Reality Bites – wandering in the ‘exploration’ phase of the ISP

This phase of the research process for Assignment 2 sometimes feels like wandering through an unknown terrain, looking for answers … Using the ISP model, I would have to say that I am at the ‘Exploration’ stage, moving towards forming a clear ‘Focus’ or ‘Formulation’ of what I want to write. The information is a forest, a river, that I must navigate.

Source: Nicholas T:


Having been immersed in the reading on Information Literacy for some weeks now, I am feeling quite overwhelmed by the permutations of the professional debates among teacher librarians and information professionals about what information literacy actually is.


Just when I think I have a grasp of the concept, it slips away – or I read some other article and feel anew the vastness of the topic. I keep looking at the requirements for Assignment 2 for ETL401 and feel despair creeping up on me. Will I ever be able to master the information, synthesise the different points of view and factors to take into consideration? And will I be able to do that in time??


At least my reading of Kuhlthau’s work on the Information Search Process (ISP) has me prepared. She argues that in the ‘Exploration’ phase of a research project, it is quite normal to feel uncertain and overwhelmed by contradictory or complex information.


To make matters worse, since I have started my TL studies, I am actually in our school library less than in previous years. I am so busy as a classroom teacher in a big, results-orientated independent school that I scamper from one lesson to the next, stopping at my desk just to dump lesson materials for one class and pick up the equipment for the next. Time for reflection? Yeah, right. We are implementing a whole new curriculum at year 8 for English and we have so far this year been allocated a total of two hours team planning time – and half of that has been during lunchtimes. Time to talk to the librarians? Get real. And don’t ask me how my marking is going! As I am reading the material on collaboration between TLs and classroom teachers for Guided Inquiry the obstacles to implementing this method of teaching information literacy are glaringly obvious.


I am more than a topic behind now and use all my spare time reading and taking notes for the course – and yet it all feels theoretical, as I am removed from the rock-face of TL work.


My four-year-old son was recently interviewed by his kindergarten teacher about me for Mother’s Day. The teacher wrote his answers to the questions in a card which they gave to me on Thursday. One question was, “What is your Mum’s favourite thing to do?” His answer? “Going to work and marking.” (!!)


Fortunately, I was allotted an emergency lesson this week – in the library! I was introduced to borrowing and return procedures and because it was unusually quiet the TL on duty showed me her wonderful resources wiki and Refworks, which the school has just licensed. I really liked being treated as an apprentice TL. I then went upstairs to the reading room and helped an English department colleague with recommending wider reading titles to her Year 8s.


Last week, I had a conversation with one of our school’s TLs with whom I have had a bit of contact before. She books author visits and coordinates the journals collection, as well as helping with reading sessions in the library. I commented on the reading I was doing on guided inquiry and teacher-TL collaboration and how it seemed we did not really get to do that in our school. She sighed rather heavily and said that the school had recently over-ruled their managers’ recommendations. Their hours for planning and resourcing the curriculum have been cut and they have been given more time on the loans desk and on the floor. In other words, qualified TLs are being given more technical, clerical tasks and less time for what they specifically have to offer. It really brought home to me that even in a well-resourced school, the pressure is on librarians to argue for their ‘learning offer’ and to be properly supported in collaborating with teachers closely so they can have the greatest impact on student learning.

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