From Field to Feast – Bread: An Inquiry Learning Unit for Year 4 using Guided Inquiry Design

This unit was prepared as part of the final assessment for a university course. The instructor was going to make them available if given permission, but I thought that I would just post it on my blog. The only editing I have had time to do is to add a brief explanation at the beginning of the unit, to remove extraneous assessment sections and to add some ideas that had to be edited out of the original assessment version due to word count restrictions.

I have licensed this via the Creative Commons website as follows: Creative Commons License
From Field to Feast – Bread by Marika Simon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please pop a comment on the blog or drop me a line at if you use the unit.

Year 4 Bread Unit and Lesson Plan-xghk6z

My Take on School Library Story and Advocacy

School Library Story from joyce valenza on Vimeo.

As one might expect from an advocacy-oriented video, Valenza (2013) seems to me to present information relating to an ideal, perhaps even mythical, school library. I must admit that I have a hard time believing that school libraries and teacher librarians that meet all of those criteria all of the time exist. If they do, I find it hard to believe that those are the institutions losing out to funding cuts.

I think it is important to have media that promotes the cause of the school library and presents its strengths and potential and relationship to student achievement, creativity and wellbeing. Having access to propaganda such as Valenza’s video is useful, but I think that, as Todd (2015) points out, it is important to link those broad, sweeping generalities of information with real, relatable, local evidence. If you played that video for the parents at the school where I do most of my work and they started asking about the ability to borrow digital equipment or about 24/7 access to virtual library space, you would have a lot of quick-talking and backtracking to do! Valenza is a passionate advocate for school libraries, but she is American. Teacher librarians and school libraries in Australia need advocacy materials that ring true to an Australian context.


Todd, R.J. (2015) Evidence-based practice and school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 43(3), 8-15.

Valenza, J. (2013) School library story [Video file]. Retrieved from

Reflections on 21st Century Learning

Progressing through this course and watching all of these videos and reading articles regarding 21st Century Learning is very challenging for me. I am disturbed by the fact that I have heard it all before and yet feel as though my experiences are moving backward rather than forward.

This RSA Animate – Ken Robinson video was part of ETL401 Module 4. Watching it was inspiring. Just as inspiring as it was when I first watched it 8c years ago. Yet I feel that the teaching and planning and focus that were part of my teaching experience when I first watched that video were moving more in step with its vision than those in my most recent experience in 2017. The difference might be chalked up to different school contexts, but I still find it disappointing.

I have only worked as a casual relief and temporary teacher, so I have worked in various schools in my local area. Apart from some occasional days at private schools earlier in my career, my experience has been in government primary schools. In the last 14 years, since having children, I have limited my working area to the North Shore of Sydney, within about 15 to 20 minutes of my home. In 2008 and 2009, when the RCA-Animate – Robinson (2008) video was first making the rounds, I had a temporary engagement teaching Year 1. That experience was probably the closest I have gotten to the ideals of 21st Century Learning and collaboration that I am encountering in the modules and related readings and videos. There was a focus at that time in authentic assessment tasks and integrating technology in authentic learning experiences and true team-teaching for some key learning areas. I realise that experiences vary across different schools, but I can’t help feeling that education is moving backwards rather than forwards at the moment.


RSA Animate – Robinson, K. (2010) Changing educational paradigms. Retrieved from

Information Specialist vs Teacher – Coping with tension or striking a balance?

The following is in response to a task asking MEd(TL) students to discuss:

* the tensions between the information specialist and the teaching role of the TL; and
* how you think you might cope with these tensions.

I am not quite sure why there needs to be tension between the information specialist and teaching roles of the TL. I think those are roles that complement each other very well. If the idea is that there is competition for priority and time spent pursuing or fulfilling those roles, I concede that as a fair point. However, balancing competing facets of your job is fairly standard in the professional world. Primary school classroom teachers need to balance the generalist nature of their teaching role with the specific interests and expertise they may bring to the school. They also need to balance their various roles relating to instruction, pastoral care, administration, extra-curricular activity supervision and more.

When working as a TL, I would attempt to balance the various demands of the different roles by trying to make the competing demands as transparent as possible. I would try to keep lists of tasks that need attention and try to allocate tasks into categories relating to the role they pertain to as Purcell (2010) recommended when studying your practice for effectiveness of time use. Then I would try to prioritise – probably using a hybrid of the teaching method of identifying and completing “must do” and “can do” tasks in conjunction with Wilson’s (2009-2018) application of the 80/20 principle where in any given planning time you identify the tasks that will give you the most ‘bang for your buck’. These prioritisation techniques would be applied across the role categories to ensure that progress was being made in all roles and facets of the job. Setting up a system or routine like this to follow should help to keep things on a more even keel and make it easier to get back on track after the inevitable urgent emergency situations arise demanding immediate attention and tearing well-intentioned plans and programs to shreds.


Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33.

Wison, T. (2009-2018). How to make the 80/20 rule work at work. In Time Management Success. Retrieved June 3, 2018 from

Key points for the practicalities of practice

The task

In Module 6 of ETL401, we were asked to read the following three readings, and pick three ideas from each that were new to us. Then we were to reflect on one thing we could apply to improve our current practice.

Gilman, T. (2007). The four habits of highly effective librarians. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved Nov. 2016.
Wilson, T. (2009-2018). Time management for teachers – essential tips if you want a life outside school. Time Management Success. Retrieved June 2018.
Sanders, R. (2004). Conflict resolution. Chap. 3. In Australian library supervision and management (2nd ed., pp.127-132). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies. Retrieved Nov. 2016.

New ideas?

To be honest, pulling out three ideas from the entire set of readings that were actually new to me was more realistic than finding three new ideas from each reading. I have been in the working world for about 25 years, with the majority of that being in either educational settings or in public-relating administrative positions. Effective work habits, time management and conflict resolution concepts are not revolutionary ones to me.

With that in mind, some solid reminders from these texts included Gilman’s (2007) recommendation to cultivate Openness, Responsiveness, Collaboration and Communication to be a more effective teacher librarian. Continue reading “Key points for the practicalities of practice”

Reflection on reflecting

I have recently finished my final assessment tasks for both ETL401 and ETL503, my first two subjects in the MEdTL course. Both subjects mentioned the need to maintain a reflective journal throughout the subject on our blogs. However, very little guidance was given on how to go about doing so. Having completed the reflection tasks in each final assessment, I wish that I had done more. I can see how more frequent, small reflections on readings and on each topic would have given me more to comment on in the reflection. If in the final subject we need to reflect on our growth throughout the journey, I see a gap in my record of experiences for this first session.

I will set a goal for next term to not only respond to module-based prompts in my blog (and separate them rather than aggregating them in collections as I did sometimes in this session) but also create weekly reflections and overall module-end reflections. Hopefully that will set me up with more to glean from for my end-of-session reflective tasks.

ETL401 Assessment 3 Part C: Reflective Practice

Note: This post was edited on 22/6/2018 to add this line and the “continue reading” button below.

At the outset of this subject, my perception of the role of the teacher librarian (TL) was based on my experience as a school teacher. It was similar to the view that I thought school teachers would generally have in my first official blog post for the course. Basically, I was aware that they managed the library collection and that they taught classes. Most of my experience with library programs in schools involved TLs who taught classes on a release-from-face-to-face (RFF) basis, so my understanding of what their teaching role looked like was based largely on my experiences as the classroom teacher receiving RFF. I had experienced collaboration, but it was mainly in the form of the TL working together with teachers on each stage to help resource English, History and Geography units and to co-ordinate her RFF units with those teaching programs. While I felt myself drawn towards the philosophies and pedagogies of inquiry-based teaching and learning, I did not see any particular difference in the role of the TL in that area as compared to any other teacher. I had never given much thought to information literacy and was aware of neither the overlap nor the differences between information literacy models and inquiry learning pedagogies.

What a difference twelve weeks can make! This subject has expanded my understanding of the multi-faceted role of the TL, somewhat overwhelmingly as I shared in paragraphs four and five of this blog post. I have also learned much about information literacy and the role TLs can have in increasing student information literacy levels, especially through inquiry learning.

Continue reading “ETL401 Assessment 3 Part C: Reflective Practice”

Arguments for a whole school approach to information literacy and inquiry

Mandy Lupton (2014) and Karen Bonnano (2014) are quite effective at showing that inquiry and critical thinking are intended to be part of Australian education through their incorporation in the Australian Curriculum. Bonnano also makes a good argument for how those skills, competencies and processes can be mapped to an inquiry model such as Guided Inquiry. These are key factors in the argument for schools to embrace and incorporate inquiry learning and information literacy models. They do not, however, specifically address why it is beneficial to institute a single information literacy model or learning process throughout the school. Interviews with students at the Stonefields School in New Zealand demonstrated to me the power of using a consistent terminology and process across the learning of the school. In the video posted by Sarah Martin (2012) you can see that the use of a common terminology enables students across the span of ages and levels to verbalise their experience of the learning process. Some of the children, especially the younger ones, seem to just be parroting phrases they have memorised. However, the in-depth interview with older students in Treadwell’s (2013) video shows that the terminology and processes are being internalised and transferred to areas of learning even beyond the inquiry (or “Breakthrough”) projects. Seeing the results of a single learning process and shared terminology being applied across a school is what convinced me that this is a good idea and inspired me to advocate for it at any school where I work in a substantial role.


Bonanno, K. (2014) F-10 inquiry skills scope and sequence, and F-10 core skills and tools. Retrieved May 3, 2018 from
Lupton, M.(2014) Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum. Access, 6(November), 8-29.
Martin, S. 2012. Stonefields School building learning capacity [Video file]. Retrieved May 3, 2018 from
Treadwell, M. 2013. Stonefields2 [Video file]. Retrieved May 3, 2018 from

Reflections on information literacy – complexity, context and transfer

I am cross-posting this from the Module 5.2 forum on ETL401. There was a separate task for blog reflection in the section, but it was about what you could apply to your TL role at school and that is not relevant for me yet.

I think the main takeaway I got from the readings was the need to recognise and engage with the complexity of the concept of information literacy. We need to go beyond a mechanistic skill-based vision to encompass the contextual and social nature of the information landscape and the literacy needed to navigate it effectively – without abandoning the skills and competencies involved in that process. Although I am not certain that I have completely understood or been convinced by the relational frame for viewing information literacy; I was captured by the point in Bruce, Edwards and Lupton’s “Six frames for information literacy” (2006) article that there are multiple valid perspectives that can and should inform our understanding and teaching of information literacy. Being the benefits and validity of a new perspective does not mean you have to completely abandon everything from your previous perspective.

The issues that I have the most difficulty reconciling and struggle with the implications of are the difficulty of assessing – especially in a way that will be recognised as a standard across an educational system – of the more social, relational and contextual aspects of information literacy. How do we promote the development of information literacy skills that truly give learners the capacity to learn how to learn and transfer skills and competencies from one context to another. And how do we check to see whether that has happened successfully? These are the questions I hope to find answers to on MY learning journey.


Bruce, C., Edwards, C., & Lupton, M. (2006). Six frames for information literacy education: A conceptual framework for interpreting the relationships between theory and practice. ITALICS, 5(1), 1-18. Retrieved from

Musings on the socio-cultural approach – how do you scale up successfully?

I have just finished the essential readings for the section on the Socio-Cultural Approach to Information Literacy:

Read (essential)

Lloyd, A. (2007). Recasting information literacy as sociocultural practice: Implications for library and information science researchers. Information Research, 12(4).
Farrell ,R. & Badke, W. (2015). Situating information literacy in the disciplines: A practical and systematic approach for academic librarians. Reference Services Review, 43(2). CSU Library.
Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Integrating theories of learning, literacies and information practices. In Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together. Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies. pp. ix-xviii.

While I feel a pull towards the socio-cultural and constructivist philosophies and pedagogies, I have problems resolving some philosophical and practical considerations. I think one of my main philosophical objections with the constructivist and socio-cultural approaches are their sidelining or at least seeming repudiation of explicit instruction. I was encouraged recently by watching a John Hattie video clip that reminded me that I can embrace elements of theses approaches without abandoning elements of other approaches that resonate with my experience.

My main practical concern is how do we get there and how do we know if we have succeeded? How can the structure of public education change to incorporate this pedagogical philosophy and how can we assess socio-cultural teaching and learning on a large scale in an authentic way? For, while I think that different pedagogical philosophies can be integrated, I do not believe it is fair or effective to conduct the business of teaching and learning mainly under one pedagogical approach and then assess it according to methods developed to be consistent with another. That leads to my mixed emotions on watching a video clip from The Project which featured politicians and educational reformers discussing reforming Australian education to a more individualised learning structure that develops 21st century competencies – but still seemed to think the gains from that switch could be assessed using measures such as NAPLAN and PISA. (Though, to be fair, assessment was not really broached simply implied when lamenting Australia’s fall in global rankings.)

Does anyone have any good ideas or resources regarding assessment of socio-culturally situated teaching and learning that can be used on a national scale?

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