Helping Teachers Teach Students about Ethical Behavior. (Information Cafe)

By Riedling, Ann | Teacher Librarian, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Helping Teachers Teach Students about Ethical Behavior. (Information Cafe)


Riedling, Ann, Teacher Librarian


Question: Our school's Grade 10 English class studied a particular novel. The students were to have read this novel (over a period of time) and be prepared for a final examination. After the final, one of the students, Ian (not his real name), approached the teacher after class and said that he had not read the novel. He explained that he downloaded the chapter summaries, the discussion points and the crucial quotations, Ian proceeded to study those and passed the test. If a student answers the questions correctly, although he does not read the book, why is this wrong?

AMR: My approach to this question is to discuss how the teacher-librarian can help both the student and the teacher to do a better job.

Let's begin with the teacher: The first thing that comes to mind is Information Literacy Standard 8 of Information power: Building partnerships for learning (AASL, 1998). The standard reads as follows:

"The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology" (p. 9). More specifically, Standard 8 continues, "The student who is socially responsible with regard to information applies principles and practices that reflect high ethical standards for accessing, evaluating and using information" (p. 36).

It is the responsibility of both the teacher-librarian and the teacher to uphold these standards. Initially, teachers must be aware of the fact that ethical behavior with regard to information and technology is essential in our society today. Although one might claim that Ian did nothing wrong, one could also argue that Ian was acting socially irresponsibly.

The teacher-librarian must be the leader and endorse, encourage and support information literacy standards. I am certain that not all teachers are aware of these standards; therefore, the teacher-librarian should inform them. How to accomplish this?

* Provide an in-service about information literacy standards. This could be done with the entire faculty, or by department or grade level.

* Post the information literacy standards on a large board in your library.

* Include the information literacy standards in your next newsletter.

* Hand out copies of the information literacy standards to each faculty member, so they can post them in their classrooms.

* Discuss the information literacy standards with your administration.

* Work individually or in small groups to assist teachers in understanding information literacy standards and their importance with regard to teaching and learning.

It is entirely possible that (some) teachers need to be taught about effective questioning. As a teacher-librarian, you must proceed with caution. Teachers believe that they "know their job" (as most do--but they cannot know everything), so your approach is vitally important. Do not tell the teachers "what to do and not do." Instead, make small suggestions, provide them with literature, offer solutions to unethical behavior, collaborate with them on a class project and so forth. In essence, teachers must provide opportunities for students to use their critical thinking, problem-solving skills. By doing so, students will be less likely to "fall into the trap" of learning via chapter summaries on the Internet, etc. Following are a few examples of critical thinking questions that could pertain to a novel read by Grade 10 students:

* Select a character in the novel, and assume you are him or her. …

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