Thursday, February 22, 2018

ECIS Librarians conference 2018 : Chennai Part 1.

Oh. my. word. The 2018 ECIS Library Triennial was an amazing, wonderful learning and social experience hosted by the American International School of Chennai, India.

The last ECIS librarians conference I attended was in Istanbul 7 years ago which had me hooked. I could not attend the last one due to work restraints and was very disappointed. These conferences are the total bomb with regards to the high level of presentations, thinking and practices being shared over the 2 days by International School Librarians. This particular group of librarians are special people. Generally many have left their home country to live in another country, often moving every two to four years, becoming part of the global citizen mobile teaching fraternity. In many cases, their schools are well funded with the library seen and supported as being an integral part of the school, a showcase piece and the school librarian is an integral part of the faculty. This means they often have staff to support them with the everyday tasks of running, and they have time and money to play and experiment. They embrace change just by being willing to move to try a new country, school or challenge on.  Not all are fortunate to have this total package, but many do.

This international school context of school librarians opens opportunities for experimentation with time to think and time to reflect on best practice, and thankfully they are willing to share with their colleagues across the globe. Many already connect online via social media and it was an absolute pleasure meeting some face to face for the first time, and for others, an exciting reunion.

I participated in four days of the conference, and will write a series of posts more for me to synthesise my learning than for anyone reading this blog. This post will focus on day one which was a leadership institute facilitated by the AIS Chennai leadership team of Andrew A Hoover, AIS Chennai Head of SchoolJoelle Basnight AIS Chennai Head  High School Principal,  Kirsten Welbes, AIS Chennai Head Director of Advancement, Keryn Dowling, AIS Chennai Head Elementary School Principal

It was a privilege to learn from these education and leadership professionals.

The first session of the day was : Cultivating Self-Awareness: Navigating the Social Landscapes of Leadership led by Andrew Hoover. We started off by getting our heads around what leadership actually is and isn't. There were a couple of key statements made 

"Leadership needs to be practiced & learned", "Leadership is about action with vision". Management on the other hand is about ensuring operational processes run smoothly this was a nice distinction between the two.

"What do people need from me today?" This question is one that leaders need to ask of themselves each morning to be most effective in being a leader.

There are also leadership frames : 

  • Purpose : - what is effective leadership?
  • People :- How can we best engage others?
  • Perspective : - How can we evolve as leaders?
  • Productivity :- How to get the right things done? 
If there is no change in a leader they are not living leadership.

These memes were used as a discussion starter about leadership & what it means to lead.
To live leadership you must have the following characteristics.:
  • Courage
  • Insight
  • Responsibility
  • Understanding
  • Humility
  • Compassion
  • Optimism
Andrew then told a few analogies about being optimistic and creative problem solving as a leader one of these is the 18th Camel.

"What you believe, will power what you do"

We then moved into analysing our own leadership styles from 6 that were given, below is a very concise snapshot of these leadership styles. For more information see this link to Edith Cowan University.  (use the term Participatory for Democratic and Directive for Commanding).  

This quite a lot of fun as people self identified the type of leader they thought they were... we had three who identified as Pace setters in the room, and this was no surprise!

It has been identified that 4 of these leaderships styles are imperative for people to respond in a positive way toward a leader : directive, participatory, affiliative and coaching.

We did conclude that the leadership styles were interchangeable with context, and that it would be very difficult to use just one style across all contexts.

As a leader we need to know how to communicate, Andrew gave us some tips :

  • Whenever we speak with certainty either through words or tone or even through using the words "In my opinion..." it closes communication down.
  • If we communicate using questions, or with uncertainty,  it opens doors to communication. He advised us "to stay open to what is happening around you." Be present or "presencing".
Andrew asked another pertinent question : "How can you help others to help you?" What can you ensure happens or does not happen to keep this type of relationship happening? Working with difficult people was the next topic, with Andrew telling us to listen to the angry people, as they will have a perspective that you may not have thought about that may lead to innovation. 

We watched a short clip from Tom Peters on how to embrace the angry person and embracing this emotion to move things forward.

We also discussed what prevents us from moving forward in our professional lives - see the image below. I think these points are quite pertinent for school librarians - what is holding you back?

Overall, this was an excellent session exploring leadership and analysing how it may work in a school library context. 

After the break we participated in Planning and Running Effective Meetings which flowed into systems of communication. Joelle Basnight and Kirsten Welbes facilitated this session. 
Joelle and Kirsten used the strategies of Adaptive schools throughout and it was an excellent illustration of how these strategies can enhance any learning experience and meetings. There is a downloadable app that can be searched as well as a website from the Thinking Collaborative people.  Many of the staff at AIS Chennai have been trained in the adaptive schools strategies, and as result there is a culture of using these strategies throughout the school.

The first item was to go through the elements of a well run meeting - having an agenda. we were informed the session would include working agreements, norms of collaboration, ways of talking, decision making, strategy harvest and organise and integrate our learning.

Working agreements need to be visible and apparent in all meetings and think tanks - perhaps even classrooms. We did not spend a lot of time on this topic, however it was stressed that stating a working agreement at the beginning of a meeting or class can really enhance engagement and mutual respect. Here is a link to a PDF of a working agreement example. 

After this we moved into the 7 norms of collaboration. These 7P norms are taught throughout the school and are employed whenever appropriate. Resources explaining these norms can be found here.

Pausing (allows for reflection, thinking and best response)
Paraphrasing (allows for clarity, to open doors for communication)
Posing questions (explore and specifies thinking and direction)
Putting ideas on the table (with the intention of type of idea it is)
Providing data (supports group in constructing shared understandings)
Pay attention to self and others (aware of what is said along with how is said and how others are responding)
Presume positive intentions. (facilitates meaningful dialogue and eliminates putdowns and bullying)

We had some learning around these norms and best practice:
  • Suspend judgement until it is time for dialogue
  • Ensure there is shared understanding 
  • Ideas are physically put on the table with an arm movement.
  • Once on the table an idea becomes the groups idea - no longer any individuals idea.
  • There should be a common language
  • There should be an ebb and flow of ideas and dialogue, no one person should dominate
  • Dialogue is what leads to discussion and decision making.
We then were shepherded into examining decisions making and the process of how decisions are made in an organisation. We had to vote with stickers on which corner we thought was the most important, then stand by and justify our decisions. An excellent thought provoking activity.

At the end of the session we reviewed all the learning strategies that had been employed throughout the session - it was quite an eye opener how many had been used in 2 hours.

After lunch we were delighted to hear short Ignite Sessions from Kim Beeman (Three Tools for capturing student interest and understanding" - esp loved Mentimeter), Philip Williams (Finding complexity in school systems) , Nadine Bailey (Supporting the Global read aloud) Pascale Viala (Building a relationship with information  and Jeremy Willett on  

What’s Trust Got To Do With It?: Understanding Influence and Trust

The final session of the day was a split between the above title and "Having difficult conversations". I chose the one on trust, this was again facilitated by Andrew Hoover. A few thoughts and takeaways below ...

Trust is a vital energy source
Is trust in your schools mission? Explicit or implied?
Having a clear mission is imperative to developing trust
It takes a village to create trust
Collaboration creates trust
Any organisation needs trust to move forward
To be trusted you must first trust
Trust can be demonstrated, not assessed.
Trust is built on what you say and what you do

There are a number of different types of trust :

Organic trust: base don unquestioning unconditional feelings or beliefs (ie religion)
Contractual trust : legal or commonly held expectations
Relation trust : social relations requiring consistent attention & maintenance.

The building of trust enhances an individuals and organisational performance.

What do people expect of me??

Facets of trust - Caring, competence, communication.

Being visible outside of your own head. Show trust!!
Be intentional in building trust through actions.

And that was day 1. Three to go!!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Survey time

For a couple of years I have wanted to gain a clearer picture of school libraries and librarians across the board with regards to budget, type of schools, the curriculum, how many students they work with, what their employment status is, qualifications, and how they feel with regards to being supported in their role and their own autonomy in the role and if this can change depending on the type of school and if a librarian in an IB school seems to be in a better position. There have been surveys in the past from School Library journal, however, these were quite USA centric, I wanted information that went beyond what they asked.

So, in the past few months, I have constructed two different surveys (same, same but a little bit different) for IB & NON IB school librarians to complete to find out a broad range of information about their situation. It is not perfect, however, I have done some testing and the answers were what I was looking for and the surveys do allow surveyee's to add their own answers where mine were not quite hitting the mark.

If you have about 10-15 minutes in your busy lives, I would really appreciate it if you could complete the survey. It is mostly made up of multiple choice or short answer questions and you should know the answers without having to think too hard about them.

This is not an official IB survey, I am doing this for interest and for publication, and possible for future conference presentation. I may even write a note to the respective IB offices to inform them of the results.

If you are in an IB school please go to this link to complete the survey.

If you are NOT IN AN IB school - go to this link

Please complete by 4 February 2018. Thank you so much for your time and information.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Being the victim

On New Years day this week I had some time to look through my Facebook feed, particularly a local community information group I am part of. Someone had posted a message that they were looking for someone - they mentioned her by name, where she worked and that she was having some time off her job for a shoulder injury and they asked if anyone who knew her could tag her in the comments so the poster could find her.

My caution bells went off and I commented that randomly asking to tag someone publicly may not be the best course of action for possible privacy and legal issues. That is all I said. No insults, no accusations. Just an educated point.

The poster responded with a question about why this would be the case, and I mentioned that some people may not want to be tagged publicly or 'outed' in a very large public group like the one were we communicating on - there may be issues in her life etc etc. I suggested that maybe he could contact her place of work, leave his number and ask them to pass it on - then she will have a choice to contact him. It all started off quite civilly, then the insults started - He came back and said "She has a choice now u idiot". Then others started chiming in about if she didn't want to be found, then her settings would be adjusted for that (which I agreed with, but did mention that not everyone knows the same skills on Facebook regarding privacy etc). The original poster then started getting quite abusive about my comment, that I was accusing him of being a stalker and that she is a nice lady etc along with a couple of insults to which I replied, no, it wasn't him I was worried about. It was the issue of allowing her the choice to not be outed in a public place, that this was a basic element of digital citizenship.

Then the vitriole and abuse started from other people, and I was incredulous at the reaction of people to a simple request that he not ask for random people to tag this woman. I was accused of watching too many law TV shows and waving a pseudo law degree around, I was shouted at (in capitals) that I was not his mother. I was accused of being a bully, that did not allow for other peoples opinions ... really? Then I had about 50 people tearing me to shreds about a simple request to not randomly tag someone.   The picture at the top of this post was exactly how it felt. I felt I was in the town square being hounded and insulted, for no real reason. It was a herd mentality moment against me, and it was awful.

I was an adult, who felt I did nothing wrong except voice my professional understanding of the situation so as to help the original poster (and the woman he was trying to find) to avoid any possible repercussions from being randomly outed on a very large forum. Yet, I was the one being stoned. There was nothing I could write that would placate the situation, or give me peace, as every time I defended my position someone else would chime in and insult me, so I left the conversation and turned off the notifications (which I still received - so much for trying to remove myself from the situation).

After a few hours I reflected on the experience, one that I had never had before and one that I would not want to repeat. My emotions at the time were incredulity that the majority on this forum believed that it was their right to tag anyone they wanted in a comment or post, and it was up to the tagged person to have their settings set if they did not want that to happen. The attitude was that if you are on Facebook or the internet in general that you have no right to privacy (this was mentioned a few times), and that you were fair game.

I also experienced shock at being insulted without any reason, and then being unable to defend myself against a tide of abuse led to feelings of disempowerment and a plunging self esteem. It made me quite upset. The incident only lasted about 90 minutes. I had the power to turn off the offending section of my life and get on with other things. However, the pull was quite strong to go back to the post to see what else was being said.  I did not want to feed the trolls any more, but I was interested in what was being discussed (possibly to laugh, but at the same time I would be brought down). Thankfully, the post was deleted either by the original poster (who was bragging about how many comments he got from a simple request) or by the administrator.  These were adults behaving like school yard bullies.

I then reflected on what it would be like as a young person to be at the centre of such behaviour. Not pretty. They may not have the strength to switch off, and continue to feed the vitriole, and even if they did, the pull to find out what was being said is so very strong. Young bullies tend to keep going as well - much longer than 90 minutes, sometimes over a year. The feelings after the incident made me feel that I was not a welcome part of this community, would I be able to post any questions to the group after this? Do I need to change my FB persona (name and photo) so people will not recognise me in the street. I kept reminding myself that a few hours on the internet is like a few months in real life, and by the time 24 hours is up, it and I will be forgotten and people will move on. But a young person may not know this, and feel that everything they have with regard to friends and community has been crushed, that they cannot show their faces, that they have been told they are worthless and insulted by strangers (or maybe friends) who have jumped onto the bandwagon to be seen as a worthy person on FB or social media by others.

We can say to young people just ignore it, turn it off get on with other things in life, but the feelings of powerlessness continue, and as an adult, I am now reluctant to participate in the forums, and even contemplating removing myself from this potential future abuse. This is a powerful lesson for me as an educator, this stuff happens all the time, and it is really a nasty part of the online world. We cannot shrug this under the table, we need to be helping young people how to handle this, and not assume they know how to do it. Role plays, discussion of how to behave as an internet user is still an important conversation. How to react when they are the subject of the abuse, what to do, how to work through what has happened are all important conversations. It may not happen to them now, but possibly later as an adult.

Have a look at the short video below about the long term effects of being bullied - online or face to face.

The videos below are excellent from the Cyber Bullying Prevention Ad Council. They are a few years old, but still relevant. When I show these to students, there is stunned silence afterward. Shock that that would happen and perhaps reflection on their own behaviour online.

This stuff needs to be explicitly taught and often. Once is not enough. The message must get through. Young people grow up to be adults who will continue the behaviour if they think it is OK.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Revisiting the approaches to learning skills

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to lead an 3 day Approaches to Learning  skills workshop and to revisit the ATL skills not long after during an IB librarians continuum workshop.

One thing that strikes me is how schools are still latched onto the 140 examples of ATL skills found in the Appendix of the MYP principles in Practice. They have created lists, scope and sequences, ticking the boxes in Managebac or Rubicon and used these 140 EXAMPLES as the ATL skills which must be covered (forced into the curriculum) rather than focusing on the conceptual categories and clusters. 

Those 140 skills listed in the appendix are examples of what the cluster could look like in practice, they are not the be and end all of the ATL skills. Schools must separate ticking the boxes from good practice. Use the examples as a guide - there are far more specific ATL skills that can be taught that  are being developed through the assessments you are setting for the students.

  • "Appendix 1 contains a framework for the ATL skills that students may develop in the MYP." p.65 of PiP 2014 

Each of the MYP subject criteria have the ATL skills embedded in the criteria strands, which can then be used to create a scope and sequence for your subject based on what you teach and assess across the year levels.

The image below from Aloha Lavina demonstrates this quite clearly. (Click to enlarge). Read her post on the ATL skills for even more insight.

The ATL skills are not limited to or even need to include those 140 examples in Principles in Practice Appendix 1. They can be used as a guide as to what could be included under each category and cluster. 

"Schools can use this list to build their own frameworks for developing students who are empowered as self-directed learners, and teachers in all subject groups can draw from these skills to identify approaches to learning that students will develop in MYP units."  p.64 of PiP 2014

There are no rules to state these 140 need to be used, the only requirement regarding teaching the ATL skills being explicitly taught is that the students are exposed and taught from each category and cluster through each year level, across all subjects, across all 5 years. There is a requirement to map what is taught and by whom and to to articulate the progression of what is taught through the 5 year programme, but the standards and practices do not specify what specific skills need to be taught, just that the categories and clusters are covered across the 5 years of the programme.

This flexibility allows for schools to identify what their students need to learn and when they need to learn them based on the required assessment tasks. If an assessment task requires that students give a 5 minute presentation to show their learning, then the teacher needs to explicitly teach presentation skills (communication skills) and build upon what the students can already do from their prior learning. If the assessment task requires an essay, then the teacher of that specific subject needs to explicitly teach aspects of writing an essay that will be assessed in that task.

If you set an assessment task, you need to teach the students how to achieve in that assessment task. That is the formula for deciding what ATL skills need to be explicitly taught in your units. 

What I see and hear happening in schools is that the 140 skills are made into a scope and sequence and then taught (or not taught at all)  without making authentic connections to learning in the unit. This is working by the letter and not by the spirit in which the ATL skills were designed.

The flexibility of focussing on the categories and clusters also allows schools who have specific national or regional capabilities they need to address to do so without adding anything extra to the documentation. For example, the Australian Curriculum has within it the ACARA general capabilities. These are quite broad but fit quite well into the ATL categories and clusters, even adding extra capabilities of cultural and ethical understandings. In an attempt to illustrate how well these do integrate, I have taken the broadest statements from ACARA and placed them under the ATL categories and clusters. You can see the attempt here.  The beauty of using these capabilities in the unit planning and overviews is that the national bodies have already designed a scope and sequence, and the wheel does not have to be reinvented by each individual school.

This same strategy can be applied to any national standards or capabilities, the ATL skills are a conceptual framework, they are not an extra thing that is forced into the curriculum or teaching time. 

If the students are explicitly taught the skills they will need to show their learning in a specific way, the capacity of the students will improve and you will find they will achieve much better because you have given them the skills to achieve. 
The ATL skills are the foundation to what is presented in an assessment task. The high achievers in your class are not much smarter than the other students, they just have a better grasp of the skills they need to achieve better results in assessments.

I have written about this before about 12 months ago ... The Approaches to learning Skills and before that over 2 years ago in Repackaging skills.

I have also developed a website that outlines what types of skills can come under each of the clusters that may be helpful to determine what can be taught under each of the categories and clusters. Practical Approaches to Learning.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Time for a conference!

I have just moved to Australia to return to the motherland in the last few months. I have been living overseas for over 22 years and I really do not know too many people here now except family, so it was a great opportunity to attend a conference to meet new people and find out what the Teacher Librarianship scene is like in my new region.

The conference was MANTLE 2017, an annual conference for Teacher Librarians in the Hunter Valley region in NSW. The attendees came from many miles away further than the Hunter Valley, and were from Public, Private and Catholic schools and all with stories of different degrees of support for the school library.

The day started off with a short talk from Jenny Moody the Director of NSW Public Schools, Newcastle. I don't think I listened very well to her talk as I cannot remember what she said!

Next up was the Australian Children's Laureate - Leigh Hobbs. He is such a down to earth, authentic, relaxed speaker, with a very entertaining style of presenting - limited technology, just him talking about why he writes, draws and what happens when he does so.  Some of the points I gleaned from his talk: 

Not everything needs to be explained, with the combination of words and pictures, children just get it.

When he writes he knows he has only 2 pages where a child will decide if they will accept the world he creates, which means he needs to make it work fast.

He is concerned with what a child sees and feels after reading his books. He wants children to feel safe, that the voice is sincere and they are willing to go along for the ride, meaning he responsibility not to let them down or frighten them.

The way he writes - the text is in the adult voice, the illustrations are in the child's voice and tell more about what is going on. These elements join together to develop visual literacy. 

His books are very much his story - his mother recognised the furniture he draws!

His stories and characters are about relationships.

He loves architecture and including it in his books he hopes to inspire children to explore the world to find and experience what he has drawn.

It was lovely to hear how he places the child at the centre of what he does in his writing. That it is not just about writing for his sake, but to enrich children's lives. At the end of his session he took us through a little activity on drawing Old Tom ... with his message that each one of our drawings will be different, because we are different people.  My attempt is below, on the right.



Next up on my agenda was Discovery : Senior English with Lara O'Donaghue, a Teacher Librarian who works with senior students. This session was how she supports the NSW English Curriculum theme of 'Discovery' through the library.  She outlined the changes to the HSC curriculum (slight differences to a few things), and then showed us some of the ways she collects, curates and promotes the literature required for reading in this syllabus. 

She curates using Pinterest, and has developed a number of boards. It is really a comprehensive collection of 'Discovery' on many levels. As her presentation progressed my to be read list grew much longer ...  Jasper Jones, Five bells, In between days, All I ever wanted , A long way home, My family and other animals, Genesis, The hen who dreamed she could fly, The Pearl, Winter, The Hate Race, and to watch a short film - The light and the little girl. I think that list will keep me going for a while.

Lara also introduced us to the Pinstamatic App (linked with other similar apps) which can make quotes look really professional. Postermaker was another one she used to make bookmarks, with Canva getting a mention as well. 


I also attended Liz Annelli's session on Mapping through Illustration. Liz is an illustrator who works on many projects, including illustrating children's books. Her passion is including maps into her work wherever she can. She feels a very good story can be told through maps, they help to set a scene whether it is fiction or non fiction (I do love a book with a map in it somewhere) and covers history, geography and social aspects of life. Her view is that maps are illustrations of relationships between elements, that could be anything, real or imagined. We then had a short activity where as a group we developed a map of a new world we created - with moats, castles, gallows and all things grim.

Liz has only lived in her new town for 5 years, and to get to know her new home better, she set about creating a map, which has since been embraced by the local community, made into a mural and is given out to tourists to help them explore this city. Check out some other maps she has created of different places.

Liz Annelli's map of Newcastle, NSW

Liz was engaging, her work is fabulous and she would make for an excellent illustrator visit to your school.

Makerspaces was next with Michelle Jensen, who is a TL in Sydney with a passion for ensuring young and old apply technological innovation to and in education. This was a completely hands on workshop. We were given instructions and some materials to make an LED light name tag to experience 'making'. 

Success! The light illuminated!

The next task was to connect the wires (tubes) to create a kit robot that could be controlled by an app on an android phone. There were four in our group with only one robot to make, so one person built it, second person checked it and assisted, third and fourth persons watched and gave input when required. 3 and 4 also went to other tables to find out information/ take photos to learn from. 

The robot was built, the appropriate lights flashed and we were excited! The app was downloaded by third person and it was then a time for trial and error, ensuring we bluetooth paired with the correct robot. All of sudden the robot was moving and raced right off the table - before video evidence could be collected!

Due to the sudden leap off the table it had been caught and tubes (wired) had been loosened, it then took a few more minutes to trouble shoot by the whole group to get it going - but perseverance paid off! 

You can see our success in the video below.


After lunch we broke into primary & secondary groups, with a panel for each that were going to discuss different questions. I was in the secondary group and the following questions and topics were discussed. I was not able to record much of the discussion as I was listening too hard. 

The panel for the Secondary discussion

The panel for the Primary discussion.

How to get students to move from their comfort zone and progress in their reading?

E-Books - what is happening in schools? 

Genrification - does it really make a difference and is it worth the extra work?

How are people effectively using Oliver as their library management system? (This LMS is new to many public schools in NSW). 

I met author James Phelan - who I had never heard of before, but now his books join my 'to be read list'. 

It was also lovely to unexpectantly re-meet a TL friend from HK who is now working in the region. 

From the goody bag, I now have a pair of VR goggles ...

Overall it was a very stimulating day, with loads of learning and networking. Congratulations to the conference committee for pulling it all together so everything seemed seamless. A tough job to do well. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Becoming a researcher

This post is part 2 of two parts focused on the 2012 PEW report on teens and research.
Part 1 is Teens and Research

How good are teen's research skills?

The 2012 PEW report on Teens and research found that teachers rated students as either good or fair when it comes to specific research skills. The specific skills are listed and rated in the graphic below. Click on it to enlarge it.
  1. Ability to use appropriate and effective search terms and queries
  2. Understand how online results are generated
  3. Ability to use multiple sources to effectively support an argument
  4. Ability to assess the quality and accuracy of information they find online
  5. Patience and determination in looking for information that is hard to find
  6. Ability to recognise bias in online content
The report then states that :
  • 71% of the surveyed teachers spend class time discussing how to conduct online research (1) (that means that 29% of the surveyed teachers do not teach these skills)
  • 57% spend class time improving student research skills  (1) (43% do not explicitly teach these skills)
  • 35% spend class time teaching how search results are generated (2)  (65% do not teach these skills)
  • 80% of the surveyed teachers say they spend class time teaching students about assessing reliability of online information, (4) (20% do not teach these skills)
I would also hope that the students are taught about bias, and how multiple sources are required to support an argument. 

My comment and question is ... if students do not learn these research skills in class time when they actually need to know and when the learning is most relevant to their learning needs, when will they learn the skills? It seems that teachers seem reluctant to use up 'class time' to teach these skills, when at the end of the student's schooling, the skills are what they will take with them more than the content.

In the book "Making Thinking Visible" by Ron Ritchhart et al, they talk about types of thinking and suggest a few types of thinking that aid in understanding or learning....
  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanation and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart of the information and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things
  9. Identifying patterns and making generalisations
  10. Generating possibilities and alternatives
  11. Evaluating evidence, arguments and actions
  12. Formulating plans and monitoring actions
  13. Identifying claims assumptions and bias
  14. Clarifying priorities, conditions, & what is known
(Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p.11, 13,14) 

The highlighted sentences are types of thinking that directly correlates with the 6 types of research skills the students are rated on in the PEW report. 

The IB framework and curriculum have introduced the Approaches to Learning across all four programmes, with Research Skills being one of the 5 main categories, along with communication, self management, thinking and social skills. 

The 6 research skills in the PEW report, and the 6 highlighted types of thinking above, would be a good start to begin a plan for teaching what research skills are across the year groups.

We need to be going beyond teaching 'how to research' and move to 'being a researcher' and adopting the traits of a researcher.

What are the traits of a researcher?

A good researcher:
  • manifests thirst for new information.
  • has an open mind, by looking for different perspectives
  • has a keen sense of awareness about the world, community & themselves. 
  • likes to reflect or think about the things he encounters and asks questions.
  • is able to express their ideas & arguments based on their findings and thinking. 
  • applies a systematic approach in assessing situations.

(from Simply Educate for more practical information on research see the Practical Approaches to ATL Skills web page)

Someone 'doing research' is usually doing it for a specific purpose with an end in mind such as finding enough information to complete an assignment task.

How can we help students to develop the traits and types of thinking to become a researcher?

Researchers tend to evolve through investigating and researching something they are deeply interested in, something they are so bothered to learn about, they want to know everything. For anyone who has had contact with young boys, you will be aware they are fascinated by dinosaurs and will want to know everything about them. They are deeply passionate about this topic, and will go to extensive lengths to know more, to be able to pronounce the names correctly, know what they ate, why they became extinct, and will be able to dazzle any adult with any  information about dinosaurs. These children are researchers - they are not just doing research.

We need to plan the units and assessment tasks in a way that the students want to know more just because they are interested, not just because it leads to a good mark. Authentic Inquiry unit planning allows this to happen. When students become researchers, they will learn how to do research effectively as their limited skills will hinder their learning and they will thirst for more efficient ways to learn more.

Being a researcher is a mindset with a wide skill set to support it.