top of page

Update Phase 2 - Inquiry as an approach to learning

Students learning online
Students learning through inquiry

March 2020 saw the beginning of the second phase of the Great School Libraries campaign. No-one could have imagined what was to come with Covid-19 in our midst. As such, we found ourselves in the strange position of moving forward more slowly than we would have liked. However, things have not stopped so it is time for an update of progress so you can see where we are at within the area I'm heading, Inquiry as an approach to learning.

In my last blog, I set out several areas we were going to focus on and want to revisit where we are with them. These were:-

  • Research

  • Framework for Inquiry

  • Training

  • Gathering Data


The list of research reports and articles that show the value of school libraries is growing. It is not only important that we collate this but school library staff need to read and know that it is there for them. Whenever schools are talking about their school libraries it is essential that the research is presented to support any discussions on changes to their libraries. The list of research can be found here

Framework for Inquiry - FOSIL

As FOSIL (Framework Of Skills for Inquiry Learning) was selected to be the Great School Libraries campaign’s recommended framework of the inquiry process, I have been working with Darryl Toerien, the founder of FOSIL, to ensure that as many people as possible know and understand that this framework is freely available for any school to use.

FOSIL is based on the ESIFC - Empire State Information Fluency Continuum - which was originally developed in 2009 by the New York City School Library System while under the direction of Barbara Stripling, who is one of the pioneers of learning through inquiry. The ESIFC was endorsed by the School Library Systems Association of New York State (SLSA) in 2012, and reimagined in 2019, again under the direction of Barbara Stripling, to adapt to changing information, education, and technology environments, as well as increasing diversity in student populations – the SLSA currently serves more than 3.2 million children in 4,236 schools in New York State alone. I am delighted to say that not only has FOSIL been recognised and endorsed by the SLSA, with Barbara Stripling commending FOSIL for its “clear and elegant presentation of inquiry,” but Barbara Stripling is now personally contributing to the ongoing development of FOSIL and the FOSIL Group. This is a huge step forward in positioning FOSIL as an increasingly influential contribution to the international school library world on inquiry learning.

To more closely align ourselves with international developments in school librarianship, we have been closely looking at the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) School Library Guidelines. We have so far concentrated on Chapter 5, which focuses on the school library’s pedagogical programme and the 5 core instructional activities of the school librarian. One of these is Inquiry-based Learning Models, which ties in perfectly with FOSIL.

The FOSIL Group website has free resources and a forum to support you on this journey, and we hope that as many of you as possible will sign up to help us help each other along the way.


I also split training into two categories in my previous blog. Firstly, school librarians, and secondly SLT and teachers, and I have to admit that the main focus so far has been school librarians and teachers. Over the last few months, especially during lockdown, there have been numerous opportunities to take part in webinars and training looking at FOSIL and the IFLA School Library Guidelines.

The School Library Association ran an Introduction to FOSIL and an Information Literacy and Learning through Inquiry webinar. Please email to access the recording or more information.

CILIP SLG ran a training morning on the IFLA School Library Guidelines focusing on Chapter 5 - The Value Added School Librarian. It was very exciting to have Dianne Oberg, co-editor of the Guidelines as the Keynote speaker. If you want a copy of the recordings please email

Elizabeth Hutchinson (that’s me!) ran a series of webinars also focusing on FOSIL and the IFLA School library guidelines chapter 5. These can be accessed here.

In other exciting news, FOSIL continues to gain support around the world. I was recently asked to present at an online conference for teachers in Kazakhstan, which is now being translated to Russian, and Mary-Rose Grieve, School Librarian at Hartland International School in Dubai, presented FOSIL at her school INSET day at the beginning of this school year. Darryl presented a paper on FOSIL at the IFLA School Libraries Section midyear conference in Rome, with the presentation and paper being translated into Italian, and his article on FOSIL for Mediadoc, the professional journal of the National Federation of French professeurs documentalistes, has been translated into French. It is also noteworthy that there is a growing interest in FOSIL in Australia. The upshot of this is that the larger and more diverse the community that is collaborating on the ongoing development of FOSIL, the greater the support for all of us working to equip our children with the kind of knowledge that they most need, which is knowledge that will help them gain more knowledge.

There is definitely more to come so watch this space…

Gathering data

Following on from the Great School Libraries Survey in 2019, we have continued to gather data through our Library Insights blogs and case studies. If you are looking for ideas or data then this is the place to go. School Librarians across the country have been sharing best practice with us. We are still looking for more blogs and case studies for the Learning through Inquiry section. If you have anything you want to share then please email us at

The Future

The plan going forward is to continue to develop the theoretical foundation and value of FOSIL and build on the connections with Barbara Stripling, specifically on a branching map of the 2019 ESIFC/ FOSIL framework of literacy, inquiry, critical thinking, and technology skills - Reception through to Year 13 - that students must develop at each phase of inquiry over their years of school and in the context of content area learning. With Project-based Learning (PBL) recently making the news, it would also be important to develop an understanding of PBL as “an inquiry-based instructional approach”, which FOSIL facilitates.

We are aiming to continue providing access to training through SLA, CLIP SLG and myself.

We need to be clearer that inquiry is an increasingly vital approach to learning that positions the librarian as an educational partner with classroom teachers, and that FOSIL is an effective tool for facilitating this. Also, that FOSIL has a very low barrier to entry and a very high ceiling. Also, that everybody on this journey - inquiry, and not just FOSIL - has a voice and that their voice is important in shaping the journey.

We need to be even more purposeful about building relationships with our colleagues from around the world, through FOSIL and IFLA, but also other avenues, to ensure that we are fully rooted in this collective wisdom and experience, and can bring this to bear on our local situation.

Elizabeth Hutchinson, Vice-Chair GSL committee

281 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page