Developing the Individual in the Learning Commons


Society needs citizens who have respect for others and who understand their responsibilities in participating in a safe and lawful society. Issues such as plagiarism, privacy, intellectual property, copyright, bias, stereotyping and gender all require deep understanding, as well as reasoned acceptance or rejection. With today’s nearly unlimited amount of information available and vast amounts of unfettered content to be shared, these considerations have become even more sensitive and significant.

As a key partner in the Learning Commons, school libraries and teacher-librarians can offer expertise in navigating this vast array of information.

The Role of Personal Qualities

Imagination and Creativity

Imagination is a talent that atrophies when it’s not used often enough. A recent study shows 98% of four year olds could be classified as divergent thinkers. By age 12, however, this percentage dwindles to 10%. Daily opportunities to use “creative muscles” result in exciting learning experiences, individualized expression and self-directed learning. End products are as unique as the people who create them. The Learning Commons encourages divergent thinking and new ways of sharing information.

Ideas to Consider
  • Create open-ended learning activities that do not have one set answer or method
  • Emphasize learning opportunities that promote higher order thinking skills
  • Create a climate of risk-taking
  • Surround students with rich picture books and novels and encourage ‘what if’ play with the text
  • Design active learning experiences to re-create understandings through drama, music and art
  • Allow different ways of expressing learned content
  • Create learning opportunities that encourage a collision of ideas
  • Promote reading that expands horizons and engages the imagination

Confidence and Self-Esteem

Through the multiple experiences provided by the Learning Commons, students develop the ability to transfer their skills from one context to another. By having their expertise acknowledged, students see their capabilities in positive ways. Their self-esteem and confidence increases as a result — traits that are so necessary to success in life.

Ideas to Consider
  • Credit the expertise of all members of the Learning Commons
  • Model that making mistakes is part of learning
  • Encourage students to offer “workshops” in areas of expertise (e.g., software applications, assistive technology, media mashups, social networking tools)
  • Create “Who is the expert” boards for those to consult when needed

Cultural Awareness and Social Contribution

The Learning Commons plays a unique role in fostering cultural growth and a sense of national identity. School library collections are built to support learning; they develop understanding of Canada and the world’s history and culture, with respect for diversity as a foundation. Learning programs built on these collections help students find their place and voice in Canada’s cultural fabric and to relate to the world at large and their role as global citizens.
The Learning Commons is set up to assist students make meaningful contributions to the world. Engaging learners in inquiry-based experiences set within real world issues makes their exploration relevant and empowering. Through the extraordinary breadth of resources available in the Learning Commons, teams of educators can involve students in effecting change in the community and the world.

Ideas to Consider
  • Introduce literature that presents multiple perspectives of issues relevant to students
  • Explore how authors and illustrators contribute to Canadian culture
  • Explore the role aboriginal peoples play in Canadian identity
  • Provide resources in first languages for English Language Learners
  • Discuss how emotional reactions to literature helps to define personal and national identity
  • Take on the challenge of learning about and taking a position on an issue (local, national or global)
  • Consciously connect learners with the local community organizations and resources
  • Engage in routine discussions on current topics (utilize concepts of debate and point of view explorations)
  • Look for real world contexts for curriculum based expectations
  • Explore global citizenship lesson-ware (e.g., Be the Change, United Nations, Free the Children, UNICEF, CIDA)
  • Have students explore non-governmental organizations to evaluate impact, organization, costs and effectiveness
  • Explore the lives of activists and the impact that they have had on issues or events
  • Model learning leading to action
  • Capture, create and share accrued knowledge

The Importance of Individual Growth

Character education is at the soul of the Learning Commons. School staff share an obligation with parents and community members to develop caring, empathetic, and involved citizens who respect each other and understand the responsibility we all share in creating a safe and lawful society. Issues such as plagiarism, privacy and copyright require surprisingly complex and deep understanding, as do bias, stereotyping and gender. A successful Learning Commons promotes values such as intellectual curiosity, respect, responsibility and initiative — all essential to personal and social growth.

Intellectual Curiosity

  • Being open to new ideas
  • Seeking information
  • Considering divergent opinions
  • Examining a variety of viewpoints
  • Thinking critically

Respect and Responsibility

  • Respecting privacy
  • Respecting intellectual property
  • Respecting intellectual freedom
  • Valuing other individuals, ideas and cultures
  • Practicing safe and ethical behaviours


  • Going beyond academic requirements
  • Participating in the social exchange of ideas
  • Seeking opportunities for personal growth
  • Engaging in self-assessment
  • Setting goals for improvement

The Learning Commons provides essential building blocks for the personal, social and cultural growth of students. Within the Commons, the school library offers a rich, broad-ranging, diverse, and inclusive resource collection, as well as a stimulating learning environment. It can foster a keen culture of inquiry.

Through learning partnerships, the school library can provide students with opportunities to explore their interests. It can encourage them to question and make sense of the world. And it can help them form strong personal relationships that support emotional and social competence.

Qualities such as imagination and creativity, confidence and self-esteem, leadership and social contribution are integral values that need to be seamlessly woven into our educational fabric. The Learning Commons creates the atmosphere for this to happen.

The Engagement of All Learners

If learning is enjoyable and challenging, learners will do it enthusiastically. Think of a video game that players are keen to concentrate on for hours. They do it because it’s “hard fun.” Turning hard work into hard fun requires helping students relate their work to their own lives and the culture in which they live. This type of learning, inherent in the Learning Commons, is sticky — it stays with the learner. And it creates an environment where the individual will grow and flourish.