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2000 Robyn Boswell: Future Problem Solving - NZ kids foot it

2000 Alan Cooper: Thinking to learn

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy in action at SCONZ

2000 Gwen Gawith: Blooming questions

1999 Art Costa: An interview with Art Costa

1999 Robyn Boswell: International Future Problem Solving success

1999 Gwen Gawith: The survival of the book: Co-existing with Gog and Magog

1999 Gwen Gawith: Lost the plot: Reading for what?

1999 Gwen Gawith: Rushkoff and visual literacy

1999 Gwen Gawith: KFL: Knowledge Free learning?

1998 Gwen Gawith: Ban projects: Teach information literacy

1998 Gwen Gawith: The cry for deep learning…

1998 Gwen Gawith: The Mercury model of information literacy

1998 David Hyerle: Thinking literacy in an age of ICT

1998 Pauline Donaldson: A virtual classroom with 3500 students

1997 Jeff Bruce and Gwen Gawith: information literacy and Infolink

1997 Gwen Gawith: How to ? or not to?: That is the ?

1997 Gwen Gawith: Unlocking learning: Key words

1996 Gwen Gawith: Epistemic fluency or the cognitive trots!

1995 Gwen Gawith: A serious look at self-efficacy: waking beeping Slooty!

1993 Gwen Gawith: The National Curriculum and the information process

information literacy:
learning & thinking

A serious look at self-efficacy: or waking Beeping Slooty!

A version of this article was published in a regular column in Good Teacher in 1995

Gwen Gawith

Has learning has been sleeping partner while we've focussed on teaching?

In the last issue I suggested that, far from being redundant, there is convincing research evidence demonstrating that highly skilled teachers are even more necessary if we are to achieve technology-enhanced learning (distance or otherwise) rather than just the enjoyable use of technology in classrooms.

If anyone is going to wake Beeping Slooty, it will be real teachers in real classrooms.

If we want to encourage a focus on learning (technology-enhanced or otherwise) we need to look at what we mean by learning. This can seem so obvious that few of us make time to do it.

When last did you, as a school staff, devote any inservice time to thrashing out what exactly you mean by learning, what exactly you expect students to do when-they learn, etc? It is surprisingly hard to get behind the warm fuzzy cliches and politcally sensitive wishful thinking. It takes time, and shared professional effort. And teachers' time and energy are the most precious resources in schools at the moment. It is not going to be handed down from Academics On High. However, if we see ourselves as being in the business of learning, rather than the business of teaching, is it worth the time and effort?

There are at least two prerequisites for self-regulated information literacy learning, independence and motivation.

Independence does not necessarily mean working alone. It means being able to work independently, individually or in a group. Nor does independence mean teacher-free. A critical factor in learning to learn independently is the scaffolding (procedures, structures, skills guidance, etc) provided by the teacher.

"Go to the library and look it up"-type projects are an abrogation of the teacher's responsibility, not an opportunity for self-regulated learning unless the teacher is assured that students have the structures, skills, self-monitoring and evaluative processes in place to set them up for success.

Motivation seems like an easy one - the desire to learn. Sure, but what lies behind a desire to learn? Two crucial components of learning motivation are self-esteem and self-efficacy. They are related and complementary. Before I started my research I didn't think they were synonymous, but I could not have explained their difference in terms that had consequences for how students can be helped to learn. Now I see the distinction as crucial.

Self-efficacy, in brief, differs from self-esteem insofar as self-efficacy relates to your belief that you have the skills and competencies to do something. Learners can have robust self-esteem but, if asked, can admit happily that they don't actually have the skills and ability to do the task at hand. Conversely, learners may well have the required skills and competencies to do something, but if they don't have the confidence that they can, they probably won't even if they could!

This is where we get back to the relationship between teaching and learning. Giving students the conceptual and literal vocabulary to discuss their learning in terms of the skills and processes they need to achieve particular learning goals is an integral part of self efficacy, and self efficacy is an integral part of self-regulated learning.

Simply, helping children to develop positive self-esteem is admirable, but it is not enough if we are talking about confident, independent, flexible, self-regulated learners equipped for lifelong learning in an age of information.

Likewise, access to information technology is shown to increase student self-esteem (temporarily). Access to computers has not yet, by itself, demonstrated an increase in self-efficacy in terms of making effective use of the information contained in or purveyed through the technology.

The bottom line in self efficacy is OWNERSHIP.

Do you actually own something if you don't know what it's called, don't know how it works, don't know whether you have it and can't describe how you use it? It's probably a bit like getting rich without knowing anything about money? There is no doubt that some children do learn skills through direct out-of context teaching, through osmosis, through plugging themselves into computers with intravenous drips, or through intuition - but there are many, many more children for whom the link between teaching and learning needs to be made much more explicit.