Academic journal article Education

Significance of Formal Instruction for Information Skills in Elementary Schools

Academic journal article Education

Significance of Formal Instruction for Information Skills in Elementary Schools

Article excerpt

Introduction

The New Concept of Curriculum

Traditionally, the goal of curriculum has been to transmit knowledge and facts from teacher to students, where students were expected to learn facts as accurately as possible. This concept, however, has changed over the last half century in North America: new goals have been articulated, not to mainly transmit knowledge and facts but to develop and to nurture the students' own capacities. Barton & Booth (1990) proposed that the aim of curriculum is to develop students' original thinking, connect students' individual needs to their learning, and give them diverse intellectual experiences. In order to attain these goals, instruction must focus on students' individual differences and lead them to be independent learners. Developing students' problem-solving skills and stimulating their intellect and imagination is essential. Barton & Booth state that "our goal of response must be one of deepest learning, not of leading children to solve a puzzle that we have designed and of which we know the outcome" (p. 91). Instead, "we must help children through their own story mazes, arming them for battle, nursing their wounds, giving them sustenance, sharing our wisdom" (ibid). This new concept of curriculum is based on Dewey's (1916, 1938, 1940) philosophy that the purpose of education is to cultivate individual differences and to develop the students' own characteristics independently while bringing them into full participation in society. Dewey argued that learning comes from students' direct experience rather than from absorbing facts and values through textbooks and lectures; education, then, should foster the students' self-directed and self-responsible learning. There has to be an awareness of the importance of developing the students' creative thinking and independent learning that affect the students' needs, purposes, and interests. Curriculum must, therefore, recognize that teaching has to focus on students' individual needs and interests: what students want to learn, and how students can achieve their goals (Hara, 1995).

There has been awareness of the importance of giving students information skills in order to develop individual learning skills. There is a recognition that learning "how to learn" is more important than learning a given subject matter. In this sense, information skills have been highlighted as an indispensable component of learning "how to team". Tyler (1964) addressed the importance of teaching information skills: the role of curriculum is not to give students knowledge but to guide "the discovery procedure in acquiring knowledge" (p. 18). In accord with this progressive movement, "instruction now centers more on the process of learning itself than on subject content" (Haycock, 1981, p. 4). Irving (1990) addressed, "our ideal curriculum therefore is not so much a plan of what shall be taught and by which methods, but what shall be learned and with what assistance or guidance" (p. 5).

Development of New Curricula

With this change in curricular concepts, information skills instruction was widely recognized as an indispensible element in school curriculum to attain the new educational goal. Many new guidelines have been developed. The American Library Association (1954) published School Libraries for Today and Tomorrow which was the first set of national library standards from kindergarten to 12 grade. In 1960, the Association published Standards for School Library Programs which emphasized the role of the librarian as a joint teacher for teaching information skills. This publication significantly contributed to the growth of the information skills instruction in a number of elementary schools' curricula. The Knapp Foundations gave the American Library Association a grant for a five-year project from 1962 to 1967 to investigate the effects of standardization of school library programs. Strong recommendations were given to standardize information skills programs and Standards for School Media Programs was published in 1969. …

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