A constructivist approach to learning allows students to take control of their own learning, through student centred, student led tasks and projects (Collins et al, 2008). Students are able to engage in the learning by deciding the questions to direct their learning, and formulating a plan to answer the questions. The teacher librarian is in a prime position to provide explicit instruction of investigation and research techniques, and to ensure the student has the background knowledge and prior understanding to complete the investigation, by providing the necessary digital and hard copy resources (2008).
Two methods of constructivist learning are Inquiry Learning, and Project-Based Learning. These teaching and learning methods allow student to gain a deeper understanding of their learning, and encourage and motivate learners who may be difficult to motivate (BIE, 2013).
ASLA policy statement on resource-based learning requires teacher librarians to adapt their programs and resource selection to suit the needs of the individual students. A Resource-based learning program allows students to develop information skills, how and where to find relevant and appropriate information, and how to present the information to an intended audience (ASLA, 2012). The TL constructs learning experiences to meet the level of understanding of the student, and provides resources for the learners to discover answers to their questions, thereby acting as a facilitator in the learning, rather than providing students with answers (Culatta,2013).
In the Australian curriculum, approaches to constructivist learning have been included, under the General Capabilities. Critical and Creative Thinking Capabilities, and ICT Capabilities include strategies and guidelines for constructivist learning, and how to incorporate and integrate these across the curriculum.
These capabilities allow students to develop critical thinking and inquiry learning skills across the curriculum. The teacher librarian can provide information skills for all subject areas, merging critical and creative thinking, and ICT skills with all curriculum content.
The organising elements of the Critical and Creative Thinking Capabilities are:
- Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
- Reflecting on thinking and processes
- Analysing, synthesising and evaluating.
One Inquiry Learning model is the Cyclic Inquiry model (Edutech, 2010). The structure of this model is very similar to the organising elements of the critical and creative thinking capabilities.
The other General Capability that promotes constructivist learning is ICT capabilities. Project-based learning expects ICT to be integrated into learning projects, and for students to have the ability to select suitable technology to use in their projects (McIlvenny, 2013).
Both capabilities can be easily integrated within the curriculum, with curriculum learning areas including these skills within their strands across all age levels. An example would be the History learning area. Information and inquiry skills are included even in the foundation level. Within the sub strand Historical skills, reception aged students are asked to ‘pose questions about the past using sources provided’ and to ‘use a range of communication forms and digital technologies’ (ACARA, 2011). The TL can use the Australian curriculum to embed these inquiry and information skills from the first years of school.
Collaboration with teaching staff when planning is essential to the success of incorporating these skills into all curriculum areas. Collaboration helps teachers develop meaningful learning tasks that students can apply to real life contexts, and essentially ‘learn how to learn’.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2011). General Capabilities in the Australian curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Overview/General-capabilities-in-the-Australian-Curriculum
Australian School Library Association (ASLA)(2012) Statement on resource-based learning and the curriculum. http://www.asla.org.au/policy/resource-based-learning-curriculum.aspx
Buck Institute for Education (BIE)(2013). What is PBL? Project based learning for the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/about/what_is_pbl
Collins, T. et al (2008). Supporting location-based inquiry learning across school, field and home contexts. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/12393/1/mlearn-2008-0025-collins-crc.pdf
Culatta, R (2013). Constructivist Theory. Instructional Design, Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html
Edutech Wiki (2010). Inquiry based learning. Retrieved from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Inquiry-based_learning
McIlvenny, L (2013) Critical and creative thinking in the new Australian curriculum: Part one. Access: Journal of the Australian School Library Association. March (27,1)
McIlvenny, L (2013) Inquiry Learning within the Australian curriculum: part two. Access: Journal of the Australian School Library Association. June (27,2)