Inquiry-Empowered Learning Culture

In the three previous Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning posts, I have shared ideas about developing a school-wide inquiry process, using inquiry learning as a way to engage students’ curiosity, experimentation, and creativity, and diverse creative expressions of learning. What would be the result if students, educators, and administrators enacted these three big ideas of inquiry learning?Shared Processes
A shared process provides a guaranteed, viable framework for student success. Students can master an information-seeking process and then adapt and expand upon it as they advance through grade levels and in various aspects of the curriculum. A common process leads to shared vocabulary and understandings that help every educator in the building communicate with and support all students in the building in achieving their learning goals.

A shared process can only be realized in a positive school climate and a collaborative learning culture. A framework that promotes in-depth learning will by necessity require changes in other aspects of the learning environment. Bell schedules may need to change. Student and educator responsibilities may need to change. Assessment and evaluation may need to change. Trusting relationships, professional respect, and the ability to navigate challenges and change are essential features of such a learning community.

Student-led Questioning and Diverse Expressions
Trust is also essential if educators support the agency of empowered students who guide their own learning process. Student-led questioning is one of the essential differences between inquiry and traditional research. When educators guide inquiry by providing students with sufficient background and helping them build connections between prior and new knowledge, they create a space in which students’ curiosity, experimentation, and creativity can thrive.

Trust is also necessary in an inquiry environment that supports students as creators. Educators who give up control and share power with students in the classroom and library provide an essential piece of the inquiry learning puzzle. They support students with menus of options or give students free rein to create new knowledge in diverse and unique ways. These expressions of learning are meaningful to students and cement their ownership in both the process and products of their discoveries.

School-wide Philosophy
Inquire is one of the shared foundations in the new AASL standards (2018). When students AND educators inquire, they practice a growth/innovator’s/inquiry mindset. They open their minds to new information, ideas, and perspectives. They use formative assessments to grow and develop as curious, creative, experimenting learners. Educators support students with timely, specific feedback to propel students forward on their learning journey, giving them encouragement to take missteps and to learn from them. The same is true for inquiring educators. They seek, give, and receive real-time feedback from one another through coteaching; they expect to be engaged as learners who are in a constant quest to improve instruction.

When a school or district adopts an inquiry learning framework they are also adopting a philosophy. If you haven’t yet tuned in or want to be inspired again, please listen to Priscille Dando’s podcast interview Episode 3: Inquiry Learning, in which she shares how school librarians are leading and guiding inquiry learning to achieve district goals for students and educators.

A Recipe for Inquiry Learning
Figure 3.1 on page 38 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership offers a “Recipe for Inquiry Learning.” It is “taken out of the book” of future ready educators and students. The ingredients are curiosity, connections, motivation, content knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions. The directions can be applied to any inquiry process, but all steps require sufficient time for maximum results. You can download the recipe from the ALA Editions Web Extras.

Inquiry learning is student ready/future ready learning. It is the pathway to helping students develop literacies, skills, and dispositions that will serve them throughout their lives.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What behaviors indicate to you that students and educators are empowered in your school?
  2. How can inquiry learning lead to empowerment for the entire school community?

Works Cited

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

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

Diverse, Creative Expressions of Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inquiry Learning = Preparation for Life!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

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

Work Cited

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

 

 

Curiosity, Experimentation, Creativity

“Explore” is one of the shared foundations in AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018). When learners explore, they engage with the learning community by “expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance” (38).Curiosity
In their book. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman (2015) emphasize the importance of curiosity as a springboard to creativity and innovation. Educators who create learning environments and opportunities that stimulate students’ curiosity help them on a path to lifelong learning.

For far too many students, schooling has stunted their innate curiosity. Over time, they have come to think of school as the place where the educators ask the questions, and students’ job is to respond to those questions with answers the educators already know. When students are given opportunities to revive their sense of wonder, they can take charge of their learning in ways that will support them throughout their academic, professional, civic, and personal lives.

Experimentation
Experimentation was once reserved for science and art courses, with chemistry labs and art classes the most often offered opportunities. The STEM/STEAM/STREAM focus in recent years has added technology, robotics, and engineering to the mix. Many school librarians have turned to makerspaces as strategies for engaging students and classroom teachers in experimentation. The opportunity to risk, fall short, and learn from missteps is a foundational tenet of makerspaces.

Although a makerspace may be housed in the library, hands-on, minds-on learning can be strengthened when the “maker” philosophy is diffused throughout the school. When classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians collaborate, students have the opportunity to experiment and explore in all content areas and develop a growth/inquiry/innovator mindset. School librarians who coplan and coteach with their colleagues help spread the benefits of makerspaces in the learning community.

Creativity
Creativity was once associated with the fine and industrial arts more than any other areas of the curriculum. Students signed up for art, music, shop, and home economics classes with an understanding that the curriculum in those courses would allow them free rein to explore, experiment, and “fail forward.” In these courses, students and educators expected students to access and enact creativity in their thinking and in the final products they created.

Creativity is one of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs. When students are encouraged to imagine and “think outside the box,” they may pursue and express their questions, knowledge, and learning in unexpected ways. For some youth, personalized learning can be a pathway to unleashing students’ creativity. For others, small group exploration may be the path to connecting their own creativity with that of their peers.

Coleading School Librarians
An effective school library program involves students and educators in exploring the curriculum, resources, information, and ideas in creative ways. School librarians can spotlight the ways students use library resources and tools to create. They can work with colleagues and administrators to ensure that curiosity, experimentation, and creativity are cornerstones of students’ learning experiences.

Taking the attitude and enacting the behaviors of “explorers,” students can stretch themselves beyond their own expectations. Through codesigning and coteaching with classroom teachers and specialists, school librarian can also stretch themselves and advocate for engaging learning experiences for students.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your school’s considerations in determining the location of a makerspace in your school building?
  2. What are the benefits to students when school librarians share responsibility for facilitating making?

Works Cited

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

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. 2015. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.

School-wide Inquiry Learning

What are the advantages to students, educators, and school districts when leaders agree on a school-wide or district-wide research/inquiry learning process?

November Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry Learning: An Interview with Priscille Dando, Coordinator of Library Information Services in Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools

Researcher Robert Marzano (2003) has been proclaiming the importance and effectiveness of a guaranteed, viable curriculum for many years. In that same vein, I believe a guaranteed, viable research/inquiry learning process can help students, classroom teachers, and school librarians effectively use a common vocabulary, set of procedures, and processes. It can ensure that students have multiple opportunities to practice and internalize a process and that educators have an agreed upon set of sub-skills that students need to be taught and master in order to be successful information-seekers, users, and creators.

There are a number of processes that have been proposed by library and education leaders. School librarians, students, and classroom teachers have applied the Super 3, Big 6, Savvy 7, the Stripling Model, WISE model, Guided Inquiry Design or GID (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012), and more. Some of these models have focused more on a traditional research process and some are focused on an inquiry model.

Choosing a Process
In Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, I have built the inquiry chapter around the GID for several reasons. The GID is based on research conducted by Carol Kuhlthau. It acknowledges learning as a social-emotional process as well as an intellectual one. The GID process is comprehensive. It activates and provides students with necessary background knowledge to develop meaningful questions for study. It integrates reflection and formative assessment throughout the process and involves students in sharing their new knowledge. It is best facilitated by teaching teams working in instructional partnerships. To my way of thinking, it is perfectly designed for classroom-library collaboration.

School librarians, classroom teachers, and administrators can work in teams to review, assess, and select inquiry and research processes that will meet the needs of their learning communities. Taking a collaborative approach to determining a process that students apply in multiple grade levels and content areas is ideal.

Laura Long’s Example from the Field
Last month, Laura B. Long posted an outstanding article on the KQ blog about her collaborative work with her principal, school improvement team, and faculty to co-create a school-wide research process: Is a School-wide Research Model for You?” In her article, Laura shares the steps she took to lead her school community in instituting and shared process. “With the school’s Research Road Map approved and ready to share, (Laura) had the opportunity to meet with all of the teachers during one of our back-to-school workdays to introduce the new model to everyone. Small posters were printed for all classrooms, and multiple posters and reminder cards were printed for the library. Additionally, the road map was added to our student and teacher resources pages on the library website” (Long 2018).

I look forward to learning more about how this process will work for students and educators during this first year of implementation.

Priscille Dando’s Example from the Field
School librarian supervisor Priscille Dando provided this month’s virtual interview podcast. In her interview, Priscille shars how she is leading 244 librarians serving in 193 school library programs. She tells how the librarians in her district came to adopt the GID and her role in rolling out this inquiry learning framework. Priscille also shares the responses from students, classroom teachers, librarians, and administrators and how the GID supports other initiatives in Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools.

Check it out!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What do you see as advantages for students, educators, administrators, and families in having a guaranteed, viable research/inquiry model and do you have colleagues in your school or district who may agree?
  2. If you school does not have a school-wide or district-wide research/inquiry model what would be your process for launching this conversation?

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.

Long, Laura B. 2018. “Is A School-wide Research Model for You? Recognizing the Need for a Research Model.” Knowledge Quest Blog (October 2, 2018): https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/is-a-school-wide-research-model-for-you/

Marzano, Robert J. 2003. What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action? Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Coleading Alongside Principals

Earlier this month there was a discussion on the AASL Forum about the perceptions of education decision-makers regarding school librarians’ skill sets and contributions to student learning and classroom teachers’ teaching. (In addition, Rebecca Moore also published an article in VOYA magazine called “Beyond Mysterious Stain Removal: Top Skills for School Librarians.”)

Several people have commented on the Forum that school librarians must listen to principals, in particular, and help them solve the challenges they face. By helping principals and other district-level administrators solve problems and serving as coleaders alongside their administrators, school librarians can help others successfully implement change.

I invite you to revisit Misti Werle’s virtual podcast interview for Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development to note how she is leading coteaching practices among Bismarck (North Dakota) Public Schools as a way of addressing school administrators’ priorities.

In 2014, my former Texas Woman’s University colleague Teresa Starrett, who teaches school administration courses, and I crowdsourced a video titled “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.” We put out a nationwide request to school librarians who had experience collaborating with their principals and with classroom teachers. These testimonials, from across the country, document what these school administrators know are the reasons all schools should have a professional school librarian on the faculty who leads a collaborative school library program.

The following are transcript excerpts from the videos we received. They were used to create the composite video.  From my perspective, these testimonials clearly indicate what all administrators should value and what all school librarians should contribute to their learning communities. I have highlighted some of the keywords in their testimonials. (Note: The administrators’ positions and titles listed were accurate at the time the video was published in 2014).

Paula Godfrey, Elementary School Principal (Retired), Tucson, Arizona
“Principals should stand for what’s important in schools, and having teacher librarians in elementary schools is essential. When you have a teacher librarian in an elementary school, they teach teachers how to be better at their craft, how to help children evaluate sites so that the research they do is meaningful and allows student voices to come out because they truly understand the research that they’re doing. When you work with the teacher librarian, you’re able to grow professionally in a way that’s very non-threatening, very supportive, but accomplishes that raise of rigor in the classroom, and their confidence in being able to complete a research project with their students. There is the opportunity on a day-to-day basis for the teacher librarian to use the skills that she has to improve teaching in classroom teachers. That professional development doesn’t happen on Wednesday afternoons from 1:45 to 2:45. Professional development happens as teacher librarians and classroom teachers collaborate together on projects for their students.

Teacher librarians are the heart of the school. And without a teacher librarian there is no central focus on literature. There is no support for families, for students, for teachers, for staff, on literature, on professional development, on research. Teacher librarians are the heart of the school.”

Dr. Neil Stamm, Assistant Principal, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, Virginia
“The school librarian has become more of a resource for students, rather than the keeper of books. Librarians now work with students and teachers as an information agent.”

Felicia Barnett, Principal, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, Virginia
“The true indication of the value of our school librarian is found in the excitement that our students experience when visiting our library. It’s an obvious result of the librarian’s passion: making literacy a priority for all content areas in our building and all students and families.”

Regina Stafford, Assistant Administrator, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, Virginia
“School libraries and school librarians contribute in rich and diverse ways to the intellectual life of a school. They help develop students to function in a complex and increasingly digital environment. The school librarian really is a co-teacher who undertakes an active role by engaging in shared instruction to produce literate and informed learners who can thrive in a digital knowledge-based world.”

Linda Nathan, Founding Headmaster, Boston Arts Academy, Boston, Massachusetts
“I’m a huge advocate for bringing librarians into the forefront and bringing libraries into the forefront of thinking about urban school reform.”

Dr. Lourenco Garcia, Principal, Revere High School, Revere, Massachusetts
“The learning commons is a place where the librarian, the person that’s running it, can really program, plan activities in a more engaging and interactive way, where teachers and students feel good because technically they are not entrenched in an area that’s cold like the traditional library, but in a place that is very engaging, very interactive, where the work can be done in a more relaxing environment.”

Dr. Nadene Stein, Northeast Elementary School, Waltham, Massachusetts
“We are blessed to have a vibrant library and a great librarian who can connect with the teachers and the students and really make learning come alive for kids. And I’m not really sure what we would do without that resource. I can’t imagine not having a library teacher. I’ve worked in other systems where that’s one of the first things that gets cut, and I would be holding on to the library teacher kicking and screaming if they told me that we had to lose that out of the budget. The resource is invaluable, and it is something that just enhances the curriculum of every grade level in this building.”

Priscila Dilley, Director of Elementary Leadership, Principal Supervisor, Fort Worth, Texas
“We like to really push for a coteaching approach, where the librarian and the teacher are there side by side and they know the skills that students need to review or, you know, spiral back in, whatever it might be. We like for the librarians to be heavily involved with that so that they can support the student achievement in their libraries as well.”

Rebecca Beidelman, (Former) Principal, Kutztown Area High School, Kutztown, Pennsylvania
“They (school librarians) are teachers. They are information specialists. And they sit down and they help with writing curriculum. And helping to design assessment. Because a lot of assessment is also project based and process based – you’re evaluating the process as opposed to just the process outcome. And that process, of course, in terms of Common Core, has to include all of the research components that are required. The technology components that are required. The higher-level thinking and the depth of knowledge that’s required. I cannot imagine not having an information literacy specialist in my building to bounce things off of.”

Shenequa Coles, Principal, Columbia High School, Columbia, South Carolina
“Our librarian is a member of our leadership team, she assists with the decision-making that the team has to do, and that includes department chairs and administrators. The bottom line is, our librarian assists with projects for students with teachers, research, she provides professional development through our Technology Tuesday sessions and other sessions that we have professional development sessions throughout the school year. This school could not function without our school librarian, and she helps to provide a rich culture that is filled with inviting and new learning opportunities.”

For me, all of these testimonials suggest that school librarians’ roles as curriculum developers (#1 on Rebecca Moore’s list) and leaders in job-embedded professional development can be pathways for school librarians to help principals and district-level administrators solve the challenges they face in our schools.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How does your principal engage in distributed leadership?
  2. What roles do leaders play in your school?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi, and Teresa Starrett, eds. 2014. “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”  YouTube. https://youtu.be/bihGT7LoBP0

All quotes used with permission

More Engaging Curricula

Why and how does working with another person or a team help educators think more deeply about learning and teaching? How does it help them step out of the box? The adage “two (or more) heads are better than one” is simply… true. When educators bounce ideas off one another, they stimulate each other’s thinking. They clarify curriculum standards and goals. They explore ideas for making connections to students’ interests. They discover multiple ways to link those ideas to student learning objectives.

Collaboration with the goal of designing more engaging learning experiences for students works.

More Engaging Curricula
Some MSLL blog readers may believe that the best way to educate students for their future is simply to turn them lose to explore whatever interests them, whenever it interests them. I am not one of those readers. I believe that learning objectives have a central role to play in guiding a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano 2003). In his book What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action, Robert Marzano shares thirty-five years of research related to improving student achievement. While I do make a distinction between “learning” and “achievement,” student achievement in terms of courses completed successfully, high school graduation rates, and scores on standardized tests are still factors that can support or limit a student’s life choices.

Marzano organized this research into three buckets: the school level, the teacher level, and the student level. At the school level, a guaranteed and viable curriculum, challenging goals and feedback, parent and community involvement, a safe and orderly environment, and collegiality and professionalism all had have positive impacts on student outcomes. At the teacher level, instructional strategies, classroom management, and classroom curriculum design improved student achievement. At the student level, the home atmosphere, learned intelligence and background knowledge, and motivation all affected students’ learning.

Many of the school-, teacher-, and student-level factors, including collegiality, instructional strategies, curriculum design, and student motivation are addressed in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy.

School-Level Factors
In a “school that learns” (Senge et al. 2012), everyone is invested in everyone else’s success. When school learning communities are collegial, they have the foundation to work as a team to enact their professional responsibilities. They can lead—together. It is through their understanding of the strength that comes from collaboration that allows the actions of the collective to far outstrip those of individuals.

Teacher-Level Factors
Curriculum is a guide. Educators can use that guide in traditional or innovative ways. When working collaboratively, school librarians and classroom teachers can inspire one another to design learning experiences that are both “new and better” than those taught in the past. (See 10/8 blog post Classroom-Library Coplanning.) While it should be the goal of every educator to ready students for self-directed learning, many students need the effective instructional strategies and interventions that educators provide through modeling, monitoring, timely and specific feedback, and assessing student progress.

(In my thirteen-year experience as a coteaching school librarian at all three instructional levels, classroom management was very rarely an issue in the library. With more space, exciting resources, including technology, and well-designed learning opportunities, students were engaged and enthusiastic about learning through the library program.)

Student-Level Factors
Students benefit from coteaching because they have the support of two (or more educators). Coteaching reduces the chances that any student or group of students will lack the personalized attention of an educator. Student-led inquiry puts students in the driver’s seat as they negotiate the space between their interests and the curriculum. Educators support students in finding that sweet spot that connects in-school learning with students out-of-school lives and real-world issues. Motivated students develop literacies, practice skills, grow their dispositions, and deepen their knowledge through the inquiry process.

Connection
In his book What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America, Ted Dintersmith (2018) proposes using the PEAK concept when transforming schools. PEAK stands for purpose, essentials, agency, and knowledge.

Purpose: Students must have opportunities to wrestle with problems that are important to students and the community. Problems and student learning must have a real-world impact. It must also be publicly displayed so that students (and their audiences) learn young people can indeed make a difference in the world.

Essentials: The essentials are skill sets and mindsets, such as creative problem solving, communication, collaboration, critical analysis, citizenship, and aspects of character (dispositions).

Agency: Agency involves students in setting their goals, managing their efforts, assessing their progress, and persevering to completion. This process supports students as they “learn how to learn.”

Knowledge: Finally, they must have deep and retained knowledge they can access, teach others, apply, and showcase in the quality of what they create, build, make, and design (Dintersmith 2018, 38-39).

For me, PEAK and effectively applied inquiry and problem-based learning are one and the same. Purpose, essential skills and mindsets, agency, and knowledge are the goals and objectives of inquiry learning. School librarians can be coleaders who, through coplanning and coteaching, guide more engaging and relevant curricula to best support and prepare students for their current academic success as well as for their future lives.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How did you learn to serve as a curriculum developer?
  2. How free do you feel and act as a curriculum developer in your school?

Works Cited

Dintersmith, Ted. 2018. What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Marzano, Robert. 2003. What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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

 

 

Collaboration and Leadership Are Essential

Working in isolation from other educators simply does not work. It doesn’t work for classroom teachers and specialists, and it doesn’t work for school librarians. In fact, while other educators in the building may “get by” with working alone, school librarians simply cannot maximize the capacity of library resources and the school library program unless they work in collaboration with administrators and colleagues. Most school librarians are the only person in their buildings who perform their roles and job functions. This position on the faculty also requires that school librarians develop leadership skills as well.

The Collaboration Challenge
Collaborating with other adults can be challenging. Many educators, including school librarians, enter the profession with a solo orientation to teaching. We think of the classroom or library as a “my” space. Classroom teachers refer to students as “their students” and school librarians refer to the library as “my library.” Moving toward an “our” orientation requires a culture shift that includes a commitment to continuous outreach to colleagues and (fearless) risk-taking with other adults.

School librarians have been “advised” to engage in classroom-library collaboration for more than fifty years. The Standards for School Library Programs published in 1960 recommended that instruction in “library skills” be a cooperative endeavor between school librarians and classroom teachers. However, many of the preservice school librarians in the courses I taught (1995-2016) believed that collaboration was a “new” way for school librarians to practice their teaching role. Their own experience as K-12 students, as classroom teachers, or even as school librarian interns may have contributed to their perception that working in isolation from other faculty members and classroom curriculum was an option.

Simply put, collaboration is not an option.

Literacies, Skills, and Dispositions
School librarians are responsible for helping students develop literacies, skills, and dispositions that cross disciplinary boundaries. To be effective in terms of student learning, they must teach literacies and skills and model dispositions in the context of the classroom curriculum. Coteaching with classroom teachers and specialists allows school librarians to fulfill their charge to integrate the resources of the library and their own expertise into the academic program of the school. If they do not collaborate, school librarians will be unable to help students, other educators, and administrators reach their capacity.

The literacies, skills, and dispositions students practice through an integrated school library program facilitated by a collaborative school librarian are transferable to every discipline and to lifelong learning. School librarian leaders feel a responsibility to ensure that students have multiple opportunities in many, if not all, content areas to learn and practice these aspects of future ready learning (see MSLL figure 1.1). This opportunity and responsibility is a call to leadership.

The Leadership Challenge
Before publishing the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018), the American Association of School Librarians hired KRC Research to conduct a study of the profession. Participants in AASL focus groups were asked about the core values of school librarianship. According to the summary, participants tended to agree on these core values (from more often mentioned to least often mentioned):

  • Inquiry
  • Equitable access to information
  • Commitment to lifelong learning (in oneself, one’s students, and one’s colleagues)
  • Empower student through literacy
  • Modeling and mentoring
  • Develop critical/skeptical thinking
  • Inclusiveness: diversity of beliefs, ideas, cultures and lifestyles
  • Intellectual freedom
  • Foster leadership and collaboration
  • Ethical use of information (AASL 2016, 9)

The fact that “foster leadership and collaboration” was one of the least often mentioned core values was a red flag for me. In my experience, enacting leadership and collaboration and fostering these two essential skills in others must be core values for school librarians. The preservice school librarians I taught over a twenty-one-year period may have come into their graduate coursework without such an understanding, but by the time they entered practice, I would hope they felt prepared to enact and foster these skills.

Simply put, leadership is not an option.

Collaboration and Leadership Are Essential
Research has shown that school librarian candidates can learn and embrace collaboration and leadership skills (Mardis 2013; Moreillon 2013; Smith 2011) and that school administrators view school librarians as leaders in technology, research, and information (Johnston et al. 2012). As Marcia Mardis (2013) notes the fact that “leadership [is] essential at all levels in schools has been described as an essential condition of innovation and change” (41).

If school librarians are to serve as key contributors to transforming learning and teaching in their schools then the abilities to collaborate and lead are essential skills to learn, practice, continually develop, refine, and sustain.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you enact collaboration in your school?
  2. How do you enact leadership in your school?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians and KRC Research. 2016. AASL Member and Stakeholder Consultation Process and the Learning Standards and Program Guidelines. https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/AASL_SG_ResearchFindings_ExecSummary_FINAL_101116.pdf

Mardis, Marcia. 2013. “Transfer, Lead, Look Forward.: Further Study of Preservice School Librarians’ Development.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 54 (1): 37-54.

Additional Reading

Johnston, Melissa P., Jeffrey Huber, Jennifer Dupuis, Dan O’Hair, Mary John O’Hair, and Rosetta Sandidge. 2012. “Revitalization of the School Library Media Specialist Certification Program at the University of Kentucky: Preparing 21st Century School Library Technology Leaders.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 53 (3): 200-207.

Moreillon, Judi. 2013. “Educating for School Library Leadership: Developing the Instructional Partnership Role.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 54 (1): 55-66.

Smith, Daniella. 2011. “Educating Preservice School Librarians to Lead: A Study of Self-Perceived Transformational Leadership Behaviors.” School Library Media Research 14.

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 9

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. Chapter 9 is the final chapter in the book.

The book will be hot off the presses next month and a limited number of copies will be available at the ALA Store at the Annual Conference in New Orleans. I will be participating in the conference and will carry copies of the book for you to preview. I will also have $5-off coupons to hand out.

Chapter 9: Sustaining Connections in a Learning Culture

“Courageous leadership and the perseverance to continually improve are critical to creating a better learning culture for all students and ultimately, to transform learning” (Sheninger and Murray 2017, 227).

Building and sustaining a collaborative culture of learning provides the necessary foundation for change. In order for any innovation to be successful, all stakeholders must work together to achieve that shared goal. In this culture, leaders engender trust and ensure positive relationships among team members. Beginning and ending with the plural pronoun “our,” all members of the school learning community share responsibility for learning and take pride in the outcomes. They all have a common stake in continuous improvement that results in student success.

A collaborative culture of learning allows individual educators to capitalize on the strengths their colleagues possess while they build their own instructional expertise. When school librarians enter into future ready learning partnerships, they help others achieve their goals. Working in teams, they build trusting relationships. In classrooms and libraries, educators practice reciprocal mentorship in order to improve student learning outcomes. They take risks together to coteach, and they believe that their instructional practices can develop at a much greater rate with more assured improvements when they collaborate.

With leadership, a successful change process breeds more change. School librarians working as change aides have the opportunity and responsibility to collaborate with administrators to codevelop and sustain library programs that are at the center of initiatives to transform learning and teaching. As leaders, librarians embody the vision, walk the talk, and go the extra mile.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. Graphic from How to Make a Switch (Heath and Heath 2010);
2. AASL Shared Foundations and Key Commitments (AASL 2018);
3. Your Plan and Reality Graphic;
4. Empowered Collaborative Culture of Learning Graphic.

For all stakeholders to work together over time, an empowered learning culture must be nurtured in order to sustain change. Time and time again, principals, school librarians, and teacher leaders will be called upon to renew and reinvigorate the learning community’s commitment to growth.
School librarians can be essential leaders who build and sustain the relationships that cement the foundation of a culture of learners—young and older—who strive to make schools joyful, relevant, challenging, and effective learning environments for all.

Works Cited

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

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. 2007. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books.

Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. 2017. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

 

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 8

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. Since the publication date is fast approaching, I am previewing Chapter 8 this week and Chapter 9 next in order to give reviewers a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

The book will be hot off the presses next month and a limited number of copies will be available at the ALA Store at the Annual Conference in New Orleans. I will be participating in the conference and will carry copies of the book for you to preview. I will also have $5-off coupons to hand out.

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy

“Good leaders get people to work for them. Great leaders get people to work for a cause that is greater than any of them—and then for one another in service of that cause” (Pearce 2013, 40).

Leadership and advocacy go hand in hand; both are necessary for achieving future ready learning. Leaders seek to influence the attitudes and behaviors of the members of their team as well as other stakeholders in their endeavors. Trust is the foundation on which these changes are built. School librarians can be coleaders with principals to positively affect school climate and culture. They do so through developing trusting classroom-library instructional partnerships.

“Leadership is about social influence, enlisting the engagement and support of others in achieving a common task” (Haycock 2017, 11).  One common task of school leaders is to ensure continuous improvement in teaching and learning. Working together, school leaders and stakeholders are able to transform traditional pedagogy into future ready education for the benefit of students. This is a cause and an effort that requires the commitment and dedication of a team that includes administrators, educators, students, families, and community.

Advocacy begins when library programs are aligned with the vision, mission, and strategic plan for their schools and districts. School librarians match library programs with the agenda and priorities of library stakeholders. Working from that shared vision, mission, and plan, school librarians codevelop a vital, integrated, and results-oriented school library program.

School librarians have the responsibility to educate stakeholders about the value added by their teaching and leadership. They serve as “centralized” instructional partners who work with all school library stakeholders. This global influence gives librarians opportunities to positively impact learning and teaching throughout the building. School librarians collect and share data and use promotional materials to educate stakeholders about the benefits that result from the learning opportunities that happen through the library program. This is the most effective way to advocate for the program and build a cadre of advocates among library stakeholders.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. The Relationship between Leadership and Advocacy;
2. Public Relations and Advocacy Tools;
3. School Librarians’ Public Relations, Marketing, and Advocacy Checklist;
4. Sample Advocacy Plan.

Through their daily activities of coplanning, coteaching, coassessing student learning, and providing and engaging in professional development, school librarian leaders create advocates as an organic part of their work. Along the way, they nurture relationships with colleagues, families, educational decision-makers and policy-makers at the district and state levels, members of the business community, and voters who are also stakeholders in preK−12 education.

Works Cited

Haycock, Ken. 2017. “Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change.” In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 1–12. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Pearce, Terry. 2013. Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future, 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 4

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 4: Traditional Literacy Learning

“The degree to which students can read and understand text in all formats (e.g. picture, video, print) and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life” (AASL 2007, 2).

Becoming literate is a lifelong process. Throughout our lives, information seekers access and use medical, political, scientific, technical, and other information for which we 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 at the heart of the multiple literacies students will develop for success in their personal and professional lives.

Students must be able to make sense of text in order to be information literate. They need to apply reading strategies such as drawing inferences, questioning, and synthesizing in order to comprehend and use information. It is critical that they develop strategies for unpacking difficult texts. They must also be able to effectively communicate their knowledge. Learning and applying reading comprehension strategies and the writing process during inquiry is an authentic context for strengthening traditional literacies. Listening and speaking during discussions, collaborative work, and learning presentations builds understanding, empathy, and self-confidence.

Through classroom-library collaboration for instruction, educators build common beliefs and shared vocabulary and processes for teaching literacy in their schools. When students have opportunities to further develop traditional literacy skills in many learning contexts and all content areas, they are more likely to develop as engaged learners who achieve success.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. A Rationale for Why Reading Promoter Is an Important Yet Insufficient Role for School Librarians
2. The School Librarians’ Literacy Leadership Puzzle
3. Reading Comprehension Strategies Aligned with the Guided Inquiry Design Phases
4. Fix-Up Options Self-Monitoring Sheet
5. Reading Comprehension Strategy Lessons and Inquiry Learning Connections

“From reading promotion to aligning reading and writing with inquiry learning, school librarians’ ever-expanding roles as literacy leaders have grown alongside the explosion of information and the development of the technology tools used to access it” (Moreillon 2017a, 88). As instructional partners, professional developers, and literacy leaders, school librarians have a responsibility and an opportunity to help strengthen students’ traditional literacies and to co-create a culture that supports literacy development for everyone in their schools.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2007. Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. Chicago: American Association of School Librarians.

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.

Image Created at Wordle.net