This statement has been produced jointly by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the CILIP School Libraries Group (CILIP SLG) and the School Library Association (SLA). It is intended to provide clear guidance for school librarians, school leadership and Governors when considering issues relating to intellectual freedom and censorship.
As leadership organisations for School Libraries, we believe that:
i) Intellectual freedom – the freedom to read, to learn, to question and to access information – is central to a functioning democracy.
ii) It is a core role of libraries, librarians and other library staff to promote intellectual freedom on behalf of their users, to empower users to enact their information rights and to oppose censorship in all its forms – both tacit and explicit.
iii) School librarians and library staff are responsible for promoting and preserving intellectual freedom by working with school leadership and teaching colleagues to support children and young people in their development as informed and responsible citizens.
We affirm the principles set out in the AASL School Library Bill of Rights. Based on this, we assert that it is the responsibility of the school librarian or library staff to:
iv) Provide materials that will enrich and support the curriculum, taking into consideration the varied interests, abilities, and maturity levels of individual learners;
v) Provide materials that will stimulate growth in factual knowledge, literary appreciation, aesthetic values, and ethical standards;
vi) Provide a range of information resources which will enable pupils to make informed judgments in their daily life;
vii) Provide materials that illustrate and illuminate different views on controversial issues so that learners may develop under guidance the practice of critical reading and thinking;
viii) Provide materials representative of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups in our society and their contribution to our national heritage and identity;
ix) Place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of materials of the highest quality in order to assure a comprehensive collection appropriate for the users of the library;
x) Actively oppose censorship for any purpose other than material that is proscribed by law, which risks the incitement of illegal acts or which constitutes ‘hate speech’ as defined by the Public Order Act 1986, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
We recognise the significant challenges faced by school librarians in embedding these beliefs into their practice and will be working to provide further support in the coming months.
Jointly signed by Nick Poole, Caroline Roche and Alison Tarrant
Join CILIP on 4th May at 12:30 for a new module in the Data Driven Librarianship course powered by Nielsen BookData, recognised by CILIP. In the Research Module Update, Nielsen BookData will provide a full year review of the UK book market’s 2021 performance, including a look at their library loans data and further insights from LibScan. Register now for free: https://www.cilip.org.uk/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1623059&group=
Librarians, discover how you can harness the power of data to understand your users and inform your decision making on buying and stock selection in this 3-part series run by the experts at Nielsen and recognised by CILIP. Session recordings as well as further reading materials, resources and exercises from our friends at Nielsen are available here so you can complete the series and earn a CILIP-recognised Certificate of Completion: www.cilip.org.uk/datadrivenlibrarianship
CILIP SLG are delighted to be able to offer one full delegate place at this year’s CILIP Conference + Expo 2022, with one night’s free accommodation as a bursary place.
CILIP Conference + Expo
The CILIP Conference + Expo 2022 is taking place at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th July and is one of the largest and most eagerly anticipated events in the library and information sector. For the first time in three years, the event will be in person, and we will be taking advantage of all the benefits of meeting face-to-face. The sessions will encourage free-flowing conversations, collaborations with like-minded professionals, the sharing of ideas and experiences, as well as being packed with practical tips and inspiring presentations.
CILIP Conference + Expo brings together around 500 professionals from across the sector to share experiences, knowledge and expertise. The keynote speakers include Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Sayf Al Ashqar, and Vanessa Kisuule. The programme is being finalised but you can see an outline of the session content here. Keep up to date by following @CILIPConf22
CILIP SLG will have a stand in the Exhibition Hall, so please come and say hello, find out about our event schedule and see you can get involved with our projects.
CILIP SLG Bursary Offer
Our sponsored bursary offer is for:
1 x complimentary full conference delegate place* with 1 nights’ accommodation at the Jury’s Inn for a member of CILIP Schools Libraries Group.
* a full conference delegate place includes attendance at both days of the conference (Thursday and Friday), access to all sessions, refreshment breaks and lunches and ticket to drinks reception on July 7. Travel to and from the Conference will not be included.
How to apply
To submit your application for the bursary place, the criteria is as follows:
We expect you to write a piece for our magazine, School Libraries in View (SLiV) about your conference experience of approximately 800-1000 words. SLiV will be published in October 2022, deadline for your copy will be August 31, 2022.
We expect you be active on social media, and you will be tweeting from the Conference, including @CILIPSLG in your tweets. Please include your twitter name in your application.
Please send your application to Chair.email@example.com containing the following information: Your name, name of your school, Your CILIP number, and why you feel that attending Conference will benefit you and your school.
Applications to be received by Friday, April 22 2022.
We are particularly interested to receive applications from members who have never been to the CILIP Conference + Expo before, and who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to go. This will be an excellent chance for Chartership candidates to enhance their applications.
Alternatively, Early Bird discounts are available until May 27, and you can book these directly on the cilipconference.org.uk website. Remember to log in to the CILIP website before booking so that it recognises your membership status and offers you the correct delegate rate.
Our Key Issues series has reached its tenth edition focusing on Diversity and Inclusion in the School Library. Written by Barbara Band, an independent consultant and training, it features useful advice for anyone wishing to make sure that their school library reflects the needs of the whole school community.
Key Issues are little booklets are designed to be taster introductions to some of the important subjects you need to know as Library and Information Professionals. Written by members of the SLG Committee, they all give a short introduction to the subject, and further links if you want to know more.
All ten booklets are free to download from SLG Connect.
We are looking for a tech-savvy, dynamic person to help the SLG National Committee with our online work! We have a great team of dedicated school librarians with a wide range of experience, and you will have lots of help and support in this role. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
A reminder that our AGM takes place online on Saturday morning, February 19 at 9.00 am.
This will be followed by our first webinar of 2022, which is a free CPD event to support anyone working on their Chartership submissions. Learn from experienced mentors Barbara Band and Sarah Pavey, and expand your knowledge of another sector as we welcome the Metadata & Discovery Group (MDG) to discuss cataloguing and classification.
AGM – 9.00-9.30am
Session 1 – 9.30-10.30am The new PKSB and what it means for school libarians with Barbara Band (45 mins and questions)
Break – 10.30-10.45 (15 mins)
Session 2 – 10.45-11.45am Reflective writing for your Chartership portfolio with Sarah Pavey
Break – 11.45-12.00 (15 mins)
Session 3 – 12.00-1.00pm Cataloguing and Classification with the Metadata & Discovery Group (MDG)
Continuing professional development (CPD) is a continuous engagement in learning and development activities that increase and improve your skills and knowledge. There are many reasons why people undertake CPD and it has several benefits; to individuals, to the organisations they work for and to their wider profession.
School librarians work within a constantly changing environment with new DfE initiatives introduced, educational research and reports published, a constant stream of possible new resources to consider, advances in technology, and an influx of new students (and staff) into the school each year. These mean that in order to stay up-to-date and provide a relevant service that meets the needs of the school community, CPD should be undertaken on a regular basis – as current knowledge and skills can quickly become out-of-date.
This can be difficult to do when you are managing a busy library. In an ideal world CPD would be provided in-house but training that happens in schools is often not particularly relevant to school librarians and there are barriers to attending external training, not least a lack of budget and the need for the library to remain open and staffed during the school day. However, a lack of support from the school should not mean that your CPD doesn’t happen. If you are in this situation then it’s important to be pro-active and take control of your CPD outside the school environment and there are lots of opportunities for librarians to do this, a few suggestions include:
A range of CPD opportunities on the CILIP website including an extensive webinar programme and eLearning resources, all free to members. Although these may not be aimed directly at school librarians, many are useful for developing generic skills.
CILIP members also have free access to online journals including Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA), ProQuest Library Science and SAGE journals. In addition, there are many online articles and blogs aimed at school librarians written by professionals working in the sector.
Free online courses that can be undertaken in your own time are available via Future Learn and Open Learning. Again, these may not be specifically aimed at school librarians but will cover useful skills required such as digital skills and study techniques.
Informal learning can also take place via Facebook groups aimed at school librarians or Twitter chats that include a wider range of education staff.
But why should we use our own time for work-related CPD? Surely it is up to our employers to give us time off for this?
The idea of maintaining standards by CPD is not a new concept and many professional organisations require this of their members. The Association for Project Management require their Chartered members to undertake 35 hours of CPD per year; the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management require all members to do 20 hours CPD annually; and, whilst not mandatory, CILIP encourage professional registration members to complete 20 hours of CPD each year in order to revalidate.
Interestingly, although professional CPD brings benefits to the school by improving the service you deliver, enabling you to provide high quality provision that meets the needs and expectations of the school community, it also has numerous personal benefits:
It increases your confidence in your own skills and expertise. This impacts on job satisfaction, motivation and engagement resulting in a greater sense of wellbeing.
It exposes you to new ideas and best practice, and gives you access to experts in the profession.
It enables you to work in more efficient and effective ways, again impacting on job satisfaction but also allowing you to cope with change and deal with challenges thus reducing stress.
It helps you to recognise and fill gaps in your competencies and knowledge, giving you a sense of direction and helping you to reach possible future career goals.
It allows you to keep up-to-date with trends and advances that influence your work, keep pace with others in the profession, and shows a commitment to self-development and professionalism.
There is also another aspect of CPD that feeds into the wider profession. By maintaining your personal knowledge and standards, you are helping to develop the overall reputation and status of school librarianship. When we demonstrate to our school community that CPD is important enough to us to seek it out and undertake it in our own time, we are sending a message not just to the immediate people we work with but to a much wider circle. And this dedication to school librarianship can be used as an advocacy tool by our professional associations to deliver the message that school librarians are professionals and should have an appropriate status and pay to reflect this.
We all lead busy lives filled with both personal and work commitments but if we are serious about school librarianship as a profession then we should be committing ourselves to undertaking CPD, with or without support from our schools.
Barbara Band School Library Consultant and Trainer @bcb567
School Libraries Group organised a hugely educational and insightful webinar on 25 October 2021 called Pimp Your Library. The morning was opened by welcoming speaker Kevin Hennah to talk to us about Maintaining Relevant School Libraries.
Kevin Hennah has over 20 years of Library/Retail experience to coach businesses to increase sales and customer numbers through merchandising strategy, innovative use of space and sales. Challenging traditional ideas, Kevin has carried out approximately 2000 onsite consultations at libraries internationally and helped many achieve a significant increase in loans by creating what he refers to as the ‘post-Internet library’ – a level playing ground between print and online resources.
Kevin’s opening slide read “Change is inevitable, however maintaining relevance is your choice” and he went on to introduce some very interesting ideas including:
Genrification, showcasing a few libraries.
Inspired Library Layout and Seating.
Low-budget Library Makeovers
Genrification in simple terms can be described by keeping collections together and not being too strict about Dewey. It involves grouping a collection of stand-alone fiction/non-fiction collections curated to our library needs and driven by curriculum. He taught us about creating cleverly merchandisable shelving spaces and the importance of weeding our stock to relevance. Shelves can be portable and can be broken up to create a flexible learning space e.g. Arts and Expression can be further divided into subject headers like Design, Woodcraft, etc. You can used interesting sign labels like Jaws, Paws, Claws instead of Animals for factual books and one can use signs with graphics in the fiction lounge e.g. a sign for Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Classics and so on and Kevin shared ideas on how to create 3-dimensional signage. He showed us how little things can make such a difference like My Story, Do you Dare, Funny Faves, which can be used within fiction. Eye-catching signage should be used at external entrance of library.
Kevin emphasised that the use of laminated paper card signs was outdated and not environmentally friendly and should be replaced with up-to-date trends like putting the product at the end of aisles, using series holders made out of clear perspex to show covers, use of more front facing covers for retail visual merchandising which can be fused with retro library furniture. He gave us ideas of decorating windows with cut outs and the possiblility of marketing the room as a difference space e.g calling it The Cube.
As Kevin says: ‘The foundation of keeping any business relevant is identifying and nurturing a Point Of Difference’
A healthy print collection is without doubt a unique point of difference for libraries – but we cannot do what we have always done and expect to maintain stats. It’s critical that we develop innovative visual merchandising strategies for the physical collection – and that means at least ‘massaging’ Dewey!
If you want to modernise a school library, I would thoroughly recommend looking at some of Kevin’s suggestions and attending a workshop to maintain relevance. His twitter handle is @Kevin_Hennah.
Following Kevin’s interesting seminar, we had a very moving account of how Sue Bussey, who is part of the School Libraries Group Committee, started her own library from scratch and how she developed the entire space to grow into a successful buzzing library at Derby High School. Over 25 years ago, Sue had the immensely hard task of designing an empty room, stocking it and staying relevant over the years to turn the school library into an effective LRC. Sue explained the challenges of dealing with contractors, SLT, external planners and how the students all became a part of the wonderful library it is today. Sue has a wealth of professional experience within schools and remains a very active contributor to Great School Libraries Campaign.
Next, there was an introduction to a library management system run by PSP, called Infinity Library Management System. This is a cloud-based system allowing access to resources whilst on the move. The system can be tailored to each school’s branding and Nick Hunt mentioned the use of LibPaths, a personal record of your search journeys.
Another provider of LMS called Libresoft demonstrated their cataloguing system. Andrew Woods said their company had over 1000 schools subscribing and the demo he gave of the system was interesting.
Following the commercial companies, we were treated to a personal experience of a library rescue by Charlotte Cole. Charlotte is a new member of the School Libraries Group and works as a library coordinator in a large secondary school. Her school library was flooded with a burst of overhead pipes during the summer and the library had to be evacuated with all the stock removed and housed in a separate area. Charlotte has had first-hand experience of rescuing all the resources and is now trying to get the library back to normal by distributing the book trays to classes for the new school pupils to get some access to library books. The role of a librarian is the custodian of the resources and Charlotte has tried her best to mitigate the loss and damage to her library.
The webinar continued with a company showcasing E-books and audio books platform called Wheelers. E-platform helps you build an inspiring digital library. Wheelers product provides access to both school and public libraries you belong to. One can download the app and students can read on their mobiles and other devices, a particularly useful tool when the libraries were not accessible during the pandemic. Digital and audio books are a great accompaniment to your existing library collection and are useful for readers who have dyslexia, sight problems, and students who enjoy audio books.
An entertaining and informative recorded session on Effective Displays from Pauline Carr followed, so many eyeopening , easy to do but wow display ideas , I think most delegates were scribbling notes madly all through it!
The next supplier to showcase their products was a design company specialising in library design and furniture called FG Design Ltd. They are a leading manufacturer and supplier of library shelving and furniture. Julian Glover is their design consultant and viewers got to see their recent projects showing bespoke library designs in various settings.
One of the most useful takeaway’s from this webinar for me personally was a presentation by Barbara Band on how to Pimp Your Library on a Budget. Barbara is actively involved with the library profession and is a library and literacy consultant amongst many other accolades she holds. For libraries run on a shoestring budget, Barbara told us there are various free resources available from Carel Press, SLA, GSL, Booklife, Canva, etc. She emphasised the importance of following school librarians on twitter, authors, teachers, educationalists, and publishers to pick up hints and tips about free supplies. Some active tweeters Barbara recommend you follow are @lucasjmaxwell, @tompalmerauthor, ,@OpenUni_rfp and publishers like Hatchette, Macmillan Childrens’, etc.
Display ideas can be gleaned from Pinterest, the Holocaust Memorial Day website, and linking up to the whole school curriculum and themes. Grants can be obtained from various organisations like The Siobhan Dowd Trust, Foyles Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, local supermarkets, etc. It can be useful to browse charity shops for books, create or share wishlists with PTA/Staff/Parents, ask for donations, browse FB Marketplace, Little Free Libraries and take advantage of other sources of CPD like Open University courses. Barbara summarised her presentation by reassuring librarians that there are plenty of freebies to be gained from the right networking and researching the GSL website and School Libraries Group under CILIP.
Finally, in the last session of the webinar the audience was treated to poetry readings from Joseph Coehlo, Rachel Rooney, Adisa and Laura Mucha. These four amazing poets entertained and moved us with thoughtful and beautiful readings from their poems. What a wonderful end to a very educational, inspirational, and thought-provoking webinar! Thank you to the organizers and contributors!
This year was the first SLG virtual conference. After being postponed twice due to the pandemic, the decision was made for the conference to go ahead virtually, rather than postponing for a third time. As a newly joined committee member, I was excited to see what was involved in organising a conference. I had only been to one conference previously and that was also virtual due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The planning for the conference had been well under way before I had joined the committee, but I was involved in discussions from my first meeting. My initial thoughts when discussing the programme was of sheer amazement at just how much was going to be packed in to the three days and the diversity of the sessions that would be on offer. I was so impressed to see that there was something that would be useful for all librarians, whether they had been in the job for years or if they were completely new to the role.
The conference was organised by the conference planning group which was headed by committee member Annie Everall, but it was something that the whole of the committee was involved in. As the date of the conference loomed closer, we were all given jobs and Annie held a meeting so that everyone was aware of what to expect over the weekend. I was given the task of hosting a session on Promoting reading in schools, with Matt Evans, Zoe Rowley and Mary Rose Grieve. I was really nervous about hosting this session as it isn’t something that I had done before, but I was also mindful of all of the hard work the committee had put in and I didn’t want to undo it all with an inadequate session. Annie was fantastic at giving me advice on the types of questions that I could ask and best practice on how to be prepared for the session. I took her advice on board making sure that I had typed my questions up before hand, printing them in large font making them easy for me to read without making it obvious to those watching.
A couple of days before the conference, a WhatsApp group was set up for the committee so that we could communicate with each other during the conference. This turned out to be such a valuable tool and a wonderful way to be able to share the highs and the lows of the weekend, as well as be able to send messages for help when the odd technical issue or last-minute panic occurred, without making an announcement on screen.
The conference tied in with 40 years of SLG and there were some fantastic sessions to mark the mile-stone birthday. .
Unfortunately, I was at work on the Friday and so could only dial in to the odd session here and there. SLG chair Caroline Roche opened proceedings welcoming everyone and introducing our first keynote speaker, Cressida Cowell. Cressida was so lively and full of enthusiasm for children’s reading and why it is so important to instil a love of reading at an early age. She also talked about her legacy project where she has asked government to invest £100m yearly in primary school libraries. It was very clear from this session to see exactly why Cressida is the children’s laureate.
The evening session on the Friday was a wonderful event, hosted by the very excitable and funny SLG ambassador Philip Ardagh. During the evening various authors entertained us with singing and storytelling and it was a delight to be able to attend. At the end of the evening, we were played a song which Jo Cotterill, John Doughtery and Steve Cole had written especially for the evening about SLG. The song was fabulous and was a real ear worm. I found myself singing it well after the weekend was over. The tag line was SLG – Still Looking Good, which I think of every time I see the SLG acronym. (As I write this blog post almost three months later, my son has just peeked over my shoulder and gave me a rendition of the chorus!) – Look out for our launch of this fabulous video at the start of Libraries Week next month 😊
Saturday was another action-packed day full of publisher highlights, author slots and ideas of how to engage readers in the library. One of the seminars I attended was about Newsguard, an add on for search engines which rates the authenticity of websites. The idea is for students to be able to identify fake websites as it isn’t always obvious. Newsguard is available for free for school libraries, and I was sure to make the IT coordinator aware of this on my return to work.
Saturday afternoon was the time for me to host the seminar. As mentioned above, I was lucky to have such a great panel and I knew they would be able to answer the questions which I had emailed to them before the day. My biggest worry was that I would fumble and trip over my words and would let down the team or run out of things to say and to be faced with complete silence. After all the hard work and dedication that had been put in by the whole committee, this was something I was desperate to avoid. As Annie had advised, I had everything prepared in advance and when the breakout room was open, all eyes were on me to get the session going. I had performed in a number of ballet shows in my youth and I remembered the advice that my dance teacher had given me. Whatever happens, just keep smiling and chances are the only person that will be able to tell if you’ve made a mistake is you! So, with a big smile on my face, I thanked everyone for attending, introduced the panel and the session was underway. With only 1 small technical hitch which was resolved almost instantly, the time just flew by and there wasn’t enough time to ask all of the prepared questions. The session was a success.
With the relief that the seminar was behind me, I looked forward to the evening session which was hosted by Nosy Crow publishers, as part of their ten-year birthday celebrations. This was another fantastic evening and as the conference was online, I was able to share it with my children. They particularly enjoyed helping Pamela Butchart to think of characters and events to create a very original and funny story. Nosy Crow also kindly sent out a goody bag to all delegates which had a copy of The Secret Detectives by Ella Risbriger, a 10th birthday postcard and a number 10 iced biscuit.
Sunday was the third and final day of the conference. It began with a very interesting talk delivered by Dr Margaret Mega from Australia on School Librarians as Literacy Leaders. Dr Merga spoke about how librarians can demonstrate their value to colleagues and stakeholders, how they can support reading for pleasure and information and how to help shape a positive future for the children in their schools. Dr Merga has published a number of papers on school libraries, some of them are available to read for free here researchgate.net/profile/Margaret-Merga-2.
For the seminar choice on Sunday, I chose to watch effective displays by Pauline Carr from the Alternative Display Company. Being new(ish) to the role in the library and not particularly creative, displays are something that I find a little daunting. I was really interested to see what I could learn from this session, especially as it was advertised as creative displays on a shoestring. Pauline and her husband were absolutely fantastic to watch, and making brilliant displays from everyday materials such as bin bags, brochures and bookmarks. Despite the duo being concerned about their technical know-how in providing their demo via zoom, the seminar was a triumph and one of the most popular choices to being re-visited by delegates.
The final session to close the conference was with the amazing Jason Reynolds, Chris Priestly and Danica Novgoradoff, discussing their partnership in Long Way Down, the 2019 Carnegie nominated book written by Jason. There was quite some debate beforehand on who would be the one to welcome Jason into the conference, but as Annie was the conference organiser the honour was quite rightly given to her. It was wonderful to listen to Jason talk so eloquently about his book and commenting that we need to make sure that we look after our boys, as the protagonist in the book needs someone to guide him through a very difficult time. It was interesting to hear the different approaches from Chris and Danica and how they worked with Jason. A very happy end to three brilliant yet tiring days.
In the UK, few school librarians are also qualified teachers unlike many of our overseas colleagues. We may feel that “teaching” is not part of our remit since we are not formally employed to deliver lessons and neither do most of us receive appropriate remuneration to justify a deeper involvement. Yet we still need to liaise, and ideally collaborate, with our teaching colleagues and so it is helpful to understand a little of their language so that we can communicate effectively with them. We are not just talking information literacy here – differences might be made within reading lessons too.
A common goal of all schools is to educate their students through instruction and learning. Teaching qualifications involve learning how to deliver lessons in a way that students will gain knowledge, and this is known as pedagogy. Many educational psychologists, since the advent of modern schooling, have debated the most effective methodologies for positive outcomes in this respect. The arguments about pedagogical approach and development rage on – just consider the constant changes to the inspection focus or the endorsement, withdrawal and re-endorsement of schemes such as phonics for learning to read, or the still popular but now generally discredited “learning styles” agenda. It is a bit of a minefield.
Two fundamental theories are behaviourism and cognitivism. Let’s see how these might relate to our library objectives.
This type of learning is based on the principle that we react and respond to our environment or external stimuli. The best-known examples of this are experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov. He discovered that dogs could be trained to salivate if they thought they were about to be fed simply by ringing a bell after conditioning them to this response through reward and stimulus (McLeod, 2018). The theory of behaviourism was further developed by Burrhus Skinner, who showed the benefits of re-enforcement in retaining correct knowledge in the education process in a way that could be measured. In schools, Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour (1957) is exemplified by the teacher being very much in charge of the classroom and giving students information that they learn by rote and repetition. Behaviourists believe that by rewarding a ‘correct’ response the student will learn and be motivated to learn more. The danger with this approach is that some students may experience a negative response if they fail to reach the required score or feel overwhelmed by the task and these students may just ‘give up’ and opt out of the exercise. Within a behaviourist approach there is little scope for creativity or innovation – it is simply achieving targets usually set by the educator. Another argument against this approach is that the response effect may not be permanent – an analogy being cramming for a test. However, behaviourism has its place and it can be effective if used strategically, for example in a points-based reading scheme targeted at selected students.
Cognitive constructivist theory considers that humans do more than just react to an environmental stimulus. This learning approach aligns the human brain to a computer and suggests it is a process of acquiring, storing and retrieving information. Tasks are broken down into smaller subsets and at each stage compared with what is already known and then built on. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development published in 1939 (Piaget, 1976) considered that in the classroom learning should be student centred and opportunities made for active discovery. He believed the role of the teacher was to facilitate learning, rather than to give direct tuition. Jerome Bruner (1960) developed this basic theory arguing that any child can be taught anything at any stage of development if it is presented properly. However, he noted that if the task was too hard then a student might become bored. He introduced the idea of scaffolding tasks by providing a limited structured framework between the student and educator and so allowing some freedom to explore within safe boundaries. Cognitivism is based on students using their short-term memory and working memory to embed what has been learnt into their long-term memory and to use their cognitive brain functions to pay attention, Cognitive brain functions include sensation, perception, attention, encoding and memory. A cognitive approach to learning embraces all these areas and is essentially what an exploratory project-based approach within a library or the self-selection of reading for pleasure material promotes.
However, social constructivists, while endorsing cognitivism, say we cannot treat the way humans learn in the same way as programming a computer, there has to be a social interactive element too, even if it is just the presence of a more knowledgeable facilitator. In school libraries, enquiry-based information literacy models exemplify a social constructivist methodology because this encourages group learning by investigation under the guidance of the educator. The leading figure of this type of constructivism is Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1978). His theories have influenced a trend in ‘reciprocal teaching’, which is used to improve students’ ability to learn from text. In this method, educators and students collaborate in learning and practising four key skills: summarising, questioning, clarifying and predicting. Over time the educator involvement becomes reduced.
The differences between cognitive constructivism (favoured by Piaget) and social constructivism (Vygotsky) are simply explained by Taylor (2019).
There are some issues voiced about cognitivism. Some critics feel it is ‘too unstructured’ and that it allows unbalanced interpretations of knowledge. Educators have felt it is a less rigorous way of teaching with uncertainty in what has been covered and understood (Liu and Matthews, 2005).
So now we have the dichotomy thrown up by the National Curriculum in England and the examination syllabi. Aside from primary/junior school year groups, Key Stage 3 and Extended Project options, most approaches to achieve good academic outcomes necessitate a behaviourist approach. However, a library is there to be explored and helps students discover for themselves, raising their self-esteem and lends itself to a more cognitive and constructivist pedagogy. There is a further dilemma in that the behaviourist points-based reading scheme endorsed by many schools, commercial or otherwise, is largely directed at Key Stage 3 which holds the main year groups still embracing constructivist project- based learning. This causes confusion for the teacher and the learner and much frustration for the librarian!
Perhaps we need to be mindful of these approaches to learning when we collaborate with teaching staff and design our lessons accordingly. Maybe the active teaching in which our overseas colleagues indulge is not just about qualifications but also the pedagogical approach adopted by the curriculum in their countries. The English education system has been panned by PISA for being too focussed on rote learning (Schleicher, 2019) and now interestingly the COVID pandemic has pushed Scotland into considering a more cognitive and constructivist curriculum (OECD, 2021). We will await outcomes but meanwhile do not be too disheartened if liaising with all departments in your school seems hard work! Contemplate the pedagogical approach.
Bruner, J. S. (1960) The Process of Education, Vintage Books.
Liu, C. H. and Matthews, R. (2005) Vygotsky’s Philosophy: Constructivism and its Criticisms Examined, International Education Journal, 6 (3), 386–99.