Monday, May 16, 2011

Promoting an Information Framework

For the past few years I have quietly and informally used the Big 6 and the Big 3 as information frameworks for our school. I only use what has been made freely available from their website. There are numerous other frameworks available but I have yet to switch since I am scared of changing any language or terminology students have become even slightly familiar with. Yet in some way I think I should switch to the model created by the BCTLA since it is more likely students will encounter this model in middle school and high school. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough confidence in the overall appeal of the BCTLA model as of yet to make myself switch. I find it less attractive to younger students. I like the easy to remember questions of the Big 6 and I think it is a little more natural in terms of process and language.

1. What needs to be done? Task Definition

2. What resources can I use? Information Seeking Strategies

3. Where can I find these resources? Location and Access

4. What can I use from these resources? Use of Information

5. What can I make to finish the job? How can I share what I have learned? Synthesis

6. How will I know that I did my job well? Evaluation

In our school we have over the past two years tried to adopt a common language around writing using the the WriteTraits framework. It is a laudable effort but still has far to go before it will become common parlance. Similarly, as a school it would be extremely valuable if we could use an inquiry or information framework that is similar at all grade levels. It is with this consistency that we can practice gradual release with our students. With every grade from 1 to 5, I teach a research and writing unit. It is partly a cooperatively planned and taught unit. We piggy-backed a writing component onto the research process because the library program was the only common program and venue through which we could ensure that students consistently heard the same language used to describe their writing. A little more informally, I also teach the Big 6 in hopes of tacking it onto our Write Traits initiative. Transference of this language and model to classes has not been mandated in the same way as using the Write Traits. Since it is not mandated teachers have yet to adopt its use in their classrooms yet mandating its use seems unwise at this point. I believe I have more work to do to prove its usefulness and effectiveness of this model or any other model.

I have been given reason by Anne, during the discussions,  to reconsider the use of the Big 6 Model because of its commercial nature. This makes some sense since the implementation of the consistent use of an information framework is already hard enough achieve without throwing in a financial barrier to using the model.  This does not address my dilemma of trying to be consistent. I have made a little bit of progress and I believe it can take a number of years for students to assimilate any framework.  Changing the terms or the language can often mean starting the learning process from square one.

 Maria Lou mentions that we need to be careful about trying to mandate a particular model in our school if their are staff members already committed to other models.  I do acknowledge that as educators we do not need to get into the battle of which information model is necessarily superior.  I think we are still at the stage of just encouraging the use of framework in general. I recognize from other posts that the models all have much in common, as stated by Jennifer Parker it is "the amount of detail in each step that is different." 

Chris Ellet puts forward an interesting argument that particular models are suited to particular tasks and that he uses at least four models with his secondary school students. He suggests exercises involving the formulation of a point-of-view or an opinion on an issue may be best suited to the Big 6 because of "its emphasis on synthesis and evaluation" while the BCTLA's Research Quest is particularly useful in activities that involve preparation for a debate. I think Chris's philosophy of using what works best for a student in a particular situation is the one we all need to follow.  Forcing a particular framework can be akin to reducing learning or thinking to a one size fits all formula. We do however need to start with one framework before we can result to multiple ones.

As an elementary educator I struggle with the need to simplify and provide consistency. I think the multiple approach model that Chris uses at the secondary level does not transfer well to the lower grades. I still believe there is a consistency that needs to follow students from year to year until they own some of the processes. Taking Maria's caution to heart I still think I will continue to advocate for commonality within the school but should be content with some diversity still existing.  I see from the discussions that the BCTLA Research Quest is used by many with younger students and that is more similar than I first thought to the Big 6 model. It would seem that switching to this model and advocating for its school wide use at least at the elementary level would be my best plan of action.  

1 comment:

  1. You are further ahead than most, Ben. Give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.