Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos

In the month of August, I am blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Inquiry into Nonfiction and Informational Global Literature Focused on Prejudice and Discrimination against Children and Teens.”

Each of the four August School Librarian Leadership blog posts are focused on professional books related to the WOW Currents posts

Along with members of the Worlds of Words (WOW) Board of Advisors, I have been engaged in a monthly professional book study of Suzanne Choo’s Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century. The other members of the study group regularly teach children’s and young adult literature in universities across the U.S. and in Mexico. As a library science professor who mostly teaches courses related to school librarian leadership and instructional partnerships, I have rarely had the opportunity to focus on literature per se in my teaching.

This summer, I taught “IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth” for graduate students pursuing degrees and certifications as school librarians and children’s and teen public librarians. I joined the WOW professional book study group in order to consider ways to privilege global literature in IS445. In our course, we defined global literature as a comprehensive term that encompasses both international and multicultural literature that “honors and celebrates diversity, both within and outside the United States, in terms of culture, race, ethnicity, language, religion, social and economic status, sexual orientation, and physical and intellectual ability” (Hadaway and McKenna, 4-5).

In Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century, Suzanne Choo critiques pedagogical approaches to teaching literature in English: nationalistic, world, global, and cosmopolitan. My interpretation of Choo’s framework for pedagogical criticism is that it centers on approaches informed by conceptual values that are shaped by global and nation-state forces that create “global waves” that extend beyond the classroom, geographic region, world, and globe (see Figure 1.2 on page 23).

Nationalistic Approaches
Choo makes a strong case for the historical impermanence of the borders of nation-states. She notes that, in the past, we have misguidedly examined literacy texts as representative of nations of the world when national boundaries and the movement of people across them has always been dynamic. With that understanding, there have always been “interpretive communities” that have assigned meaning and value to texts, privileging some over others. Choo offers publishers, reviewers, and award committees as examples of entities/people who mediate between texts and readers. What is “beautiful” art or “good” literature has always been judged based on changing mores and values bounded by cultural considerations. In that light, readers can and must take a critical stance regarding what has previously and is currently considered the “best” texts.

Literacy educators (including librarians) also serve as mediators who select, promote, employ, and privilege certain texts for student engagement. They also intervene in readers’ motivation or deeper understanding of texts through various instructional strategies. School- or institution-level decisions also come into play in terms of what texts are sanctioned or “acceptable.” Although the number of traditionally published books that meet the needs of readers in our increasingly multicultural U.S. society are growing, they are insufficient. Today’s preK-12 students must be invited to explore the cultures and experiences of ever more diverse classmates and U.S. peers… and in the opinions of our book study members, they must also explore beyond our country’s borders.

The World
Where is the “world” view in literature? Choo argues that “a world paradigm subscribes to a belief about the good of teaching literature that is tied to the goal of world citizenship as articulated via concepts of collective taste and universal humanity” (83).

Choo offers many examples including the concept of the “ideal citizen” as penned by the late 18th-century, early 19th-center German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. She summarizes Goethe’s world citizen as one who privileges the world over the provincial, universal over the particular, and common humanity over one’s own countrymen (73). Choo goes on to write about how this universal concept of humanity “takes over the religious function of the Absolute or God” yet is based in Christianity. In this context, there will be texts that win (are included) and texts that lose (are excluded).

She suggests (and critiques) four approaches to teaching world literature. The first approach: Teach students to read across historical time and geographical space; this was the way early world literature courses (1900–1930s) were organized. The second approach: Teach English, U.S., and global literature in English with a focus on readers reflecting on the global, political, and philosophical ideas of the time in which they were created. The third approach: Use literature to make history (facts) come alive! (I just witnessed how contemporary nonfiction and informational books can make historical/contemporary events and issues vivid.). The fourth approach: Integrate literature with other subjects through thematic units; her critique of this approach suggests a fear that literature will be marginalized by disciplinary content.

Globe
What is the difference between a “world” and a “global” literature pedagogy? Suzanne Choo captured my goal for IS445 in this quote: “The teaching of global literature is used to describe approaches aimed at promoting a global mindset in students so that they will perceive themselves and others as members of an interconnected global village” (91). Considering the current political climate in the U.S. and various European countries, in particular, the focus on human rights over citizenship rights seems timely to me.

Choo mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), When it was written, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. While the United States signed this Convention in 1995, no U.S. president has sent it to the Senate for ratification. (If you agree this is unconscionable, see next week’s post about “childism.”)

I appreciated Choo’s perspective on the differences between the flat map view of the world and the spherical reality of the Earth. She suggests that a “world” depiction of the planet suggests that parts make up the whole; while a spherical “global” view suggests the whole is made up of parts. (This resonated with me in light of the 50th anniversary of the moon walk. I was eighteen at the time and clearly remember the awe-inspiring view of the spherical Earth from space.) “Education that emphasizes spherical seeing of the human prioritizes students’ consciousness of themselves as citizens of the human race first followed by citizens of their nation or community” (96).

The Cosmos
To be honest, Choo lost me in the “cosmos” section of the book. While I found support for a shared urgency for privileging global perspectives, I did not as clearly see the cosmopolitan frame. “This idea of shared community and shared responsibility for each other and the fate of the human species is the starting point for a new kind of cosmopolitanism that might help us better transact the devaluing of our intellectual labor in the present age of neoliberal globalization” (xi). For me, the global view does result in a shared community and shared responsibility for the fate of humanity and for our planet.

In my quest to increase graduate students’ ability to build empathy through exploring diverse worldviews and experiences through nonfiction and information books and resources, I didn’t understand the need to go further than the globe. For educators and librarians who have been “schooled” in multicultural literature and education, globalizing curricula seems to me to be the next frontier. Leaping to the cosmos would be, I believe, too giant of a leap. That said, I hope to learn another perspective from my colleagues as they implement cosmopolitanism in their courses.

Works Cited

Choo, Suzanne S. 2013. Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century. New York: Peter Lang.

Hadaway, Nancy L., and Marian J. McKenna. 2007. Breaking Boundaries with Global Literature: Celebrating Diversity in K-12 Classrooms. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Image Credit

Altmann, Gerd. “Web Networking Earth Continents.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/web-networking-earth-continents-3079789/

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.

Opportunities for Voice and Choice

Guided Inquiry Design: Identify, Gather, and Create Phases

In schools and libraries where curriculum and learning outcomes standards guide teaching and learning, ensuring that students have voice and choice is essential. Student agency, learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant to the students’ themselves, can easily get lost in standards-crowded learning environments. If primary goals of inquiry are to tap into students’ interests and passions, increase their internal motivation to learn, and create opportunities for them to persist and succeed, then educators should assess their planning in terms of maximizing student voice and choice.

Identify Phase
A well-constructed Explore Pathfinder—with numerous (if not, limitless) avenues for students’ own questions—is an essential feature of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID). These “dip in” resources focused around an overarching inquiry question must open doors for students to pursue related sub-topics and develop personally meaningful inquiry sub-questions. These openings are intentional and seek to stimulate students’ critical thinking and creativity.

When students identify their own questions, they are giving voice to their personal connections to the overarching inquiry question. Students’ opinions and perspectives on the topic will vary based on their values, beliefs, and background knowledge. Their identities, cultural backgrounds, and prior learning experiences will likely influence their questions. If they are working with a group, their classmates’ opinions and perspectives will also shape the group’s question(s). The inquiry guide(s) can help ensure that all voices are considered.

Differentiation and inclusion involve providing different learners or groups of students with options for how they conduct their inquiry process. Students’ individual strengths, preferred ways of learning, or accommodations necessitate that educators differentiate in order to increase students’ success in reaching the targeted learning outcomes. The “Identify” phase creates opportunities for students to take their individual or group’s questions in a multitude of directions, some of which the educators may not have predicted. When developing their inquiry plan, students may also seek to explore their questions in unique ways, such as bringing in experts or taking field trips off campus.

Gather Phase
Students will build off the resources provided by educators and access far-ranging resources beyond those included on the Explore pathfinder. Educators support students at this phase by teaching/reviewing strategies for determining accuracy, authority, and authenticity of resources. They keep students focused on purpose, currency, and relevance as they curate their own resources. Educators also connect students with human resources in the school and community to further enrich their knowledge base.

Educators can offer students various strategies and tools for organizing their resources, making notes, and bibliographic record keeping. These are lifelong learning strategies are transferable to other learning contexts.

Create Phase
Likewise, the “Create” phase provides yet another opportunity for students to demonstrate learning and meet the target outcomes in a variety of ways. Educators can provide choice through a menu of tools for presenting learning. These can be various apps, online creation tools, or software. Educators may offer students options in terms of the format of a final product. In addition to the tool menu, they may provide a list of final products that includes journals, letters to the editor or op eds, poems, scripts, short stories or essays, bibliographies, debates, leading discussions, presenting skits and plays, taking action in the school or community, and more. Educators may (should) also be open to students’ presentations ideas.

When students determine how they will show their new understandings, they are more likely to be invested in their learning process because they “own” it. Their work products will be authentic in terms of the questions students ask, the audiences with whom they want to share, or the feedback they seek to receive. The one-size-fits all approach to final products may make it easier for educators to assess student learning outcomes, but they should have a strong rationale for why one single way for students to demonstrate their learning is best for all students. Educators must ensure that students’ voice and choice is still evident in their final products.

Coteaching the “Identify” and “Create” Phases of the GID
Having two or more adults in the room to guide students during the Identify phase is of benefit to students and educators alike. Monitoring individual student’s or student inquiry groups’ formulation of an inquiry question can increase learners’ engagement and enthusiasm as well as reduce their frustration. With a school librarian and a classroom teacher, or a public librarian and a caregiver offering support at this phase in the inquiry process, the outcomes are likely to be more satisfying and successful.

Inquiry guides can help students see opportunities to narrow or broaden their questions. They can ask students to define terms, determine keywords, and phrases within their questions that may otherwise cause students confusion or complicate their search for resources. Guides may help students reframe their question toward “how” and “why” and steer the away from “yes” and “no” answers. They can prompt students to consider other perspectives.

As noted above, far too many inquiry learning experiences result in predetermined presentation formats. While this can help standardize the assessments used for the inquiry, it can also stifle creativity, student voice, and student choice. When two or more educators are guiding an inquiry experience, the educators can feel more confident that they are able to respond to a range of creative processes, products, and presentations.

Work 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.

 

Inquiry By Design

This week, after a three-year hiatus, I will return to teaching graduate students in library science. I am teaching “Information Books and Resources for Youth” (IS445) online for library science master’s students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Some students in the course will be preservice or practicing school librarians; others will be entering the field as public library children’s or teen librarians. The course is just eight short weeks long.

Preparing for a course I have not previously taught is simultaneously exciting and a bit anxiety producing. Designing curriculum has always been a joy for me (the exciting part), but the proof of its/my success is unknown until students interact with it (the anxiety-producing part). As a card-carrying instructional partner, I would have preferred to design this course collaboratively. That would have eased the anxiety part but that wasn’t an option for me.

Inquiry Framework
I have learned a great deal from using the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework (Kuhlthau, Manitoes, and Caspari 2012) to structure this literature course. Our class will engage in a whole class inquiry related to global books and resources focused on prejudice and discrimination faced by youth. Our whole class experience will serve as a model before students form groups to set off on their own inquiry projects.

When I was teaching at Texas Woman’s University, I had the opportunity to serve on the Denton Inquiry for Lifelong Learning project team; our collaboration involved school, public, university librarians, and librarian educators in Denton, Texas. We studied the GID book for professional development. As part of that grant-funded project, author and educator Leslie Maniotes provided a three-day workshop for Denton ISD school librarians, their classroom teacher collaborators, and the project team.

I’m excited to implement the GID in IS445. The GID has eight phases: Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share, and Evaluate. This week in IS445 we will Open the inquiry with the goals of stimulating students’ thinking, piquing their curiosity, and motivating them to join me in our initial inquiry journey.

Resources
The plethora of outstanding nonfiction and information books has made identifying, analyzing, and selecting resources a pleasure and a challenge! The literature courses I have taught in the past have focused on fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and poetry… more than on nonfiction/informational books. I am pleased that UI-UC offers this course because public and school librarians will benefit from knowing how to identify, analyze, and select this literature. Finding accurate, authentic resources will be our mission.

Integrating targeted online resources, including OER, into the course is a new path for me as well. Rather than teaching Web-based information sources broadly, the goal in this course is to focus resources based on inquiry questions and curriculum, which will be the most likely way library users—students, educators, and families—will seek the support of these future librarians.

Assignments
Relevant, meaningful assignments are the foundation for the learning experiences in this course. Determining the appropriate number of assignments, depth of learning (in the allotted time), and amount of support takes a bit of guesswork when the course facilitator does not know the students. Designing assignments is the first step for me: doing them myself is the second step. (I am still working on one of the Choice Project examples. Ouch!) Doing the assignments provides students with examples, and it helps me ensure I’ve given clear directions and left pathways for student voice, choice, and creativity.

Planning for Interaction
In my previous online teaching, students were not required to meet synchronously in the online classroom. At Texas Woman’s University, I offered group office hour chats every two weeks during the regular semester, but less than 50% of the students took advantage of the opportunity to discuss course topics, ask questions, and share their experiences. Sessions were recorded and all students were expected to listen to the recordings.

The UI-UC iSchool requires students to be present for a synchronous online meeting for two hours each week. Planning for student interaction with course materials, with each other, and with me during our class meetings will be a constant as I plan for an engaging summer semester.

I look forward to meeting our class and launching this learning adventure on Wednesday, June 12th.

Work 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.

Teach Like Finland, Part 1

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the first in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Since 2001, many educators in the U. S., including yours truly, and around the world have wondered why Finnish students continually rank as top scorers on the international PISA exam. I recently read Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. This is some of what I learned.

Before I even opened the book, I reflected on the use of the word “joyful” in the subtitle. In my work as a school librarian which included thirteen years at all three instructional levels between 1992 – 2009, I cotaught with classroom teachers in their classrooms as well as in the library, computer labs, and out in the field. I had the pleasure of working in many “joyful” classrooms, libraries, and even one very joyful school!

I agree with Teach Like Finland author Timothy Walker that joy is one of the too-oft missing ingredients in schooling today. Walker organizes his book into the four elements of happiness — belonging, autonomy, master, and mind-set — identified by Rag Raghunathan author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? To these Walker adds “well-being.”

There were many other aspects of the Finnish education culture that “spoke to me.” Children start formal schooling at age seven. Elementary schools, in particularly, strive for a holistic, child-focused curriculum that addresses all subjects evenly. All subjects including art and music as well as what U. S. schools consider “core” subjects get equal time. Finnish schools apply the research that has shown art contributes to innovative thinking and music knowledge can help learners grasp mathematical patterns. The holistic model gives children opportunities to cultivate multiple aspects of their personalities and talents.

The average time that Finnish educators spend in actual instruction is also shorter than U. S. teachers per week (18 hours versus 26.5 hours). Finnish students and teachers have 15-minute breaks after every 45-minutes of instructional time. Collaborating with colleagues is one way that educators use that “free” time every day. (See below.)

Walker identified six strategies Finnish educators use to approach their work: seek flow, have a thicker skin, collaborate over coffee, welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy. All of these are well worth considering.

Seek Flow
As a writer and educator, I know and strive for that feeling of flow when my mind and body are totally focused and I do my best work. Walker writes: “Being teachers who seek flow, not superiority, is something that’s not just good for us; it’s also good for our students. Our students are watching us, and if they see that we’re seeking to do our best work, free of comparing ourselves to others, I’m confident that this kind of example will foster a noncompetitive culture in our classrooms… This positive change we want to see—as is so often the case in teaching—starts with us” (Walker 173).

Have a Thicker Skin
Having a “thicker skin” that allows us to give, receive, and respond to constructive criticism is another important strategy. Principal leader and author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Couros just last week posted “It’s Okay to Be the ‘Boss’” to his blog. The thicker skin strategy totally aligns with Couros’s idea about providing adults with feedback.

Couros writes: “As long as people know that you are both on the same page (that you want them to be successful), they will accept the feedback. For some, it is harder than others, but when they know it is because you want them to be better, it is a much easier pill to swallow.”

Walker goes on to write about how he uses journaling to work through anxieties and challenges in teaching. He also writes about how noting “gratitudes” can boost happiness and giving thanks can strengthen relationships.

Collaborate Over Coffee
Of course, the aspect of daily life in Finnish schools that jumped off the page at me was educator collaboration. Walker interviewed several Finnish teachers and asked: “What brings you joy as a teacher, and what brings your students joy?”

One of the most popular answers was collaboration! He noted that nearly 50% of the lessons he taught during his time in Finland were cotaught.

“Teachers in my school were not just collaborating in the traditional sense, by planning and teaching lessons together—they were truly laboring together, sharing the burdens of teaching with each other. They were helping each other track down the resources they’d need for an upcoming lesson. They were discussing better ways to support needy students. They were analyzing curriculum together. They were talking about how to improve recess for the kids. They were grading tests together. They were offering tech support to each other. To my surprise, this work often happened in between sips of coffee, during those fifteen-minute breaks throughout the day” (Walker 178-179).

His comment made me think about what I mean when I write about collaborating in the “traditional sense.” I believe coteaching involves all of the aspects that Walker describes, but maybe others, who have not experienced classroom-library coteaching between equal partners, do not perceive the same depth of partnership that I have experienced.

In the course of coplanning and coteaching, classroom teachers and school librarians are analyzing curriculum together. They are sharing resources and providing technology support to one another. They are strategizing how to differentiate to meet the needs of all students. And in the most effective partnerships, they are assessing students’ work together and using assessment to adjust their instruction.

Walker writes: “More than anything, I think collaboration is all about mind-set. If you truly believe that you are a better teacher when you are working in concert with others, then I think you will naturally find small, simple ways of collaborating… Their work together seemed like a by-product of their teaching mind-set” (181).

Bravo! And yes! To a mind-set that believes collaboration is the key to better teaching.

I will reflect on the other three strategies next week: welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “It’s Okay to Be the ‘Boss.’” The Principal of Change blog. 18 May 2017, http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7360 Accessed 20 May 2017.

Raghunathan, Rag. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? New York: Penguin, 2016.

Walker, Timothy D. Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.