Standards, Inquiry, and Deeper Learning

State and national standards in the content areas are in a continuous cycle of revision. When school librarians have the opportunity to contribute to a standards revision process in their state or national associations, they have a golden opportunity to help the committee focus student learning outcomes on deeper learning.

As evidenced in Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning, I am a firm believer in inquiry as a pathway to deeper learning. Through coplanning and coteaching, school librarians can demonstrate to colleagues that addressing standards through inquiry learning can lead to success for students. As noted in last week’s post, becoming an expert at identifying essential questions to frame inquiry and supporting students in deepening their own questions is a leadership opportunity for all educators, and for school librarians, in particular.

AASL Standards: Deeper Learning Competencies
One of the deeper learning competencies cited in Figure 5.2: Selected AASL Deeper Learning Competencies (78) appears in the standards under the “Inquire” shared foundation, “Create” domain is “Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes 2. Devising and implementing a plan to fill knowledge gaps” (AASL 2018, 34). This competency implies that students have a clear understanding of the purpose of their inquiry and their inquiry question(s) as well as how their prior knowledge gaps can be filled by an inquiry plan. Such a competency requires analysis and critical thinking and leads to deeper learning.

For example, Arizona adopted a revised set of history and social studies standards in October, 2018.

This is a quote from the middle school standards: “The Arizona History and Social Science Standards, through the emphasis on content knowledge, disciplinary skills, and process and the integration of inquiry elements will prepare Arizona students to engage actively in civic life and meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century.” In the “civics” section for grades 6-8, under “Process, rules, and laws direct how individuals are governed and how society addresses problems,” students are expected to:

  • 8.C4.4 Identify, research, analyze, discuss, and defend a position on a national, state, or local public policy issue including an action plan to address or inform others about the issue” (22).

This standard aligns perfectly with the AASL competency.

Connection Experts
School librarians must be experts at aligning various sets of standards as they coplan, coimplement, and coassess instruction alongside their colleagues. It is traditional for school librarians to rely on classroom teachers’ knowledge of their disciplines’ standards. However, when new standards are rolling out, school librarians can increase their value to their colleagues by independently or jointly investigating standars to tease out the connections that can guide inquiry learning. In addition to the word “inquiry,” they can keyword search documents for terms such as plan, research, analyze, evidence, inference, and the like.

Making these connections increases school librarians’ perceived value. The adoption and implementation of new standards is an ideal time to demonstrate how we can help other people address and solve their “problems.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Which content area is about to roll out new standards in your district/state and what do you know about those standards?
  2. How can you connect current or new standards to inquiry to provide students with deeper learning opportunities?

Work Cited

Arizona Department of Education. 2018. K-12 Standards Section: Standards: Social Studies: Arizona History and Social Studies Standards. http://www.azed.gov/standards-practices/k-12standards/standards-social-studies/

Deeper Learning = Empowered Learners

Episode 5 Podcast: Deeper Learning (or the Bridge between Inquiry, Traditional Literacies, and Digital Learning)

Chapter 5 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy addresses the need for deep learning and strategies to achieve it. This chapter was intentionally offered as a bridge to the next chapter: “Digital Learning.”

The goal of deeper learning is what connects inquiry, traditional literacy learning, and digital learning. Deeper learning creates a condition in which students and educators are empowered to direct their own learning. What does it mean to be “empowered”? This Oxford Dictionary definition rings true to me: “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”

If schools and school systems are creating opportunities for students and educators to become stronger in knowledge, skills, and dispositions, the result will be confident, empowered students and educators who control their own learning process.

Students
Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning is, in short, about educators guiding empowered students through the inquiry process. Connecting inquiry to required outcome targets and curriculum as well as to students’ background knowledge and interests is an ideal way to help students find relevance in schooling. It is also an ideal way for students and educators to meet required learning targets and find the “sweet spot” on a Venn diagram where required learning outcomes and personally meaningful learning overlap.

A focus on one “right answer,” high-stakes testing, and grades can rob students, who might otherwise experience joy in learning, of their sense of empowerment. Guiding students as they connect to or build prior knowledge provides a launch pad for thinking that helps students develop their own questions. Empowered students flourish when they pursue questions of their own choosing…

Educators
and so do educators. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) recently published an issue of Educational Leadership titled “When Teachers Lead Their Own Learning.” In their article “Choose Your Own Adventure: Action Research for PD,” Stephanie Dodman, Emma Zuidema, and Amy Kleiman note that “action research utilizes teachers’ own questions about their work and about student learning as they transform their classrooms (libraries) into dynamic learning laboratories” (2018, 75). The authors offer a process that includes valuing curiosity, purposefully paying attention to questions (or problems of practice), and establishing trust and motivation.

Through classroom-library and team collaboration or coplanning and coteaching, educators refine their questions about practice. Two heads (or more) are definitely better than one when clarifying goals and objectives for student learning and questions for action research. With the support of administrators and colleagues, educators learn from the data they collect, analyze, and act upon as well as the reflecting on outcomes. Action research leads to empowered instruction. In Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, action research is suggested as a component of educators’ professional portfolios (page 121-122).

T-I-M-E
Inquiry learning and action research are deeper learning. They are not superficial coverage of topics and materials or fly-by responses to learning challenges and problems of practice. Deeper learning, like deep reading, requires the investment of time—time to build background knowledge, time to formulate personally meaningful questions, time to pursue multiple resources and perspectives, time to collect, analyze, think critically about data, and reflect, time to organize and present new knowledge. Deeper learning simply requires t-i-m-e.

Inquiry learning and action research are ways that students and educators own their learning processes and products. These processes create empowered learners—youth and adults alike—who can apply the process to other learning experiences and transfer new knowledge to new learning situations.

Deeper learning builds behaviors that are applied in lifelong learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. In what ways does your school/district’s curriculum empower learners? Does it also dis-empower them? If so, how does it do so?
  2. How do educators demonstrate that inquiry “works” as a lifelong learning strategy?

Work Cited

Dodman, Stephanie, Emma Zuidema, and Amy Kleiman. 2018. “Choose Your Own Adventure: Action Research for PD.” Educational Leadership 76 (3): 72-76.

The Gift of Traditional Literacies

For the luckiest children, the gift of traditional literacies begins in their homes. “Seeing, hearing, mouthing, and touching books helps children lay down the best of multisensory and linguistic connections during the time that Piaget aptly christened the sensorimotor stage of children’s cognitive development” (Wolf 2018, 133).

Adults and older siblings read to the luckiest of children. As babies and toddlers, these children have nestled into a lap and have been held in the arms of a loving family member or caregiver who invites them into the world of story.

Reading with others creates a warm connection with language and literacy that sets young children on a path to enjoying reading. One of the most consistently important predictors of reading development has been how often parents read to their children. (In this photo, I am reading my book Read to Me to my then eight-month-old grandson.)

For other children, books and reading are not prominent features of their lives until they enter preschool or when they attend public library storytimes. When preschool teachers read to children daily, they set an expectation for connecting through books. Or when children attend storytime at their public library, they learn that books contain stories and illustrations that are fun. They begin to learn through story.

For still other children, their kindergarten and primary-grade classroom teachers and elementary school librarian are the first caring adults who model the gift and value of books and reading. Wise educators select books that offer children invitations to learn about themselves, about others, about the physical world and the world of the imagination. Young children also learn to listen attentively to and (hopefully) respond to stories. They learn to share and attend to the responses of their peers. They begin to understand the social aspects of reading with other people outside their homes.

Gatekeeper Texts
Home, preschool, and primary-grade books are often selected to support young readers developing literacy but that can change as children advance through the grades. Some students will continue to be avid readers; others will not. Some will become regular library users who seek out new books, authors, and topics; some will only read when they are required to do so for a class assignment. Some number of students will invariably wrestle with school-based reading materials and increased expectations for literacy learning, especially when they bump up against “gatekeeper” texts.

Gatekeeper texts are “various texts that permit or deny student access to educational, economic, civic, and cultural opportunities” (Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, Hurwitz. 1999, 9). Gatekeeper texts are found in all content areas. They include difficult classic texts, standardized tests, testing materials, including those used in advanced placement courses, college and career applications and forms, and more. For far too many students, these gatekeeper texts have turned them off to reading, writing, or making the required efforts to advance their lives.

It is imperative that educators help students be effective readers and writers so that these texts do not limit students’ life choices. Deep reading comprehension strategies and a problem-solving orientation toward challenging texts can help readers be successful.

Traditional Literacies in Daily Lives
It is important for students to see family members, school librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, school staff, and other important people in their lives engaged with traditional literacies. Seeing parents and educators reading their own self-selected texts is important. Engaging young people in discussions about what adults are reading, listening to, or viewing—be it a novel, the news, or information in any format—lets students know that reading and discussing what you read are essential lifelong activities.

Adults must also model writing beyond making grocery store lists. Do we still write letters and thank-you notes by hand? Or if we compose them on our computer, tablet, or phone, do we let children and teens know that is what we’re doing? Do we journal or write comments or letters to the editor of news media? Do we encourage young people to engage in these types of writing activities at home and at school?

Talking about what we are reading, writing, or thinking must also be a part of daily life in and outside of school. Far too often, we let media do the talking for us and deprive youth of understanding and practicing how discussion works. Adults need to model being respectful listeners as well as effective speakers. We need to express disagreements without demeaning other people. We need to show it’s possible and preferable to develop empathy for those who do not share our views or life experiences.

The Gifts = Empowerment
The impact of the gifts of the four foundational literacies cannot be overestimated. Literacy gives people more opportunities in life, and it also has the potential increase our understanding of and empathy for others—to make us more human. Children’s and young adult author Katherine Paterson wrote an article entitled “What Does It Mean to Be Truly Literate?” (Paterson 2003). Although I read this article many years ago, Ms. Paterson’s perspective has stuck with me because I believe she spoke directly to the heart of literacy.

In her article, Paterson talks about the importance of the “humanities,” literature, philosophy, and history. She notes that “the humanities are all those subjects that make us more human, and we cannot be fully human unless our vision includes the breadth of human culture” (8). She goes on to write about how essential it is for all young people to have access to the humanities, which she thinks of as “true literacy.”

“True literacy” helps people dispel ignorance and see the larger world more clearly. Reading does that; interacting with others through speaking and listening does that. Writing also helps us see and examine our inner and outer worlds more clearly. Knowing how to use our literacy skills to improve our communities, nation, and global society may very well be the way to ensure a more just future for all. To support young people as they develop “true literacy” is a gift that educators (and families) both give and receive.

Without a focus on traditional literacies, there can be no empowered learning culture in any school (or home).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your definition of “true literacy”?
  2. How does your understanding of “true literacy” guide your work as an educator, parent, or mentor to young people?

Works Cited

Paterson, Katherine. 2003. “What Does It Mean to Be Truly Literate?” Language Arts 81 (1): 8-9.

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Professional Development Is Key

One of the long-term trends (five or more years) in the 2017 K-12 Horizon Report is advancing cultures of innovation. As noted in last week’s post, collaboration and leadership are both essential aspects of innovation and change. As innovators and change-makers, school librarians working alongside their administrators and colleagues can be at the forefront in a distributed leadership culture.

If innovation is a process of thinking that involves creating something new and better (George Couros paraphrase), then school librarians, as professional developers, will always be seeking improvement. As Senge and his colleagues suggest: schools that learn are “… places where everyone, young and old, would continuously develop and grow in each other’s company; they would be incubation sites for continuous change and growth. If we want the world to improve, in other words, then we need schools that learn” (cited in Moreillon 2018, 10).

Formal and Informal Staff Development

Formal staff development and informal professional learning (coteaching) are ways that school librarians lead in their schools. In recent years and in many quarters, the term “professional development” applied to adult learning has been replaced with “professional learning.” For me, development implies improvement. If we agree that all learning requires change, then I, for one, welcome “professional development” as a term that indicates an upward continuum of growth. I do not perceive of “development” as contrary to the autonomous aspect of andragogy, adult learning. (In my book, I use both terms: “professional development” and “professional learning.”)

There are many examples in editors Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet H. Harada’s book Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers. I highly recommend Maximizing School Librarian Leadership (MSLL) readers return to that book for examples of the many pathways school librarians have taken in leading professional development. (I would contend that all the examples in Growing Schools required collaboration in order to achieve success!) My chapter in that book provided the foundation for MSLL Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development.

Banned Books Week: Professional Development Opportunity
The American Librarian Association is part of a coalition of organizations that focuses a spotlight on Banned Books Week September 23rd – September 29th. School librarians can lead by coteaching and providing professional development focused on “Call Out Censorship.”  For inspiration read Jacqueline Higginbotham’s post “What? I am not allowed to read that” and comments on the TxASL Talks: Advocacy for All blog.

Then, ask yourself how you can offer your school community an opportunity to consider the ramifications of censorship. Follow up and ollaborate with classroom teachers to invite students to consider issues of censorship in light of the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017.”

MSLL Book Study Support
The discussion questions, activities, and reflection prompts at the end of each chapter in MSLL are designed to position school librarians as professional development leaders. The majority of the questions, activities, and prompts are focused at the building level but can be adapted for other contexts. By guiding MSLL co-readers through these activities, school librarians demonstrate leadership and their impact on adult learning in their schools and districts.

For example, one of the activities offered at the end of Chapter One is a job description writing exercise. It starts with the end in mind—the job description of a future ready student. From that foundation, MSLL readers are invited to write job descriptions for any stakeholder in that endeavor. School librarians facilitate these kinds of adult learning activities in order to build trust with and among colleagues, to develop shared values and priorities, and to improve instructional practices in their buildings or at the district level.

Brain research confirms that metacognition—thinking about our thinking/learning—is the way we modify our understandings and integrate new knowledge into our schema. I have included reflections prompts at the end of every chapter. I offer one prompt especially for school librarians. In this question in Chapter One, I encourage school librarians to think about how they make connections and contribute to a culture of learning in their schools or districts. (This will be one of the questions #txlchat participants will discuss on Twitter focused on Maximizing School Librarian Leadership tomorrow, Tuesday, September 25th. Join us!)

MSLL readers are encouraged to adapt the book study components of each chapter to their unique learning environments. Developing site-specific or district-level discussion questions is recommended as appropriate. Activities and reflection prompts can also be modified.

There are no shortcuts to culture building. Educators must develop trust and invest in their own and each other’s continuous learning. Shared professional development is the way.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you currently lead professional development in your school?
  2. What are your plans for increasing your contributions to your own and to colleagues professional learning this academic year?

References

Abilock, Debbie, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet Harada, Eds. 2012. Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

New Media Consortium and Consortium for School Networking. 2017. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition.

 

Mindsets for Learning

Mindsets
Dr. Carol Dweck’s research and writing on mindsets and motivation have greatly influenced my thinking. In her studies, Dweck found that people who believe intelligence and talent are fixed tend to remain within what they perceive of as their aptitudes. They will not push up against those boundaries; their framework for learning is “fixed.” Other people with “growth mindsets” believe that intelligence and talent can be “grown.” These people will be more open to experimenting, taking risks, and learning new strategies in order to further develop their capacity. She also notes that people have both fixed and growth mindsets in various contexts.

On his blog, George Couros, the author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity (2015), launched a number of conversations about the deeper meaning of a “growth mindset.” He has conferred with Dr. Dweck regarding his thinking. In his post “A world that is asking for continuous creation,” Couros offers a way to look at mindsets through an innovation lens.

As Couros notes: “As we look at how we see and ‘do’ school, it is important to continuously shift to moving from consumption to creation, engagement to empowerment, and observation to application. It is not that the first replaces the latter, but that we are not settling for the former. A mindset that is simply open to ‘growth’ will not be enough in a world that is asking for continuous creation of not only products, but ideas” (Couros 2017).

An Inquiry Mindset
Couros’s comment aligns with what I believe could be called an “inquiry mindset.” Inquiry involves empowered students (and adult learners, too) in taking charge of their learning. During inquiry, students apply knowledge, skills, and dispositions and create new knowledge for themselves and for others. Inquiry requires planning and facilitating on the educators’ parts. School librarians and other educators who teach with an “inquiry mindset” and guide students in the self-empowerment of inquiry learning may make connections to Couros’s idea of “continuous creation.”

Inquiry learning “is an instructional framework that consists of a number of phases that begin with engaging students in the topic and end with the student presenting and reflecting on their new knowledge” (Moreillon 2018, 173). Along the way, students are engaged in a process of information-seeking that builds literacies, knowledge, skills, and dispositions. (Educators can apply inquiry by asking and answering their questions related to problems of practice in order to improve instruction, school climate and culture, or other educational challenges.)

In a collaborative culture school, an inquiry mindset can personalize learning for individual students, groups of students, and for educators as well. When educators embrace an “inquiry mindset” for teaching and learning in the classroom and library, they show respect for students’ ability to direct their own learning. An inquiry mindset can help set up the conditions that unleash students’ creativity and increase their motivation to explore information and ideas. The same can be said for educators who apply an inquiry mindset to their own professional learning and their collaborative learning with their colleagues (see Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning.)

Education Thought Leaders
It is important for school librarians to understand the work of education thought leaders as well as those who contribute to thinking in the library field. When working side by side with administrators and classroom teachers, school librarians should be able to relate their own background knowledge to that of their colleagues. This knowledge and ability give school librarians the use the language and meet the expectations of other educators and offer meaningful and high-impact connections between two fields of study—education and librarianship.

All of the thought leaders cited in Chapter 1 promote personalized learning for students and educators in one form or another. Representing the work of The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel promote the 4Cs. Ken Robinson and Lou Arnica emphasize creativity as the cornerstone of educational transformation. Milton Chen of the George Lucas Foundation describes six innovations that support educators in developing exciting learning opportunities for students. Carol C. Kuhlthau has researched the information-seeking process and along with Leslie Maniotes and Ann Caspari offers a framework for inquiry learning. Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan and Peter Senge and his colleagues suggest how the system of schooling supports (or fails to support) student and educator learning.

Although they may not use the term “inquiry,” the mindset and practices described in this chapter and in this book would resonate with these thought leaders. At its core, an “inquiry mindset” is about openness—an openness to explore, think, learn, create, share, and grow.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How can an “inquiry mindset” promote personalized learning for students and educators?
  2. How do you promote an “inquiry mindset” in your school?

Works Cited

Couros, George. 2015. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Dweck, Carol. 2006. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: American Library Association.

Building Connections

Welcome to the official launch of the Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) 2018-2019 Book Study. I invite you to read one chapter each month and participate in weekly blog discussions throughout this school year.

Podcast – Episode 1: Building Connections for Learning

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership Facebook Group

Each chapter in the book opens with an invitation to connect your background knowledge and experience with the content of the chapter. The prompt in Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning asks you to consider how the current culture in your school supports your personal growth and how does it support individual and collective risk-taking, problem solving, and innovation.

These may or may not be easy questions to answer. You may be new to a school, or you may be serving in a new role this year and have yet to realize the affordances of your current school culture. If that is the case, think about your previous school or work environment.

Have you served, or do you serve in a culture that supports your professional growth?

School Culture
According to the glossary in MSLL, culture is “a way of life. It is comprised of shared beliefs, values, knowledge, attitudes, language, behaviors, social interactions, and more. Cultures are created by people over time. Cultures are dynamic; they are not fixed. Cultures change as people’s needs and norms change” (Moreillon 2018, 170). For me the keywords in this definition are “people” and “dynamic.”

Building Relationships
When building a culture of learning in your school, your relationships with people are THE place to start. People who know, like, and respect each other are more likely to invest in the success of the entire learning community. As a school librarian, you make sure that the strongest relationship you form and nurture is with your principal. You will build relationships with library staff, volunteers, and student aides. You will build relationships with individual classroom teachers and specialists and with grade-level or disciplinary teams. You will build relationships with the Parent-Teacher Association/Organization leaders and students’ family members.

Simply put, you must build relationships in order to position your work and the library program at the center of the learning community.

There are many ways to build connections via relationships. With your principal(s), it may be through regular face-to-face meetings, via email or other electronic communication, by sharing lesson plans, monthly newsletters, and quarterly reports. It may be through professional development opportunities you are facilitating for faculty. Wise school librarians regularly leave invitations to see what’s happening in the library and other positive notes in their principal’s mailbox. All of these communication venues will focus on sharing how you assist your principals in meeting their goals for faculty, students, and the school.

The teachers’ lounge in any school can be a positive point of contact, or it can be a place for airing complaints. If it is the former, be sure to get out of the library and into the lounge whenever you can. Get to know about classroom teachers’ own children (grandchildren) as well as their students. Listen and learn as they share the successful happenings in their classrooms. Be on the alert for problems they might share that you can help them solve. Share yourself as well as the resources and learning experiences centered in the library. If you cannot change the teachers’ lounge into a positive place for developing relationships, steer clear of it.

Forming advisory committees that include administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families is one sure way to build relationships. Make sure these committees have a defined purpose, such as setting library procedures, overseeing the library’s Web presence, or planning a literacy event. Library student aides can become the school librarians “own kids.” Not only do they help manage the library, they also further develop literacies and give school librarians insights into possible challenges other students may be having in using and creating with information.

Building Connections
Effective school librarians build connections between professional development and practice; resources and curriculum; libraries and classrooms; inquiry and the disciplines; and future ready learning and college, career, and community readiness (see figure 1.5).  Building these connections can best be achieved in a learning commons model. This model “for the use of the library’s physical and virtual spaces, its resources, and the school librarian focuses the library program on knowledge-building by students and educators alike” (Moreillon 2018, 173).

Cultural Transformation
“Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation. Schools must be structured to promote the exchange of fresh ideas and identify successful models with a lens toward sustainability — especially in light of inevitable leadership changes” (NMC/CoSN 2017, 4). I believe that school librarians can play a pivotal role in initiating, maintaining, and sustaining cultural transformation in their schools.

If the school library is known as a place for the open exchange of ideas, school librarians can help ensure that the school culture is a dynamic one. This open exchange will happen when there is trust among educators, students, and community members. With an exploratory and risk-taking approach, school librarians who have co-created a “learning commons” in the library will be on the forefront of identifying, testing, and developing successful strategies for transforming teaching and learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your go-to strategies for building connections in your school learning community?
  2. How does your school library program reflect a “learning commons” model, and how can you capitalize on this model to transform learning and teaching in your school?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: American Library Association.

New Media Consortium and Consortium for School Networking. 2017. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition. https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Maximizing Book Study: An Invitation

Dear Colleagues,
This is your personal invitation to join a professional book study during the 2018-2019 school year. As you may know, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy was written as a book study selection. Each of the nine chapters is intended to be read and discussed – one chapter a month – over the course of an academic year.Ways to Use this Book
In her book, Professional Development: What Works (2011), Sally Zepeda provides guidance for how to form a book study group, choose a book, make decisions about how to read and discuss a book, and evaluate the book and the book study process. I have had first-hand experience participating in professional book studies and have facilitated or co-facilitated studies at two elementary schools (see Moreillon 2012, 150-151) and for one university faculty.

The following are my ideas for organizing a book study specifically for Maximizing School Librarian Leadership.

Lone Reader
You can read this book and interact with it as a lone reader. You can keep a journal and write about the discussion questions and reflection prompts. Although the majority of the activities are intended for small or large groups, you may find several that you can do on your own. One way solo readers can maximize learning from the book is to post responses, thoughts, and questions to colleagues in their professional learning networks (PLNs), such as posts on email distribution lists, in Facebook groups, or in Twitter chats. Another way is to participate on this blog.

Partner Reading
School librarians may opt to read this book with a principal, district superintendent, another school librarian, educator, or administrator. This strategy might be especially effective if one of the partners is new to learning how school librarians can positively impact school culture, professional development, and change initiatives.

If, from my perspective, it was the best of all possible worlds, a school librarian and principal would co-lead a year-long book study to immerse a faculty in the ideas in this book while they were in the process of building a vision, mission, and goals for their schools. Such a book study could be conducted in face-to-face environments or facilitated by online tools such as email, blogs, Google docs or sites, wikis, social media, and more. (If you are using Twitter, I invite you to use these hashtags: #SchoolLibrarianLeadership and #BuildingConnections4Learning.)

Small Groups or Larger Cadre Book Study
Small groups or larger cadres of school librarians may also select this book as a shared prompt for monthly discussions. In districts with district-level school librarian supervisors, these may be organized by the supervisor for the entire cadre. If there is no supervisor, job-alike librarians, such as all middle school librarians, may choose to organize their own book study group.

A group of district-level school librarian supervisors may also opt to use Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy for their own book study. The book is intended to provide inspiration, strategies, and guideposts to help site-level school librarians strengthen their practice. District-level supervisors may choose to pass on this information to the school librarians in their charge.

Discussion Questions, Activities, and Reflection Prompts
At the end of each chapter, I provide three discussion questions, three activities, and three reflection prompts. The discussion questions are my best guesses about what you may want to dialogue about after reading each chapter. The opening quotes or the pull quotes for each chapter can also be used for this purpose. Whoever is leading the discussions in your learning environment may develop site- or district-specific questions around which readers can focus discussions.

The activities are intended for partners, small groups, or whole faculty groups. They can be adjusted to meet readers’ needs. For example, the first activity in Chapter One asks readers to use a mind map to illustrate the interdependence of stakeholders and instructional activities in their schools. If you are working with a cadre of school librarian supervisors, you may each do this activity at your district level and then compare your map with those of your fellow supervisor colleagues.

At the end of each chapter, there are two general reflection prompts and one specifically for school librarians. Of course, readers may create their own prompts. Responses to the prompts can be shared orally, in writing, with a sketch, or any other way that makes sense for the reader(s). When reading with a group, sharing reflections with others can be especially important to making meaning and perhaps arriving at a collective meaning from the text.

Why a Book Study?
In my experience, professional book groups can strengthen relationships, develop collegiality and shared beliefs and practices, influence curriculum, and help educators work together as a team. These experiences are one reason why I wrote Maximizing School Librarian Leadership as a book study selection. Next month, my blog support for the year-long book study will begin in earnest. Stay tuned for a podcast Episode 1 and for four blog postings related to Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning.

Questions for Discussion

  1. If you are reading this book with one other individual, such as your principal or your district superintendent, what will be your role in facilitating the book study and how will you ensure the success of your study?
  2. If you are reading this book with a group of colleagues—school library supervisors, school librarians, or classroom teachers for example—what will be your role in facilitating the book study and how will you ensure success for all participants?

References

Moreillon, Judi. 2012. “Job-embedded Professional Development: An Orchard of Opportunity.” In Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers, edited by Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet H. Harada, 141-156. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Zepeda, Sally J. 2011. Professional Development: What Works. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Maximizing Systems Thinking

In this quote from the book, I offer a critical foundation for succeeding in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership. When administrators, educators, students, and families have a collaborative mindset, they will be invested in each other’s success and in the success of the entire learning community. With a culture of collaboration as a foundation, principals and school librarian leaders will have built the necessary relationships to fully understand the system they seek to lead.

The Global View
Like principals, school librarians have a global view of the learning community. Effective school librarians and principals also reach out beyond the school walls to work with families and other community members. A close working relationship between principals and school librarians helps them share their insights into the various components of the learning community.

Systems thinking involves taking stock of the whole system before attempting to change any part of it. Systems thinking leaders search for patterns in the interdependent relationships among people and practices within the system. It is important, then, that leaders step into each other’s and every stakeholder’s shoes. School librarian leaders must ask: What does the school library program look like from the perspective of the principal(s), classroom teachers, specialists, staff, families, district-level decision-makers, and community members?

Systems thinking helps leaders identify areas of strength. These are the places in the system that support the learning community’s vision, mission, or goals. Leaders also look for stumbling blocks that may impede the school’s progress toward achieving their goals. In a collaborative culture, leaders use this information to further strengthen the system and collectively solve the challenges that could keep educators, students, and families from achieving success.

School Library Services Alignment
Collaborative school librarians seek to align their work—resources and teaching—with the classroom curriculum. Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning outcomes they have first-hand knowledge of the instructional program from a school-wide perspective. Principals and school librarians can use that information to continually improve their own leadership as well as the success of other educators, students, and families.

Systems thinking involves working as a team. Team learning “is a discipline of group interaction. Through such techniques as dialogue and skillful discussion, small groups of people transform their collective thinking, learn to mobilize their energies and actions to achieve common goals, and draw forth an intelligence greater than the sum of individual members’ talents” (Senge et al. 2012, 8).

School librarians work with individual colleagues as well as with grade-level and disciplinary teams. This gives us the opportunity (and the responsibility) to personalize professional learning for each member of the teaching faculty. Our knowledge of the entire system, which we share with our administrators, helps school librarians collaborate with others to transform teaching and learning. It helps us know how we can capitalize on our colleagues’ individual strengths and the school’s collective strengths. It helps us develop strategies to address any policies, procedures, or practices that may be holding us back.

Systems Thinking in Education
Systems thinking is not a new idea in education. In 1992, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development published an issue of Educational Leadership called “Improving School Quality.” Frank Betts contributed an article to that issue called “How Systems Thinking Applies to Education.” As Betts notes, “Each educational system is composed of a unique set of elements arranged in a unique constellation of relationships. Furthermore, the relationships among elements, subsystems, and supra-systems are continually changing in search of equilibrium while avoiding entropy.” As the call for systemic change in education has grown even more urgent in the years since his article was published, there remains much to learned about applying systems thinking to transforming our schools.

Taking a systems thinking approach provides school leaders with the data they need to lead a change process. Strong leaders practice distributive leadership and encourage all stakeholders to actively participate in the process. Applying systems thinking and working collaboratively with others is the way to collectively take the risks necessary to maximize our effectiveness and reach for our capacity to meet the needs of today’s students.

Coming August 27th at 3:00 p.m. EST:

Your Library on Steroids: Make an Impact on System Level PrioritiesSchool Library Journal Webinar with Priscille Dando, Coordinator of Library Information Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Jonathan Hunt, Lead Coordinator of Library Media Services, San Diego County Office of Education

Questions for Discussion

  1. Do you feel that your school community is currently working together as a team?
  2. How do you or could you contribute to strengthening your school’s team?

Works Cited

Betts, Frank. 1992. “How Systems Thinking Applies to Education.” Educational Leadership 50 (3); 38-41.

Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares about Education. New York: Crown Business.

 

From Where Does Your Authority Come?

The authority of an author is one of the first pieces of background knowledge we ask students to consider as they weigh the value, reliability, perspective, or bias in information. The importance of researching the author’s or authors’ credentials, knowledge, experience, and prior contributions to the conversation on any given topic is equally important for educators who are considering reading a professional book.

To add to what you can learn about me from this blog, my previous writing, or a Google search, I would like to share three of the defining experiences of my professional life. These experiences have charted my practice, scholarship, and service. It may come as a surprise to School Librarian Leadership blog readers who were children or who weren’t yet born in the mid-1990s, but resource-based learning, flexible library schedules, and classroom-library collaboration for instruction have been part of our school librarianship and education history for decades.Resource-based Learning
As a preservice classroom teacher in the 1980s, I was schooled in literature-based teaching. This involved developing units of instruction in all content areas based on literature text sets. These topical or thematic text sets included fiction and informational texts in all genres at a variety of reading proficiency levels. Those text sets even included media (!), which in those days focused on films (and yes, filmstrips), cassette tapes and other recordings, artifact kits, computer-based programs, and more. The goal of developing text sets was to give students choice in exploring resources to develop their literacy and increase their content knowledge.

At that time, we conducted “research.” Most often classroom teachers gave students a set of questions or tasks to complete using the text set for resources. (We did not have a school librarian in our California school.) Most often, students produced traditional reports and presented their learning orally with some type of visual aide. In my classroom, students often had choices in how they presented their learning. Some chose to write traditional reports; others wrote poems or stories, performed skits, or created highly illustrated work. (We had only one Apple IIe computer in our classroom. Its primary instructional use was our student-published class newsletter, The Hang-Ten News.)

Library Power
It wasn’t until my early years as a school librarian that I was introduced to inquiry learning. In my third year of practice, I transferred school districts and secured a position in a high-needs elementary school in a district that had received a Library Power grant. The National Library Power Project was funded with a grant from the Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. Over the course of ten years, the fund provided $45 million 700 schools in 19 school districts across the United States.

I led the team at Corbett Elementary in writing our school’s successful Library Power application. This grant likely changed the course of my career in school librarianship. All Library Power school library programs in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) were required to operate with flexible scheduling based on classroom-library collaboration for instruction. The grants included funds for purchasing new print and electronic resources and renovating the physical spaces of our libraries. Perhaps, most importantly, Library Power districts provided professional development (PD) for classroom teachers, school librarians, and principals.

Classroom-Library Coteaching
School librarians involved with TUSD’s project participated in “Cooperative Program Planning,” a week-long training provided by Ken Haycock. This training was focused on classroom-library collaboration for instruction. In TUSD, we launched a follow-up PD series for which Library Power school librarians were required to bring a classroom teacher colleague to learn and practice coplanning strategies, and prepared to coteach in the classroom or library.

I was hooked. To be honest, I had felt inadequate as a classroom teacher working solo in my classroom. As an isolated educator, I never felt I could simultaneously address the needs of English language learners as well as the students reading and writing far above their grade level. As a school librarian coteacher, I experienced the benefits of two heads for planning, four heads and four hands for coimplementing instruction and coassessing student learning outcomes.

I achieved more satisfaction as a coteacher because I experienced the power of two educators offering students more personalized learning than one educator working alone could provide. Students were able to succeed with individual and small group inquiry projects. And my collaborators and I shared a sense of achievement in meeting students’ needs and developing our instructional expertise alongside one another.

Classroom-Library Collaboration Testimonials
It wasn’t until I transferred to another Library Power elementary school and began regularly teaching a graduate-level course in school librarianship at the University of Arizona that I realized I could be recording classsroom-library ollaboration testimonials from classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators. I began recording in 2001, and other school librarians have since contributed to this page.  The most recent video was crowdsourced and includes testimonials from principals and district-level leaders from across the U.S. regarding their experiences working with professional school librarians: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School” (2014).

My goal in capturing these testimonials was to inspire preservice school librarians to help them understand the benefits of classroom-library collaboration from the perspectives of classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators. Rather than “taking time away” from classroom teachers (losing or taking planning time or classroom instructional time), I wanted to show future school librarians that other educators would welcome their instructional partnership invitations. These testimonials show that educators and administrators value what school librarians bring to the collaboration table and know how our teaching increases student learning.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are your defining professional experiences and how have the influenced the way you teach?
  2. Whose work has guided your instructional practices, and how do you currently apply their thinking and strategies in your teaching?

Reference

Haycock, Ken. 2007. “Collaboration: Critical Success Factors for Student Learning.” School Libraries Worldwide 13 (1): 25–35.

Maximizing Leadership: Keyword = Collaboration

For the 2018-2019 academic year, I will be using my blog to support educators who are using my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy as a book study selection. This month (August), I blog about the information found in the preface and the introduction and the to use the book as a book study selection. In September, I will blog about Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning and continue dedicating each month during the academic year to subsequent chapters in the book. You can find the schedule and links to these blog posts, on the book page of my blog. Each month, I will introduce that month’s chapter with a podcast.

For the month of August, I published a podcast called: Preview: School Librarian Leadership

All Podcast ScriptsPreface

In the preface of a book, authors often explain why they wrote the book. They often use the preface to establish their credibility in terms of their experience on the topic or their professional background. To apply an old term from the study of rhetoric, a preface is in a sense an “apology”: an explanation or defense.

As Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker explain in their book Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team (2017), it is essential for people to determine their “whys.” While we may achieve “happiness” in “what” we do, our “whys” indicate the ways we achieve satisfaction. Our “whys” align with our values, our goals, our raison d’être. This book is about my “WHY.”

From a professional standpoint, “collaboration” is the skill and educational value that is primary in my heart, mind, and experience. For me to fulfill my purpose as an educator, I have chosen to collaborate with others to reach for my individual and our collective capacity to serve the needs of the students in our care. I know from experience that none of us can succeed with all students in all content areas if we choose to work in isolation from our colleagues.

Collaborative Cultures

I have served in collaborative culture schools and worked on non-collaborative faculties as well. I know the difference in terms of my ability to learn and grow. I know the difference in terms of what we can accomplish and offer students by working together. I know it takes a village to help students and educators reach their capacity.

Simply put, there is no comparison between a collaborative culture and non-collaborative culture learning community.

Culture is everything. At times in my teaching career when my collaborative purpose and the purpose of the learning community were aligned, there was absolutely no limit to what we could accomplish together—and no limit to my joy and sense of achievement. A culture of collaboration is focused on both individual and collective growth. “If every member of a team doesn’t grow together they will grow apart” (Simon, Mead, and Docker 2017, 195).

As a school librarian, I have had awesome (no exaggeration) opportunities to co-lead along with administrators and classroom teacher leaders in collaborative culture schools. These experiences have shaped me, and they shaped this book.

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership

This book represents almost thirty years of learning, seven years of intensive graduate-level teaching, and two additional years of reading, researching, and writing. During my tenure as an assistant, then associate, professor at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), I developed (from scratch), refined, and further refined a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners” (LS5443). For me, this course offered graduate students THE reason to serve as school librarians. It offered preservice school librarians a “why” followed by “what” and “how.”

Over my seven years of service at TWU, I taught this course twelve semesters, occasionally teaching two sections in one semester. I learned a great deal from the over three hundred students who participated in the course. There were students who entered LS5443 with open minds or prior positive experiences with collaboration; they embraced coplanning, coteaching, and co-leading. There were other students who struggled to let go and trust their fellow students; they resisted collaboration. Some developed their collaborative ability over the course of the semester; others left our course adamant that they would seek library positions in which they could work alone.

When I completed this book in November of 2017, I realized that Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, is the text I wish I had had to help guide the preservice school librarians who participated in LS5443. Perhaps this text would have helped me more effectively communicate the deep sense of purpose and satisfaction that is possible when school librarian leaders collaborate to co-create a culture of learning.

My Hope

I hope all school librarians will come to know through first-hand experience that teaching and learning within a collaborative culture of learning is the context in which they will succeed in educating students for the present as well as for their futures. When school librarians serve as culture builders, practice job-embedded professional development, and lead as changemakers, they can and will be leaders on teams that transform learning and teaching.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is your WHY related to your career in school librarianship?
  2. What do you hope to learn, or wish you had learned in your preservice school librarian education?

Work Cited

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. 2017. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin.

Note: I reviewed this book on my blog in two parts on October 16 and October 23, 2017.