In an era of information overload and rapidly changing landscapes, the skills of critical thinking and inquiry are more important than ever. The AASL Core Competency A.I, which stands for "Think" and "Enquire," provides a robust framework for developing these crucial abilities in students. It fosters the capacity to think critically, question effectively, and seek answers through in-depth inquiry. In this article, we'll explore the significance of AASL's Core Competency A.I and its role in empowering young minds.
Understanding Core Competency A.I
AASL's Core Competency A.I comprises two fundamental components: "Think" and "Enquire." Let's delve into each of these components:
This component emphasizes the cultivation of critical thinking skills. It encourages students to analyze information critically, evaluate sources, and make informed judgments. "Think" equips learners with the ability to approach problems and ideas with a discerning and open-minded mindset.
Key Skills: Critical thinking, analysis, evaluation, inference, and reasoning.
"Enquire" centers on the development of effective inquiry skills. It encourages students to ask thoughtful questions, seek information actively, and engage in research and investigation. "Enquire" fosters curiosity and the desire to explore and discover.
Key Skills: Questioning, research methodologies, information seeking, and problem-solving.
Significance of "Think" and "Enquire" in Education
The "Think" component plays a pivotal role in nurturing critical thinking abilities. With ever-increasing volumes of misinformation and disinformation online, this skill enables students to approach information critically, discern credible sources, and develop well-reasoned arguments. For example, a student presented with online information can ask whether it’s possible it could be true or not, be able to identify whether the source of the information is reputable and legitimate, and be able to communicate their reasons for believing or disbelieving the information given. Critical thinking is, therefore, a vital skill for making informed decisions and solving complex problems.
"Enquire" promotes inquiry-based learning, which is an effective approach to education. It encourages students to take ownership of their learning, ask meaningful questions, and engage in self-directed research. By knowing what kinds of questions to ask, such as ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, and ‘how’, and even repeating these questions whenever they arrive at a new information goal-post, students can delve into the amazing world of learning through inquiring. This skill is transferable across all subjects and prepares students for future academic and professional endeavors.
Both "Think" and "Enquire" contribute to problem-solving skills. Critical thinking helps students identify problems and analyze their underlying causes, while effective inquiry techniques assist in finding solutions and making informed choices.
These competencies are closely linked to information literacy. Students learn to evaluate information sources to establish their veracity, to discern fact from opinion, and to navigate the complex digital landscape with confidence. This is not only a matter of online safety for young students, but also an important skill for avoiding possible fraud or scams in their adult lives.
"Think" and "Enquire" instill a love for learning and the desire to continue seeking knowledge beyond the classroom. By fostering these core competencies, students turn into explorers who enjoy the adventure of searching for and being rewarded by accurate information. Once established, “Think” and “Enquire” skills develop a mindset of intellectual curiosity that extends into adulthood.
Implementing AASL's Core Competency A.I - "Think" and "Enquire"
To effectively implement AASL's Core Competency A.I, with a focus on "Think" and "Enquire," educators, school librarians, and institutions can consider the following strategies:
Critical Thinking Workshops:
Conduct workshops where students are presented with real-world problems or controversial topics. Encourage them to analyze multiple perspectives, assess evidence, and construct well-structured arguments. These workshops promote critical thinking skills and open dialogue.
For Librarians, critical thinking workshops for elementary students can include being presented with age-appropriate scenarios or storybooks that raise ethical dilemmas or problems to solve. For instance, read a story that presents a moral question and encourage students to discuss and debate the characters' decisions. This helps them develop critical thinking skills by examining various perspectives and forming their own opinions. This is an ideal core competency to explore with various observances throughout the year, such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, etc.
Here, you can assign inquiry-based projects that require students to select a topic of interest, develop a research question, and gather information from various sources. Provide guidance on conducting effective research, citing sources, and presenting findings. These projects encourage "Enquire" skills.
In the library or media center, you can create a "Curiosity Corner", which is a dedicated space where students can choose a topic of personal interest, whether it's animals, space, or historical figures. Provide books and digital resources to help them research their chosen topic, and encourage them to create presentations, posters, or even short reports to share their findings with their peers.
A fun and effective strategy for exercising AASL A.I is by organizing Socratic seminars where students engage in thoughtful, open-ended discussions. Encourage them to ask probing questions, challenge assumptions, and explore complex topics. These seminars foster critical thinking and promote "Think" skills.
As with other ideas suggested here, you can facilitate Socratic seminars in the library by selecting age-appropriate texts or short stories that encourage discussion. The key here is in age-appropriateness. After reading the text as a group, guide students through open-ended questions that promote critical thinking and inquiry. For instance, read a fable and then ask questions like, "What do you think the moral of the story is?" or "How do the characters' choices relate to our own lives?"
Information Literacy Programs:
This is a great opportunity to collaborate with other school librarians to implement information literacy programs that teach students how to evaluate sources for credibility and relevance. If you haven’t joined the Elementary Librarian Facebook community, this is the ideal place to do so. Use real-life examples and current events to demonstrate the importance of critical thinking in assessing information.
If it’s not possible to collaborate with other school librarians, then it’s a good opportunity to lean on your colleagues at school. Collaborate with classroom teachers to develop an information literacy program. Focus on evaluating online sources for accuracy and credibility. Create interactive lessons where students learn to distinguish between reliable and unreliable websites, using examples from their own areas of interest. Encourage them to share their findings and evaluations with their classmates.
Again, this is a great opportunity to work with your fellow teachers at your school. Promote interdisciplinary learning experiences that require students to apply critical thinking and inquiry skills across different subjects. Encourage teachers from various disciplines to collaborate on projects that challenge students to think critically and inquire deeply.
For instance, coordinate with science and art teachers for a project on endangered species. Students can research an endangered animal, create informative posters (art), and present their findings to the class (communication skills). This interdisciplinary approach encourages students to apply critical thinking and inquiry skills in various contexts.
AASL's Core Competency A.I, focusing on "Think" and "Enquire," is a powerful framework for equipping students with essential skills for the 21st century. By fostering critical thinking and inquiry, educators and librarians empower young minds to navigate the complexities of our information-rich world with confidence. "Think" encourages analytical thinking and reasoned decision-making, while "Enquire" cultivates curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. These competencies are not just tools for academic success; they are the building blocks of informed citizenship and lifelong learning.