Research findings in the Finnish core curriculum, issues related to GID

Well, we have ended up to my last blog writing for now. In the previous blog post I gave a sneak peak to my doctoral research results. There are interesting findings in many perspective. Finlands core curriculum is rather versatile in information literacy issues. The problem will not be in curriculum, when we are working on teaching our students to be information savvy. The challenge we face is in teachers’ skills and use of tools; how to enhance the learning of students information literacy skills. This has been a challenge for a long time. And what are the tools?

The studied core curriculum presents issues, which function as preliminary phases before entering the information searching part. There is for example the inquiring mind. This idea is very similar with Guided Inquiry Design. The text in general changed from the 2004 core curriculum to 2014. The earlier often stated, that ‘the student will learn’ and ‘the student is taught’. The new 2014 core curriculum states ‘the student is encouraged’ and ‘the student is supported’, and so forth. This is pointing to a more student centred learning approach. The encouragement and supporting the students to find their own strengths and best learning styles is also about learning to learn.

The least interesting issue in 2014 core curriculum results at the moment is the part of information searching and critical thinking. These themes came out strong in the interviews. But what was emphasised in the core curriculum but not in the interviews was working with the found information. In my opinion the tools in GID could be extremely useful also in the context of the Finnish core curriculum.

The teachers in my study say, that the students have difficulty expressing their doings and thoughts in writing; especially when they would need to reflect on their learning. The tools in GID provides help in the construction of learning and making the progress more concrete and easier to follow for the student. Issues like reviewing, summarising, combining and constructing information is expected in the core curriculum. Students very often forget working with the information, since they are used to making homework like small tasks: finding facts and listing them on a worksheet, presentation or paper. As we know, this is also an issue of how to give and formulate the given assignment. It is also challenging for the students to learn a new way of working.

Learning to use the inquiry logs and journal is crucial in making the leanring concrete and in keeping the collected sources organised. These are magnificent tools for teachers to use. The recording of students learning and the tools to support the learning process are the core. When I tested GID in a small-scale project, the teachings during that process were remembered afterwards.

The assessment – the new ideology of continuous assessment by the teachers could be greatly benefitted by these tools as well. With the tools the teacher will know how the assignment result was reached during the process – not to mention to get the understanding of moments of possible interventions if needed during the process.

This was just a quick glimpse to the issues of how to combine GID and the Finnish core curriculum. The issue is as important as it is interesting. During 2017 I have also been involved in the research of false media, or fake news, whichever expression we want to use. Me and two other researchers have studied the use of sources of the most popular Finnish false media. We have with the same crew also written a book called Valheen jäljillä (On the track of lies) and it will be published in the beginning of 2018 (only in Finnish).

Seems like there are powers in the world at the moment, which try to divide people in case after case. Whether it is politics, sports, nutrition, or society. Even social media kind of got out of hands, as former Facebook manager Palihapitiya stated just now in December 2017. Our students have to reach a high enough level of general knowledge, reading skills, critical thinking skills and research skills to be able to come to a decision in whichever issue they face. In my mind, a lot of these issues could be set to a better track by implementing GID ideology.

I will be coming to Denver in the beginning of February 2018 for ALISE conference. In case one of you readers will be there too, please contact me! It would be very nice to exchange ideas! In case you are around, let me know: anu (at) anuojaranta (dot) com

Wishing all of you warm seasons greetings and a very happy new year!

 

GID greetings,

Anu

 

Research of the Finnish core curriculum and information literacy

Greetings from Finland! The snow finally arrived and made the dark time of the year a little bit lighter. The winter solstice is just days away and then we will be again heading towards longer days.

All right, now let us move forward in my blogging week. I wrote about Finland’s situation at the moment in the field of education. Many of these issues have pushed me to work with schools and libraries and to try to make a difference.

Turku Cathedral

I am interested in information literacy and how it is present in the Finland’s national core curriculum, and how teachers and school librarians understand these terms. The curriculum is not giving any definitions for information managing or information literacy. Five teachers and five school librarians in the same schools were asked how they understand information managing, information literacy and multiliteracy (to clear things out, they more or less have the same substance, but still with clear differences). The results were very interesting. Information literacy is a term of information science but the other two are more from the pedagogical side. I assembled a model of the answers and saw that both professions concentrate in their understanding to information searching and critical thinking. Librarians even more than the teachers.

Then, what about the core curriculum? In an open analysis I was able to come up with a model with 13 stages. I then divided the model into three parts, pre-information searching, information searching and post-information searching. With this I want to emphasise, that information seeking needs preparation and the found information needs to be worked with.

There has to be some preconditions how teachers in the learning situation should prepare the class. One of the most interesting findings was the phase inquiring mind. The 2014 core curriculum is emphasising student to be curious and study issues from a new perspective and with an open mind. A teacher is expected to encourage students in this.

Santa Lucia, the bringer of light,  celebrated in Turku.

The interesting finding is that most of the times when information literacy issues were mentioned in the curriculum findings belonged to the post-information searching part. This was different from both teachers and school librarians. The core curriculum is however emphasising how the students should be taught to work with the found information. This finding gave me a lot of joy, since my experience and also the research literature shows that this is the difficult part with student. Reviewing, summarising, comparing, compiling, and not just trying to get ready ASAP. The very interesting finding in all this was, that the 2004 had exactly similar emphasis with a little bit different terminology.

The results in full can be read in the thesis next year, but personally I am very exited about the results. The problems in students’ information seeking has been proved in the classroom and in research for the last 20 years. It has also been named, that teachers don’t have tools to meet these difficulties in students’ information behaviour.

Now Finland has a good curriculum, only thing is to make this work! And in my mind, GID has really a role to play!

With best greetings from Finland,

Anu

Finland – 100 years of independence!

I am very pleased Leslie saved a spot for me in order to blog about my thoughts. I wrote last year as well. It has been a pleasure to read all your practices in GID, this has given me a lot of inspiration! Finland has just celebrated the 100th birthday and it is an appropriate time to take a look at what is going on in education, a short glance.

Let me start by presenting myself. I am a librarian gone researcher. I have a history in school libraries. There were issues, which pushed me into information science research. I have planned my blogging week to be divided into three blog posts: one to present the current situation in Finland in the field of education and reading. The second to be about my research I am finalising at the moment and the last post to be about where in all this can we see Guided Inquiry Design having a place.

Finland is in the middle of a curriculum change, as the primary school changed into the new core curriculum in 2016 and the seventh grade in 2017. The eight and ninth grades will follow in 2018 and 2019. Curriculum change takes place approximately every 10 years. Therefore we are just in the beginning of this period.

As changes always, this gave reason to a lot of questions and even problems. The biggest change affecting all the work is the change in evaluation and assessment. Less numbers are given and most of the assessment should be done along the course, as continuous evaluation. The evaluation will be given in written and the teacher should have an evaluation discussion with each student. The students are also required to set their own goals for learning.

Another change has come in the form of phenomenon based learning. Every student is entitled into at least one phenomenon project during the school year. This means, that a theme, a phenomenon, is studied in collaboration with several subjects as a theme day, theme week or a longer project worked on once every week. There are several ways to carry this out. However, the problem has been finding the planning time, to fit the projects in to the hourly planning of different subjects. This is much easier to carry out in the primary school (1-6 classes, but to take this to the secondary school context (7-9 classes) with tighter subject boundaries – it does require more coordinating and planning.

Then there is an issue of the digital leap. For several years there has been a target to get more educational technology into schools and into learning. The digital leap has been a very hot subject in Finland. It feels like there are two camps: the ones that feel that IT (information technology) is not the key to better learning results and the camp where people feel it is the requirement for good learning results.

The issue is more complex than this. A private consulting company had rearranged the latest PISA results. They point out that the digital technology devises, which the student are using on their own in class are even worsening the learning results. The teachers’ use of technology had a more positive effect and also with the IT technology the students are using during past time. These results just indicate that the mere use of technology does not count as pedagogical use of technology. Which already made sense before the study.

Kuhankuono National Park

But the feeling I have at the moment is that the changes have come too fast and the schools were partly left with too little support and further education in this situation. There is a lot of frustration, working over hours and even resistance.

Then the issue of reading surfaced this October. The further analysis of 2016 PISA results show, that 10% of students graduating from compulsory comprehensive school (classes 1-9) have such poor reading skills that they difficulty to function in the society and in their further studies. The majority of these 10% are boys. The difference in reading skills between boys and girls is one of the biggest in comparison between all PISA countries. The government took initiative and established the Literacy Forum. This forum (which has 30 members, only 2 from libraries) has a goal by the end of August 2018 to come up with a plan, which would engage the whole nation to a community effort in reading, a reading bee.

In my doctoral research I have analysed the Finnish core curriculum looking for issues relating to information literacy skills. I have structured a model of these issues and will present it in my thesis. However, I have lately started to think that how is it that there are a lot of issues in library and information science, which would be of significant help in education, but these models just are not known in schools? Is it that the researchers cannot communicate to the field or in this case, is it about the difficulties to communicate from a field to another?

We take for example GID. We who know about the method have to be vigilant and energetic in pursuing contact with teachers and librarians. We should work with shareholders to see the benefits of library and information science resources to education. For some 20 years have teachers presented similar difficulties in students information behaviour. Still we are facing the same difficulties. Communication and collaboration is the key!

With best regards, Anu Ojaranta

(M.Ph., PhD student, qualified teacher)
Information Studies
Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

Guided Inquiry Design & Curriculum Reform in Croatia (3)

Photo by, Mario Fajt (sobrecroaCia.com.)

 

School librarians in Croatia are interested in Guided inquiry. One of our leading experts in information science, Prof. Stricevic I mentioned before, advocates for it at our professional education events. She keeps saying that GI is the model of learning that best suits the needs of contemporary students. Guided Inquiry is recommended in IFLA-s guidelines for school libraries as well. So, why do we not use GID more?

The problem in Croatian education system is that we are stuck in our curriculum reform. Most teaching in our schools is traditional, there is no real collaboration between teachers, not to mention that teachers are not satisfied with their social status and many of them are not motivated to learn new things. The fact is, with traditional method of teaching, where teachers are lecturing and students are reading just their textbooks, there is no actual need for information literacy. If the only goal of teaching is that a student remembers what a teacher says to him, there is no need for collaboration between a teacher and a school librarian.

So, the question is – what kind of schools do we want? How do we prepare our students for their future life? Two years ago, it seemed that serious improvements in Croatian education system are to be made, but the change of political power stopped that. A New Committee for curriculum reform was appointed, but we still do not know any concrete results.

So much time and money is lost in the political struggle. Unfortunately, our students cannot wait, they are left at the mercy of their teachers. There are excellent schools, libraries, teachers, but they are excellent despite the system, not because of it. That is why, on the average, our students do not perform well on international testing (like PISA, PIRLS, ICILS….) nor do they achieve splendid results at their final high school exams.

We desperately need GID in our schools. We should have the books available in Croatian. We should educate teachers and librarians to apply it. There is no straightforward way to do this, I am aware of this. But, however futile it seems sometimes, we librarians, have our duties to perform no matter what are the circumstances. I have seen that GID works in my school. Students love learning through Guided Inquiry. I am aware that my colleagues and I made mistakes in our first attempts at it. But, the change in the classroom is enormous compared to traditional teaching. Students are motivated to work, they do not notice the bell ringing, and everybody is active, not just a few designated to answer all the questions. The students are learning, thinking, making conclusions based on evidence. Therefore, at the beginning of this school year I am going to ask my colleagues to join me in planning and preparing more GI units. I think this is my humble contribution to education winning in the race with catastrophe.

Best,

Gordana Sutej

Duga Resa, Croatia

Irrational Perseverance and Our Unit on Children in Wartime (2)

Irrational perseverance

You will need a good dose of irrational perseverance to stick to GI” and implement it in your curriculum,” say the authors of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21 Century. After seven years of trying, I must say it is perfectly true. You need perseverance to learn all the time, perseverance to endure futile tries to convince your colleagues to collaborate with you, but most of all you need perseverance to monitor you students and make changes in your practice when you see that what you are doing is not helping them learn. But perseverance I have, because I believe Guided Inquiry is the best model of learning we, school librarians, can use to help students grow.

Guided Inquiry is in accordance with my personal mission to do everything I can to sustain children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. Have you ever seen a small child who is not eager to learn? It breaks my heart when I see how this eagerness withers as children grow older, and by the middle school they end up hating school because it is boring. The answer is, I believe, in constructivist approach to learning. Guided Inquiry is the answer. D. H. Wells once said that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. Guided Inquiry is such a powerful tailwind for education. It makes learning meaningful for students, gives them skills to use for further learning, it helps them to gain deeper understanding of the curriculum.

After carefully reading and rereading and studying the books (one mentioned before, Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School and Guided Inquiry Design in Action: Middle School) attending free webinars held by Leslie at EdWeb, I gradually started applying GI in my teaching.

First, I applied some of the tools in our ongoing school projects. I talked about GI at our school staff meeting. There was a language teacher who proposed that we give it a try together. We asked history teacher to join in for our first GI unit. My colleagues did not read about Guided Inquiry, so it was my responsibility to explain the concept to them. They were familiar with KWL framework and project based learning which made me easier to explain GID. However, it took a lot of patience and persistence from all of us.

I was grateful to them they were willing to try something new and I took care not to make them feel uncomfortable in the process. Our first GID unit was not perfect, but I think we did excellent job. We connected literature (Bruckner: Sadako wants to live – this is obligatory book for 8th graders which most of them never really read), history curriculum – WWII, and civic education (Human Rights).

Photo -3rd grade students preparing for sharing what they learned about healthy food and habits.

Our big question and concept was: “What happens to children in wartime?”

The Open session was rich. It took place in the library. We managed to acquire beautiful posters and brochures about contemporary Japan from the Japanese Embassy. After discussing that we watched two minutes video from Hiroshima Memorial Museum and an excerpt from a documentary about atomic bomb survivors. Our discussion helped students to better understand the book, which was the task for Immerse.

Deciding what is important to share with the rest of the class

In Explore sessions they had a lot of material, both print and digital to go through. After that they had to pick a role to prepare for, because the create and share phase were preparation and staging of a mock trial in which all the children had to play a role of a character in a book or a role of a court official (judges, attorneys etc.). Students were engaged and motivated during the process. There was so much to talk about. They studied the period described in the book to the detail, but they also draw connections with current affairs. Unfortunately, the topic of war is familiar to them. Although they are the generation born after recent wars in our part of the world, they hear it discussed in their homes, in school and in the media.

Next school year, I made another presentation about GID for my colleagues in school, presented the concept again, together with our last year’s experience. I asked for volunteers again. There were more teachers who were interested this time. Next year, a few more. My goal is to enable every student in school to experience Guided Inquiry. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I had several opportunities to share the experience in GID with my follow librarians at the district, but also at the national level. The last one was a workshop at our Spring School in Trogir in April 2017 which was very well received.

Gordana

How I Fell in LOVE with Guided Inquiry Design (1)

Hello!

My name is Gordana Sutej and I am a teacher librarian at Ivan Goran Kovacic School, an elementary school in Duga Resa, Croatia. I am honored by the opportunity to share my thoughts about Guided Inquiry with colleagues around the world and grateful to Leslie K. Maniotes who encouraged me to write for this 52GID blog. I am enthusiastic about Guided Inquiry and trying to implement it in my school (it is K8 in US terms) and to spread the word about it to my colleagues in the district where I live and at the national level whenever possible.

Let me say a few words about Croatia, first. It is a country in Southeastern Europe with national territory of 56 594 km2 (there are probably farms in Texas bigger than that 😊). Although a small country, Croatia boasts with diverse and beautiful landscapes and numerous historical monuments.

Photos of Zagreb and Croatian landscape by, Mario Fajt (sobrecroaCia.com.).

We have a population of 4 million people. There are some 1200 school libraries here. Every school must have a library according to law. There are standards for school libraries, but government, who impose those standards do not secure financial means to fulfill the standards. Therefore, we have varied school libraries, ranging from excellent – spacious, well equipped with all sorts of resources and devices, to small ones lacking books, computers, and almost everything.

School library where I work is a small one (70m2) with 4000 books, 3 computers, LCD projector and a smartboard. Although not big, it is comfortable and appealing space, and everything in it is selected with love and care. The school has 410 students and 50 teachers and other stuff members. Both students and teachers visit and use library often. I am happy that they enjoy spending their free time there, but they also like having lessons in the library. We have many extracurricular activities in school which are very popular with the students. I lead school journalist, a book club, library helpers and poetry academy groups.

I started working in a school library in 1999, after seven years spent in a small public library in my home town. Discovering what are the possibilities of school library to help students become readers and critical thinkers was interesting, but not always easy. I wondered for a long time how can I accomplish to fulfill my responsibility for fostering information literacy in school if I do not give assignments to students and do not participate in evaluating their work.

The answer came to me in a lecture by prof. Ivanka Stričević at our PD, Spring School, as we call it, in 2010. Prof Stričević said: “Kuhlthau says there is no point in teaching information literacy without context, it should be integrated into school curriculum and carried out through Guided Inquiry.” I did not know how to spell the name, Kuhlthau, at that time, but I managed to find it on internet, and since that day, I did not stop searching, discovering, learning about Carol C. Kuhlthau, her research, ideas, concept of Guided Inquiry she developed together with her daughters Leslie K. Maniotes and Ann K. Caspari.

Their work Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century is not translated to Croatian, it cannot even be found in our National Library. The only way to get it was to order the book from USA. What a thrill it was to read it. I believe you know the feeling when you read astonishing text and you cannot believe afterwards that the world is still the same. You ask yourself, why does not everybody read it and take it seriously? Why do we not transform our schools according to Guided Inquiry Design? It is so clever, so logical, so true! How cannot everybody see it? Anyway, I made a pledge to do everything I can to make it work in my school.

Gordana