Standards for the 21st century Learner

Comparative Essay – AASL vs Australia

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

There is a wide variety of educational standards and continua available in educational settings. The development of the Australian Curriculum gives insight into the creative and critical thinking skills used in our schools today and is a relevant and up to date document. The Critical and Creative Thinking Learning F-10 Continuum will be compared with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st century learner. The purpose of this essay is to contrast the inquiry search process, dispositions and skills used and the responsibilities learners bring with them.

Firstly, the AASL standards document a very strong inquiry approach to learning. There are four stages that share similarities with many inquiry based models. Stage one begins with an inquiry based process where recognition to prior learning is made apparent. There is a strong questioning framework that continues into stage two. Stage two looks at analysis, synthesis, evaluation and organisation again representing the strength in the ISP. There is recognition of learning dispositions and skills where the learner is displaying initiative and engagement by posing questions. This demonstrated the importance of divergent and convergent thinking where information literacy is as important as “attitudes, emotions, values, ethics and motivation, are (also) critical in how they apply their understanding via the cognitive and practical skills” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 63). Logically the responsibilities all learners share are incorporated in stage three and four with respect to others and global perspectives also included. The ethical issues surrounding copyright and ICT responsibilities are importantly made a part of this four step process where students ultimately “pursue personal and aesthetic growth” (AASL, p. 4).

The second document to consider is the Australian Curriculum Creative and Critical Thinking F-10 Continuum. This too has four aspects but has been tabulated into levels that correlate into years (foundation to Year 10) across the Australian Curriculum. There is reference to a clear inquiry process similar to the AASL standards however; this is described in a simplified manner in comparison. Kuhlthau’s ISP stages can be likened to these easily, as can be seen in the table below. There is less emphasis placed upon learning dispositions in this document and sees this reflected in stage three where “thinking about thinking (metacognition)”(2010, p. 2) is referred to. Thinking skills need to be explicitly taught and reinforced so that they become habits as learning “dispositions have a multiplying effect on the ability of the learner to build knowledge into understanding and hence increase the capability for creativity and innovation” (Treadwell, 2008, p. 64). The last aspect of responsibilities is not clearly articulated in this document and relies upon the justification of the conclusions made.

Kuhlthau’s ISP Stages




Inquire think critically and gain knowledge

Inquiring – identifying, exploring & organising information & ideas



Draw conclusions, make informed decision, apply knowledge to new situations & create new knowledge


Generate ideas, possibilities & actions


Reflecting on thinking and processes


Share knowledge & participate ethically & productively as members of our democratic society


Pursue personal and aesthetic growth

Analysing, synthesising & evaluating reasoning & procedures

These two documents demonstrate a “research approach to learning” (Kuhlthau, 2010, p.2) and are both learner centered where there is commitment to the “construction of new knowledge in the stages of the inquiry process to gain personal understanding and transferable skills” (ibid., p. 5). There is clearly an importance placed upon information literacy in both documents and this is echoed strongly by AASL who included ethics and responsibilities. Both the AASL and ACARA documents looks at metacognition as can be seen by their use of ISPs as outlined in the table above. These standards and continua demonstrate that no matter what the curriculum content they are motivated to “learn subject area content and habits of mind through strategic interventions that enable them to make the learning their own” (Kuhlthau, 2010, p.8).


Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided inquiry : school libraries in the 21st century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 1-12.

Standards for the 21st Century learner. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://w:

Thinking Curriculum (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2013, from

Treadwell, M. (2008). The Conceptual Age and the Revolution School 2.0. Heatherton: Hawker Brownlow Education.


One thought on “Standards for the 21st century Learner

  1. Pingback: Analysis | Information Learning Nexus

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