Saturday, August 8, 2009

Improving Learning - considering learning and teaching context.

Topic 1 of ETL501 is called The learning and teaching context of information resource provision. The recommended reading included

Glover, D., & Law, S. (2002). Improving Learning: Professional Practice in Secondary Schools. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Interestingly enough, though this book was set as reading for ETL501, it also has a lot to say about leadership, and is pertinent to ETL504 as well. Unfortunately it's due back at the library on Wednesday, so I'm trying to make as many notes about it as possible.
For this post, I'm only considering content of the book that is relevant to learning and teaching context.
  • Teachers and schools face many pressures such as trying to meet educational standards, improve (external) test results, innovation overload and socio-economic issues.
  • Some of the factors which impact the success of classroom learning are physical environment, teaching styles, teacher/student relationships and the relevance and difficulty of material/tasks.
  • Resources and equipment must support the school's priorities for improvement.
  • Effective teaching and learning requires clear, positive expectations, task differentiation, a range of teaching strategies and assessment of progress and understanding.
  • It can be difficult and time-consuming to prepare learning programs that take into account individual preferred learning styles. Group work and ICT can be used to vary learning experiences.
  • The move towards constructivist models of learning puts pressure on teachers who need to prepare students to sit external tests.
  • Some techniques that can be used include carefully constructed homework, use of questioning, opportunities to exercise higher order cognitive skills and well-planned lessons that include connecting new knowledge to previous work.
  • Schools can build up a 'bank' of materials for different abilities and styles which can be used and modified year after year.
  • Different school cultures effect approaches to both relationships and teaching, consider in particular approaches to behaviour management and assessment.
  • There are tensions in the curriculum caused by differing expectations: are we preparing students for work, for further study, or for life?
  • 'Key skills' are communication, application of number, information technology, improving one's own learning, problem solving and working with others.
  • Particular issues are the integration of key skills across the curriculum, discussion of the relevance of topics and the importance of revision.
  • Boys and girls tend to differ in preferred learning styles, and some teaching, behaviour management and assessment strategies might favour one over the other.
  • All students could benefit from more positive interactions with teachers and more pastoral support.
  • External factors include resourcing, classroom limitations and curriculum demands.
  • Professional development for teachers should include beliefs, knowledge and understanding as well as competencies.

So, how do all these points impact the role of the teacher librarian in resourcing?

  1. The TL needs to be aware of all the competing pressures that the teachers face in their particular school context.
  2. The TL must be well-versed in the mission of the school and its current goals, so that resources match priorities.
  3. Teachers need resources that will support them to improve teaching and learning by expanding their range of teaching strategies, taking into account various preferred learning styles and encouraging higher order thinking skills.
  4. The TL can facilitate the storage and sharing of learning and teaching materials.
  5. The TL can provide teachers will information regarding alternatives to behaviour management and assessment.
  6. The TL can provide teachers with material to support their overall professional development, but particularly in regard to the particular challenges of the school context.

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