developing my knowledge of different inquiry models as different models can be adopted and used by students at different stages of their information literacy skill development.
In addition to a lack of an inquiry based learning model, little or no consideration was given to looking at the general capabilities provided as part of the Australian Curriculum framework. Given the strong emphasis on collecting information using online sources, any future unit develop would be enhanced by looking at the Information and Communication general capabilities outlined in the Australian Curriculum.
While students were exposed to a number of different information sources, they were not given control over where information came from. Given that there was a significant emphasis during this unit on the use of primary and secondary sources it is essential that any unit of work which is developed provides opportunities for “ students think and learn and give them greater control over how, where and when they learn.” (ACARA, 2012) Consideration should also be given to providing opportunities for students to experiment, problem solve, and work collaboratively during any inquiry unit.
Another area which was not explicitly looked at during the planning and implementation of this Information Learning Activity was components of the general capabilities of Critical and Creative thinking. As stated in the Melbourne Declaration for Schooling, “ critical and creative thinking are fundamental to becoming successful learners. Thinking that is productive, purposeful and intentional is at the centre of effective learning.” (ACARA 2012) These should be essential elements of any or all learning activities which take place in a classroom, and are also the fundamental goals of effective inquiry learning practices.
Consideration needs to be given to how any future Information Learning Activity will explicitly provide opportunities to develop such skills. This general capability explicitly outlines inquiry skills, and provides a concise definition of inquiry processes that could be used as a starting point by history teachers when developing and enhancing units of work. In particular, history teachers need to ensure that Information Learning Activities provide opportunities for students to “identify, explore and clarify questions and issues, gather, organise and process information, and in particular in regards to the Information Learning Activity in question, provide opportunities for students to transfer this knowledge into new context.“ (ACARA, 2012 Page 58) This was indeed a weaknesses of the Information Learning Activity in question as teachers did not look beyond the unit in terms of how students could apply new knowledge into different context. This should be explicitly expressed as part of curriculum development.
The GeST Windows model presented by Lupton and Bruce (2010) is an effective information literacy model, which can use to analyse existing curriculum plans, and through this analysis can then enhance future units of work. The model explains the relationship between generic; situated and transformative characteristics of inquiry. Using the model I am able to look at the extent to which students are provided with opportunities to move beyond basic skill development, to genuine information learning.
When developing units of work, even in the early years sector, it is important that I consider the types of skills that students will develop through a learning experience. Using the GeST window framework it became immediately apparent that while the Information Learning Activity content was authentic and one which directly related to the every day experiences of students, the assessment task was narrow, and did not allow the early years students to move beyond the “generic window’. Because of this the students only had opportuntities to find, and organise information.
A particular strength of the GeSt window is that it provides opportunities for students to consider information in regards to it’s “ideology, and socio-cultural attitudes and values.” (Bruce and Lupton 2010). The Information Learning Activity in question provided limited opportunities for students to “challenge the status quo, or to consider assumptions that have been made, and to think about whose interests are being served through the information gathering activities. (Bruce & Lupton 2010)
By gaining a deeper insight in information literacy models, and taking a look at my Information Learning Activity in relation to the GeST window it is clear that there were a number of different missed opportunities to extent my students’ information literacy skills. When considering my Information Learning Activity, a Year 2 History unit, looking at past and present features of a school environment, I can see a significant emphasis on the generic windows. In particular the Information Learning Activity provided students with opportunities to:
- Practice search skills and follow a series of stages when acquiring information.
- Manage and organise information.
- Practice using search strategies particularly using online sources of information
- Work through a process for finding and managing information
(Bruce and Lupton 2010 p 14)
Regarding the Situated window students were provided with opportunities to
- Find and use information for personal and community purposes (in particular gaining knowledge about the transformation of their school environment, gave them increased ownership of it)
- Ask people about the content in question using a variety of information gathering tools
- Examine multiple sources of ifnormaton and question how information is produced and communicated.
- Work with authentic information practices in a familiar context.
(Bruce and Lupton 2010 p 14)
Given that these early years students are largely in the early stages of information literacy skill development, it was somewhat difficult to provide them with opportunities to interact in the Transformative window, particularly in regards to the “implicit and explicit assumptions inherent in textual and social practices.” (Bruce and Lupton p14) It is certainly the long term goal for these students as they move through primary school, and information literacy skills develop further, that Information Learning Activities will allow them to engage in learning activities that to engage not only within the Transformative window, but in balance with the Generic and Situated windows.
It is clear to me by working through this process of analysing my Information Learning Activity using the GeST windows, the model is indeed a valuable one that could be used to enhance existing curriculum plans, and also when planning unit of work and assessment activities. I need to remember during planning future units of work, that the strength of each window is dependent on each other, and that all three are necessary if I am going to provide students with a truly meaningful, authentic learning experience.
While it is clear that there are some significant areas for development for this particular Information Learning Activity, it needs to be remembered that the teachers who developed this unit are also on an information journey themselves. The Australian Curriculum: History framework is as yet largely unfamiliar. In an ideal world, educators will be provided with professional development to assist them in not only familiarising themselves with History Current Curriculum frameworks and standards, but also the inquiry skills and models which underpin the framework.
Lupton, Mandy and Bruce, Christine. (2010). Chapter 1 : Windows on Information Literacy Worlds : Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives in Lloyd, Annemaree and Talja, Sanna, Practising information literacy : bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, pp.3-27.