30 March 2007

Guided Inquiry – Ross Todd in Sydney, March 2007

Syba Signs held its second very successful seminar day this month with Dr Ross Todd attracting a crowd of over 200 (a large number of whom he seemed to know by first name). A good representation was in attendance from Parramatta Diocese TLs and we had a very stimulating day with immediate practical value to our work. We were also stirred by his questioning some of our long practiced mantras. Ross is perhaps the only person who could challenge us this way and live to tell the tale.

For the fuller story go to CISSL – The Center For International Scholarship in School Libraries at Rutgers University, particularly: Guided Inquiry. For some of our impressions of the day see below:

The conference provided us with an opportunity to look, think and question what
we teach in the library. The teaching of information literacy through the information skills process still has a place but it should not be the only way we approach a learning task with our students. This linear approach is not how our students learn and the "getting stuff" fix that it tends to impose is not useful to what Ross would like to see our students take from a research task. He asserts thats deep knowledge and deep understanding can only come when students are fully immersed in the task not simply plagiarising from 'stuff' that they locate during a library lesson. We need to have a lot more than the skills process in our 'bag of teaching tricks' if we want to achieve this outcome. - Joan Denahy

I was really impressed with the way he asked us to embrace the outcomes and
guide our teaching towards them. It is something that I think most primary school teachers do especially when working co-operatively with classroom teachers. Being knowledgeable about the various KLA outcomes and indicators and addressing them while still teaching the information skills gives us credibility as educators and keeps us focused on the learning that the classroom teacher is concerned with while leading the children towards the development of information skills they will need forever especially to become critically literate in a society of multiple literacies. Ross as usual was well prepared and was very concerned with the student as learner and the best ways to enhance that learning. His worksheets provided great ideas for use in the classroom and his overall presentation stimulated me to get back to the library and try out some of his ideas. - Mary Anne Cartwright

I really liked the way Ross challenged us on some of our "holy grail" stuff - the relevance of the information process, for instance. We know that he knows what he is talking about here, so it really gave pause for thought. He also talked about immersing kids in a topic before asking them to find a question, and this was very relevant to some work I was in the middle of at the time: trying to liven up a regular junior research assignment which was looking stale. This links in to LaneClark's idea of taking kids on the fieldtrip first, rather than last. There is also some good stuff on the English Teachers' Association website about "frontloading". The example given is a study of Macbeth* which was preceded by investigating castles, amongst other things, to engage students in the world of the play. All immersion experiences. Another highlight for me was the handout using a spot the difference picture as stimulus for practicing categorising, notetaking and synthesis. - Marita Thomson
I've longed for us to move on and get to how do we get the kids using the info
or even reading the info to get the relevant bits. I've just taken year 12 to the Australian Museum in a sort of immersion process. The boys liked the parts that they knew something about and found the part that was really leading into stuff they are yet to do "Boring" i.e. too hard - not relevant - where's it all fit in etc. So just immersion needs background as well so they can connect later on in some areas, especially at senior level. However I'm now teaching backward which is a new experience and could be a really good way to go for them so I'm not too worried about the "boring" attitude as the lights will go on, I hope, as we use the experience. - Lyndal Dennis

*Gerardu, Viviane; Duggan, Fiona. "Frontloading Macbeth." Activate: the Journal of the ACT Association for the Teaching of English 18, no. 1 (2003): 40-46. – This is available in the members area of English Teachers’ Association , Frontloading Macbeth PDF

STOP PRESS! Syba Signs has invited Ross back in November, so don’t spend all your budget before Term 4.

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