As a classroom teacher, I have had first hand experience the positive impact inquiry learning can have on student learning outcomes. The readings for this topic have reinforced my views and given me a more extensive theoretical background of inquiry and project-based learning. These pedagogical initiatives definitely have their challenges and rewards!!!
- parent understanding of inquiry learning & project-based learning
- some students may feel overwhelmed by the process without the proper scaffolding and support
- assessing and keeping track of student progress
- students in awe of themselves when they have a moment of clarity
- students being able to discuss the relevance of websites and books
- the deep thinking and questioning that emerges through modeling and opportunities for practice.
My colleagues from the Catholic Education Office and I were asked to be part of project which identified underachieving gifted students in systemic Catholic schools with high indigenous and ESL populations. Research shows that many of these students were excluded from gifted programs due to their cultural background. We were faced with the challenge of designing interventions to address the learning needs of these children (I have included a link to our paper below).
The inquiry process, combined with Understanding By Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) involving project-based learning, were powerful tools in bridging the gap for underachieving students in general. We were given the challenge of training other teachers. Teacher-librarians were included as part of our project. We saw the value of their skills in curriculum development as well as the inquiry process. Student readiness (targeting zone of proximal development), student voice (allowing students to design their own learning paths) and student choice (allowing students to present their new understanding in their own way) were the main parts of the model we created.
BENEFITS OF THE ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT OF THE TL IN CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION
The involvement of the teacher-librarian in curriculum planning and the implementation of the unit of work led to quality teaching and learning sequences as well as students demonstrating a deeper understanding of the concepts explored. It can also lead to a very well resourced learning centre with the TLs awareness of student and teacher resource needs.
With the support of the teacher-librarian and the class teacher, students’ efficacy with the use of technology improved and they created quality and relevant technology based products. The TL also assisted with finding the relevant resources available both online and in the library. O’Connell (2013) refers to TLs as ‘Lifesavers of Learning’.
The involvement of the TL with curriculum development can only benefit the learning community as demonstrated by the readings and webinar for this topic. How can a school principal not utilise the skills of the teacher-librarian?
The factors that would influence this could be the:
1. degree of training and professional development the TL has had in curriculum innovations
2. number of days the TL is employed and
3. resources available in the school.
In this time of transition, the new Australian Curriculum is the perfect opportunity for principals to utilise the skills of their teacher librarians as leaders of pedagogy. The support of TLs is clearly needed with the ‘Critical and creative thinking’ and ‘ICT capabilities’.
Teacher-librarians can become a ‘significant other’ for students and teachers, a ‘go to’ person for curriculum and technology needs. They are able to provide students with powerful metacognitive strategies required for the demands of research; leading to the attainment of essential life-long learning skills.
Schools can be disadvantaged when the teacher librarian is excluded from curriculum development. As mentioned in our readings, TLs have a positive impact on student learning outcomes.
Bousnakis, M. Burns, T. Donnan, L. Hopper, S. Mugavero, G. Rogers, K. (2010) Achievement Integrated Model: Iowa Conference. Interventions for Gifted Indigenous Underachievers. Retrieved from: https://aimeducator.wikispaces.com/file/view/Achievement+Integrated+Model+1.pdf
O’Connell. J. (2013) Teacher Librarian and the Curriculum. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from Charles Stuart University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201330_W_D/page/21cc3723-8c2a-4279-008f-96f00ee74642
The Australian Curriculum (2011) Retrieved April 1, 2013, from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Home
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Expanded 2nd. Ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Inquiry Learning diagram- http://www.inquirylearn.com/index2.html
Project Based Learning diagram- http://edtechpd.sdcoe.net/enhancing-project-based-learning-through-digital-media