Sharing with Authentic Audiences and Student Self-Assessment

Guided Inquiry Design (GID): Share and Evaluate Phases

Waaaay back in the Dark Ages when I was a K-12 student, it was understood that teachers were the primary audience for the vast majority of the school work students produced. There were notable exceptions in my K-12 education that still stick with me. My third-grade teacher required that we compose and recite original poems. We performed them first with her, then for her, and then when she thought we were ready, we performed them for the class. In fifth-grade, we memorized poems written by notable poets and recited them in front of the class. In upper elementary, middle and high school, I remember having to orally read reports (sometimes with visual aids), which for shy me was totally embarrassing. Perhaps even worse, I remember how tedious it was to listen to all thirty-some-odd fact-only reports produced by my classmates.

Thank goodness those days are (should be!) long gone.

Today’s students can easily share their learning using a wide variety of multi-sensory technology tools with local as well as global audiences. Engaging in and sharing learning with authentic audiences is one of the most empowering aspects of the Internet, Web-based tools, and software. When inquiry learning is framed in terms of authentic audiences, many learners will be more likely to value their work and some may be more motivated to persist when the learning journey is difficult.

Share Phase
The “Share” phase of the GID presents learners with opportunities to further exercise voice and choice. The proliferation of online tools, apps, software, and social media can help students target audiences within their classroom, school, region, or global community. They can upload presentations to blogs and wikis where they can invite viewers to respond to their work. They can use tools such as VoiceThread and receive feedback from their audience on specific pages/aspects of their presentations. In addition, they can use social media to broadcast their work to a global audience. Depending on the learning objectives, educators may provide learners with a menu of tools from which to choose, or give them free rein.

Wise educators will develop a separate checklist, rubric, or other assessment guide that is specific enough to assess inquiry learning objectives yet generic enough to give students creative options. Here is an example from my secondary reading comprehension strategies book; scroll down to 4.3 Group Work and Multimedia Product.

Evaluate Phase
The GID involves students in reflecting throughout the inquiry process. Students can reflect on their learning journeys in inquiry journals; educators can offer prompts as needed. Students may keep journals exclusively for their own use or share their reflections with inquiry teammates, in inquiry circles comprised of students studying varying topics, or with educators during inquiry conferences.

Throughout a well-designed inquiry process, students self-assess and receive feedback from peers and educators on their process and progress toward mastering learning objectives. These formative assessments help students identify the need for more practice, to seek more information, or to ask for specific help. They allow educators to provide individual, small group, and whole class interventions in which they reteach skills and strategies for which students need more direction.

It is also important for educators and students to assess students’ dispositions and social-emotional skills. “Students develop self-efficacy by being keen observers of their own learning processes. When educators use terms associated with dispositions in their communications with students and families, students may be more likely to understand how their emotional and social intelligence affects their academic learning. Educators also model dispositions and share anecdotes related to how their own grit, curiosity, or sense of social responsibility made a difference in their lives” (Moreillon 2018, 117). Dialogue between students and educators can facilitate social-emotional learning assessment. Assessing dispositions in student-educator conferences may be the most effective strategy.

Summative evaluation at the end of the learning journey should align with the overarching goals and objectives of the inquiry. Educators should provide these evaluation tools early in the process and may create these instruments with learners themselves. “The effectiveness of rubrics is determined by how well students can use them to guide their learning process and self-assess their progress as well as their final product or performance” (Moreillon 2018, 115). Students should have the opportunity to self-evaluate both their process and final products. Final evaluations may include criteria for individual as well as group work. They may offer opportunities for learners to add their own criteria and state their case for their level of mastery.

Coteaching the “Share” and “Evaluate” Phases of the GID
When two or more educators are guiding the inquiry process, students can receive more support for unique methods of sharing their learning. The inquiry team will have expertise in various presentation formats and tools and can help individual and groups of students learn and apply tools to meet their presentation goals.

Co-creating assessment and evaluation tools can help educators clarify their goals and objectives for the inquiry experience as well as provide clear guidance for learners. When students are given the opportunity to create unique final products, it may be challenging for a single educator to create assessments that will meet all students’ needs. Coteachers should decide in advance if they will take individual or collective responsibility for evaluating specific aspects of students’ process or final products.

Once again, coplanning, coteaching, and coassessment improve educators’ teaching and student learning outcomes.

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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

Educator Reflection

Just as students benefit from reflecting throughout the inquiry process, so, too, do educators. Metacognition, or thinking about one’s thinking, is an essential aspect of learning. Thinking about how we plan for instruction, monitor student progress, provide interventions, and assess our instructional expertise helps coteachers transfer prior learning to their next teaching (and learning) experience.

School librarians can engage in various types of reflection. They can reflect as individual educators. They can also reflect along with their administrator(s) or supervisor(s). They may reflect in small groups such as Professional Learning Communities or along with a cadre of job-alike colleagues. One of the most effective reflection practices in terms of its impact on student learning may be reflecting with coteaching colleagues during the planning process, during lesson/unit implementation, and post-implementation.

School Librarian Self-Assessment
The AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries includes a “School Library Checklist” that covers a range of school librarian behaviors and responsibilities (2018, 174-180) I hope that it is no accident that collaborating with other educators is the first criterion on that list.

Figure 7.3 School Librarian Self-Assessment Criteria shows the keywords used by four organizations that school librarians can use to guide their reflection: AASL, Follett Project Connect, Future Ready Librarians, and International Society for Technology in Education (Educators).

“Collaborate,” “instructional partnership,” “collaborative leadership,” and “collaborator” are various terms used across these four sets of criteria on which school librarians can base one aspect of their self-assessment. Reflecting on one’s ability to lead through collaboration is an essential behavior of effective school librarians (see Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning).

Different Planning/Thinking Styles
Being aware of how we think and learn can help school librarians, in particular, to be more effective in their roles as instructional partners. Perhaps, you, the librarian, are a sequential planner/thinker who is building a collaborative relationship with a random planner/thinker colleague. You will need to give up some measure of control in order to accommodate the preferences of such a coteacher. It is likely you will need to be flexible enough to think on your feet and approach planning or teaching at a different speed, via a different path or take learning in a different direction all together.

When we demonstrate our flexibility by accommodating the thinking styles of our colleagues and administrators/supervisors, we further show our readiness for future ready education. In order to meet the needs of today’s students, we must be flexible, responsive, and collaborative educators.

Strategies for Reflecting
Ensuring that reflection is a component of learning is difficult to achieve in practice. It seems that reflecting on any learning process has not yet become standard practice in many classrooms and libraries. Perhaps by including reflection time on planning forms and on lesson plans, educators can remind one another of the importance of metacognition.

For coteachers, including reflection before, during, and after an instructional intervention can help educators think, create, share, and grow. Educators may choose to write/draw/record their individual reflections. While reflecting individually is a useful strategy, reflecting together as trusting partners may be even more effective. (Sharing individual reflection documents is one way to do that.) Shared reflection can be a time for educators to express gratitude for what they are learning with and from one another. It can also be a time for coteachers to identify areas for improvement and recommit to growing together as instructional partners.

Reflection is also an important component on semi-annual or annual self-assessment or formal assessment/evaluation instruments. Keeping a journal throughout the year can help school librarians prepare to compose a comprehensive semi-annual or annual reflection. As instructional leaders in schools, administrators will want to know what educators themselves perceive as their areas of greatest strength, areas for improvement, and next steps for future learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your strategies for ensuring that you make time to reflect on your teaching and learning?
  2. What are the advantages of reflecting with an instructional partner?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online.

School Librarian Evaluation

Episode 7: Assessment (Evidence-based Practice) Virtual Podcast Interview with Kelly MillerIf school librarians are to achieve their capacity as leaders in their schools, it is their charge to influence the practices of their colleagues. As noted in Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development, coteaching is an ideal context in which educators organically practice reciprocal mentorship. Coteachers learn with and from one another as they guide, monitor, and assess student learning outcomes.

If school librarians are to collect direct measures, “they must be proactive in creating the conditions in which they can collect, analyze, and use evidence of their impact on student learning” (Moreillon 2016, 30). In short, in order to maximize their leadership, school librarians must seek out instructional partnerships, and they must coplan, coteach, and coassess student learning outcomes.

And in the best of all possible worlds, school librarian evaluators would observe them and provide actionable feedback in the context of coteaching. I was fortunate in my career to have site-level administrators who, with the classroom teacher’s permission, observed me during cotaught lessons. In several cases, our pre-evaluation conferences were conducted with the other educator present. In all cases, the post-evaluation conferences were one-on-one conversations between my evaluators and me.

Readiness for Coteaching
Jennifer Sturge, the Teacher Specialist for School Libraries and Instructional Technology for Calvert County (MD) Public Schools published an article in the January/February issue of Knowledge Quest (KQ). In the article, Jen shares how she provided collaboration training to help classroom teachers and school librarians prepare for classroom-library coteaching. She also worked with administrators to help them overcome possible barriers to coteaching such as library scheduling, collaboration time, and library staffing.

Jen found that 83% of the classroom teachers she surveyed believed that collaborating with school librarians would benefit students. Of course, there were challenges along the way, but can-do collaborators found solutions to address them. As Jen notes at the end of her article, “I was hoping to succeed but was also prepared to fail. After all, how could this project take off without funding? Through the sheer determination of everyone who has recognized the benefits to students and worked along with way with me, we’re moving slowly but surely to a more collaborative approach in our elementary school libraries” (Sturge 2019, 31).

Evaluating Coplanning
Using a coplanning form is one way to assess you and your colleague’s readiness to coteach. In the January/February KQ article “Co-Planning and Co-Implementing Assessment and Evaluation for Inquiry Learning,” I provided sample planning forms that include standards, learning objectives, and student outcomes evaluation criteria (Moreillon 2019, 42-43).

Effective collaborative planning creates a framework for measurable student success; it addresses the Understanding by Design (UbD) approach (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) to planning instruction. School librarian evaluators will benefit from observing, participating in, or reviewing educators’ evidence of collaborative planning.

Evaluating Coteaching
Evidence-based practice (EBP) suggests that educators base their instruction on published research, apply research-based interventions in their practice, and measure the success of their efforts in terms of the targeted student outcomes. UbD and EBP are aligned and can assist educators in determining the effectiveness of their teaching.

In the same issue of KQ, the literacy coordinator for Bismarck Public Schools Misti Werle shared her leadership in implementing and evaluating instructional partnerships in her district. Writing along with middle school librarian Kat Berg and English language arts teacher Jenni Kramer, Misti shared a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” document that guided Bismarck school librarians in serving as equal instructional partners. The document assisted them in stretching their collaborative practices and helped them assess their progress as well (Berg, Kramer, and Werle 2019, 35).

Evaluating the Outcomes of Classroom-Library Collaboration
In her podcast interview, Kelly Miller, Coordinator of Library Media Services for Virginia Beach (VA) Public Schools, provides school librarians with a pathway to leadership through evidence-based practice. When school librarians collaborate with others to develop an action research project, they can demonstrate their professionalism, collect and analyze data, and document how they are improving teaching and learning in their schools.

This tweet was cited in a recent issue of ASCD’s Education Update: “Have a dream or vision and struggling to get there? If so, let go of perfection, bring as many people together as you can, and focus on continuous improvement rather than a destination point of ‘success’” (@PrincipalPaul 2019, 3). Collaborative relationships can be challenging. Codesigning and coimplementing an action research project can be imperfect at times and collaborators must be able to self-assess and regroup.

Just as educators help students strive for continuous development, wise administrators and school librarian supervisors support educators in continually improving their practice. Approaching school librarian evaluation as providing feedback for learning means that librarians will have the necessary guidance to move their practice forward. Success is in the journey rather than reaching some static target for “perfection.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Why is it essential for school librarians to have a different evaluation instrument than classroom teachers?
  2. Think of a time you had an effective coteaching experience. What would an evaluator have noticed during this teaching and learning event?

For Fun!
Effective classroom-library collaboration can flourish in a positive school climate and a collaborative school culture. Figure 7.4 in this chapter (also available as a free download) shows a possible way to involve one’s administrators and colleagues in suggesting criteria for assessing the school librarian’s effectiveness.

Works Cited

@PrincipalPaul. 2019. ASCD Education Update 61 (1): 3.

Berg, Kat, Jenni Kramer, and Misti Werle. 2019. “Implementing & Evaluating Instructional Partnerships.” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 32-38.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Co-Planning and Co-Implementing Assessment and Evaluation for Inquiry Learning,” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 40-47.

Sturge, Jennifer. 2019. “Assessing Readiness for School Library Collaboration.” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 24-31.

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

Digital Learning Instructional Partnerships

Podcast Episode 6: Digital Learning Interview with Amy Soma and Louis Lauer

Initiating, developing, and sustaining instructional partnerships for digital learning is a win-win-win proposition for future ready learning. School librarians can be leaders in developing shared digital learning values, vocabulary, instructional practices, and expectations.

Collaborating educators have knowledge of students’ home and school access to digital resources and technology tools. This may be particularly important for school librarians who are well-aware of students’ school-based access but may lack knowledge of students’ home and community access. However, access alone is not enough to ensure that students are able to maximize the promised benefits digital information, devices, and tools.

In a 2016 survey, Victoria Rideout and Vikki Katz found that “the quality of families’ Internet connections, and the kinds and capabilities of devices they can access, have considerable consequences for parents and children” (7). Through collaboration, educators must deepen their knowledge and understanding of students’ opportunities to learn digitally. They must create a school- and community-based context in which digital learning can achieve its promise.

Shared Values
While access to technology resources is a prerequisite for digital learning, shared values are just as important. Educators who have similar teaching experiences working with students in their neighborhood schools are perfectly positioned to think, plan, and teach together to meet students’ needs. During collaborative planning, astute school librarians will be mindful of how their colleagues’ values and their own align and when those values are misaligned. During the coplanning process, collaborators may nudge each other to expand students’ choice and voice when it comes to digital tools.

When educators read and share research and practitioner articles focused on technology tools integration, they can collectively strategize the most effective approaches to engaging students in digital learning. Wrestling with questions such as the ones that follow posed by Dr. Maryanne Wolf can lead instructional partners or whole school teaching teams to think and rethink how to successfully frame digital learning.

“Will the early-developing cognitive components of the reading circuit be altered by digital media before, while, and after children learn to read? In particular, what will happen to the development of their attention, memory, and background knowledge—processes known to be affected in adults by multitasking, rapidity, and distraction?” (Wolf 2018, 107).

“What are the specific developmental relationships among continuous partial attention, working memory, and the formation and the deployment of deep-reading processes in children?” (Wolf 2018, 117).

Shared Vocabulary
When educators have shared vocabulary for instruction in any content area or for use in any process, such as inquiry learning, students benefit. The glossary in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership is an important aspect of the book. While all readers may not agree 100% with my definitions, they offer a starting place for discussion and clarification.

The International Literacy Association (ILA) offers an online literacy glossary. “New literacies” is one important term related to digital learning that educators may discuss and tweak.

New literacies. A term used to signal a shift from literacy to literacies, especially in relation to how people view texts as being situated in different contexts that in turn support different kinds of reading and writing. New, not in the sense of a replacement metaphor, but new in the sense that social, economic, cultural, intellectual, and institutional changes are continually at work. This term is preferred over 21st-century literacies. (See also 21st-century literacy(ies)) [Rev., 10/2018]

Collaborating for digital learning does require an understanding of how students view, read, learn with, and write digital texts.  For me, ILA’s definition is especially useful because it notes the term “new” relates to  contexts for literacy learning rather than a replacement for traditional literacies.

Shared Contexts
Students and adults today have become habituated to ever faster access to information and multitasking. We also communicate more frequently in briefer units of thought; Twitter and email are examples. “90% of youth say they are multitasking when they are reading online; only 1% multitask when reading in print” (Wolf 2018, 114).

Faster access to information does not necessarily result in faster knowledge acquisition. Modeling slower and deeper engagement with texts helps students see the benefits of taking time. In addition, relevant learning experiences can help students remain engaged, develop intrinsic motivation, and persist when learning is challenging. With two or more coteachers monitoring student learning, educators can more easily identify students who have lost their momentum or lost their way and need guidance to get back on track.

Instructional Practices
What school librarians have traditionally termed information literacy are what Dr. Wolf calls “pragmatic tools” for online reading. School librarians are adept and experienced at teaching students how to select and use search engines and databases. We help students be deliberate when choosing search terms and evaluating search results. We model and give them repeated opportunities to practice determining perspective and bias and to dig deep in order to recognize misinformation, propaganda, and lies. Taking these strategies to media sources, further expands students’ ability to be astute users of data, ideas, and information.

Separating truth from fiction takes time for both youth and adults. Applying information and media literacy strategies and approaching texts with alternately open and skeptical minds will require practice. The International Society for Technology in Education has published a number of resources to support school librarians in teaching information/media literacy, most recently Fact versus Fiction: Teaching Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News (LaGarde and Hudgins 2018).

The Challenge
School librarians must focus on access first and address the gaps. The future ready librarian also “invests strategically in digital resources,” “cultivates community partnerships,” and “leads beyond the library” (Future Ready Librarians).  School librarians can take a leadership role in writing grants to obtain funding for technologies that address equity of access. Building digital age capacity through forming partnerships with public librarians and other community-based organizations is important in order to provide digital networks that are essential to students’ success. School librarians must join with others in advocating for students’ access to tools and devices in their homes and communities as well as in their schools.

Through leadership, we can help our schools develop shared values, vocabulary, instructional practices, and expectations for student learning with digital information and tools in order to address this challenge: “technology increasingly provides easy access to answers, but if we focus only on the answers and not on the thinking, questioning, and solving, we deny students powerful learning experiences. Perhaps even more significant, we fail to develop the new literacies that will empower them to solve complex problems and be lifelong learners” (Martin 2018, 22).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How would you describe the technology environment, including equity of access, in your school, district, or community?
  2. In what kinds of conversations have you engaged with colleagues related to shared values, practices, and challenges with technology tools use and integration?

Works Cited

Future Ready Librarians Framework: Empowering Leadership for School Librarians through Innovative Professional Practice. https://tinyurl.com/frlflyer

LaGarde, Jennifer, and Darren Hudgins. 2018. Fact versus Fiction: Teaching Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Martin, Katie. 2018. “Learning in a Changing World: What It Means to be a Literacy Learning—and Teacher—in the 21st Century.” Literacy Today 36 (3): 21-23.

Rideout, Victoria, and Vikki S. Katz. 2016. “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families.” Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. ERIC ED574416.

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

Questioning for Deeper Learning

Questioning strategies are the focus of this chapter.  The Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework puts student-led questioning at the heart of inquiry learning (see Chapter 3 and the November blog posts beginning with “School-Wide Inquiry Learning.” In the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the GID, educators and students frontload their learning so that the questions they pursuit are deeper and more personally meaningful than their off-the-tops-of-their-heads questions might have been.

Figure 5.3 (page 81) shows the questioning strategies spotlighted in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership. All of these questioning strategies can be used effective in the GID Framework: Question-Formulation Technique, Question-Answer Relationships, Question the Author, Text-Dependent Questioning, and Socratic Questioning. Chapter 5 includes descriptions of each of these strategies and provides references for those seeking more information about each one.

Essential Questions
Coteachers can develop essential questions to frame an inquiry. These questions describe big ideas for which individual students or groups of students can drill down deeper into one or more aspects of these big ideas to find their most pressing genuine question(s). Educators’ abilities to think in terms of big ideas that connect required standards and students’ interests can capitalize on these questions during the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework.

Still, it is important that students have the opportunity and responsibility to take the educators’ essential questions in student-initiated directions. Supporting students as they dig deeper into the sub-questions that shape responses to the complex overarching essential questions is teacherly work. Through conferencing in the Identify phase of the GID, educators can push students’ thinking and help them find the “third space” between curriculum and students’ authentic interests (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 17).

Questioning Develops Analytical Skills
“Only if we continuously work to develop and use our complex analogical and inferential skills will the neural networks underlying them sustain our capacity to be thoughtful, critical analysts of knowledge, rather than passive consumers of information” (Wolf 2018, 62). This idea that analyzing information and situations and drawing inferences help us think critically and ask better questions rings true to me.

For example, the Right Question Institute applies the skills of thoughtful questioning and listening to their vision for “microdemocracy.” In this context, thoughtful (and respectful) questioning can help people engage in decision-making conversations and participate more fully with governmental and public institutions whose decisions impact their lives.

If I were in charge of the world, students would be in school today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. They would be focusing the entire day on studying and asking questioning about Dr. King’s legacy. They would be thinking together about human rights and planning or taking action to further his dream–our dream…

Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questions
Figure 5.1 in Chapter 5 may be especially helpful to school librarians who are developing their practice as inquiry framers and skillful questioners. Cross-discipline questions can relate to the purpose for reading or the reader’s background knowledge on the topic. The figure offers discipline-specific questions for these content areas: arts and language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and technology

All of these questions and questioning strategies can support student reflection and double back to two essential questions for inquiry learning:

  1. Why is/was this question meaningful to me?
  2. What will I do with the data, information, and knowledge I gain/gained from this inquiry?

If educators’ goal is to ensure that students are self-reflective thinkers and learners have long-lasting connections to their learning and who put their knowledge to use, then these two questions can be used at the beginning as well as at the culmination of any inquiry learning cycle.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Which “new” questioning strategy/ies can you add to the mix, and how will you share it/them with colleagues and students?
  2. What cross-discipline or discipline-specific questions would you add to Figure 5.1?

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2015. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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

Coteaching Comprehension Strategies During Inquiry Learning

As you likely know, the references to coteaching reading comprehension strategies in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership are summaries based on my previously published professional books focused on this topic.

In those books, I focus on seven reading comprehension strategies that can be applied to all texts and across all content areas: activating or building background knowledge, using sensory images, making predictions or drawing inferences, questioning, determining main ideas (or importance), using fix-up options (to gain or regain comprehension), and synthesizing. All of these strategies can and should be applied to both print and digital texts. For educators who want more information, lesson/unit plans, and graphic organizers and assessment tools to support instruction in teaching/coteaching comprehension, I highly recommend these books.

Coteaching During Inquiry
Coteaching reading comprehension strategies during inquiry learning is a way for school librarians to position their work at the center of their school’s academic program. “Many of us see our role as fostering the enjoyment and appreciation of literature in all genres and information in all formats—but we have stopped short of taking part in actual reading instruction. Helping youth become capable readers is the goal of every school. Improving students’ reading achievement and improving teachers’ reading instruction are critical concerns of all school principals. If we are to position ourselves at the center of our schools’ literacy programs, then we must become leaders in reading instruction” (Moreillon 2008, 27).

Inquiry learning offers an authentic opportunity for school librarians and classroom teachers to coteach reading comprehension strategies. During inquiry, coteachers model using think-alouds to demonstrate to students how to approach unfamiliar or difficult text. They show that two (or more) people will bring different background knowledge to reading a text and apply different strategies to wrestle with meaning making. Coteachers model the behaviors of lifelong learners.

Difficult Texts
When students are seeking information to answer their questions, they will invariably interact with texts that are above their proficient reading level. At these points during inquiry learning, students will need to be able to reach into their reading strategy toolkits to select and apply the best tool(s) for the comprehension challenge. Educator and peer modeling are essential to making visible what is often invisible to striving and struggling readers. Understanding reading as problem solving helps strengthen students’ ability to think critically and make meaning from texts.

Students need scaffolds and frameworks to support them as they develop complete reading comprehension toolkits. Graphic organizers and elementary bookmarks and secondary bookmarks such as these found in Chapter 2 in my reading comprehension book resources can help give students the reminders they need to be effective comprehension problem solvers. Developing a set of initial questions to ask when approaching unfamiliar text is another way to support effective reading and information seeking. (See page 64 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

In order to wrestle with difficult texts and engage in deep reading, readers must employ comprehension strategies (see seven strategies listed above). Deep reading takes time. “The quality of how we read any sentence or text depends, however, on the choices we make with the time we allocate to the processes of deep reading, regardless of the medium” (Wolf 2018, 37).

Disposition: Persistence
When we are modeling, it is important for educators demonstrate persistence with difficult texts. In their book Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms (1999), Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz offer a strategy that I have used since reading their book almost twenty years ago. Ask students to bring in texts for which adults will be challenged to make meaning. Examples could be rap or other song lyrics, video games, technology, or other manuals, or any text for which students have expertise or experience and educators don’t. Using think-alouds, educators demonstrate that they must reach into their reading strategy toolkits to make sense of the text. Students then have the opportunity to assess the educator’s understanding and meaning making process (56).

Regardless of our age, background experiences, and reading proficiency, all readers will bump up against difficult texts. In order to read deeply, all readers will need to show persistence in solving comprehension challenges. Students will also run into other roadblocks in their information-seeking process; they can lose momentum or threaten to give up all together. Activating and applying the disposition persistence during inquiry learning is essential. Practicing persistence is important to being successful in life as well as in schooling.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Do the administrators and faculty colleagues with whom you serve view school librarians as reading comprehension teachers?
  2. If they do, how can you capitalize on this leadership opportunity? If they don’t, how can you change this perception?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2007. Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2008. “Position Yourself at the Center by Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies.” Teacher Librarian, 35 (5), 27-34.

_____. 2012. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2013. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

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.

Diverse, Creative Expressions of Learning

In addition to advocating for learning experiences that involve stimulating students’ creativity, engaging them in experimentation, and activating their creativity (see last week’s blog post), coplanning and coteaching inquiry learning are also ways to increase students’ opportunities for diverse final products. If our message to students is that all roads lead to the same outcome, many will not see the relevance of their learning experiences to their lives. They will not experience learning as a complex activity that results in diverse creative expressions of learning. Too many will disengage or simply be lost or derailed along the way.

Supporting Classroom Teachers and Specialists
During coplanning, classroom teachers and specialists may express reservations about students taking curriculum into individual or unexpected pathways. Secondary educators, in particular, who may be responsible for learning outcomes for 75 middle school or as many as 150 high school students may shudder to think that they alone will be responsible for guiding and assessing students’ learning.

School librarians who coplan, coimplement, AND coassess student learning outcomes can ease classroom teachers’ and specialists’ concerns about giving students “free rein” to explore in many different directions and in producing many different final products. Collaboration can also ensure that educators create flexible assessment tools that accurately reflect students’ achievement in terms of learning objectives as well as their creativity.

Supporting Students
Two (or more) educators working as a team can better monitor and guide individual student’s learning as well as small group work. Inquiry circles as described in the guided inquiry require check-ins from educators (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 32–36). It is through check-ins that educators push students’ thinking, offer resource support, identify stumbling blocks, and opportunities for reteaching specific subskills to the students who need them to move forward.

One of my all-time favorite teaching memories involved working with a second-grade teacher (in the late 1990s) who structured her classroom around inquiry. Students identified areas of interest, pitched their ideas to the class, and formed small groups to pursue meaningful questions. As their school librarian, I often worked with more or more groups as they sought information through the library’s resources.

One of the questions for the “frog and other amphibians” group was about dissecting frogs to learn more about their body parts and functions. I helped the group contact a biology professor at the University of Arizona. The students posed their questions to him and organized a field trip to his lab where he led them in dissecting and learning about frogs. I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying them on their adventure. Years later, two students from that group remembered that learning experience as one of the most powerful in their elementary education.

The Underlying Message
Learning is complex and expressions of knowledge can (and should?) be unique. When classmates share their learning processes and final products, students (and educators) should be amazed at the divergent thinking and variety of expressions of learning. When students are given the opportunity to pursue learning that is personally meaningful, use resources they have discovered on their own, selected and employed tools that helped them meet their individual (or their group’s) goals for sharing, they are enacting the skills and dispositions of lifelong learners.

Inquiry Learning = Preparation for Life!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What strategies have you used for supporting students’ diverse creative expressions of their learning?
  2. Describe the assessment tools you have used to guide students’ learning while giving them opportunities to express their learning in diverse and creative ways?

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2015. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

 

 

Classroom-Library Coplanning

Through coplanning, school librarians and classroom teachers engage in reciprocal mentorship. They learn with and from one another during the planning process. As they negotiate learning objectives, they identify alignment and connections between classroom curriculum, state and national standards, and literacies, including information literacy skills. They approach their collaborative work as equal partners who share responsibility for gathering resources and materials, developing and analyzing formative and summative assessments, modeling strategies, and guiding students through the learning process.

Coplanning Forms
I have found that coplanning forms can be quite useful in guiding school librarians and classroom teachers through the collaborative planning process. These forms help educators apply the Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) as they plan with the end in mind. From objectives to assessments and all of the components in between, forms help educators cover all the bases.

Elementary Collaborative Planning Forms

Secondary Collaborative Planning Forms

Coteachers will identify various subskills such as notemaking that students will need to learn, review, and practice. They may create graphic organizers to scaffold student learning. These scaffolds guide students and help educators identify areas of mastery and areas where students need more instruction, guidance, and practice. These formative assessments as well as summative assessments that measure student achievement at the end of the learning event are important to prepare in advance or prepare with students so that students’ path to success is supported and clear from the beginning.

Responsibilities in Coteaching
Educators’ roles during direct instruction will likely need to be discussed in advance of lesson implementation, especially if one or the other educator is new to coteaching. When school librarians coteach, they may be engaged in direct instruction alongside classroom teachers. One or the other may take the lead in teaching specific subskills.

Direct instruction involves educators in sharing information and modeling strategies and tasks to help students learn and meet learning targets. When two educators coteach during direct instruction, they can authentically demonstrate various pathways for thinking using think-alouds. They can model collaboration, communication, discussion, debate, and other skills. For example, if educators are coteaching/teaching questioning strategies, notemaking skills, website/information evaluation, ethical use of information/citation, and more, they may take different roles such as question poser and responder or note identifier and recorder.

Both educators will monitor student practice and conduct inquiry/reading/writing conferences with individual students or small groups. Lowering the student-to-educator ratio offers coteachers the opportunity to interact with more students and offers students more individualized interventions.

Co-Assessment Responsibilities
Direct instruction is followed by formative assessments that help school librarians collect and analyze data on students’ progress as well as on the effectiveness of their teaching. Two or more educators look for gaps in comprehension and reteach individuals, small groups, or whole classrooms of students, if necessary. They also use summative assessments to measure students’ overall achievement in terms of the learning objectives and the overall success of the unit of instruction.

As equal partners in planning and implementing instruction, school librarians must be equal partners in assessment.

Engaging Relevant Learning Opportunities
In my experience, coteachers inspire and energize each other’s instructional planning and teaching. They bounce ideas off one another. They may push each other to take calculated risks to stretch their teaching and students’ learning. During instruction, they may take a playful attitude and demonstrate that wondering, puzzling, and problem solving is fun. They model communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in an authentic context.

School librarians have an important role to play in guiding the planning and teaching process toward involving relevant questions, challenging problems, exciting resources and tools, and increased opportunities student-led learning.

Coplanning with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to influence curriculum as well as instructional practices. This is leadership work. Misti Werle, school librarian supervisor in Bismarck, North Dakota, and I created a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” matrix. School librarians and classroom teachers in her district are using it to co-assess and chart their understanding of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Their goal is to increase classroom-library coteaching in their district.

You can access the matrix as a Web Extra or find it on page 28 in the book.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your role in recording ideas and decisions made during coplanning?
  2. Why should school librarians share their coplanning activities with their administrators?

Reference

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Literacy is Political

lit_is_political_sizedThomas Jefferson famously said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” An informed citizenry must be able to deeply comprehend information in all formats and engage in critical thought and well-reasoned civic decision-making.

Before the 2016 election, there were a number of comments on the distribution lists and blogs to which I subscribe related to educators maintaining an “apolitical” stance.  In some classrooms and libraries across the country, educators downplayed local, state, and national campaigns in order to avoid confronting “political” issues in schools.

What are the unintended consequences when learners do not wrestle with the political life of our nation in the supportive environment of their classrooms and libraries? How can students and educators practice civil discourse and learn to listen to and share divergent perspectives if political issues are not discussed in schools?

While an individual school can be considered a system, each one is not a “closed” system. All public schools function within a larger system—a school district with procedures, curricula, and policies. School districts must respond and work within even larger systems—state and federal bureaucracies and mandates. What happens in the society at-large affects each of these systems.

It is, therefore, in my view, important for school-age children and youth to have the opportunity to intelligently and respectfully discuss political issues—not just in high schools and not just in civics or social studies classes.

What does “apolitical” mean in a fake news and post-truth world? When political candidates of all stripes and their supporters tell outright lies, mess with the “facts,” or distort the truth, how can educators guide students in an open, respectful dialogue that touches on sensitive topics, including social justice issues? When post-election emotions are running high while results are still coming in or being questioned, what is an educator’s role in responding to these teachable moments?

Quotes from the Field
On December 2nd, the PBS Newshour published an article in their “Teachers’ Lounge” column called “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results” In the article, the reporter Victoria Pasquantonio includes quotes from civics, social studies, English language arts, and world history teachers from across the country. I believe this article and the quotes are important reading for all educators who want to help students unpack the recent election cycle.

Like Ricky House, 7th-grade civics teacher, in Arlington, Virginia, who is quoted in the article, I would never tell students how to vote nor would I use my influence to tell students what to think about a political issue. On the other hand, I have not and would not hesitate to discuss election issues, such as specific policy platforms, marketing techniques, political activism, voting processes, voter ID laws, the process or effectiveness of polling, the Electoral College, and the popular vote. Some of these discussions could lead to social justice or injustice issues thus providing students with opportunities to think about policies, laws, and the Constitution and how they might be changed or interpreted for the betterment of society.

As librarians, we are charged with providing physical and intellectual access to information. We are committed to making sure that students are able to use literacy skills to think critically and apply critical thinking as informed citizens. As Ricky House says, we want our students to be equipped to “go out and use what (we’ve) taught them to change the world.”  And yes, there are many who would consider that goal “political.”

Resource
The National Institute for Civil Discourse is a non-partisan center for advocacy, research and policy. To support civil discourse during the last election cycle, they offered a program for high schools called “Text, Talk, Vote.”  School librarians and classroom teachers who are teaching digital literacy through social media may want to adapt this program.

Tips for School Librarians Who Coteach Controversial Issues
When coteaching controversial issues:

  1. Form instructional partnerships with trustworthy colleagues.
  2. Consider coteaching with educators who do not share your perspective and respectfully use your divergent thinking as a resource for learning.
  3. While coteaching, collaborative partners can provide each other with a bias-check before, during, and after instruction.
  4. Model civil discourse and guide students’ practice of civil discourse when discussing controversial issues.

Work Cited
Pasquantonio, Victoria. “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results,” PBS Newshour, 2 Dec. 2016, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/teachers-lounge-reaction-election-continues/

Image: Copyright-free Clip Art from Discovery Education

Flexible Scheduling = Time for Learning

flick-gator_cheerleadersDuring the SLC Connection “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th, several participants asked questions about library scheduling. Some of us stayed online after the hour to talk a bit more about scheduling for classroom-library collaboration.

This has long been a tension for school librarians, particularly those who serve in elementary schools. Without a flexible schedule is it difficult to collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists and provide students with deeper learning opportunities.

In fact, a week later during Leslie Maniotes’ “Guided Inquiry Design in Action” Webinar on October 27th, Leslie noted the importance of classroom-library collaboration and stressed the inquiry phases needed before students formulate their questions: open, immerse, and explore. Thorough preparation for successful inquiry learning takes time.

In my experience, inquiry phases should occur over a reasonably short period so that students’ passions are engaged. This helps them become self-motivated as they begin their inquiry and supports them in making a commitment to their learning. Fixed library schedules were school librarians are working with students at one set time each week, usually for 30 to 50 minutes, simply does not lend itself to classroom-library collaboration for guided inquiry.

Roger Grape, school librarian at Blackshear Elementary in Austin, Texas, created at a digital advocacy story to promote flexible schedules: “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” In his Animoto video, Roger notes that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) promotes flexibly scheduled school libraries as a best practice.

“Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher who is the subject specialist, and the librarian who is the information process specialist” (AASL). See the entire AASL Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.

As Roger says, “You need the best from every member of your team” (Grape). Librarians with flexibly scheduled libraries have the opportunity to serve students and teachers at the point of need. They have the opportunity to engage students and collaborate with teachers to guide deeper learning.

As I suggested in the “Coteaching” Webinar, school librarians can find a friend on the faculty, or one who teaches an age-level or in a discipline in which you have a particular strength, or approach a colleague who has expertise you lack and form a collaborative relationship. If you are working in a fixed schedule, ask that person to “give up” her/his planning time in order to coplan and coteach and build a case with administrators and colleagues for the efficacy of classroom-library collaboration supported by flexible scheduling.

Side note: If you are attending the Arizona Library Association Conference in Tucson this week, please considering participating in my session: Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories. You, too, can make an effective advocacy video like Roger’s; his has over 800 views!

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.” American Library Association. 17 July 2014, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/flex-sched.

Breeze, Chris. “Flick-Gator Cheerleaders.” Wikipedia: Cheerleading, 25 Jan. 2009, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheerleading#/media/File:Flick-Gator_Cheerleaders.jpg.

Grape, Roger. “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” YouTube.com. 20 Mar. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWo3FWmQVhM