Alternative Teaching Methods · Information Literacy · School Libraries · Study Skills

School Librarians supporting inquiry-based learning in schools through FOSIL

When you read about school libraries these days there is a mountain of information about how the librarian supports literacy and reading for pleasure. Wonderful librarians like Emma Suffield, school librarian of the year, do amazing things from their school library. Recently Emma was interviewed about her role where she demonstrates how she goes above and beyond in order to encourage her students to engage in reading.

Companies like Book Trust continually talk about the need for our children to be literate and the importance of reading. Their latest research clearly shows that children who read for pleasure do better academically so it makes complete sense that school librarians will tend to focus on this area a lot. If children can read they can do well in more subjects across the curriculum.

However, there is so much more to the school librarians role than most schools realise. As information professionals, our role includes supporting teachers and students in inquiry-based learning. Schools often struggle with students relying on Google for all the answers and school librarians not only have the tools but the expertise to guide and support students to become independent learners. This goes beyond providing good quality resources through books and online resources but this is not always understood by senior leaders and teachers.

Schools’ Library Service has been working with an information literacy framework called CWICER, (Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect) an offshoot from FOSIL (Framework for Oakham School Information Literacy) which they generously shared in 2013. It allowed us to have conversations with teachers and collaborate with other school librarians in a way that was not possible before. Prior to this, we were very isolated and use to talk a lot about information literacy which is a well-known term in the library world but less so in schools. We used the term  ‘research skills’ to talk to teachers but knew we needed something else and CWICER supported our conversations with teachers.

Information Literacy 

“Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society.” CILIP Information Literacy Group

This definition, which was updated in2018, is easier to understand and share but there is so much more to the inquiry process than just information literacy which is why we are preparing for another push and moving forward with FOSIL.

What is FOSIL?  Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning




As with any resource you use, it is good practice to re-visit to make sure that you are aware of changes and new ideas. It turned out that FOSIL has evolved to become Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning. This means we no longer need to call our framework CWICER we can revert to FOSIL.

‘FOSIL is a model of the inquiry process and an evolving framework of specific and measurable skills that enable each of the stages in the inquiry process’ Darryl Toerien.

The great thing about this framework is that it works with the youngest of students up to eldest. Especially understanding that in order to learn about the inquiry process you need the building blocks put in place first. Helping children to find books from the library and then to find their way around them is just as important in year 1 as learning to reference in year 5 or to evaluate resources in year 12. 

As this framework has come from Oakham school we regularly hear that it is easy for Oakham as they are a private school which has access to several librarians and a wonderful school library.  I agree that we are very jealous of what they have, but it is important to remember that FOSIL is based on the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum, which was developed by the New York City school district and is the largest in the United States, with more than 1.1 million students in over 1,800 public schools. This shows you that this is possible within other schools too.  Our SLS librarians support local schools in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, our input is very limited but what we offer is very focused. We have been using the framework over the last few years and use it when teachers ask for our support and can provide evidence of impact thought using it too. 

Here are two case studies that demonstrate how we used the framework and linked it to the learning objectives the teacher required.

year 4 India

year 6 Inspirational Leaders RE

Now we are not saying that we have time to do this kind of collaboration all the time but what this framework does, is allow teachers to see that our skill set as not just a one-off lesson on using an online resource or a lesson on referencing, but allows us to engage in the curriculum supporting teaching and learning in a more rounded way. Sometimes we do just demonstrate an online resource but along with that comes the conversation about the inquiry process which is beneficial to all of us, especially our students.

To find out more about FOSIL take a look at The Fosil Group website.

Written by Elizabeth



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