OLJ Blog post #3 Assessment of information literacy and inquiry learning

Blog post #3  Comment on the role of the TL in practice with regard to assessing information literacy and inquiry learning.

 

Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Without it, there is no way for teachers to know whether their students need to be taught a particular skill, whether instruction is effective, or whether students have achieved what learning experiences are designed to enable students to do or know.  From this, teachers are then able to confidently report to parents, principals and other stakeholders and provide feedback to students. Assessing skills such as information literacy and the effectiveness of inquiry learning is equally as important as assessing content from key learning areas for this reason. Therefore, teacher librarians are just as responsible for assessment within their programs as classroom teachers.  The readings for this module highlight the varied methods of assessment available to teachers and teacher librarians, authentic assessment as a tool for assessing information literacy and the importance of working with classroom teachers through this process.

Stripling (2007, p. 26-28) provides a good description of diagnostic, formative and summative assessments in the context of the school library and argues that they are all important to different stages of the learning experience.  She has developed an inquiry model with six phases, and links assessments to phases.  Even without this specific model, diagnostic, formative and summative assessments occur in that order.  While classroom teachers may be able to provide some of this information to teacher librarians, especially in the beginning, it is important that the teacher librarian assess students within the context of the library, as students may not be able to transfer certain skills yet.

Summative assessments can be completed as part of a unit, with students working towards a final product to be submitted at the end of the unit. Mueller (2005) argues for authentic assessments, which are assessments that require students to apply skills to a real-world problem.  He writes that an example of this is a research paper, and argues that these are more helpful for measuring students’ skills than examinations.  In the context of information literacy, teacher librarians are able to assess students’ abilities to gather, sort and present information in this manner more effectively than an exam.  It would be beneficial for this to be linked to a unit students are learning in classrooms in order to assess information literacy skills rather than knowledge.

When assessing information literacy, it is important for assessments to be varied. While a research paper can assess a student’s ability to locate, analyse and organise information, a student could be placed at a disadvantage if their writing skills are not good enough to complete the task, or if they did not have enough background knowledge to begin at the same place as their peers.  Therefore, it is important that teacher librarians use many assessment techniques and judge students’ work against the outcomes they have set out to measure. Mueller (2008) provides a series of questions to guide teachers in writing assessments in order to ensure that assessments are valid.

Finally, the readings agree that teacher librarians should collaborate with teachers to include information literacy in curriculum, and provide a means for the library program to complement curriculum being taught in classrooms (Pappas, 2007, p. 21).

 

References

Mueller, J. (2005). Aithentic assessment in the classroom… and the library media center. Library Media Connection, 23(7), 14-18.

Pappas, M. (2007). Tools for the assessment of learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23 (9), 21-25.

Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing informative fluency: gathering evidence of student learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(8), 25-29. 

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My pre-reading ideas about assessment

Before publishing blog post #3, I thought I’d put down the notes I made prior to reading the assessment module. This will hopefully help me with Assignment #2, which includes commenting on how my ideas about teacher librarianship have changed through ETL401.  I’m going to make these fairly brief, as that’s how they were on paper…

Assessing information literacy:

* Assessment falls into three main categories: diagnostic (working out knowledge and abilities prior to learning activities); formative (assessment carried out throughout learning to ensure students are on the right track and to identify areas for intervention); and summative (assessment at the end of a unit/task to determine whether students have met learning outcomes and to assist with reporting to stakeholders).

* Information literacy encompasses a range of skills, so assessment should target specific skills and abilities.  Rubrics would help teachers and teacher librarians focus on what is being assessed and help students know what teachers are looking for.

* All assessments need a purpose.  Assessment carried out by the teacher librarian would be to report to classroom teachers who would weave this into reporting to parents and other stakeholders.

* Inquiry learning can involve group work, therefore assessment should also cover working in teams.

* As the teacher librarian’s role includes teaching students to use varied print and electronic resources, students assessment should include location of information, sorting of information and presentation of information in a wide range of formats.

* Observation, conversations and student notes (or worksheets, depending on age) are important assessment tools.

* It is important that the classroom teacher and teacher librarian communicate effectively to ensure that students are able to transfer skills or receive assistance as necessary.

I am expecting to add a lot to this list.

OLJ Blog Post #2 Guided Inquiry

Guided inquiry is a form of inquiry learning in which students undertake research on an open-ended question either individually or collaboratively.  It is based on the Information Search Process developed by Carol Kuhlthau. In guided inquiry, teachers and teacher librarians collaborate to guide students through the research process, assessing students and intervening as needed (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 18).

Reading through the papers on guided inquiry for this unit, there appear to be three main areas in guided inquiry which relate directly to the teacher librarian’s role.  These are leadership in implementing guided inquiry, working closely with teachers and students to teach the unit and assessment of both students and the effectiveness of the guided inquiry method itself.

Guided inquiry requires collaboration between classroom teachers, teacher librarians and any other teacher or community member who may be helpful (Kuhlthau, 2010. P. 18). Sheerman (2011, p. 24) in particular writes that it is the teacher librarian who should push for implementation of guided inquiry and encourage its use at a whole-school level. In doing so, the teacher librarian must be skilled in time and schedule management.  For example, in Scheffers’ (2008, p. 35) case study, a stage 3 unit required that students spend 90 minutes per week in collaborative library lessons to complete their research task.  This particular case study was highly structured and quite in depth, and teachers recommended more time be spent in the library for similar units in future (Scheffers, 2008. p. 40). In order to implement guided inquiry at a whole-school level, teacher librarians must ensure that all students have the opportunity to complete guided inquiry projects and provide equitable access to library resources and teaching.

Collaboration in teaching the unit or units should also be extended to assessment (Sheerman, Little & Breward, 2011, p. 4). This allows student achievement to be measured, in addition to success of the unit.  Continued formative assessment is a feature of guided inquiry and is a tool to assist teachers in targeting intervention strategies. The SLIM model, which is a questionnaire provided to students at varying points of the inquiry process, appears to be a popular method of formative assessment, as it assesses student attitudes and difficulties.  Fitzgerald (2011, p. 28) writes that the SLIM method can also be used to assess success of the unit and teaching strategies. One challenge that could be faced with regard to implementing this questionnaire is the possibility of students being untruthful in their answers, claiming to be progressing with more ease than in reality.  For this reason, it is important that teachers employ varied formative assessment strategies in addition to observation and review of students’ work in addition to these questionnaires.

Guided inquiry has been shown to be a successful method of teaching, and keeping students engaged throughout their research project in the case studies included in the readings (Sheerman, 2011, p. 32). It does, however, involve much planning and very careful attention to students’ progress, in addition to time management. It is highly dependent on collaboration with classroom and other teachers within the school.  It is the teacher librarian’s role to ensure that guided inquiry is implemented correctly, and that teachers and students are well supported throughout all units.

References:

Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of guided inquiry: guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan 30(1), 26-41.

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for 21st-century learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18-21.

Sheerman, A. (2011). Accepting the challenge: evidence based practice at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(2), 24-33.

Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided inquiry: a learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42.

Sheerman, A., Little, J., and Breward, N. (2011). Iinquire… ilearn… icreate… ishare: guided inquiry at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(1), 4-5.

Learning theories, learning theories. Many many learning theories. I think it’s a good thing.

Going through my readings, I have come across an introduction to Project Based Learning, an approach we did not touch in my undergraduate degree.  I’m a little surprised, as many of my lecturers said CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING IS THE ONLY WAY STUDENTS WILL LEARN, and PBL is a form of constructivist learning.  In my science workshops in particular, we only looked at Inquiry Based Learning.  In fact, one of my assignments was basically “This is how IBL is the best way to teach in the whole world and nobody should try anything else. Ever.” It was very interesting to read the ASLA statement on Resource Based Learning, as I personally only ever heard it mentioned twice in the four years I spent at uni, and only ever as something we needn’t ever bother look up because it is complete rubbish.

I’m grateful for a unit I took in second year, which was an overview of curriculum and pedagogy.  We were introduced very briefly to various learning theories (although, now I see it was lacking somewhat) and an overview of Outcomes Based Education.  I have to say one of my favourite quotes ever, and the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy, is something by William Spady (the founder of OBE). It is something to the effect of “All children can learn, but at different times and in different ways”.

I believe that all learning styles are good when used with the right children in the right learning context at the right time.  I think this is a skill that I would love to develop.  Rather than take hold of one learning style and using it until it’s old and outdated, I’d like to be able to use each one well, in order to help students reach their learning outcomes.