ETL501 Pathfinder Critical Reflection

Pathfinder Critical Reflection

For the purpose of this assignment I created a pathfinder about weather for a group of Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) students in a NSW primary school.

In this reflective piece I will discuss the use of pathfinders to help students develop information handling skills, the role of pathfinders to provide students with a process for research (Cottrell, 2002) and the role of the teacher librarian in creating pathfinders for students.


The students are in Years 5 and 6 are currently studying the NSW Board of Studies Science and Technology unit titled ‘What’s The Weather? Natural Occurrences and their Effects’. The student learning outcomes that are to be developed by students using this online pathfinder are from the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities. They are: Literacy Students will listen, read and view online and printed texts. Students will use language to clarify ideas and communicate these to other students through talking, writing and drawing. Information and Communication Technology  (ICT) Students will work through the information process steps and investigate, create and communicate using computers. They will apply technical knowledge and skills and will develop an understanding of the importance of respecting copyright and the rules of using ICT responsibly. Critical and Creative Thinking Students will define what they need to find out then gather information from a variety of sources. Students will organise the information and ideas into a presentation for the class.

Several search strategies were employed in order to locate the desired resources for the topic of weather for Stage 3 students. I learnt about search engines, internet directories and the best ways to search them. This was extremely valuable as before this I tended to limit myself to one search engine, Google. Herring states that a key element of an effective search strategy is identifying key words that will produce relevant results. Initially, various single search engines (google, yahoo) were explored using a single key word (weather) and this search strategy yielded a range of sources most of which were directed at adults. To maximise the quality of the search and to locate more appropriate information Boolean logic was applied. When looking at websites on the effects of storms in Australia I used the key terms ’causes’ ‘effects’  ‘storm’ and ‘Australia’ and didn’t get too far, but when I substituted the word ‘effect’ for ‘impact’, I got a lot more results that were far more relevant to my students.

Teaching in a 21st century curriculum ‘is no longer a matter of teachers presenting expert information to students so that they can represent the information to show understanding.’ (Wall & Ryan, 2010)  The process of selecting appropriate resources is a difficult task for students regardless of where the information comes from. (Bush and Herring, 2011) and the use of pathfinders helps to guide students through this process, minimising ‘information overload’. 

The print culture of our libraries are still vital but as stated by Johnson & Magusin (2005) ‘we are in the midst of a digital culture’ so teacher librarians need to think about the extra research demands placed on students and how we can support them in every stage of the information search process. I found this highly important when creating my pathfinder for my Year 5 and 6 low literacy students, ensuring I included clear, sequential instructions guiding the students through the information search process. It will be important to observe and analyse the students’ engagement with resource material, especially providing support with reading information from ‘screen’ and selecting information to suit the students’ purpose.

Saunders (2011) discusses student learning outcomes and highlights the importance of schools embracing the expertise of  school librarians and including them in the planning and teaching processes of improving  learning outcomes for all students, particularly in the area of research and information literacy skills.


As a teacher librarian I can see the value in using online pathfinders as a road map of learning, a way to guide students on their research path, endeavouring to build independence in research skills.  My aim was to create a pathfinder that supports students in developing 21st century information skills.  I liked creating a resource that would direct students in their research, give them a purpose rather than just ‘playing, pointing and clicking’ on everything they see on the internet. (Combes, CSU forum 2013) It motivates students to be engaged in research as opposed to the regurgitation of facts. I realised the importance of evaluation and by familiarising myself with the outcomes in the General Capabilities in the new Australian Curriculum  I will now be more able to monitor students’ research strategies, their selection strategies and their recording of relevant information. It is important to give students the opportunities to question the relevance of the resources they used also. As stated by Hay & Foley (2009) teaching students how to evaluate websites teaches them ‘how to build new knowledge in safe, ethical and responsible ways’.


The teacher librarian’s main responsibility when working towards a shared library vision is to model lifelong learning, to work collaboratively and to empower others by being innovative leaders. (Hay, 2010) I believe teacher librarians can lead the way in guiding student research by creating pathfinders which support and enhance curriculum, develop information literacy and research skills. This is essential to enable and empower our students to be lifelong learners and active participants in society.



References for Pathfinder Critical Reflection


Australian curriculum and assessment reporting authority (2013). General capabilities in the Australian curriculum. Retrieved from:


Australian Government (2011) Web guide: accessibility. Retrieved Sept, 22, 2013.


Bush, S. J. & Herring, J. E. (2011). Information literacy and transfer in schools: Implications for teacher librarians. The Australian Library Journal. 60(2), 123.


Cohen, L & Jacobson, T (2009) Evaluating web content. Retrieved from:


Combes, B (2012) How much do traditional literacy skills count? Digital literacies and reading from the screen. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University.


Cottrell, R. (2002) The really helpful research book. User Friendly Resources Enterprises.


Dabbs,L (2012) Teaching the best practice:Delivery of instructions. Edutopia: What works in education. Jan 31, 2012. Retrieved from:


Drury, C. (2001) Search and discover: developing active library and information skills.


Flanders, V (2013) Web pages that suck. Retrieved Sept, 22, 2013.


Hay,L & Foley,C (2009) School libraries building capacity for 21C student learning. Scan. Vol 28 No.2 May 2009. Retrieved from:


Hemming, W (2004) Online pathfinders: toward an experience-centered model. Reference Services review, 33(1), 66-87.


Herring,JE (2004) ‘The internet’, in The internet and information skills: a guide for teachers and school librarians. Facet, London, pp 21-43.


Hook, P (2002) Creating an online tutorial and pathfinder. Library Law Journal, 94(2), 243-265.


Johnson,K & Magusin, E (2005) Exploring the digital library: A guide for online teaching and learning.


Johnson, L and Lamb, A. (2007) Evaluating internet resources. Professional development resources for educators and librarians. Retrieved from :



New South Wales Department of Education and Communities  (2013) Curriculum Support: Digital Education Revolution- School Libraries & Information Literacy Links 4 learning. Retrieved from :


New South Wales Department of Education and Communities (2013) Curriculum program and support. Retrieved from:


Saunders, L (2011) Information Literacy as a student learning outcome: The perspectives of information literacy. Greenwood Publishing Group


Todd, Dr. R & Hay, L (2010) School libraries 21C: A School libraries future project. Retrieved from:


Valenza, J (2004) Substantive searching: thinking and behaving info-fluently. Learning and Leading with technology, 32(3), 38-43.


Vileno, L (2007) From paper to electronic, the evolution of pathfinders: a review of the literature. Reference Services review, 35(3), 435-451


Wall & Ryan (2010) Resourcing for curriculum innovation: Learning in a changing world.











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ETL504 Blog on Communication


You have developed a new digital literacy program that you believe needs to be used across across the school.  How will you communicate this program to your staff ?


Throughout this teacher librarianship course I have been introduced to online pathfinders and how they can be used to guide students in the information search process. An pathfinder guides the students on a research path using online resources aswell as print sources carefully selected by the teacher librarian. Through learning how to create a pathfinder I have realised the importance of search strategies and search engines to locate resources suited to children and the chosen topic. Quality questioning is also extremely important to get students started on their research path. Questions give the students direction and a purpose. It is vital to include steps in the Information Search Process on each page of the pathfinder to link ideas together and continue to give the student direction.


To implement pathfinders in classroom teaching and learning programs it is essential that the teacher librarian provides staff with ongoing professional development opportunities to be empowered with new knowledge. Teachers need to understand the deep knowledge and educational value of using pathfinders and feel inspired and empowered to use them in their own classrooms.


Steps in Process : How to Communicate and Empower Staff

  • Professional development on the importance of the Information Search Process. Refer to the already introduced NSW ISP model and explain the benefits of independent student research and the benefits of using a model. Redefine steps in the research process. Link to General Capabilities in the new Australian Curriculum.

  • Professional development on ‘What is a Pathfinder?’ Hands-on professional development opportunities in school computer lab. Teachers view ready made online pathfinders. Link pathfinders with upcoming units of work for school context.

  • Professional development: Staff meeting where library success stories are shared. Teacher librarian and classroom teachers share stories about the benefits of their class using pathfinders as a way to guide research. Discuss features of good and bad pathfinders.

  • Professional Development: Creating a pathfinder. Using the library interactive whiteboard the teacher librarian demonstrates how to create a pathfinder.

  • Professional development: Teachers creating online pathfinders in lab during staff meeting.

  • Sharing of pathfinders created.

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ETL504 Role Of TL Blog

ETL 504 Role of TL


What are your thoughts now on leadership and the role of the TL?

How does what I’ve been learning relate to my role?



Qualified teacher librarians who are passionate about their role are the richest resource in the learning centre. The library should be seen as an expansion of the classroom, a teaching and learning centre, an integral part of the school.

The ASLA (2013) helps us to clearly define the following characteristics of an excellent teacher librarian. They are:

–          Valuable curriculum knowledge and pedagogy

–          Knowledgeable in library and information management skills

–          Supportive and help implement the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library


–          Contributors to the development of lifelong learners

–          A leader within the school community

–          Creatively and confidently building effective learning environments

–          Building and fostering collaborative teams within school and professional communities

Teacher librarians are responsible for education and resourcing. They are managers and educators. Throughout this course I have realised the importance of all aspects of the teacher librarian role. Both aspects require commitment and careful planning and strategic implementation to offer a quality library service.


Teacher librarians as educators are information specialists, experts in resourcing the curriculum for its users. Collaboration with classroom teachers and staff is essential to develop a library suited to its users and to provide a quality teaching and learning program geared for 21st Century learning.


Teacher librarians as managers are data collectors, analysers and shoppers- purchasing resources to compliment a carefully considered library collection. Collaboration with teachers and staff is essential in developing a collection suited to its clients.


This course has opened my eyes to the varied roles and expectations of a teacher librarian. Lots of the information I have learnt along the way helped me considerably in my TARS meeting with my school principal recently!



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ETL504 Leadership For Learning

Have you been able to identify any particular element of leadership practice in a collaborative environments that has made me stop and think about the practical professional opportunities that you may like to explore and adopt in your school?

Throughout this course my knowledge and understandings of what a teacher librarian as a leader is has expanded dramatically. It was hard to imagine myself as a leader in the context of the school library when I first started this course but now I have seen my understanding of leadership not only grow within this subject but within myself as a teacher librarian at my school. I now have a vision for my school library and more confidence to demonstrate my leadership skills to implement change. What I see as the benefits of transformational leadership in my school context is the focus on creating a shared vision of 21st century schooling in the school library, developing individual’s skills and creating an environment in which innovation and risk taking is fostered.

Whilst attending a professional development course at Caddies Creek Public School last term I was so overwhelmed and impressed with the TL leadership practice I saw in developing the school library as a collaborative teaching and learning environment. The teacher librarian, Jenny Scheffers, has been at the school since 2003. The library program was conducted as RFF until 2005. From 2006 onwards she has transformed the library into something quite amazing! The library adopted the Coperative Planning Programming Teaching (CPPT) approach to library teaching and learning. Library lessons were not only a team teaching situation but the classroom teacher and the TL collaborated on the planning and programming of the units of work to be conducted. Flexible timetabling was adopted to ensure all classes and classroom teachers were involved.

Also the way Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry approach to learning is used in library lessons is very inspiring. The school moved gradually from NSW Information Search Process to the 7 steps of Guided Inquiry. Students were involved in evaluating their own progress in the research path which was very interesting!

The success of the library program is the result of teachers and the teacher librarian working collaboratively together to achieve a common goal. The careful planning and steps in the change process included lots of professional development for the teachers and the wider community.

Congratulations Caddies Creek! Very inspiring! I am now attempting to follow in their footsteps!


ETL504 Leadership For Learning

Have you been able to identify any particular element of leadership practice in a collaborative environment that has made you stop and think about the practical professional opportunities that you may like to explore and adopt in your school?


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ETL504 Critical Reflection

What have I learnt about school libraries and leadership?


For Assignment 2 I had to think carefully about creating a vision statement for a school library and ask myself how I would envision the library beyond 2013. Frantsi (2002) suggests that A good school library is the present and the future of the developing learning culture.’ This reinforces the importance of developing a strategic plan to bring about change and how important good leadership is to the school library context. Researching for this subject and assignment significantly reconfirmed for me how important it is for students to be learning in a school library which is relevant to the 21st century.


Working closely with my colleagues in this course, visiting numerous innovative school libraries, receiving valuable professional development from teacher librarians experiencing success in the field and also working closely with my mentor librarian over the past 12 months, has allowed me to envision how I want to view school libraries and where I expect my school library to be by the year 2016. Strategic planning, strong leadership and sharing a vision is essential to enable a vision to happen.


The major issues that affect these changes made this assignment complex, but gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of 21C learning and reconsider the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes of a teacher librarian.


Considering how technology could enhance the library as a teaching and learning environment is exciting, and considering radical changes that I would like to see take place with the library teaching and learning program will ensure that my school library will develop into an exciting learning hub, central to the needs of its users learning in the 21st century. Learning today in a digital world is complex and the leadership challenge placed before teacher librarians is both exciting and challenging, encompassing all aspects of literacy, meta-literacy, technology, and professional development in collaborative partnerships with students and teachers (Crotty, 2013).


Researching the role of a teacher librarian as a leader and leadership styles within a school context has enabled me to realise the vital role that teacher librarians have in educating children. Leadership in a library needs to be proactive, not reactive or reactionary and visionary leadership is essential for change. As stated by Fullan (2006) it is unfavourable to adopt a leadership style that will negatively impact on performance. A leader who forecasts into the future and considers the needs of its users is necessary and risk taking is a part of the process. Along with change comes the task of ensuring policies are constantly revised and updated and old established ideas are replaced with new ones. (Winzenried, A. 2010)


Elmore states (as cited in Fullan, Hill & Crevola, 2006) that professional learning for teachers is important and must occur in context. This assignment highlighted the importance of educators engaging in continuous and sustained professional learning about their practice in the setting they work. (Fullan, M., Hill, P. & Crevola, C. 2006).


Over the past ten years there have been major advances in thinking about the nature of classroom instruction and interconnectedness of teaching and learning and ways of assisting teachers to be reflective practitioners. (Fullan, 2006). Fullan discusses the notion of instruction rather then teaching which is very relevant to our role of teacher librarian where we are facilitators of learning, guiding students through research by scaffolding their learning. Our role is to develop critical thinking skills in students rather than focussing on imparting knowledge on them.  This relates closely to a quote I have always liked:

‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’ Plutarch


As a teacher librarian, resource provider, information specialist and educator of children it is important to continually maintain and seek to improve the physical environment of the school library and student workspaces within. This facilitates enhanced teacher and student satisfaction and reduces dissatisfaction (Dinham, 2008) This assignment provoked many thoughts about the school library as a physical space and the importance of its arrangement of furniture and workable areas for students and teachers to benefit student learning.

Educational leadership, focussed school improvement programs and quality teaching practices are central to delivering changes in school settings to cater for the ever changing needs of its clients and to ensure students are moving forward in 21st century learning. David Harding discussed in form ETL504 forum posting (5/8/13) how all teachers are leaders but asked the question ‘Are all teachers effective leaders?’  I agree with David that effective leaders find solutions to problems, enthuse and direct people to find solutions.
Donoghue & Clarke (2010) reflect teaching in that teachers who are working with collaborative staff with strong leadership, a shared vision, relationships and support will become strong learners themselves.

Throughout this course I have learnt that my role as the teacher librarian is to ensure the school library is a thriving centre of learning, an inviting, learning hub of the school which is engaging and promotes interest amongst its users. In developing a quality school library service I need to ensure that the library is integral to the way the whole school functions by carefully considering the following questions:


What are my school’s current identified learning priorities?

What do the teaching staff and students need from the library and the teacher librarian as a quality service to achieve the vision of the school?

How can I contribute to the school’s learning culture?

How does the library vision contribute to the vision of the school?


Through a quality library teaching and learning program I aim to provide effective inquiry and resource based learning incorporating the use of technology and 21st century learning principles. I aim to tap into my imagination to establish a visionary plan for my library space, creating solutions to bring about change that will benefit its users. I can achieve this through ongoing active networking with professional library associations and working collaboratively with teaching staff and the wider school community to improve the library service for all its users.



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ETL504 The Communication Process

ETL504 ‘The Communication Process’ blog task


You have developed a new digital literacy program that you believe needs to be used across across the school.  How will you communicate this program to your staff ?

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ETL504 The Role of the Teacher Librarian

ETL 504 Role of TL Blog


What are your thoughts now on leadership and the teacher librarian?

How does what I’ve been learning relate to my role?

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