Co-Assessing Collaborative Work

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Successful instructional partnerships are bread and butter roles for the teacher librarian in educational communities. Classroom teachers and other specialists who partner with TL’s find that everyone works better, and works smarter. This month BACC bloggers have been providing ideas that support collaborative practices for co-teaching and learning.  True collaborative relationships are developed with time and experience, and involve teaching partners who co-plan instruction, co-teach, and co-assess students together in an active learning model. Judi, Lucy, and Karla have highlighted key pieces for each component in collaborative partnerships that contribute to a win/win for both educators and students.

In order to work closely with another educator, teacher librarians have to build confidence and trust with a partner. As Judi said, co-planning involves knowledge and skills in pedagogy and content standards by both partners. Combining expertise and taking responsibility for sharing tasks for delivering instruction and assessment means that you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk.  If the process is to be a partnership, not a dual track distribution of who does what,  partners need to build opportunities for self reflection and communication into the collaborative model of teaching.  Critical thinking and creativity abound when teaching partners share ideas and insights from different perspectives.

Reflection and Communication While the Co-teaching Plan is in Progress:

Time is at a premium for co-planning and co-assessing, and often these tasks are done on the fly outside the class time through shared documents and folders, IM, Skype, email, or a learning management system interface such as Edmodo or Moodle. Face to face synchronous sessions should be a priority, too, and built into the schedule for both partners.  During the implementation phase of the co-teaching plan, partners set up a framework to check in and assess the daily/weekly progress or challenges of the students, and the learning plan.  The framework can include a process for students to keep track of their work in blogs, in online discussions, Google documents, forms, and so on. Open accessibility to student work allows communication between teacher and students in a continuous feedback loop, or to ask/answer student questions.  Responsibility for responding and tracking students can be divided between the partners, but there also needs to be a process for continuous conversations about  adjustments to lesson plans and learning activities based on the variability of students on the road to achieving learning outcomes. Sometimes the road that has been laid out needs to take some unexpected turns. That is what makes the co-teaching so organic and interesting. No need to wait until the planned activities are completed before co-teachers review the plan.

If our expectation is for students to be metacognitive and reflective in their learning, educators should be mindful of that in their collaborative teaching, also.

During the year, I have been following Buffy Hamilton’s excellent blog posts (Unquiet Librarian, 2015) that demonstrate reflection about co-teaching that highlight the dynamics of her work with colleagues in a high school.  I have mentioned her blog before, but it continues to be a source of inspiration.  Take a minute to read this post that shows that partnerships can include teachers and students, too. It is clear that the communication between the partners is continuous and thoughtful, and leads to changing ideas. You will want to retrace many of her other posts, too.

Post Instruction Review and Reflection:

Once the co-teaching plan has been completed, it is equally important for partners to take time to reflect together on the process and the success/and or challenges that were encountered along the way.  Once again, time is always an issue, so partners need to make sure to have some face to face conversations and analysis about the evidence that has been collected to show that students were able (or not) to transfer their understanding and demonstrate knowledge and skills.  This is an important piece of evidence based practice for both teaching partners.  The collaborative work should be documented and shared with administrators and other stakeholders, and will lay the groundwork for repeating the curriculum unit another time, or to begin to build another collaborative experience.

Key ideas to assess with a critical stance:

  • Process/Learning Plan-what was successful? What didn’t work? What misconceptions became evident? What adjustments should be included?
  • Product-Was the performance task authentic and did it demonstrate student learning? Are there changes that need to be made?
  • Student reflection and feedback-How did the students respond to the process and the learning?  What are their suggestions for improving the learning plan?
  • Communication-How effective was the communication between partners?
  • Individual reflection-Impact on my own teaching and learning

Once you find your teaching partners, they will want to join the party, too.  Tell us about your adventures in co-teaching-it’s all the rage!

Works Cited:

Hamilton, Buffy. “Bridge to Presearch and Growing Student Understandings: Connect, Extend, Challenge.” Unquiet Librarian. Weblog. March 4, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2015. https://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/bridge-to-presearch-and-growing-student-understandings-connect-extend-challenge/

Photo:

Judy Kaplan Collection

 

 

Capture the Joy of Learning

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Advocacy should be a cause for celebration-viewed, not as a chore, but as a daily attitude described by Lucy Santos Green earlier this month. Advocacy is the narrative of the wonders of learning that happen every day in the school library learning space. The quiet moments of getting lost in a book, the boisterous interaction over a shared game or makerspace creation, the intentional researcher discovering a treasure trove of information, or the hum of conversation about ideas and opinions. This is the day to day evidence of the purpose for “the third place,” the library space where the all learners-students and adults- are welcome to access a variety of resources for pleasure and knowledge in a safe supportive environment. (Johnson, 2011)

Inquiry is encouraged and no question is “dumb.” It’s a space for collaborating, doing,  and connecting physically and virtually. It’s local and global.  It belongs to its users. They can tell the story in so many effective ways.  Teacher librarians are master facilitators, spinning the plates.  We  have to nurture our storytellers, and give them opportunities to shine a light on their learning through blogs, websites, videos, newsletters, interviews, podcasts, spotlights on projects and process, awesome reading and writing.  They can deliver an authentic message that has power beyond our words. We just have to provide the venues.

Here’s an example from a young student in Harpswell, Maine:

Once we begin to think of advocacy as a total immersion activity, and not a once a year special event, we can begin to focus on the sustained impact of school libraries and programs in an educational community. If we think about advocacy as collecting the stories, (and not so much about “data/evidence,” even though that is the essence of it), we flip the narrative. Sharing the stories through a social media platform, such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or a blog, can be a snapshot into the school library world. Keep a camera handy, and set aside a few minutes to upload and highlight the joys of learning that happen from week to week. Involve the students and teachers, and give them a chance to tell the stories.

Heidi Huestis, teacher librarian at Charlotte Central School in Charlotte, Vermont has a lively blog that is aimed at the home and  school connection, and she encourages students and families to talk about what goes on in the school library in a weekly blog post. Take a look at some of her recent “stories” for inspiration. BooksLiveOn: https://booksliveon.wordpress.com/

How do you tell your stories?

References:

Huestis, H. (2015). BooksLiveOn. Weblog. < https://booksliveon.wordpress.com/>

Johnson, D. (2011). School libraries as a third place.  Doug Johnson: Writing Speaking and Consulting on School Library and Technology Issues. Web. <http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/school-libraries-as-a-third-place.html>

Koch, L. (2014) Bury Me in the Learning Commons. Video. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFtpYH0KIQY>

 Image:

Judy Kaplan Collection

 

Leadership in Technology Integration

As many know, Wednesday, February 6, 2013 is the second annual Digital Learning Day. Educators from around the country will be sharing and celebrating effective strategies for integrating technology tools into 21st-century learning and teaching.

In light of this national conversation, I would like to recommend a research article by our co-blogger Melissa P. Johnston: “School Librarians as Technology Integration Leaders: Enablers and Barriers to Leadership Enactment.”

In the conclusion of her study report, Dr. Johnston summarizes the enablers and the barriers to technology integration identified by the participants in her study who were teacher leaders and school librarians:

Enablers for all participants:

  • supportive principal,
  • opportunities for a leadership role and responsibilities,
  • the desire to make a difference for students and teachers,
  • professional development opportunities,
  • and a sense of obligation to get involved.

Barriers:

  • time,
  • exclusion from a leadership role and responsibilities,
  • lack of funding,
  • and inadequate staffing.

Enablers unique to school librarians included:

  • support from professional organizations,
  • support from district library administrators,
  • serving in a dual role as school librarian and technology specialist,
  • and technology expertise.

Barriers identified by school librarians included:

  • competitive relationships with instructional technologists,
  • lack of support at the district level from a library administrator,
  • and lack of technology expertise (Johnston, 2012, p. 27).

In light of this research, educators can use Digital Learning Day to rededicate ourselves to working collaboratively with each other and with professional organizations to create dynamic learning opportunities for students that effectively integrate 21st-century tools. Let’s break down the barriers and shore up the enablers for the benefit of learners!

References

Johnston, M. P. (2012). School librarians as technology integration leaders: Enablers and barriers to leadership enactment. School Library Research, 15(1). Retrieved from www.ala.org/aasl/slr.

Word Cloud created at Tagxedo.com

Evidence-based Instructional Partnerships

As a card-carrying instructional partner, I am always on the trail of research to support my experience. I have served as an elementary, junior high, and high school librarian. I have been a 5th-grade classroom teacher, a literacy coach, and district-level mentor for school librarian colleagues. My experience has shown me that instructional partnerships have great potential to improve students’ learning and educators’ teaching. I know I am a much better teacher as a result of learning side by side with my peers.

Still, in this age of accountability when “anecdotal” evidence is too often dismissed, it is important for educators to read research and learn from studies in the fields of education, library science, and technology to deepen their understanding of the potential, process, and impact of instructional partnerships. Ross Todd describes this cycle of research and practice, practice and research in this way

“Research informing practice and practice informing research is a fundamental cycle in any sustainable profession” (Todd, 2007, p. 64).

In that pursuit, I have been reading publications related to Phase Two of the New Jersey Study conducted by Ross Todd, Carol Gordon, and La-Ling Lu. According to the results, in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

When educators coteach and coassess student learning outcomes, we learn from our peers through job-embedded professional development practiced in our daily teaching practice. On a wiki page for a TWU SLIS course Librarians as Instructional Partners, I have posted a series of videotaped testimonials from K-12 classroom teachers and an elementary principal regarding the positive impact of instructional partnerships between school librarians and classroom teachers. You will need a TeacherTube account in order to access them: http://ls5443.wikispaces.com/Collab_Testimonials

What are your experiences with instructional partnerships? How does your experience align with the results of the Phase 2 of the New Jersey Study? Are there colleagues and administrators in your building who could provide powerful testimonials regarding instructional partnerships?

References

Todd, R. (2007). Evidence-based practice in school libraries: From advocacy to action. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (57-78). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/njasl_phase%20_2_final.pdf