Sharon Grimes, Library Director for the Baltimore County Public Schools, sent a long critique of the new AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner to LM_Net recently. She makes some good points and has forced me to do a couple things.
First, I'm taking some time to really study and try to internalize these new AASL standards as well as the new ISTE NETS standards, trying to figure out how the sets are aligned and how they differ. More on that in a later blog entry, but for now, let me just say that a one-to-one comparison is proving to be challenging. (And you all know how it hurts my head when forced to think too hard.)
The other thing that Sharon's e-mail made me realize is just how sloppy I am with terminology in my own area of "expertise." She writes:
Another factor that might serve to marginalize the importance of our profession in the eyes of others is the move, clearly evident in Standards 1 and 2, from problem-based to inquiry-based learning. The implications and potential outcomes of this shift are many and varied:
- One important distinction between problem-based and inquiry-based learning is that inquiry-based learning explores questions in much more depth for a greater period of time, possibly an entire semester. Given the time constraints imposed by the test-driven environment created by NCLB, are we ignoring reality?
- Inquiry-based learning may or may not result in a product that can be evaluated which has clear implications for assessment. In an era of data-driven decision-making, the lack of clearly quantifiable data marginalizes what we do in the eyes of administrators and other decision makers.
- Many of the information seeking process models in wide-spread use, like Big6, are problem, not inquiry-based. As a result, new models will need to be created and/or existing models modified to include inquiry-based learning. The question then is who will do this and when will the model(s) be available?
- The distinction between inquiry and problem-based learning is not clarified in the standards, nor is the level of inquiry-based learning (clarification/verification; structured inquiry; guided inquiry; or open inquiry) the standards hope to inspire.
- NETS -S is clearly problem-based so the alignment that existed with ISTE's standards is now tenuous at best. NETS-S is also clearly aligned with the requirements of NCLB and national curriculum standards. The alignment between AASL's new standards and NCLB, national curriculum standards, and NETS-S is only evident at the skill indicator level, not at the standard level.
Why not a more realistic statement that it is not an either/or; both inquiry-based and problem-based can form the basis of valid information-seeking process models?
Hmmmm, I do believe I've been using inquiry-based and problem-based somewhat synonymously. My bad. And as I think about it, there are quite a few related terms that I am not sure how specifically I could define, who the authority for the definition might be, and how they are all related in a Venn diagram-ish fashion. Here are some:
- Constructivist learning
- Authentic learning
- Information literacy
- Information literacy process
- Information fluency
- Information problem-solving
You can probably add a few related terms yourself.
In asking Sharon a source of definitions and information about this, she kindly sent a list of resources:
- The one I use to give our teachers an overview of inquiry-based learning is from the Concept to Classroom series at http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/inquiry/index.html
- Teacher Tap probably has the most succinct summary of the differences between project, problem, and inquiry-based learning; the summary can be accessed at http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic43.htm
- Connecting Youth to a Brighter Future offers an introduction to inquiry-based learning at http://www.youthlearn.org/learning/approach/inquiry.asp
- A more comprehensive overview of inquiry-based learning is found in Inquiry Thoughts, Views, and Strategies for the K-5 Classroom http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2000/nsf99148/htmstart.htm
- Three books that have helped me understand inquiry-based learning are:
- Inquire Within: Implementing Inquiry-based Science Standards, Douglas Llewellyn
- Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, National Research Council
- Developing Inquiry-Based Science Materials, Herbert D. Thier
Chris Harris suggested John Barell's Developing More Curious Minds as a resource as well.
OK, readers, what are the distinctions and just how important are they when talking about these models or philosophies of learnin' kids good?
From Alice Yucht: Sharon's essay is now posted on the AASL Blog, where comments are welcome (and archived).