Musings on the new AASL learning standards

In October AASL published the updated information literacy standards “Standards for the 21st –Century Learner”. Now the parsingbegins… what is right about thestandards? What is wrong? What do they mean? How can I use the standards to improve my instruction, andstudent’s learning? There is more tocome, more work being done by AASL but in the meantime what is that we,teacher- librarians, notice about the new learning standards.

It took me time to move past the nine common beliefs. I applaud the articulation of the beliefs that are the underpinning ofthe four learning standards. Itidentifies our biases and ideals up front for the world to know, and hopefullyunderstand. Without that identificationwe are facing more standards that speak only to our community. Instead we have a document that outlines tothose outside our profession can read, and recognize why we think our brand ofinformation literacy is important. Isuppose a cynic could suggest that it is propaganda designed to prove that weare teachers, but I’d advocate that all teaching and learning standards shouldlead with a statement that describes the mission of the organization, subjectarea, or committee responsible for designing teaching and learning standards. AASL has done that. Now it is our responsibility to move thesecommon beliefs beyond our professional community.

When I moved into analyzing each learning standard I first appreciated the four pieces of each larger standard – skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities, andself-assessment strategies. However Iquickly became overwhelmed, and as I moved through each piece frustrated byredundancies. A complaint I have heardfrom other first timers reading the “Standards for the 21st –CenturyLearner” document. So I stepped back,and asked the question we should all be asking: “How can I use these standardsto inform my instructional design to provide an optimal learning experience formy students?”

One of my biggest concerns as I work with students is what I call the “run and gun” research assignment – a two day extravaganza that leaves no time for musing,in-depth searching, the ability to refine questions and focuses, andmetacognition to identify and evaluate the learning processes. In questioning the redundancies of the newlearning standards I began to contemplate how to make the process moretransparent, to teach students that research, true inquiry, is aboutrefocusing, refining, and that it is a circular process. Similar skills, dispositions,responsibilities, and self-assessment are needed throughout their process. Rather than approaching teaching the processin a linear fashion, how can I break this down? What connections can be made throughout all four learningstandards that move beyond the step by step process?

And then there was a flash – there are themes that occur throughout the learning standards. For me, I could sum them upas Context, Creativity, and Community. Throughout the “Standards for the 21st –Century Learner”document there are echoes of placing information in context to create newknowledge, to use personal information schema, and cultural and social contextto illuminate and define new knowledge. There is an emphasis on using and producing a wide variety of formatsand diverse sources. This highlightsthe theme of creativity (a word and piece more specifically identified in theISTE NETS). If we are guiding studentsto use a diversity of sources in a variety of formats then we are asking themto call upon creative thinking and problem solving; take that a step forwardand ask them to produce a diversity of thought in a variety of formats and weare accessing the creative nature of our students. And finally there is community, an emphasis on collaboration andsharing within a global community. Usethe tools available to go beyond the classroom walls, and to do so in aresponsible and ethical manner.

So what will this mean to my instruction? How can I use this to improve my students learning experiences? This will be the next trick. Can I rearrange the standards into themesthat make sense to me and allow me design meaningful instruction thatemphasizes inquiry, and the patterns of learning? Now that I’ve mused, it is time to sit down with the “Standardsfor the 21st –Century Learner”, NETS, Habits of Mind, Partnershipfor 21st Century’s framework and design new instruction thatimproves student learning experience.

A beginning draft visual of these thoughts.

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