Inquiry Connections: Competence, Autonomy, and Relevance

Image of 3 interlock puzzle pieces and the words competence, autonomy, and relevance (plus modeling)In the past two weeks, I have been engaged in an email exchange with Connie Williams, who retired from her high school librarian position in Petaluma City (CA) Schools and walked into her second dream job as a part-time History Room Librarian at the Petaluma Regional Library. In her current role, she often has the opportunity to work with individual students as they conduct research.

Connie and I began our conversation after my 11/16/20 blog post that referenced Joyce Valenza’s “Enough with the CRAAP; We’re Just Not Doing It Right.” We have been sharing ideas about using Mike Caulfield’s The Four Moves and SIFT process when teaching students to closely examine the reliability of sources.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to engage in a virtual interview with Barbara Stripling, which will be posted to School Library Connection.com (SLC) in the near future. Barb posed questions about how to motivate students to engage in inquiry and how inquiry motivates students to become lifelong learners. (Note: Barb also discusses relevance, autonomy, competence (confidence) in her recent SLC article.)

Central to these conversations has been how to engage students in the hard work of determining the reliability of sources—to dig deep enough to determine the perspective, bias, and authority of texts, free-range web browser-searched texts in particular. This work is essential for student-led inquiry learning.

These conversations prompted me to revisit the work of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, which I first learned about in Paul Tough’s book Helping Students Succeed: What Works and Why (2016). Research conducted by Deci and Ryan points to the fact the people (students) are motivated by intrinsic needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness (personal connection or what we in education call relevance). According to Deci and Ryan, motivation can be sustained when those needs are met.

I believe these three needs are the key to unlocking in our students the motivation to doing the hard work. (This is the order in which Deci and Ryan address these needs.)

Competence
Making sense of any text, also known as comprehension, is work. It requires that readers who want to know the answers to their questions apply a range of strategies. These strategies include self-assessing their background knowledge or building it, posing meaningful questions and questioning the texts they encounter, determining main ideas, perspectives, and bias, drawing inferences, and synthesizing information from multiple sources. It also requires that adults and more proficient peers model what is going on inside their heads when they use these strategies to analyze a text.

K-12 students who have learned and have been guided in practicing reading comprehension strategies have learned to “stop” and chose from a selection of strategies to gain or regain comprehension. The process involved in making sense of text is an essential practice in reading and therefore in inquiry, which often challenges students to learn from texts that are above their proficient reading level. Students who are accustomed to doing this work will have a leg up when they are engaged in inquiry learning.

When students have confidence built from success with difficult texts, they will realize they are empowered with the skills and strategies needed to investigate any question they want to pursue. They will experience competence in making sense of texts. This competence can be a foundation on which they will persist in doing the hard work of analyzing and effectively using unfamiliar texts for their own purposes.

Experiencing competence creates confident learners
who are prepared to take the risks necessary for inquiry learning.

Autonomy
Autonomy is a centerpiece of inquiry learning. From my perspective and in my experience, there are two big buckets of inquiry practices in K-12 schools: guided inquiry based in curriculum standards and open-ended completely student-led inquiry learning. I believe both practices can create the conditions that further motivate students as lifelong learners.

I have the most experience facilitating guided inquiry based in content-area curriculum standards. When educators create opportunities for students to exercise choice within a content-area topic to achieve a standards-based outcome, they have created what Bhabha (1994) called a “third space,” a negotiated space between the curriculum required in school and the student’s outside of school interests and experience. In this context, students have the authority to ask personally meaningful questions within the required curriculum framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012).

Junior or senior capstone (and some university-level) projects are inquiry examples in which students may assume complete choice over the topic as well as the questions of their inquiry. These projects can pave the way for supporting a lifelong commitment to the process of asking questions and seeking answers, solutions, and uncovering more questions.

Empowered students engaged in inquiry exercise choice and voice.

Relevance
Deci and Ryan use the term “relatedness” which we, in education, call relevance or personal connections. Again, inquiry supports relevance and relevance supports inquiry.

Inquiry learning creates opportunities for student agency. Agency involves students in taking an active role in and ownership over learning. “They may set goals that are relevant and meaningful to their lives, practice autonomy by having voice and choice, and be empowered to share, reflect on, and grow through their learning” (Moreillon 2021, in press).

Exercising agency and experiencing empowerment is motivating.

Plus One: Modeling
To these three, I would add one condition that creates the kind of learning environment that motivates youth to enthusiastically engage in learning and persevere when the going gets tough. I believe that modeling is the most important example educators can offer students. When school librarians and classroom teachers show students that we, as adults, continue to pursue personally meaningful questions in our own lives, students can understand the usefulness of a lifelong inquiry stance toward learning.

Educators who model lifelong learning show students and colleagues that doing the work is worth it. This is not easy at a time when the most common question is what’s the quickest and easiest path to success.

Educator modeling invites students into a supportive inquiry learning environment, a club of inquirers.

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

Deci, Edward L., and Richard M. Ryan. 2018. Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs of Motivation, Development, and Wellness. New York: The Guilford Press.

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. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Tough, Paul. 2016. Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

See also: My 6/5/17 review of Tough’s book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

 

Digital Learning: SIFT Meets Reading Comprehension Strategies

Image of Laptop with Books on the Screen and this text: Physical/digital access without intellectual access does not support traditional or any other literacy.Since computers entered libraries (and classrooms), students have been reading on screens. The difference today during the pandemic is that many students are reading exclusively online. This means that during this academic school year, more K-12 students than ever before will be engaging with digital texts.

An 11/11/20 Knowledge Quest blog post by Elizabeth Pelayo, librarian at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles, Illinois, brought this situation into sharp relief for me: “Print Nonfiction vs Databases.”

Elizabeth’s post reminded me of the challenges of allocating funds for library collections during tight budget times (and a pandemic). Her post also brought back a comment a high school junior made to me in 2010 when attempting to use a database during an inquiry project related to Harlem Renaissance literature and the arts: “Dr. M., can’t I just use a book?”

I agree with Elizabeth’s conclusion that students need both paper print and digital information sources. Her conclusion also aligns with Kathy Lester’s perspective in her 10/26/20 KQ post “Access to Print Books? Yes!

Comprehension Using Digital Texts
I think it is critical that all school librarians and educators, including administrators, read the research referenced in Jill Barshay’s The Hechinger Report article “Evidence Increases for Reading on Paper Instead of Screens” (2019). This is essential information if we are not only focused on providing access to paper print and digital resources but also committed to ensuring readers comprehend what they read.

This research finding should give us direction: “The excessive confidence of screen readers (with regard to their comprehension) is important, (researcher Virginia) Clinton said, because people who overestimate their abilities are likely to put in less effort. The less effort a person puts into a reading passage, the less they are likely to comprehend. That’s because reading comprehension, like all learning, isn’t easy and requires work” (Barshay 2019). (Emphasis added.)

As noted in Barshay’s article, the genre of the text figures into the mix. When Clinton’s research separated out studies in which students had read narrative fiction, there was no benefit to paper over screens, “but for nonfiction information texts, the advantage for paper stands out” (Barshay 2019).

Physical/digital access without intellectual access does not support traditional or any other literacy.

Connections to Inquiry Learning
Today, when students are engaged in remote and hybrid inquiry learning, they will be even more inclined to use digital texts accessed exclusively from the web in their information search process. Sorting fact from fiction, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and outright lies during free-range web searches requires the “work” that Clinton’s research supports.

SIFT + Comprehension Strategies = Critical Thinking
In a recent School Library Journal blog post “Enough with the CRAAP: We’re Just Not Doing It Right,” Joyce Valenza makes a research-based case for reassessing and changing the way we teach validating online information. I have never used the CRAAP test in my teaching. I have not found this apparently linear list useful to students. (Not to mention that I find the acronym off-putting.) On the other hand, I have used graphic organizers that I hope have led students to dig deeper when they are analyzing a source of information.

In her post, Joyce cites “Educating for Misunderstanding: How Approaches to Teaching Digital Literacy Make Students Susceptible to Scammers, Rogues, Bad Actors, and Hate Mongers,” research from the Stanford History Education Group. Joyce’s post and SHEG’s research finding should be a wake-up call for school librarians. It’s time to rethink how we teach digital literacy. (I encourage you read both Joyce’s post and the SHEG study.)

Joyce also cites Mike Caulfield’s “SIFT (The Four Moves).” For me, the SIFT process is aligned with and reinforces reading comprehension strategies that (upper grade) students should know and be able to apply. Parenthetical are mine.

Stop
Ask yourself if you know this website and the reputations of its authors. (“Stop” is precisely what readers are advised to do in order to self-assess their comprehension. Questioning and monitoring comprehension are reading comprehension strategies.)

Review Your Purpose
How will you use this information? (Reconnecting with the purpose for reading is a “fix-up option” reading comprehension strategy.)

Here Caulfield makes a distinction between next steps for a shallow or deeper investigation. Since this discussion focuses on students who are engaged in inquiry learning, school librarians and coteachers would guide them on to:

Investigating the source (building background knowledge)

Finding trusted coverage (determining main ideas and questioning the text until trusted information is found)

Tracing claims, quotes, and media back to the original context (verifying background knowledge) (Caulfield 2019).

And for me, at this point, educators stress the importance of deeply examining the author’s purpose, bias, and perspective, which is when students will make inferences combining their background knowledge with the evidence in the text (yet another reading comprehension strategy).

Digital Reading Comprehension
At this time as new practices are developing in instruction, it is essential that we have focused conversations with education decision-makers about how student read for meaning (reading comprehension), engage in inquiry, and determine the reliability of digital information.

AASL’s own “The School Librarian’s Role in Reading Position Statement” is also a rich resource for engaging in this conversation with decision-makers.

Collaborate!
The skills we have traditionally considered “information literacy” must not be separated from reading comprehension strategies, inquiry, and critical thinking. All of these tools—working in various combinations—help students analyze and make sense of texts. This is essential work for today’s students. Educators must teach these skills and motivate students to practice them—consistently—most especially in the free-range web learning environment.

In an SLJ article, Irene C. Fountas, professor in the School of Education at Lesley University in Cambridge and Gay Su Pinnell, professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State University, were quoted: “Having a library is a treasure, and having a librarian is a gift. And when reading teachers, classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians come together as a team, their collective knowledge about texts can help every child love to read independently, love to read in their classroom, and love to read at home” (Parrott 2017). (Emphasis added.)

Working together as a team, educators can also ensure that students deeply analyze and comprehend the “informational texts” they read in paper print and on their screens. School librarians can be leaders who make (digital) literacy teaching teams effective for the benefit of students.

Works Cited

Barshay, Jill. 2019. “Evidence Increases for Reading on Paper Instead of Screens.” The Hechinger Report, https://hechingerreport.org/evidence-increases-for-reading-on-paper-instead-of-screens/

Caulfield, Mike. 2019. “SIFT (The Four Moves).” https://hapgood.us/2019/06/19/sift-the-four-moves/

Parrott, Kiera. 2017. “Fountas and Pinnell Say Librarians Should Guide Readers by Interest, Not Level,” School Library Journal, https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=fountas-pinnell-say-librarians-guide-readers-interest-not-level

Valenza, Joyce, 2020. “Enough with the CRAAP; We’re Just Not Doing It Right.” School Library Journal, http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2020/11/01/enough-with-the-craap-were-just-not-doing-it-right/

Image Credit
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

Inquiry Learning Today

Former ALA and AASL President and retired library educator Barbara Stripling conducted and recorded an interview with Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives at Oakham School in the United Kingdom. Both Barb and Darryl are engaged in an individual and a shared on-going inquiry into inquiry learning. This conversation focused on how students (and adults) engage with information when conducting inquiry in the digital environment.

Barbara has been instrumental in developing and recently revising the Empire State (New York) Information Fluency Continuum, a PK-12 continuum of the information and inquiry skills required for in-depth learning. Darryl is the originator of FOSIL (Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning), which was originally modeled after the Stripling Model of Inquiry.

This transnational conversation, “The Process and Stance of Inquiry in the Digital World” was hosted by and is available online from School Library Connection.

Inquiry as a Process
Brian captured my attention immediately with this anecdote. There was a sign that read: “Are you ignorant or apathetic?” Under the sign, someone replied: “I don’t know and I don’t care.” This was a brilliant way to make the case for why inquiry is critical in today’s educational landscape.

The inquiry process involves a continuum of skills that some of us have called “information literacy.” Some educators approach and teach those skills as a linear progression; others apply a spiral approach in which students revisit more or less the same skills in increasingly more sophisticated contexts and applications. Regardless of the approach, Barbara and Darryl agree there is a decades long history of inquiry as an effective (and preferred?) learning process in librarianship and in education. (I was first introduced to inquiry learning in my preservice classroom teacher program in the 1980s.)

When thinking about inquiry in K-12, we cannot ignore assessment. Assessment in inquiry does not only focus on what we learn as the result of our exploration. Rather it also focuses on how we came to know what we learned. The emphasis on process is one that aligns with the school librarian’s goals for students to grow as lifelong learners who will be able to transfer and apply the skills they learn and practice in K-12 throughout their lives.

Darryl brought viewers’ attention to Chapter 5 in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions IFLA School Librarian Guidelines, 2nd Edition that makes the case for inquiry as a “tool” that provides a means to an end—namely learning. Inquiry sparks curiosity and the desire to find out. Barb noted that inquiry has the potential to change students’ attitudes toward learning—to make them more generally curious and to help them realize the importance of taking ownership and demonstrating agency as they pursue answers to their questions.

Inquiry as a Stance
To build on the idea of increasing curiosity, inquiry can also be a stance. As Salman Khan notes: “The crucial task of educators is to teach kids how to learn. To lead them to want to learn. To nurture curiosity, to encourage wonder, and to instill confidence so that later on they’ll have the tools for finding answers to many questions we don’t yet know how to ask” (cited in Moreillon 2018, 37).

In order for individual students and classrooms of students to achieve success, the adults in the school must ensure that this stance pervades the learning community. When all educators at every grade level and in every discipline approach learning from an inquiry stance, the likelihood that students will become lifelong inquirers increases exponentially. Inquiry, then, will be experienced as an authentic approach to schooling as well as learning and life.

This idea of inquiry as a stance connects strongly with my experience as an educator. I believe and have experienced the role of the school librarian as a leader who ensures that inquiry is systematically integrated into school curricula. Leading classroom teachers and specialists to the need to dedicate time for inquiry and creating space for students to explore is essential work for school librarian leaders. Although I have never had the total experience of inquiry being the sum total of the curriculum, I can imagine it.

Inquiry in the Digital World
Along with our students, all connected adults have or have had the overwhelming experience of locating too much information related to a particular topic or idea. We have also experienced misinformation, disinformation, and outright propaganda, and the digital siren song of distractions that are constantly competing for our attention. All of these contribute to the challenges students (and adults) experience in learning in the digital world.

Remote learning during school closures has only exacerbated this situation because the alternatives to pursuing information online are constrained without physical access to resources. Sorting facts from fiction, perspectives from biased information, content that meets our purposes and answers our questions can be even more difficult when we are socially separated from peers and guides.

Problems Create Opportunities
Last week, I attended the Arizona Library Association’s virtual conference. Brian Pichman, Director of Strategic Innovation at the Evolve Project, was a keynote speaker. In his talk, Brian stated this: “Problems create opportunities.” I agree with this statement but I often wonder who gets to identify what the “problem” is. From whose perspective is this a “problem?”

In the case of inquiry in the digital world, my perspective is that “inquiry” is not the problem. Giving students time and space to develop curiosity and explore are essential to their development as thinkers and doers. For me, the “problem” is the digital part in that many students today—if they are given the time and space to be inquirers—lack the skills and guides they need to be successful in the chaos of the online learning environment.

How can school librarians capitalize on our knowledge and pedagogical skills to solve the problem of students’ digital overload? How can we insist on knowledge construction in the digital world rather than more and more consuming? How can we solve students’ and our problem with Zoom fatigue?

Is “isolation” the problem? I believe translating our practice and emphasizing interactivity between educators and students, connections between content and students out-of-school lives, and increasing one-on-one, peer-to-peer communication in the virtual learning environment may hold promise. What do you think?

Works Cited

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

Pichman, Brian. 2020. “20 Ideas to Spawn Innovation 2020.” Arizona Library Association Conference. Online. October.

Stripling, Barbara K. 2020. “The Process and Stance of Inquiry in a Digital World [15:46].” School Library Connection Video. October. https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2254856?topicCenterId=2252404.

Image Credit
geralt. “Laptop Question.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-question-question-mark-2709647/

School Librarians and Election 2020

Image by Doug Cushman: Vote: Make Your Voice Heard #VoteOrTheyWin - mouse speaking forcefully to a lionAs of yesterday, it is 100 days until our national election will be held. The 2020 election provides an opportunity for educators to co-plan and co-teach lessons related to voting in our democracy. As school librarians think about the kinds of inquiry projects, they will plan in collaboration with classroom teachers, I hope civic education will be high on their list of proposals.

Whether face to face or remotely working with civics, history, and social studies educators, secondary school librarians can help students make sense of another aspect of our collective lives this fall—electoral politics! Elementary school librarians can also reach out to classroom teachers who bring current events into the social studies curriculum. And all school librarians can collaborate in the area of English language arts as students write about and present their understandings related to gathering information for civic decision-making and voting in a participatory democracy.

“School Librarians Can Save Democracy”
Last week, I viewed the archive of Michelle Luhtala’s EdWeb webinar called “School Librarians Can Save Democracy.” I appreciate that archives of her more than 100 webinars are available from EdWeb.

If you don’t yet know her work, Michelle is the library department chair at New Canaan High School in New Canaan, Connecticut. I highly recommend Michelle’s webinars. This one in particular is perfectly timed as school librarians are considering how they can collaborate with classroom teachers when school resumes—whether face to face or virtually. (She is offering a follow-up webinar on this topic in September.)

These are my brief takeaways from Michelle’s presentation and resources, which are mostly geared to secondary and college-level students.

Problems:

  • There is a perception that democracy is in jeopardy.
  • Most young adults use social media to access news information.
  • Most people respond emotionally to the news.

Solutions:

  • Promote inquiry and teach young people to think critically.
  • Read with their/our brains not their/our feelings.
  • Cultivate news literacy.

This is Michelle’s News Literacy 2020 link with the supporting resources she provided.

Dear Arizona Voter Writing Contest
Michelle’s presentation and resources make a connection to a project the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association is promoting this fall. We field tested the “Dear Arizona Voter Writing Contest” (DAVWC) in Fall, 2018 and are rolling it out again this year. We are hoping that more school librarians from across the state will participate. And we invite you do to something similar in your community.

DAVWC offers a way for young people to learn more about voting and express their understandings of its importance. Students’ writing can be in any genre—essays, poetry, song lyrics, letters to the editor, opinion pieces—and can be presented in traditional written format or with multimedia tools and multimodal texts.

In the DAVWC Google folder, TLD has provided a selection of resources to teach students about voting that may be most appropriate in upper elementary through high school. Other documents include a sample cover letter to classroom teachers or administrators, fast facts about school libraries, an editable certificate of participation, and the names of current state-level legislators who serve on the Arizona Senate and House Education Committees.

The folder also includes an example with photographs from 2018 provided by Melody Holehan-Kopas. At the time, Melody was the teacher librarian at Norterra Canyon School. She collaborated with 7th-grade humanities classroom teacher Kate Eastburn to coteach this unit.

This is the link to the publicly accessible DAVWC Google folder.

With the passing of Representative John Lewis, civil rights leader and tireless champion for voting rights, this inquiry is particularly timely. Creating opportunities for students to think critically about our democracy is now more important than ever. The civil unrest and protests that continue as I write this blog post call us to help empowered future voters prepare to take action—to learn to speak truth to power through critical thinking and knowledge.

Protecting and exercising the right to vote is fundamental. The voting booth is one way to have our voices heard!

Image Credit
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ member Doug Cushman provided this copyright-free image to SCBWI members in 2018. (I am one.)

School Librarians and Achieving Equity in Fall 2020

Image shows a traffic light: red (problem), yellow (analysis), green (solution)As I review my blog posts since this spring, I notice a reoccurring theme: equity. A majority of school librarians, classroom teachers, and administrators have long been concerned with all K-12 students’ access to an equitable, relevant, culturally responsive education. For many education decision-makers and members of the general public, the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have put the inequities in K-12 students’ access to equity in public schools into sharper focus.

At the same time, many education decision-makers seem to lack an understanding of how school librarians and libraries serve academic programs and our non-negotiable commitment to equitable access. There are currently schools, districts, and entire states discussing how school libraries will be repurposed and how school librarians will be reassigned to classroom teacher, teacher substitute, or other positions when library spaces are used to achieve social distancing, study halls, or childcare during school hours if schooling is held in person.

Reaping the Results of Spring, 2020
If schooling in fall, 2020, is remote, decision makers must be aware of the importance of school librarians’ roles as leaders in classroom-library collaboration for online instruction, advocates who get physical books into the hands of students and families even when the library is closed, technology mentors and troubleshooters, virtual book and other club sponsors, and more. School librarians who served on school and district decision-making leadership teams in spring, 2020, had the critical opportunity to ensure that the work of school librarians and the affordances of the library program were part of the solution to a crisis situation.

If school librarians demonstrated essential services in spring, 2020, then they have solid grounds on which to advocate for their continued role in their schools’ academic program. They can document their work and will have engendered advocates among students, colleagues, administrators, and families for having stepped up during a crisis. If, on the other hand, they, as one high school librarian told me, “didn’t do much,” then they will not be on firm ground going forward.

Changing School Paradigms
As I noted in my May 15, 2020, Arizona Daily Star op-ed “What the pandemic has taught us about K-12 schooling in Arizona,” many schools, districts, and states across this country and around the world should have paid heed to the academic as well as social services schools and educators, including school librarians, provide in their communities. The lack of access to an equitable education for all U.S. K-12 school students should be glaringly evident.

In his 6/20/20 blog post “Reopening Schools with a Focus on Equity,” Dr. Pedro Noguera asks a question that all education decision-makers should be asking themselves as they plan for fall, 2020: “Is American education ready to respond to the urgent needs that have been exposed?” In his post, Noguera challenges readers (educators and others) with a thought-provoking list of dominant paradigms in critical need of change, including “deep and persistent disparities in achievement based on race and class” and learning characterized by covering the material rather than deep engagement, curiosity, and stimulation. While I believe school librarians can be leaders in responding to Dr. Noguera’s entire list of needs for change, these two, in particular, are offer specific and direct ways school librarians can lead in transforming schooling.

The Achievement Gap, Curiosity, and Simulation
When we look at the achievement gap, we traditionally look at standardized test scores in reading and math. For the most part, school librarians have a greater opportunity to impact achievement in reading than in math. In the area of reading, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, for example, focuses on three types of literary texts and three broad categories of informational texts that vary by grade level. (The test is given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students.)

Looking at our own research in school librarianship, we can make a strong case for how our work helps reduce the reading achievement gap. “School librarians provide critical support to teachers and administration by recommending and teaching strategies and sources that develop reading comprehension and analysis of informational text in all content areas” (Gretes 2013, 3). If it’s not already, this must be a focus on school librarians’ work going forward.

Inquiry learning, which puts students’ own questions at the center of the process, is designed to simulate their curiosity to pursue personally meaningful answers to questions and solutions to problems. As co-designers of inquiry learning, collaborating school librarians have the opportunity to work with classroom teachers and specialists, whether face to face or online, to increase students’ motivation to engage in standards-based inquiry. We can also teach and co-teach specific skills used during inquiry, such as searching skills, bibliography formats, and resource analysis, and monitor students’ progress. We can model and guide students in using information and ideas ethically. We can help students select the most effective technology tools for demonstrating their new knowledge. Alongside classroom teachers, we can co-assess students learning in all of these areas.

Advocacy and Meeting Other People’s Needs
The best way to build advocates for the work we do it to help others meet their needs. Being an integral part of the success of administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families during spring, 2020, positioned school librarians to grow advocates and secure their rightful place in the future of K-12 education. As schools prepare to reopen physically or online, we will reap the benefits (or consequences) of the actions we took during school closures.

As a former school librarian and a retired school librarian educator, I can only spur you on from the sidelines. My greatest hope is that the critical roles of school librarians will not be lost in the conversations about reopening schools–that our contributions to student learning and teachers’ teaching, and our profession will thrive long into the future.

Work Cited

Gretes, Frances. 2013. “School Library Impact Studies: A Review of Findings and Guide to Sources.” Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. http://bit.ly/2USKkQ9.

Image Credit

geralt. “Traffic Lights Problem Analysis,” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/traffic-lights-problem-analysis-466950/

Susan Kuklin Book Study and Author Visit

This spring graduate students in IS445: Information Books and Resources are engaged in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) as they explore nonfiction and informational books and resources in the context of inquiry learning. This is our essential question for this inquiry: Is it important that students interact with global (multicultural and international) nonfiction and informational books and resources when they investigate prejudice and discrimination as it impacts the lives of young people today?

Immerse Phase of the GID
Immerse, the second phase of the GID, invites learners to explore resources to build their background knowledge, consider various perspectives on the inquiry question, and further their motivation to pursue the inquiry process. These are some possible Immerse Phase experiences: “reading a book, story, or article together; viewing a video; or visiting a museum” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012, 3).

Last week in the Immerse Phase of the GID, students participated in a book study of Susan Kuklin’s work and participated in an author visit with her.

Preparation for Ms. Kuklin’s Visit
In addition to reading her books, students were asked to explore Ms. Kuklin’s website and read an interview with her found on the Worlds of Words website: Authors’ Corner.

Students participated in literature circles during the first hour of class. They used the BHH (Book Head Heart) strategy for literature circle discussions centered on the titles in the above collage (see my review of Beers and Probst’s book Disrupting Thinking on my blog).

After the class session in an email to me, graduate student Kristin Somers shared her experience of using this discussion strategy. “The BHH was helpful. As far as guides go, the questions posed using BHH method were incredibly personal. Our group had a great conversation because of how much information was shared and how intimate the information was. We’re closer as a result-for sure!”

Then Ms. Kuklin joined our online class for a one-hour conversation related to her work. Students came to the author visit with two prepared questions. They were asked to listen to their classmates’ questions and Ms. Kuklin’s responses in order to forward our conversation with her.

Students’ Questions for Ms. Kuklin
Although their questions may have changed during their literature circle discussions and there wasn’t time for everyone to ask their questions, these are three examples from three different literature circle groups that offer a window into students’ thinking and responses to Ms. Kuklin books.

“How has writing We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Youth affected how you think about the idea of an ‘American’ identity?” (Abbigail McWilliams) Ms. Kuklin responded from the perspective of DACA youth who have gone to school in the U.S. and have friends and (some) family here. She noted they are American in every way but for papers. Then, Ms. Kuklin asked the same question of Abbigail. (I suspect this was a reflective moment in our conversation during which we all contemplated this question.)

“What were you hoping to learn from the teens (in Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out)? Had you known much about transgender studies prior to the book’s creation? (Lily Dawson) Lily and the class learned how Ms. Kuklin builds her background knowledge first, conducts research, and identifies interviewees. We also learned that each of her most recent books takes approximately five years to craft.

“I thought your use of children’s own words in Families and How My Family Lives in America, rather than description in the third person made these books stand out as unique and particularly compelling. What, if any, challenges did you face in obtaining and settling on the final text from the children?” (Nina Reiniger). Ms. Kuklin spends hours with the children and through her recordings of those sessions draws out their message. She uses the actual words of each child and checks in with them again that what she’s written is accurate before determining the final text. She also noted that the use of the first-person honors the voice and agency of the children in her picture books.

If you want to know more about the students’ responses to Ms. Kuklin’s books and our interaction with her, search Twitter for Susan’s handle @susankuklin and  this hashtag: #is445.

Author Visits
I firmly believe in the power of the transaction between the reader, the author, and the text. This theory by Louise Rosenblatt is known as the “reader-response theory.” Rather than making inferences, author visits provide readers with powerful ways to access the intentions and meanings authors themselves ascribe to their work. Having the voice of the author in the classroom or library is an incomparable gift.

In my experience, author/illustrator visits are the most successful when learners are familiar with the author or illustrator’s work through reading and discussing their responses to the work with their peers. This allows learners to build their background knowledge in order to deepen the questions they will bring to the author visit. Their minds will be prepped to engage with the guest and their takeaways from the experience will be more meaningful and long lasting.

Susan Kuklin’s Next Book
Ms. Kuklin’s next book In Search of Safety: Voice of Refugees will be released on May 12, 2020. In the book, she shares the experiences of five individuals—refugees from Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Burundi. Please read about this timely book on her website.

Thank you to Ms. Kuklin for generously sharing your craft, experiences, and heart with us. Thank you to IS445 students for sharing with each other, Ms. Kuklin, and with me.

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.

Note: I have used students’ comments, questions, and Ms. Kuklin’s responses with permission.

 

Professional Book Review: Disrupting Thinking

In their book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (Scholastic 2017), Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst offer educators strategies and opportunities to reassess the various ways they invite readers to approach texts. Classroom teachers, reading specialists, and school librarians will benefit from learning and reviewing research and information related to reader response, reading stances, rigor and relevance, and more.

The BHH Strategy
The Book Head Heart (BHH) strategy is at the center of Disrupting Thinking. This series of questions is designed to guide readers’ thinking from what is written in the text through feeling and thinking about the content of the text. (Note: Graduate students in IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth will the using the BHH strategy in their interactions with texts throughout the spring semester. I look forward to learning how this strategy supports them as they select, read, and curate library resources for their reading communities.)

Book

  • What is this book about?
  • Who is telling the story?
  • What does the author want me to know?

Head

  • What surprised me?
  • What does the author think I already know?
  • What change, challenged, or confirmed my thinking?
  • What did I notice?

Heart

  • What did this text help me learn about myself?
  • What did this text help me learn about others?
  • How has this text change my thinking about the world?
  • How will my actions or feeling change as a result of reading this text?
  • Does this text offer me any of my own Aha Moments? Any Tough Questions? Perhaps my own Words of the Wise? (2017, 62-71).

Regardless of the genre or format, these questions invite readers to enter deeply into the text.

Reading Stances
Aesthetic and efferent are two stances proposed by Louis Rosenblatt’s reader-response theory (1995). When we read from an aesthetic stance, we pay attention to how the text affects our emotions. We may respond by living vicariously through the characters and their experiences. We can also approach a text from an efferent stance, in which we focus on the factual information in the text. Readers, for the most part, read along a continuum from a purely aesthetic stance to solely efferent stance depending on their purpose for reading.

One of the strengths of Disrupting Thinking is that the authors make a strong case for readers learning to enter into nonfiction and informational texts as deeply as they have been taught to live through fictional texts. “Nonfiction should not suggest nonfeeling. Nonfiction offers us the chance to learn not only about the world and the people in it, but about ourselves” (2017, 49). When the content of nonfiction texts matter to readers, these texts will elicit feelings as well as thinking. Using the BHH questions is one way to support deep comprehension with nonfiction and informational texts.

Interest and Relevance
Educators have been taught to provide hooks, or motivational invitations, in order to spark students’ interest in texts or curiosity about topics or themes. Beers and Probst note that interest will fade if educators fail to address relevance. They cite this nugget of wisdom from their book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies (2016), which I will be referencing in many posts this spring for the benefit of IS445 students.

“Getting kids’ attention is about creating interest; keeping their attention is about relevance” (2016, 45).

Beers and Probst contend that if we help develop readers who are open to the possibility that a text will change them, they will then enter a text with “compassion.” An openness to different perspectives, motivations, reasoning, and evidence, or compassion, will further develop readers’ thinking. This compassionate approach can result in readers acting with compassion in the world.

The Goal of this Book
In Disrupting Thinking, Beers and Probst set out to create a resource for educators that serves as a guidepost for how to transform reading instruction so that the texts students read are transformative to their thinking and to the actions they take in the world.

For me, Beers and Probst’s approach to guiding students’ interactions with texts relates directly to the inquiry process suggested in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012). The overarching goal of inquiry learning is to put students in the driver’s seat—to determine questions, discover answers or solutions, and the develop as thinkers and learners. Finding the sweet spot, or third space, in the GID is where students’ internal motivation to pursue answers to questions propel them through the learning process and result in them taking action in the world.

Similarly, the approach to reading fiction, nonfiction, and informational texts offered in Disrupting Thinking is intended to support students as they experience reading as a change process. This connection is why I most highly recommend Disrupting Thinking to school librarians who are guiding students through an inquiry process and who are open to considering or reconsidering how they invite students into learning and growing—and changing—as a result of their interactions with texts.

Works Cited

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2016. Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2017. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters. New York: Scholastic.

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.

Rosenblatt, Louise. 1995. Literature as Exploration. New York: MLA.

Inquiry and Reading Comprehension Twitter Chat Summary

On Monday, September 23, 2019, graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” participated in a bimonthly Twitter chat. The chat was based on the pull quotes from Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning and Chapter 4: Traditional Literacy Learning in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

These are the four questions that guided our Twitter chat

As the course facilitator, Twitter chat moderator, and chair of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Reading Position Statements Task Force, I had a pressing reason to mine students’ thinking, experiences, and questions. While the critical role of reading competence is one of AASL’s core beliefs (AASL 2018, 4) and inquiry is one of the shared foundations described in depth in the new standards (67-74), the link between the reading comprehension and inquiry learning is not explicit.

A question posed recently on a popular school librarian Facebook group heightened my level of concern for how school librarians perceive their roles as teachers of reading and how they view the relationship between information literacy (or inquiry) and reading comprehension strategies.

These are a sampling of the students’ tweets.

Beliefs (about information, inquiry learning, and reading comprehension strategies)

@the_bees_knees
A4. Inquiry, information literacy, and reading comprehension are like a three-legged stool. Without any one of the three, we don’t really understand why we keep falling down.  #is516

@K8linNic
A.3: Common beliefs: Literacy is IMPORTANT & ESSENTIAL! Reading = foundational skill necessary for success in school/life. Literacy support is more than promoting reading #is516

@OwlsAndOrchids
A3: Both classroom T’s and #schoollibrarians highly value traditional literacies. Reading, writing, listening & speaking are core parts of learning. Without mastering these skills, students aren’t able to properly learn about other subjects or succeed in life. #is516 @iSchooK12

@bookn3rd2
A.3 SLs & Ts believe literacy learning involves giving Ss listening, speaking, writing, technology, print, inquiry, & reading comprehension strategies thru multimodal texts. SLs serve as literacy leaders in their schools. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@clairemicha4
Ts discuss all the time the transition from learning to read and reading to learn. Ss have to have solid reading skills to thrive in an academic setting. This Ts and #schoollibrarians can agree on.

@spetersen76
A.4. All (reading comprehension/information literacy/inquiry learning) require strategy and skill to be successful. With purposeful planning and teaching, Ss will learn how to critically evaluate sources, & read deeply/comprehend across various types of text/media, to be able to successfully participate in inquiry at its fullest.  #is516

@ScofieldJoni
A.3 Another common belief between both teachers and librarians is that the reading element of literacy is not the only important kind. In this day and age, digital literacy is just as important. #is516

@MFechik
A.3: They share a belief that inquiry is an important foundational skill for literacy, which leads to larger opportunities for students as they grow. They also both believe strongly in students’ right to privacy and intellectual freedom. #is516 @ischoolk12

@MsMac217
A.4 @iSchoolK12 Inquiry can’t be done w/o reading comprehension. Ss must be able to support themselves thru difficult texts in order to inquire & reach sufficient conclusions. Plus, inquiry can’t be done w/o the ability to sort thru information & determine what’s valuable #is516

Current Experience

@malbrecht3317
A1: In #Together203, our middle school science curriculum is entirely inquiry-based. There is a guiding essential question for each lesson & students come to an understanding of the world around them by participating in hands-on research labs. #is516 @ischoolk12

@karal3igh
A.1. Inquiry/Research is mostly left up to the teacher, but it is very heavily encouraged! Our math and science curriculum have geared strongly towards #inquirylearning in just the 6 years I’ve taught at my school. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@litcritcorner
A1. Our Juniors currently engage in very inquiry through their research projects. Students get to choose an independent reading book and then research a theme or question based on their book. This gives students a choice but also provides a focus. #is516 @iSchoolk12

@TravelingLib
A.1 Currently, research is used much more in our school compared to inquiry.  Inquiry is mostly seen in science and social studies, but has yet to be integrated well into other subjects. #is516 @ischoolk12

@bookn3rd2
A.1 I mostly saw traditional research in my school. Inquiry research was only done in gifted classes. Low Socio-Eco school, admin wanted classes CC & curriculum-centered. Gifted Ts got all the fun! SLs did no classroom literacy instruction #is516 @iSchoolK12

Less-than-ideal Current Practice

 @lovecchs165
I have never worked in an educational environment when Librarians/Teachers collaborate and have only seen traditional research done in the classrooms…I wonder if other teachers realize what they are missing out on by not collaborating with librarians?

@burnsiebookworm
A1 We’re pretty traditional – more research than inquiry based. Individual classes do their own lessons. For instance, ELA classes do a WW2 project in 8th grade, focused on life on the homefront. @ischoolk12 #is516

@bookn3rd2
A.1 I mostly saw traditional research in my school. Inquiry research was only done in gifted classes. Low Socio-Eco school, admin wanted classes CC & curriculum-centered. Gifted Ts got all the fun! SLs did no classroom literacy instruction #is516 @iSchoolK12

@CydHint
#is516 in the study on teacher and librarian #perceptions about #collaboration, #less than 50% of #librarians believed they should help with teaching note taking skills. #whoshoulddowhat remains an issue

Quote Tweet
@CactusWoman
A.3 Common beliefs are essential starting places for #collaboration. In my experience not all middle & high school Ts in all disciplines saw themselves as “teachers of reading.” This is also true of some #schoollibrarians who do not see themselves as “teachers of reading.” #is516

Effective Practices

@OwlsAndOrchids
A4: #inquiry is reliant on information literacy & reading comprehension. Without understanding text, the information is lost. Being able to recognize when info is needed, find it, assess it, & apply it is a fundamental part of inquiry. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@OwlsAndOrchids
The skills do seem to build upon one another and they are all necessary for total success. #is516 @ischoolk12

Quote Tweet
@burnsiebookworm
A4: Once Ss can get a handle on reading comprehension, skills like making predictions come more naturally, which allows them to move thru the inquiry process. @ischoolk12 #is516

@bookn3rd2
A.3 In the past few years Ts across disciplines within my school have started purposefully teaching reading strategies within their classes. It’d been greatly beneficial in increasing student comprehension, esp. w Nonfiction texts. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@GraceMW
A.4) #InquiryBasedLearning works best when there is a solid foundation of #infoliteracy and #readingcomprehension skills. Ts and #schoollibrarians who help foster these skills are helping curious students be stronger researchers and info seekers #is516 @iSchoolK12

@burnsiebookworm
A4: Reading comprehension is paramount. We use the making #textconnections strategies in ELA classes. Being able to connect to a text is the 1st step. @ischoolk12 #is516

@rural0librarian
A.4  #inquiry, info literacy, & reading comprehension are all tools and strategies that allow Ss to build their knowledge, encourage deeper learning, and become personally and academically competent #is516 @iSchoolK12

Reading Proficiency: A Foundational Skill
The importance of the foundational skill of reading can support or hinder a student’s ability to negotiate meaning in both print and digital texts. Readers applying comprehension strategies such as activating background knowledge, questioning, making predictions and drawing inferences, determining importance or main ideas, and synthesizing regardless of the genre or format of the text. Readers “read” illustrations, videos, audiobooks, and multimodal websites. In this environment, “school librarians can do more than promote reading. We can accept the role as instructional partners in teaching reading [and inquiry] and thrive in performing it” (Tilly 2013, 7).

These preservice school librarians agree that people can be reading proficient without being information literate, but a person cannot be information literate and engage in inquiry learning without comprehending what they read, view, or hear. It is my intention that they will take this understanding into their practice as educators and librarians.

Note: The tweets quoted here are used with permission and the whole class provided me with permission to link to our Wakelet archive (see below).

Works Cited

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

Inquiry and Reading Comprehension Strategies. Twitter Chat #2. Wakelet.com. https://wakelet.com/wake/546a25ea-5595-4882-bc71-e883ef153e12

Tilly, Carol L. 2013. Reading instruction and school librarians. School Library Monthly 30 (3): 5-7.

 

Twitter Chat: Inquiry and Reading Comprehension

This fall graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” are participating in bimonthly Twitter chats. The chats are based on the pull quotes from chapters in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

We invite you to join us our chat on Monday, September 23rd from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. Central Time. Chat questions are posted on this blog on the Wednesday before our Monday chats.

September 23, 2019: #is516 Twitter Chat: Inquiry Learning

When students engage in inquiry learning,
they “build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems”
(AASL 2018, 34).

Inquiry learning can spark students’ curiosity and ignite their passions. Inquiry puts learners in the driver’s seat and leads them to invest in and care about the literacies, skills, and dispositions they develop during the process. As students pursue the answers to personally meaningful questions and engage in real-world projects, they learn how to learn and build their confidence.  Hands-on, minds-on inquiry learning experiences help prepare young people to problem solve when confronted with the inevitable learning challenges that will characterize their futures.

Educators are responsible for creating the conditions in which inquiry learning can flourish. Inquiry doesn’t just happen; it must be expertly designed.

Building connections between required curriculum and students’ interests is essential. When two or more educators plan for inquiry, they increase the resources and knowledge at the collaboration table. They push each other’s creativity and codevelop more engaging learning experiences for students. When school librarians and classroom teachers coplan, coteach, and comonitor students’ inquiry learning process, they create opportunities for students to increase their content knowledge. They help students develop their ability to comprehend all types of texts and build future ready skills and strategies that are transferable to other learning contexts—both in and outside of school.

Comprehension strategies are essential for success in our personal, educational, and professional lives. Throughout the inquiry process, students (and adults) access and use information for which they have little, incomplete, or no background knowledge. “Regardless of the content and whether ideas and information are communicated in print or multimodal texts, students begin and progress on their literacy journeys by learning and developing their ability to effectively read and write” (Moreillon 2017a, 87). The traditional literacies—reading, writing, listening, and speaking—are called into service during inquiry learning.

School librarians can be leaders in codeveloping, coimplementing, and sustaining a culture of reading and inquiry in their schools. When school sites or entire districts adopt and practice a single inquiry model, and teach and reinforce reading comprehension strategies, students will have multiple opportunities to achieve successful deeper learning.

#is516 Chat Questions

These are the questions that will guide our chat (for copy and paste):

Q.1: How is research/inquiry currently taught in your school?

Q.2: What is/could be the connection between inquiry and #makerspaces?

Q.3: What common beliefs about literacy learning do classroom teachers and school librarians share?

Q.4: What is the relationship among inquiry, information literacy, and reading comprehension?

Please respond with A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4 and bring your ideas, resources, experience, questions, and dilemmas to our conversation so we can learn with and from you!

For previous chat questions and archives, visit our IS516 course wiki page.

Thank you!

Works Cited

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

Moreillon, Judi. 2017. “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies.” In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 86-108. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Inquiry into Global Information Books and Resources: Reflection

In the month of August, I have been blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Inquiry into Global Nonfiction and Informational Literature: Student Learning Outcomes and Reflections.” This is the final WOW Currents post for this 4-part series.

Today, library science students and I will launch the second course I will be teaching for the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This course “School Library Media Center,” which focuses on the instructional partner and information/technology specialist roles of school librarians is in my teaching “sweet spot.” I wrote the course textbook and have been teaching similar courses since 1995…

The course I’ve been writing about and reflecting on this month, “Information Books and Resources for Youth,” was a leap out of my past experience and comfort zone. I was excited to prepare and teach it and it stretched me in “good” ways. These are my takeaways from this teaching/learning experience.

Explore Pathfinder
It is my habit to complete every assignment I assign to students. For me, that is the only way to ensure that the assignment directions are clear, the assessment is aligned with the assignment objectives, and to ensure that there is plenty of room for students to engage creatively with the project. For this course, I created an annotated pathfinder to help learners access global information books and resources to explore the question of prejudice and discrimination against children and teens.

I organized the annotated bibliography/pathfinder by genre (in order to reinforce key course vocabulary) and format of nonfiction and information books and resources as well as subtopics within each genre. Curating these resources was and will continue to be a “passion project” for me. I have since read a memoir that I will add to this resource, How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Ywiringiimana. It is my hope that IS445 graduate students and any educator or student who curates resources that are personally meaningful will make a commitment to continually add to their work and share it for the benefit of others.

Student Learning Products and Feedback
It was encouraging to me that fourteen out of twenty students developed final projects for the course that included global nonfiction and informational books. Please see today’s WOW Currents blog post. Although all students in the course did not embrace the value I hold for global nonfiction and informational books and resources as pathways to understanding, empathy, and compassion, most students found a new or renewed commitment to identifying compelling resources to support student learning. In addition, many embraced inquiry learning as an effective practice for student engagement, meeting curricular demands, providing student choice, and amplifying student voice.

My Reflection
When I analyzed the results of the pre- and post-course surveys, I wondered why I had asked the question about ranking genres. I gave the students a list of eleven genres and asked them to rank them from most powerful to least powerful in terms of offering readers opportunities to develop empathy, compassion, and their understanding of human diversity. Although all IS445 students reported in the post-course survey that they had moved nonfiction and informational books up in their rankings, I fully believe the impact of a text “depends.” It depends on their purpose for reading. It depends on the timing in the reader’s life—their prior experiences and their current questions. It depends on the reader’s background knowledge and connections to the topic and themes raised in the text. It depends on the reader’s familiarity with or preferences for a genre or format, or “need” for visuals, or… It just depends.

That said, similar to the students who moved their rankings up for narrative nonfiction and memoir, I also discovered/rediscovered my enjoyment and value for these genres. In particular, I have not been drawn to memoirs and will now seek out more to read and pay more attention to those that cross my path and screen. These were some students’ final reflections, used with permission.

IS445 student Sara DeGraff, 8th-grade math teacher and future school librarian, wrote this in her final course reflection: “Exposing people to stories about others in similar situations or hazardous situations could create that empathetic feeling. When you have empathy, you can have a want to take action. Reading autobiographies, memoirs, and biographies can help create that empathy. … If we continue sharing people’s stories, we can create global citizens.”

IS445 student Becky Oberhauser wrote this in response to a classmate’s reflection: “I think what we’ve learned in this class will help all of us try to take on a global perspective when building collections for kids or when doing reader’s advisory. I liked that you said that informational text is the key to help students see their common humanity… Fictional texts may prompt emotions, but students may not develop the same passions to help others from them because the stories aren’t real.”

IS445 student and middle school teacher M. Albrecht wrote this: “It was very eye-opening to even consider that non-fiction books could be used for promoting a sense of empathy within students… In the future, I will try and make nonfiction resources just as enticing to the youth in my charge as I do fiction resources, whether it be in the form of guided inquiry design, creative displays, or hooks… If we, as educators and librarians, help cultivate that empathy by providing them with resources to expand their horizons and fostering their sense of inquiry, they will be able to figure out how they as individuals can help any being anywhere in the world.”

Student Choice and Voice
This course involved students in inquiry projects in which they determined the topics for study and in small groups or individually pursued curating nonfiction and informational books and resources to share with youth. I hope students understood that my trust in their ability to chart their own learning (with support) and exercise agency (within the stated course description and objectives) was a model for how they can create guided inquiry opportunities for youth in their care.

“In the context of the age of communication, mass media, and the information revolution, criticism’s ties to discrimination is grounded on a belief that students would be empowered as they develop the capacity to discriminate and critically evaluate all kinds of texts in multiple modalities within the global flow of information” (Choo 2013, 101).

It is my sincere hope that IS445 student felt empowered in our course; I trust they will pass it on.

Work 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.

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