ILA Overview (information-learning theories and model)
The ILA allowed students to learn about Australian Colonisation following a guided inquiry approach. The goal of the unit was to allow students to formulate a deep understanding of the subject area by way of research.
This style of research has many benefits as highlighted by Kuhlthau (2007). This includes competency when researching, a motivation to learn, language development and social skills.
Students were presented with the inquiry question- ‘What was life like as a convict?’ and were instructed to formulate a more specific research focus from this question. After utilising a variety of sources such as books, the internet and various artefacts students created a poster and oral presentation.
The ILA was not designed with a specific model in mind, but after analysing the ILA it corresponds to the principles of ‘The Big 6’ model.
Students followed a structure that included:
1. Task Definition
Students were given an overview of the task, an inquiry question and had to define a specific area of interest.
2. Information Seeking Strategies
Students were presented with a number of sources such as books, artefacts and computers and were encouraged to select the best possible source for their inquiry.
3. Location and Access
Students were given time and access to resources such as computers and print material in order to locate relevant information.
4. Use of Information
Relevant information was extracted and written down onto a retrieval chart.
Information that had been collected in note form was then organised and transferred onto a poster. In groups, students had to orally present their visual representation with accompanying information to the class.
Limited self-evaluation was undertaken via class discussion. Teacher evaluation was also given.
Although the information learning activity followed the structure of ‘the Big 6’, there were a number of steps that could be improved, which will be discussed in more detail within this post.
Evaluation of the ILA against the Australian Curriculum
The ILA follows some aspects of the Australian History curriculum. Firstly, the inquiry question ‘What was life like as a convict’ was adapted from the ACARA inquiry questions presented in the Year 5 history draft. The question selected was chosen based on not only knowledge that students needed to know, but also to motivate student interest. Students then posed and investigated a range of sub-questions based on the main inquiry question.
The historical knowledge and understanding that students gain, closely relates to the ACARA history KLA. The ILA encourages students to develop knowledge within the following strands; sources, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy and significance.
The historical skills promoted within the ILA are also closely intertwined within the Australian curriculum. The ILA focuses on inquiry skills such as historical questions and research; the analysis and use of sources; and explanation and communication (ACARA, 2012). There are a number of other skills that the Australian history curriculum promotes that could have been included within the ILA. These include a greater knowledge of terms and concepts and the use of evidence to support information found. Including these skills to a greater degree may have enhanced students’ knowledge and allowed for a deeper understanding of the topic.
Evaluation of the ILA against relevant information literacy and inquiry models
The Big 6
The ILA followed very similarly the structure of ‘The Big 6’. ‘The Big 6’ focuses on the inquiry process and encourages students to ask questions, find suitable information which will then be synthesized to answer the initial inquiry question.(Murray, 2012) Although the inquiry process followed a similar structure. There were a number of ‘steps’ that could have been improved.
Firstly, within step 2- Information Seeking Strategies, students needed more clarity when selected the best source for the task. A large number of students chose to access the internet to seek information. Not because it was the best source, but because it was their preferred source.
Within step 3-Location and Access, students often encountered a great difficulty when trying to find specific information within various sources, specifically when searching on the internet. To improve this, students needed to learn strategies to enhance their online searching.
Lastly, step 6-Evaluation, students could have evaluated their completed project in more depth. Students were only given time to have an informal discussion about their completed task, whereby a more structured response such as a questionnaire, or extended KWL to judge the effectiveness and efficiency would have encouraged a greater depth of response.
Gest windows is a model which reframes information literacy as being generic, situated and transformative. (Lupton and Bruce, 2010)
Firstly, when comparing the ILA to Gest windows, it is apparent that the skills that students have utilised predominantly fall under the ‘generic’ window and do not progress much further. According to Lupton and Bruce (2010) the generic window includes a strong use of measurable skills and processes used for finding and managing information. Within the ILA students were taught and expected to utilise basic search strategies to answer an inquiry question. Students had to present their information by way of an oral presentation with accompanying poster. Students were not encouraged to engage in authentic search processes, nor were they expected to challenge or transform the information in any way.
The situated window focuses on the skills included in the generic window, but also skills utilised through purposefully encountering and engaging with information. (Lupton and Bruce, 2010) If incorporated within the ILA, this more authentic method of learning would enable a deeper and more purposeful level of understanding for students. Students could have undertaken activities such as a debate to highlight contrasting perspectives (perhaps between convicts and the British government) or even within role plays highlighting convict life.
The transformative window focusses on utilising information literacy to “transform oneself and society” (Lupton and Bruce, 2010, p13) Learners are encouraged to challenge information. To utilise this technique within the ILA students would have to have a thorough understanding of the topic which would have the ability to encourage deep learning.
The ILA mainly focuses on skills from the ‘generic’ window. If skills from the situated and transformative window were utilised, students would have the potential to access and develop higher order thinking skills.
Blooms Revised Taxonomy
Blooms revised taxonomy focuses on encouraging students to utilise higher order thinking skills when learning.
When comparing the ILA to Blooms revised taxonomy it is clear a number of thinking skills are encouraged within the overall process.
When looking at the range of skills presented in Blooms revised taxonomy from lower to higher order we can see the following skills that are utilised and improvements that can be made within the ILA:
Remembering: Students must retrieve information about their chosen topic. It is important to note students are not expected to rote learn information about their topic which implies a deeper learning will take place.
Understanding: Students must interpret information to explain the answer to their focus question.
Applying: Students must find information and use it in order to answer specific questions.
Analysing: Students must analyse a variety of sources to find specific information suitable for their task. More support was needed in this area. Students struggled to find suitable information and lacked appropriate search skills and strategies.
Evaluating: Little is done in the way of evaluation. Students did not have to evaluate or justify their actions when carrying out the information search process. This area could be improved by allowing students to evaluate their and fellow students finished products. Students could also justify why they chose various sources of information in order to research their topic.
Creating: Students must produce a poster to display their information. However within this activity, little higher order thinking takes place. A higher order thinking activity within this category would be for students to generate or invent a new idea with their newfound knowledge. An example of this would be for students to create a method of transport that could exist in the 1700’s that would allow convicts to remain healthy throughout the duration of their voyage. For students to create or invent they must have a true understanding of the topic in order to construct new knowledge.
When undertaking the ILA students were encouraged to access a variety of skills from Blooms revised taxonomy. However, there were a number of improvements that could have been made in order to allow for a deeper understanding.
Recommendations for future practice
When analysing the ILA it was noted that specific parts of the activity worked well, where as other parts required improvement.
There were a number of things that worked well. Students enjoyed the inquiry question itself, which was ‘What was life like as a convict?’ Motivation levels were generally high as the majority of students had a keen interest in this area. To allow students to then choose a more specific focus gave them ownership of the task and further increased their enthusiasm. There was a variety of resources that students could choose from to research their chosen question. It was beneficial to have not only a large selection of books, but also access to a full sized computer lab as well as many hands on artefacts for students to view.
There were also a number of things that did not work.
Firstly, the very limited time that students had to complete the task hindered the inquiry process. Students did not have as much time as they needed to get a deep understanding of the topic. Also, there was a full week in between lessons which discouraged consistency in their learning.
Students needed more time to reflect on the process. At the conclusion of the unit students were only given a very short amount of time to discuss positive features and improvements to be made within their peer’s presentations. Because of this their reflections were only at a surface level and did not allow students to gain a thorough understanding of the process.
There were a number of improvements that could have been made in order to allow for it to be a stronger inquiry unit.
It would be great to have more involvement from other staff members such as the TL.
The TL has the power to be a valuable member of the guided inquiry team. Access to a wide range of resources that are necessary for the ILA are able to be provided by the TL (Kuhlthau, 2007). Furthermore, the TL in conjunction with the class teacher has the expertise to guide students through the information search process.
It was apparent that students struggled with searching online. They did not know the most effective search engines, websites and key words to use. They also had very little knowledge on the accuracy of information found on the internet. I was able to give a mini lesson on each of these topics, however students would benefit from a more in depth study of these techniques.
Because students had such a difficult time in searching for their information it would have helped students the KWL model was to be extended to include- ‘How do I find out?’. This would enable students to have a clearer idea in how to locate specific information.
As previously mentioned, students reflection process was limited. This could be improved by extending the KWL to also include ‘How do I share what I learned?’ and ‘What will I do next time?’ Kuhlthau (2007) explains that undertaking these addition steps in the KWL allows students to construct new knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of the information search process.
Next, the information search process itself was not explained to students. There are many student friendly formats that would have allowed students to have a clearer direction and enabled them to understand where exactly they were heading.
An example of a student friendly ISP format
Lastly, for those students whose interest was waning, it would have been extremely beneficial to bring in an expert. For example, there are companies, such as Living Histories that do re-enactments of colonial Australia in full costume. A technique such as this would add to students’ knowledge base while creating a new found curiosity in the topic.
The guided inquiry method has many benefits. It has the ability to create a deep knowledge and understanding for students. It is important to reflect upon the ILA in many ways to discover positive features and improvements to be made. In doing this the development of a truly effective inquiry unit has the potential to transpire.
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.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Churches, Andres (2009). Blooms Revised Taxonomy
Eisenberg, M.B; Berkowitz. R.E (1987). The Big 6
Fitzsimmons,Terry (2012). Living Histories
Murray, Janet (2012). The Big 6 Helps Students Achieve Standards
Queensland Studies Authority (2012). History
Queensland Studies Authority (2012) Assessment: History. Advice on implementing the Australian Curriculum P–10.