Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Post 6: Constructivism and School Libraries

Question: Make a list of the sequence of skills necessary for ultimate mastery of the content of your lesson through a constructivist approach. Which of these learning activities/skills lend themselves to student’s individual or group construction? How might you structure learning activities that lead students to discover these skills/principles? 

In a previous post, I outlined a set of competencies that would enable a student to use the library and find information successfully. The steps closely model the cognitive skills outlined in Bloom's Taxonomy -- Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. A student would know and understand basic information about the library environment, how materials are arranged, and a process for finding them. Then, the student would apply that knowledge in a search process, which eventually leads to the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, not only of the resources found, but of the process itself and how effective it was.

When taking a constructivist approach, I'm not sure that the skills would be different. In fact, I think they would probably be very much the same. However, as I said in my original post, because library use and research are by nature process-oriented, the ways in which I teach or present, or facilitate, students through the steps of research lend themselves to a constructivist approach.

In the early stages of teaching basic research or library skills, I can see great value in cooperative learning or group construction. Students will certainly learn a lot from working with, listening to, and watching other students engage in the same tasks. Eventually, particularly in older grades or into higher education, learning and research will shift more toward the individual and his/her own research needs and processes.

I see my role as a librarian as more of a guide or facilitator. Certainly, more traditional means of instruction have a place in school media centers. There is a certain amount of "teaching" that accompanies any lesson in any subject. However, traditional methods should be accompanied by more learner-centered, rather than teacher-centered, activities. Then learner, then, constructs his own knowledge of the process based on experience. In addition, the higher-order critical-thinking skills which we so desire our learners to master (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and application) are inherent to the success of the research process and must be performed every step of the way.

Sources for further reading:

James O. Carey, in Library Skills, Information Skills, and Information Literacy: Implications for Teaching and Learning, looks at two approaches to problem-solving, as Cognitive Objectivist (or instructional design perpective) and Cognitive Constructivist. (AASL)

Jesus Lau provides an excellent discussion of learning theories and information literacy in a paper, Guidelines on Information Literacy in Lifelong Learning.

1 comment:

  1. Very good point about how, once students know how to use the library, they'll work less in a group (but I know that there are times when I still check in with others to make sure that I'm doing something right). It's good to focus on the process when teaching research skills, and I'm also glad that you pointed that out. So many students have no idea how to research because of Google, and breaking down the process is very important.