Information Literacy in Action
Designing Learning vs Designing Teaching
This article was published in Good Teacher, Term 1 2000
If we teach will they learn?
It seems a truism to say that teaching does not = learning. When I teach learning skills to adults I often say, " I can teach, but can I learn for you?" They look amazed! It inevitably leads to a worthwhile discussion on the role and responsibilities of learners. I am now trying it with school-age students and finding that they make the same assumption, ie that if they are taught they will, somehow, learn through processes they neither understand nor think about very much or very clearly.
What is this to do with information literacy and Senior College?
Firstly, when I spent a day at Senior College as a student, and wrote an article about my day (Auckland Education Term 2, 1998), my overarching impression was excitement - the real privilege of being in classes with teachers who knew their stuff, were passionate about their subjects, and who made me think. I went home mentally exhausted, but satisfied - in the words of Art Costa, I had ‘cogitare’d’; in my words, I had ‘metacogged’!
Now, having spent three weeks with Senior College teachers as a part-time researcher/ consultant, I find my initial impressions confirmed and reinforced. But I’m also finding that, through working with teaching colleagues as they plan their assignments, some really interesting questions about the relationship of teaching to learning are emerging; questions about how well students understand and think about the processes of learning, and whether we can build material into teaching sessions and assignment outlines which encourage students to think more deeply about the process and content of their learning.
These questions relate directly to the model of information literacy which developed in the course of my Ph.D. This model underpins the theory and a new pedagogic model which I began to trial in the course of my research, and will continue to trial this year with SCONZ staff.
Owning the learning process
One of the main factors which emerged in my research as a condition for successful information literacy learning was the notion of control - the degree to which the learner has the self-efficacy, self-motivation and self-regulation to ‘own’ the learning - to feel in control of it. One of the factors that contributed to control of learning was the learner’s ability to see the purpose and process, and how they related. In other words, instead of seeing the learning as a series of teacher-set tasks, learners could see it as a series of actions which they undertook to achieve the learning purpose - a subtle but major shift from teacher/ textbook-controlled to true student-controlled learning.
It is this notion of the ownership of the learning purpose and process which has led to some fascinating insights as I work through assignments with Senior College staff, trying to experience the assignment as a learner. We’ve begun to see how we can build more scaffolding, more ownership of the process and more cognitive controls for learners into their independent work, but also into how material is introduced and learning is monitored. We’ve begun to tap the potential of using mindmaps, lineargrams, spidergrams, grids, etc as tools for students to articulate their ‘metacogging’, and to shape ‘thought-in-progress’ documents to discuss with teachers at checkpoints throughout the learning process. To do this we are using the Sandwich Model of information literacy.
The essence of information literacy is the ability to find information and transform it into knowledge. This involves a range of cognitive strategies at all stages, finding, transforming, performing. The sandwich model helps to describe the AIM>FRAME>CLAIM pedagogy which has replaced ACTION LEARNING (Gawith, 1984). At the moment we’re working on the ‘process’ layer. Later I hope we’ll be able to work on the bits that define the process and hold it in place.
Meanwhile, the ‘two heads are better than one’ approach to unit planning is proving fascinating. Next step is working on student questioning - no, not integrating Bloom into the Action Learning model (I did that in 1986), but trying to enhance students’ ability to focus their questions, ‘interview’ information and process it metcognitively to generate more, deeper questions
Gawith, G. (1987). Information alive. Auckland: Longman Paul.
Gawith, G. (1984, August) Paper and workshop delivered at the New Zealand Reading Association Conference, Wanganui.