ETL501: Critical Analysis – Pathfinder

Quite often, I am approached at the information desk by a meek and nervous student. I can recognise the look that they need to find something but are a bit shy to ask. Most of the time, this shyness comes from the fact that the child isn’t entirely sure of what it is that they are actually looking for rather than a fear of asking the librarian for help.

Students are frequently given assessment tasks of which they are to complete themselves. This is a part of their learning and development, the working independently aspect of the curriculum. However, it can be a daunting task to be given a topic and be told to research it and come back with a specific result for the teacher, and with little support. This is where pathfinders can be an excellent learning tool.

Pathfinders give students the best tools in their information toolkits (Valenza, 2007). They are a tool used by teacher librarians to provide a list of valuable resources for student learning within a curriculum topic but also for the development of the students’ information literacy skills. The pathfinder as a teaching and learning resource, allows the students to see the variety of resources available to them in their research, not just a list of URLs or a bibliography of books (Kuntz, 2003).

For my pathfinder, I targeted the Australian History Curriculum for Year Four students. The content being addressed was ‘Stories of the First Fleet, including reasons for the journey, who travelled to Australia, and their experiences following arrival (ACHHK079)’ and the General Capabilities being developed through use of this pathfinder were in Literacy, Information and Communication Technologies, and Critical and Creative Thinking (ACARA, 2013).

My research for suitable resources proved to be a highlight of this assessment. Probing the various public library OPACs for print resources allowed me to understand the reasons why a pathfinder is such a brilliant resource for student learning. I had to apply so many filters and refine my search terms so many times in order to locate the most suitable and relevant resources for my pathfinder. This helped me to understand how a child may feel a sense of information overload as they begin their research projects, wondering how to choose the best resource when there are copious amounts of items in front of you. A pathfinder helps to alleviate that information overload as they provide a good starting point for research in a particular area, without being overwhelming (Vileno, 2007).

Selecting the digital resources proved a little more difficult. In order to best select suitable websites I engaged the use of Schrock’s Critical Evaluation of a Website Survey (2009) as well as the website evaluation model I created for assessment one ‘The Working Gears of Web Evaluation’ (Thorley, 2014). These enabled me to sort through the websites in order to find the most relevant and high-quality learning resources. However, sometimes testing the readability would deter me, as what I would think would be a suitable website may rate a higher readability level. Then I would compare it to my experiences teaching and judge whether or not it was worthy. Sometimes, I selected websites knowing that having high expectations of your students leads to both quality teaching and learning (NSW DET, p. 13, 2003).

Constructing this pathfinder has enabled me to put myself back into the students’ shoes. I did not expect to experience the feelings that a student may feel when approaching a research task but I did feel that sense of meekness that a child may feel when asking a librarian for help with their assignment. In assessing and selecting the best resources for my pathfinder, it is clear that the role of the teacher librarian as a lifelong learner is an important one. We are supporting the students in the learning and refining of research skills that will best prepare them for their learning lives. Our role to ensure that programs are responsive to the needs of learners and to support learning and teaching by providing equitable access to professionally-selected resources is vital and directly-linked to the success of students developing independence in their learning and in the achievement of information literacy skills that will nurture and enhance their education in the future.

Reference List:

Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2014).General Capabilities in the learning areas – History. Retrieved 17 October, 2014 from http://www.australian

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards for professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved 30 March, 2013 from

Kuntz, K. (2003). Pathfinders: Helping students find paths to information. Multimedia Schools, 10(3).

NSW Department of Education and Training (DET). (2003). Quality Teaching in NSW Public Schools – Discussion Paper. Sydney: DET Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate.

Schrock, K. (2009). Critical Evaluation Survey: Elementary. Retrieved 15 August, 2014 from

Thorley, J. (2014). The Working Gears of Website Evaluation.

Valenza, J. (2007). Ten reasons why your next pathfinder should be a Wiki. Retrieved 12 October, 2014 from +pathfinder+should+be+a+wiki

Vileno, L. (2007). From paper to electronic, the evolution of pathfinders: A review of the literature. Reference Services Review, 35(3), 434-451.