See me. This message stuck in my mind this Spring. I encountered it in a TV commercial showing the person behind the disease. I saw it on my commuter train in the poignant image of a refugee in need. I heard it in a powerful GID Open where people living with mental health issues told their stories.
See me. The message is simple but yet profound. Beyond every surface, through every disease, within every large refugee crisis, there is the person.
During this spring I conducted a case study on GID. One of my most powerful lessons is this: in GID the individual student is seen. He/she is given a voice, (s)he is given agency, (s)he is heard and respected. She/he approaches the topic from a personal angle and through this finds genuine curiosity. He/she is supported individually in his/her learning process and guided through the challenges and obstacles along the way. In GID we venture into the unknown as we do not know which angle of a topic the student will choose. Yet, when students are firmly guided, their inquiry questions will cover the needed curriculum content. The student and his/her genuine curiosity is seen within the context of the larger curriculum.
Not only are students seen, the teacher is seen as well. There is no right and only way to apply GID. Instead GID can be seen as a tool box and a mindset which helps you develop as a teacher to meet the demands of the new information landscape. You, as a teacher, are seen as well in your competency and agency. GID draws on your curriculum content expertise, but gives you tools that help you support students’ open exploration. Not only is the individual student seen, you are seen as well.
The case study I am conducting is part of the ARONI study, funded by the Academy of Finland. We are learning important lessons from GID that will inform us as we work on further developing pedagogical practices in Finnish schools. Our rapidly changing information landscape calls for pedagogical reform. In this process we need to begin with the student and meet him/her in his/her own information world. In our project we link students’ information literacy, as expressed e.g. in a school context, to their information behavior in daily life. Through surveys and statistical investigations we try to discover trends through which we can understand the individual student. Students are not all alike in their ways to interact with information. Some are curious and often retrieve exciting information by pure chance, some perhaps hide embarrassing information needs, some hesitate to ask for help, some use their social skills to share what they know. How can we draw on their everyday life information behavior when we teach information literacy in schools? How can we connect their personal angle and interest to curriculum content to create a deeper learning experience? How can we really see the individual student in the myriad of ways of interacting with the information world? GID gives us powerful tools to help us along the way.
I will never forget the first time I met a student undertaking a GID project. She could not contain her excitement as she shared what she had learned investigating a medical condition from which her grandfather suffered. Finally, she understood him in a whole new way. But this was not all. Through the personal angle and the investment it created, she had gained so much insight into the working of the brain. She had excelled in her project, she had so much to share. Accustomed to being a struggling student, she had exceeded every expectation by far. She had been engaged, she had been given agency. She was brimming with excitement. This was learning at its best. She had been seen.
Jannica Heinstrom, PhD
University of Tampere