Tag Archives: learning

Learning About Learning To Learn, Sarah Pavey

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. 

Behaviourism 

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.

Cognitivism

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. 

References

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.

McLeod, S. A. (2018) Pavlov’s Dogs, www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html

OECD (2021) Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/bf624417-en/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/bf624417-en

Piaget, J. (1976) Piaget’s Theory. In Inhelder, B., Chipman, H. H. and Zwingmann, C. (eds), Piaget and His School, Springer, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-46323-5_2.

Schleicher, A. (2019) PISA 2018: Insights and Interpretations,https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA%202018%20Insights%20and%20Interpretations%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf

Skinner, B. F. (1957) Verbal Behavior, Appleton-Century-Crofts

Taylor, T. (2019) Piaget vs Vygotsky, https://educationlearningtoys.com/knowledge-base/piaget-vs-vygotsky  Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Harvard University Press

Refugees and child migration: essential book titles

the refugee experience banner

Are you celebrating World Refugee Day this June ? Do not miss the opportunity to stock up your library with our fantastic book recommendations and prepare for this worldwide initiative.

Amanda Ball (Morpeth School) has kindly put together a fantastic booklist of her favourite titles which have a refugee-related theme: click Refugee and Displaced Person Reading List by Amanda Ball to view her booklist.

The UN Refuge Agency has also put together a very comprehensive book list for different reading ages: booklist here.

As part of the Trinity Schools Book Award, Librarian Cecile Mayanobe (Brighton College Senior School Library) has run a reading programme with a group of year 7 students on the novel ‘Alone on a Wide Wide Sea’ by Michael Morpurgo.

She has put together an informative and moving Alone on a Wide Wide Sea presentation which contextualises British forced child migration which is also the centre-theme of Morpurgo’s book. The presentation also includes various links to news articles and a link to the trailer for the film “Oranges and Sunshine”.

Cecile also recommends a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood which is running a special exhibition from 24 October 2015 until 12 June 2016.

Exhibition – On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants

Exhibition overview: ‘An exhibition telling the heart-breaking true stories of Britain’s child migrants who were sent to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries between 1869 and 1970. These children were sent overseas by migration schemes, which were run by a partnership of charities, religious organisations and governments, and claimed to offer boys and girls the opportunity of a better life in Britain’s Empire overseas. Many migrants never saw their homes or their families again.”

Featuring detailed first-hand stories, photography and personal items which belonged to child migrants, as well as video and audio which recount this period of history.

The exhibition will explore the complex moral motivations to these schemes and share the work of the Child Migrants Trust, which has brought some comfort to former child migrants, by finding their families and reuniting them with surviving members’

Article’s contributors: Amanda Ball (Morpeth School) and Cecile Mayanobe (Brighton College Senior School Library) 

The Beating Heart of the School – a London & SE SLG course

heart image copyright free

On Friday 14th November 2014, SLG London and South East committee hosted a training course to attempt to deal with some of the issues facing school librarians. This event was inspired by issues raised in the APPG document published in May 2014; The Beating Heart of the School. This is a summary of the key elements of the course.

Post written by Dawn Finch

The Beating Heart document has highlighted both the need for a professional librarian in schools, and the need of schools to have a more enlightened view of what exactly a school librarian does. Sadly it seems from their findings that in schools there is still a very archaic view of the abilities of school librarians, and this can hinder how much they are able to be part of the higher level or management structure of the school. Ultimately this can have a directly negative effect on pupil progress, and is essentially a misuse of valuable resources.

In the course we discussed how a successful and ‘outstanding’ school library is such an integral part of the school that its influence reaches far beyond its walls. It simply is not possible to be a “Beating Heart” if the pump does not have the strength to reach every limb! So how do we break out beyond our walls? We have all done every event and reading initiative we can think of, and taken part in every scheme and promotion we can – but most of us are still finding it hard to keep a high profile, and to increase the number of our loyal users.

One of the most successful strategies for creating extended loyalty for the school library is to engage in certain branding activities; make a logo, create a theme, decide what image you want to represent for your library and be persistent and consistent with your promotion of the library. Our aim should be that as soon as anyone sees our logo, they should have an instant understanding of what we represent, and of what a library can do for them. Branding is recognition in a heartbeat, and recognition creates loyalty. What we are looking to do is create a feeling, an emotion, and ultimately loyalty.

On the day we also looked at the issues surrounding digital literacy. The days of ICT skills in schools has passed, and school librarians are now at the front-line of the teaching of digital literacy. We live in a world of cyber-crime and cyber-bullying and our children’s best defence of this is knowledge and understanding. We cannot expect our children to protect themselves online, or to behave well, if we do not model good behaviour in schools. To this end we need to be using social media and blogging just as they do, but to use it to show young people how it should be done.

There are many arguments against the use of social media in schools but, as Ofsted are increasingly saying, it will soon not be possible for schools to achieve an outstanding rating if they fall behind in digital literacy. The fact remains that some of the finest resources available for researchers are now in blog form. To deny use of blogs and blogging in schools is to deny access to some of the most accurate first-hand resources available. This denial will also act as a kind of exclusion policy exposing the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in the classroom.  If we do not allow our pupils access to blogs for information and research, we are simply encouraging unreliable wiki-research and creating a two-tier system of work.

As an example, let’s look at the landing of Philae on Comet 67P. Pupils researching this historic event can read Wikipedia, or newspaper reports, but how much better is it to access the blog of the European Space Agency and subscribe to their updates?

How about if your pupils are studying fashion? During London Fashion Week they might be able to find a newspaper report about the week, or even some smaller articles on the official site. How much better would it be to follow the accredited blog of a young designer as they go through the process for the first time?

Then we should take into account the fabulous resources that we have at our fingertips to protect our own service. How would we have access to articles like this one by Phillip Ardagh about the importance of libraries if we did not access blogs? We are not even touching on the importance of Twitter and other social media as a vital communication tool, but needless to say it is all part of the same move towards a digitally literate society.

The issue of cyber-bulling and trolling is at the top of many schools’ agendas, and is often an excuse used to prevent access to social media sites. This can lead to failings in how children perceive social-media, and failings in how schools deal with cyber-bullying issues. The children that I have supported through these issues still complain that school doesn’t “believe it’s real.” Pupils often complain that adults (including teachers) still insist that the hurt felt from online insults and persecution is not real. They are often still told that they should “get over it” or “forget it” or “ignore it.”  It is very real, and the key to preventing it is to first accept the reality of it. The “sticks and stones” line is dated and insulting. If you hit me with a stick, I’ll heal. If you cut me down with savage words I may carry those scars for the rest of my life. Embracing the hurt is the first step to preventing it from happening, and the first step towards stopping your pupils from behaving in this way themselves. The next step is using social media in lessons and as an educational tool.

We, as school librarians, have a duty to provide what our pupils need, and that is information in any form and format. We should do this by using social media in both our communication methods, and in our service to our young learners. By staying at the cutting edge, and using every tool at our disposal, we will future-proof our service whilst providing what our pupils need to fully progress as both informed learners, and socially well-adjusted adults.

Course delivered by Dawn Finch

Literacy and school library consultant, writer of children’s fiction and non-fiction books.

www.dawnfinch.com

Footnote; we will be revisiting elements of this course in much greater details, including supporting EPQs, in our April LibMeet as well as our Summer 2015 training courses. Follow this blog for more information. If you are a CILIP member you can log in and see our events posted here.

All of our events are open to both CILIP members and non-members, but if you are a member the cost of events will be lower.



Documents referred to on this training course can be downloaded by using the links below;

The Beating Heart of the School – APPG report on school librarieshttp://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/advocacy-campaigns-awards/advocacy-campaigns/libraries-all-party-parliamentary-group/beating

Moving English Forward – Ofsted

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/moving-english-forward

National Curriculum for English (2014/2015)  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study

 

 

Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award

This new Award is to recognise the contribution made by pupils who work in their school libraries, to acknowledge the skills gained and to give them the recognition they deserve, both within and outside their school community.

Nominations can be made by the School Librarian, by emailing the nomination to president@cilip.org.uk by 31 October 2014.

A shortlist of candidates will be drawn up by the Judging Panel and announced during the first week of the school term in January. Shortlisted pupils will be asked to submit a portfolio of evidence by 13th February 2015 and the shortlisted nominees will be invited to an Awards Ceremony, to be held on Thursday 12th March at a London venue.

The winner of the Award will receive:

£100 worth of books
£100 worth of books for their school library
Glass book trophy x 2 for the winner and for their school librarian/library
A certificate

Shortlisted nominees will receive:

£50 worth of books
A certificate
For full information about the award and the nomination criteria, please download the guidelines below.

To submit a nomination, please use the link below to download the required paperwork.

School libraries
– See more at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/school-libraries-group/pupil-library-assistant-year-award#sthash.c60yvYdz.dpuf

BETT 2015

A lot of our members have found the BETT (the British Educational Training and Technology tradeshow) incredibly useful, and tickets are now available for 2015. The event is held at the ExCell in London’s Docklands from 21st – 24th January 2015

The organisers describe the event as…

Bett is the world’s leading technology event that brings together innovation and inspiration to the education sector. The event attracts +35,000 professionals within the industry and has been celebrated for over 30 years. 

There’s no better place to meet your peers and discover latest technologies than Bett 2015. 

Register for 2015 and: 

  • Be first to see inspirational new solutions and launches
  • Learn what 2015 has in store with unmissable seminars
  • Network, share your ideas and keep up to date with the industry
  • Gain insights through inspirational speakers in workshops and seminars”

The event also hosts the School Leaders Summit which is described as…

The education space is one which is constantly evolving, and every school in the UK is thinking about how it can deal with these changes. From the new Ofsted framework and shifts in assessment to the National Curriculum and academy conversion, the goal posts are shifting and it can be impossible to keep up. School management teams are finding themselves faced with a fluctuating environment they are under pressure to adapt to and prepare for – the School Leaders Summit aims to provide guidance and insight to help deal with these issues. 

Read more: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/School-Leaders-Summit-Guidance-in-school-leadership#ixzz3G2C5nSsb

Read more about the event here: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/Why-visit-Bett-2015/#ixzz3G2Bryx5Y

Register to visit the event here. BETT Registration.