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.












About lindalibrariansmith

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch
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