Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Consideration of Context - the Broad View

In viewing a slideshare presentation introducing the big6 (http://www.slideshare.net/Big6/introducing-the-big6), I was struck by the slide that stated that the key to developing information literacy skills is the context. Unpinning everything that the teacher librarian, the classroom teacher, the school in general does, is the context of out current educational environment. So, what are some of the factors impacting on our current educational environment and how does this contribute to the development of information literacy skills in our schools?

The development and current implementation of the Australian Curriculum, has had a significant impact  on the context of school within the Australian Capital Territory, where I was working up until the end of July. The ACT is one of the states/territories that chose to adopt the Australian Curriculum from the start. Much professional development has been done on the English, Maths, History and Science curriculum areas in order for teachers to understand the core knowledge, skills and understandings and general capabilities for these areas. While using curriculum frameworks to inform and guide the development of lessons and units to achieve student outcomes is not new, becoming familiar with a new format, new content descriptors and elaborations takes time. Many classroom teachers feel overwhelmed by the changes, particularly in states such as the ACT, where only a few years prior, teachers had invested similar time and energy in becoming familiar with the new territory curriculum frameworks 'Every Chance to Learn'.

It is important, that with the context of learning a new curriculum document, teacher librarians are proactive in developing collaborative partnerships with their classroom colleagues.  Classroom teachers often see working collaboratively with teacher librarians as an added load on top of already very crowded curriculum expectations. Therefore, it is imperative that teacher librarians emphasise how developing inquiry based units together actually shares the load, and achieves student learning outcomes in a collaborative and successful way.

In looking at the context of implementing the Australian Curriculum, is understanding that thus far, the main focus of professional development has been specific to the curriculum areas, with few whole school professional development focuses on the general capabilities. This is not to say that school executive or head office do not appreciate the importance of looking at this area, just that priorities have been placed elsewhere. It is therefore important for the teacher librarian to take the approach of professional development leader in helping colleagues understand the Critical and Creative Thinking and the Information Communication Technology general capabilities.

Additionally, in the majority of schools that I have worked in over the past 3 years, as both a classroom teacher and casual supply teacher, the context of the teacher librarians role has been providing the Release from Face to Face teaching. In many situations, this has devalued the role of the teacher librarian, with the emphasis of library timetabling existing to fulfill the RFF requirements, rather than an integral aspect of the teaching and learning within the school. Developing a professional dialogue with school executive about the teaching role of the teacher librarian, inquiry learning and the context of the library as a learning hub within the school is an important step in addressing this situation and hopefully taking RFF out of the library context.

Rapid changes in technology and the provision of ICTs in classrooms adds another layer of complexity to the issue of context. With the need for the teacher librarian to be able to provide equitable access to both print and on-line resources, it is important that ICT resources are not isolated to classrooms, and that the library has continuous access banks of computers / iPads / laptops. There are also issues with ICTs in regards to maintains, updates and is responsible for the ICT resources within the school. How each school addresses these issues, impacts on the context within which the teacher librarian works and the role they have within the school learning environment.

The exact school environment that teacher librarians work in, is different in every school. Therefore the reality of the teaching role of the teacher librarian can only be fully understood and assessed based on the context within which each teacher librarian is working in. Evaluating what the current context is, what the ideal context should be, and working towards achieving the ideal, is an exciting challenge for teacher librarians in today's educational environment.

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