We are delighted to announce the launch of the FOSIL Group – a community specifically focused on developing learning through inquiry.
“We believe that children learn best by finding out for themselves,” says Darryl Toerien, Head of Library at Oakham School. “Enabling learning through inquiry doesn’t happen by chance – it requires a fundamentally different approach.”
The development of this different approach is the focus of the FOSIL Group. Centered on its website – www.fosil.org.uk – the FOSIL Group is a new, free and completely open community for those working in the field of education, that encourages its members to collectively develop their understanding of learning through inquiry, and to collaborate on designing and sharing resources to support learning through inquiry.
The FOSIL Group is the next step in over eight years of Darryl’s work in researching and developing FOSIL (Framework Of Skills for Inquiry Learning). Simply understood, 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. While FOSIL is a central focus of the Group, the community includes members who are working with other models of the inquiry process and/ or skills frameworks.
Darryl initially developed FOSIL as a response to the need to better prepare Oakhamians for the IB Diploma’s Extended Essay (a 4,000 word independent inquiry). Based on the framework produced by the New York City School Library System, under the leadership of Barbara Stripling (the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), it has since been significantly developed by Darryl to include ground-breaking work done by Carol Kuhlthau, a leading expert in this field.
Over the years FOSIL has been developed, honed and integrated into areas of Oakham’s curriculum. An early example isComputer Science, where students learn the entire Computer Hardware schemes of work via FOSIL-based inquiries, such as Year 7 learning how to define a computer by researching and answering the question ‘is my brain a computer?’
Darryl has been freely sharing the development of Oakham’s approach to inquiry learning since 2011 – having welcomed schools from across the country (representing both the state and independent sector) and, indeed, the world, to visit Oakham to discuss FOSIL as a tool for enabling inquiry, as well as sharing his thoughts, knowledge and developments at conferences and in articles.
“To more effectively support this growing community, and to increase its effectiveness, Oakham School has laid the foundation for the FOSIL Group, which, being centred on its website, will hopefully facilitate more people getting involved and enlarging the conversation,” says Darryl. “Crucially, the FOSIL Group has been founded on the principle that made it possible in the first place – we give freely because we received freely. Therefore membership is only required for those who wish to help shape the unfolding conversation.”
As effective inquiry depends on professional collaboration between teachers and librarians, we are delighted to be building the FOSIL Group with the support of the School Library Association (SLA) and the School Libraries Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIPSLG).
Alison Tarrant, Chief Executive of SLA, says, “Working together as a community is particularly important when time is short, and the School Library Association fully believe that this is an important development in enabling the delivery of high quality inquiry-based learning. The impact on learning, and on pupils, is clear and this will enable all school library staff to explore what other people are working on and contribute their own resources and learning. Being able to sound out ideas amongst knowledgeable and supportive colleagues is important, and this platform will enable exactly that. We are proud to support this alongside SLG and Oakham School.”
Caroline Roche, Chair of CILIPSLG, adds, “Darryl has been involved with the CILIPSLG National Committee since 2008, the year he joined Oakham School, so we have seen FOSIL grow from a germ of an idea into this fully fledged website. Inquiry-based learning is needed more than ever in a world where ‘fake news’ comes from the very highest places, and where our students need to learn how to evaluate everything they see and read. Focusing learning on inquiry rather than on ‘spoon-feeding’ is a great leap forward in the practice of teaching and learning. CILIPSLG is proud to support this initiative alongside SLA and Oakham School.”
Furthermore, as information literacy is central to a number of literacies that enable effective inquiry, the support of the Information Literacy Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (ILG) adds a vital dimension to the work of the FOSIL Group. Says Dr Jane Secker, Chair of ILG and Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London, “We are delighted to support this development, which we see as an important step in more closely aligning the learning culture of school with the learning culture of university and the demands of living and working in the digital age. Evidence of the effectiveness of FOSIL in enabling inquiry learning can be found in the success of students from Oakham School in the TeenTech Awards, specifically the Research and Information Literacy Award (Years 7-11), which ILG sponsors, and the Best Research Project Award (Years 12-13). We are particularly pleased to see that the impressive resources being collaboratively developed by educators from classroom and library are being made freely available under Creative Commons, which will be of great benefit to the broader educational community.”
Please do visit www.fosil.org.uk to find out more about how you can join the conversation about inquiry learning and to learn more about how FOSIL can be used as a simple and logical way to guide students through the inquiry process.
“Students must be prepared for their future by becoming better inquirers, consumers and creators of information,” concludes David Harrow, Oakham’s Deputy Head (Academic). “They should have the skills and attributes to ask and answer questions for themselves. This is especially vital in today’s digital age, when students perceive that all the information they need is only one search away. We hope that the FOSIL Group becomes an important source of information, and a go-to location for educators to converse, as well as to develop inquiry learning – not just in their schools, but for the betterment of the educational landscape.”