Sharing with Authentic Audiences and Student Self-Assessment

Guided Inquiry Design (GID): Share and Evaluate Phases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

Opportunities for Voice and Choice

Guided Inquiry Design: Identify, Gather, and Create Phases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Cited

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

 

Community Connections

I believe a school librarian’s first order of business is serving as a leader within the school building itself and then within the school district. The focus of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy is librarian leadership that benefits students, other educators, administrators, and families within the school building and district.

That said, instructional leadership and advocacy are two areas in which school librarians’ leadership activities can extend into the community outside the school building. When the greater community is aware of the school library program, advocacy appeals for more resources, staffing, and other types of support will be supported by local businesses, non-profit and civic organizations, and by voters.

Instructional Community Connections
School librarians can be the connectors who bring the resources of the community into the school building. Human resources are often overlooked by busy educators. Bringing in guest speakers and experts in their fields builds bridges for learning and perhaps future career choices for students. School librarians can coordinate or work with a school community liaison to facilitate volunteer tutors and other services offered by individuals and non-profit groups.

Taking students and learning out into the community is another area for school librarian leadership. Field trips to public and academic libraries, museums, universities and colleges connect students to community resources that can support learning. Getting outside the school building and visiting parks and nature preserves or attending fine arts performances enriches students’ lives.

Off-campus student jobs and internships are other ways school librarians can support student learning. As a high school librarian, I wrote a number of reference letters for library aides and other students who were seeking employment or apprenticeships. Based on my experience of students’ work ethic and willingness to learn, I could confidently recommend them to business owners and community organizers.

Community Advocacy Connections
There is no question that the community outside the school building can provide powerful support in advocating for the school librarian’s position and the library program. The more students and educators are out in the community the greater the community’s knowledge of their talents and their needs. When students share their learning, musical or other talents at a school board meeting, parents, voters, and the press are there. In a small school district where I served in a combined junior high/high school library, I co-sponsored and sponsored two sets of student presentations. One was a classroom-library online literacy circles collaboration; the other was the library geek squad who researched and presented the need for computer upgrades.

Making sure the school district and local town/city press cover the contributions of the library program to student learning helps educate the community about the vital learning and teaching facilitated by the school librarian. This will take a strategic and concerted effort on the part of the school librarian and school/district administrators who understand the literacy and learning value added. If and when the school board decides to address a budget shortfall by eliminating school librarians, there should be a hue and cry.

Community and Sustainability
When the school and school library are positioned in the community as sites for literacy and learning opportunities, school library programs have a greater opportunity to survive in the ever-changing, ever-evolving education landscape. It is up to each and every school librarian to make the commitment to sustaining a program that is worthy of stakeholders. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are the benefits of maximizing community connections?
  2. What connections are you making with resources, including human resources, to bridge school and community?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories. School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.

 

Standards, Inquiry, and Deeper Learning

State and national standards in the content areas are in a continuous cycle of revision. When school librarians have the opportunity to contribute to a standards revision process in their state or national associations, they have a golden opportunity to help the committee focus student learning outcomes on deeper learning.

As evidenced in Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning, I am a firm believer in inquiry as a pathway to deeper learning. Through coplanning and coteaching, school librarians can demonstrate to colleagues that addressing standards through inquiry learning can lead to success for students. As noted in last week’s post, becoming an expert at identifying essential questions to frame inquiry and supporting students in deepening their own questions is a leadership opportunity for all educators, and for school librarians, in particular.

AASL Standards: Deeper Learning Competencies
One of the deeper learning competencies cited in Figure 5.2: Selected AASL Deeper Learning Competencies (78) appears in the standards under the “Inquire” shared foundation, “Create” domain is “Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes 2. Devising and implementing a plan to fill knowledge gaps” (AASL 2018, 34). This competency implies that students have a clear understanding of the purpose of their inquiry and their inquiry question(s) as well as how their prior knowledge gaps can be filled by an inquiry plan. Such a competency requires analysis and critical thinking and leads to deeper learning.

For example, Arizona adopted a revised set of history and social studies standards in October, 2018.

This is a quote from the middle school standards: “The Arizona History and Social Science Standards, through the emphasis on content knowledge, disciplinary skills, and process and the integration of inquiry elements will prepare Arizona students to engage actively in civic life and meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century.” In the “civics” section for grades 6-8, under “Process, rules, and laws direct how individuals are governed and how society addresses problems,” students are expected to:

  • 8.C4.4 Identify, research, analyze, discuss, and defend a position on a national, state, or local public policy issue including an action plan to address or inform others about the issue” (22).

This standard aligns perfectly with the AASL competency.

Connection Experts
School librarians must be experts at aligning various sets of standards as they coplan, coimplement, and coassess instruction alongside their colleagues. It is traditional for school librarians to rely on classroom teachers’ knowledge of their disciplines’ standards. However, when new standards are rolling out, school librarians can increase their value to their colleagues by independently or jointly investigating standars to tease out the connections that can guide inquiry learning. In addition to the word “inquiry,” they can keyword search documents for terms such as plan, research, analyze, evidence, inference, and the like.

Making these connections increases school librarians’ perceived value. The adoption and implementation of new standards is an ideal time to demonstrate how we can help other people address and solve their “problems.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Which content area is about to roll out new standards in your district/state and what do you know about those standards?
  2. How can you connect current or new standards to inquiry to provide students with deeper learning opportunities?

Work Cited

Arizona Department of Education. 2018. K-12 Standards Section: Standards: Social Studies: Arizona History and Social Studies Standards. http://www.azed.gov/standards-practices/k-12standards/standards-social-studies/

Coteaching Comprehension Strategies During Inquiry Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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

Common Beliefs about Literacy Learning

Way back in 1999 when I was a doctoral student in the Department of Language, Reading, and Culture at the University of Arizona, I devoured a book about helping secondary students read for understanding. (This was a well-timed read because two years later I transferred from an elementary school librarian position to serve as the second librarian at a comprehensive high school.)

The quote that follows from that book has informed my beliefs about literacy practices.

“What is reading?

  1. Reading is not just a basic skill.
  2. Reading is problem solving.
  3. Fluent reading is not the same as decoding.
  4. Reading is situationally bounded.
  5. Proficient readers share some key characteristics” (Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz 1999, 17-19).

These beliefs have also informed my teaching and focus on teaching/coteaching reading comprehension strategies at all levels, from kindergarten through graduate school. When school librarians and classroom teachers codevelop common beliefs about literacy they will draw from many sources, including the beliefs that inform non-library associations’ understandings of literacy learning.

International Literacy Association
English language arts associations are where school librarians can begin their search for common beliefs. I am a long-time member of the International Literacy Association (ILA). Formerly the International Reading Association, ILA offers research-based position statements, white papers, research advisories, literacy leadership briefs, and reports reflecting the association’s perspective on current topics and trends.

As a member, I receive the bimonthly Literacy Today magazine. The “What’s Hot in Literacy Report” is an annual must-read! I recently read and found the “Exploring the 2017 NAEP Reading Results: Systemic Reforms Beat Simplistic Solutions” report very helpful in further developing my understanding of NAEP.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to publish on the ILA blog: “Closing the Gaps: School Librarians and the What’s Hot Report.” I appreciated this opportunity to reach out to the ILA online community. I would love to see more articles like this and more collaborative activities with ILA, particularly around their latest initiative: Children’s #RightstoRead

In my career, I have copresented at two ILA conferences. One was a day-long preconference workshop that included Nick Glass from TeachingBooks.net and children’s book authors talking about their work; my piece was to bring in the school librarian’s role in promoting literature and coteaching reading comprehension strategies. The other was a panel of school librarians and classroom teachers sharing their collaborative teaching.

National Council of Teachers of English
When I taught secondary students and YA literature at the university, I maintained my membership in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). NCTE also has a page of position statements on their website.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to work with NCTE colleagues to draft the “Resolution on Supporting School and Community Libraries.” Wouldn’t it get great to work with NCTE again to ask them to renew their pledge to support school libraries and the work of school librarians?

ILA and NCTE are partners on the Read Write Think website. Through my association with ILA, I published two collaborative classroom-library unit plans on the site. I appreciate these two organizations for their collaborative efforts.

Traditional Literacies in Other Content Areas
What do we know about non-English language arts associations’ core beliefs about literacy? Our librarian and classroom teacher colleagues are associated with educational initiatives and organizations that understand that traditional literacies are the foundation for their efforts. School librarians are wise to investigate the beliefs of Future Ready Schools and Librarians, International Society for Technology in Education, National Council for the Social Studies, National Science Teachers Association, and more.

An Effective Collaborative Strategy
In the best of all possible worlds, school librarians would all be rich enough and have the necessary time to join and be actively involved in the work of our school librarian associations and other literacy- and education-focused organizations. Whether or not we can participate in the activities of other organizations, we can learn from our colleagues who are members and who are up to date with the standards, positions papers, and initiatives of those organizations.

“Professional conversations about the vision of the excellent reader become the starting point for building the school-wide professional learning community, dedicated to achieving this vision for all students. From there, grade levels collaborate to build the staircase curriculum leading to the vision, with each grade level committing to specific student outcomes related to the vision” (International Literacy Association 2018, 8).

When we are working with colleagues to develop common beliefs about literacy, we must search for alignment with the values of all of these organizations. When we invest in collaborative conversations, listen to one another, and reach common understandings, we strengthen our school culture while improving our teaching. When all educators and administrators have common beliefs about literacy, school librarians can serve as effective coteachers who can best support students, educators, and administrators, and enlist the support of families in literacy learning as well.

Using common beliefs about literacy learning as a framework for classroom-library coplanning and coteaching works!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you stay up to date with common beliefs about literacy learning and teaching in all realms of education?
  2. How can you be a leader in codeveloping common beliefs about literacy in your school or district?

Work Cited

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Reciprocal Mentorship

October Podcast Episode 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development: An Interview with Misti Werle, Library Systems Innovator, Bismarck (North Dakota) Public Schools

One challenge school librarians have faced in collaborative work is being acknowledged as equal partners with classroom teacher colleagues. In states where school librarians are required to hold classroom teacher certification and have classroom teaching experience, this may not be as much of a challenge. If, on the other hand, teaching certification and experience is not required, classroom teachers may need to be convinced that the school librarian is indeed an “equal.”The reverse may also have been true. I may be that when professionals serving in school libraries are perceived of as “coaches” or “mentors,” their classroom teacher colleagues may feel “less than” in terms of knowledge and expertise. A hierarchy—whether or not it is intentional—is implied. If school librarians position themselves as professionals who know more than their colleagues—in all areas of teaching and learning—classroom teachers may perceive that the school librarian is trying to “fix” a classroom teacher’s instructional or other practices.

In either case, relationships will suffer and collaboration may not be successful in the long run.

Reciprocal Mentorship
If, on the other hand, school librarians and classroom teachers collaborate as equal partners who learn with and from one another, then relationships have a better chance of thriving and collaboration is more likely to be on-going. Educators are adults who need to be respected for their knowledge and experience. Collaboration needs to be experienced by both/all parties as a problem-solving activity that benefits both/all educators and subsequently, all students.

In the best of instructional partnerships, mentorship goes both ways. It is reciprocal. There will be areas of the curriculum in which school librarians may lack knowledge or lack teaching experience. Classroom teachers may have little or no knowledge of or experience teaching the inquiry process or reading comprehension strategies. One or the other educator may be stronger in integrating technology tools and devices. One or the other may have better student observation skills or classroom management skills.

School librarians who approach collaborative work as educators with both strengths and areas for growth and who communicate the dispositions (character traits) of lifelong learners will have more success as coteachers. School librarians’ opportunities for professional development in their daily practice are truly limitless!

Job-Embedded Professional Development
In a learning commons library model, adult learning is as important as student learning. It is, after all, the adults who organize the learning environment and create learning opportunities for students. If adults do not engage in on-going professional development and continue growing their practice, then future ready students will be short-changed.

“Collaboration” involves “working with a member of the teaching team to plan, implement, and evaluate a specialized instructional plan” (AASL 2016). Collaboration requires effective on-going communication, joint planning, individual and collective action, and commitment to a shared outcome.

While coplanning, coimplementing, and co-assessing a lesson or unit of instruction, school librarians and classroom teachers are engaged in a just-in-time opportunity to learn with and from one another. Most educators do not have the golden opportunity school librarians have; they are not positioned to learn with and from colleagues who teach in all content areas. Due to that fact, it’s my experience that collaborating school librarians can accelerate their instructional expertise at a faster rate than most classroom teachers. And still, school librarians have more to learn from every educator and student they have the good fortune to serve.

One of the Future Ready Librarians™ gears is personalized professional development. When school librarians and classroom teachers engage in reciprocal membership, they are indeed providing and receiving personalized professional development. And students are receiving a higher quality of instruction. Win. Win. Win.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your definition of a learning commons, and how does your current library measure up to that description?
  2. How do you ensure that the colleagues with whom you collaborate perceive classroom-library collaboration as the work of equal partners?

Work Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2016 “Position Statements: Definition for an Effective School Library Program.” www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements

Election 2018 Resources

“Productive civic engagement requires knowledge of the history, principles, and foundations of our American democracy, and the ability to participate in civic and democratic processes. People demonstrate civic engagement when they address public problems individually and collaboratively and when they maintain, strengthen, and improve communities and societies. Thus, civics is, in part, the study of how people participate in governing society” (NCSS 2013, 31).

The Center for Civics Education (@CivicEducation) was one of fifteen organizations that collaborated on the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS 2013). According to their website, “The Center is dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries” (http://www.civiced.org/about/37).

The Center started in 1965 at the University of Southern California. Researchers have conducted studies related to all five of the projects hosted on this website. The Center’s “Promoting the Principles and Practice of Democracy” video is a worthwhile introduction to their work. Educators who are preparing to connect curriculum with #Election2018 will want to explore the resources available on their site.

The site offers five programs. I have reviewed “We the People” and “Project Citizen” below. The “School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program” provides professional development support for educators who are teaching the “We the People” and “Project Citizen” programs in their classrooms. The James Madison Legacy Project is focused on educator professional development, and Civitas International involves learners in countries around the world.

We the People
This program offers textbooks that include six units of study at three instructional levels: upper elementary, middle, and high school. You can download a two-page summary of the program. If your school or district has adopted these texts or is considering a new social studies/civics adoption, these resources may be important to your classroom-library collaboration. “We the People” videos offer an overview of the program and its impact on student learning.

These are the units in the textbooks:
Unit One: What Are the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System?
Unit Two: How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?
Unit Three: How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence?
Unit Four: How Have the Values and Principles Embodied in the Constitution Shaped American   Institutions and Practices?
Unit Five: What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect?
Unit Six: What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the Twenty-first Century?

Project Citizen
This civic education program, geared to middle, secondary, and post-secondary students and youth or adult groups, offers open education resources. The goal of Project Citizen is to promote “competent and responsible participation in state, local, and federal government.” The site offers lessons/units of instruction. The Level 1 lessons are for students in grades 5-8. Level 2 lessons are for secondary and post-secondary students. Lessons are aligned with the Common Core Standards in History/Social Studies.

For example, the four lessons in the “9/11 and the Constitution” unit involve students in reflecting on U.S. ideals and answering the question: “What does it mean to be an American?” The subsequent lessons involve students in learning from various founding documents and completing a questionnaire about how well our country is actualizing these ideals. Students also administer the questionnaire to adults in their homes and communities. The unit concludes with students comparing and discussing the similarities and differences in people’s responses. Finally, students compose an individual or small group statement and cite evidence on how well the American government is fulfilling its purposes as set forth in the Preamble.

As with all published lesson plans and units of study, educators will want to adapt instruction for their students and the context in which the lessons are presented. For #Election2018, students could make connections by examining local, state, and national candidates’ statements to analyze them for “U.S. ideals” as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution or other governmental documents. They could also examine the prior voting records and statements made by incumbent candidates and determine whether or not the candidates’ statements and actions are consistent. Students could then debate the merits of various candidates using the evidence they found in the candidates’ campaign materials and/or voting records.

Another component of the site involves learners in working together as a class or extracurricular group to identify and study a particular public policy issue. The final product of this project-based learning opportunity is a portfolio that may be presented to other students, civic groups or community organizations, or policymakers.

Both the Center for Civics Education and the Stanford History Education Group (reviewed last week) have resources to offer educators who are building students’ background knowledge, information-seeking and critical thinking skills in order to connect school-based curriculum with #Election2018.

Works Cited

Center for Civics Education. 2018. http://www.civiced.org

National Council for the Social Studies. 2013. College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. https://www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/c3/C3-Framework-for-Social-Studies.pdf

Image Credit:
amberzen. “Vote Button.” Creative Commons CC0. https://pixabay.com/en/vote-button-election-elect-1319435/

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 7

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 or two blog posts a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 7: Assessment

“Our opportunity—and our obligation to youth—is to reimagine our schools, and give all kids an education that will help them thrive in a world that values them for what they can do, not for the facts that they know” (Wagner and Dintersmith 2015, 222).

Assessment must always be conducted in the service of learning. When educators conceive of learning as an on-going journey that students and educators take together, they can keep their focus on assessments as measures of both students’ development and educators’ effectiveness. School librarians can maximize their instructional leadership by developing assessment tools, assessing student learning outcomes, and reflecting on the effectiveness of their instruction with a trusted colleague. These activities lead to evidence-based practice.

During coplanning, classroom teachers and school librarians must determine “how” knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions growth data will be collected, analyzed, and used to improve schooling for future ready students. Educators use formative and summative assessments and reflection activities to measure student growth. The formative assessments monitor student growth and provide students with timely feedback so they can improve their work. Formative assessments also inform educators’ subsequent instructional decisions. Educators use summative assessments at the end of an inquiry unit and are often represented as final project grades. Reflective activities integrated throughout the inquiry process help students understand their own learning process and improve their ability to transfer learning to new contexts.

Rather than using traditional standardized, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blanks tests to assess students’ content knowledge, educators use performance-based measures to assess how students apply future ready learning in real-world, authentic contexts. “The integration of authentic learning tasks with diagnostic assessment and project monitoring is a powerful education instrument for [instructional] change and student achievement” (Moreillon, Luhtala, and Russo 2011, 20). The effectiveness of performance-based assessments is determined by how well students can use them to guide their learning process and self-assess their progress as well as their final product or performance.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. A Rationale for Why School Librarians Must Collect Student Learning Outcomes Data;
2. A Plethora of Assessment Tools and a Sample Analytic Rubric;
3. School Librarian Self-Assessment Criteria;
4. A Challenge for Building a Positive School Climate and a Culture of Collaboration.

School librarian and library program evaluation and self-assessment must be based on rigorous criteria. Performance reviews must be designed to guide and improve school librarians’ practice. As a result, it may be necessary to modify district-level evaluation tools to reflect school librarians’ vital contributions to student learning, educator development, and school culture.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi, Michelle Luhtala, and Christina Russo. 2011. “Learning that Sticks: Engaged Educators + Engaged Learners.” School Library Monthly 28 (1): 17-20.

Wagner, Tony, and Ted Dintersmith. 2015. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. New York: Scribner.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

#TxLA18 Winning with Instructional Partners

This week, librarians and librarian advocates from across the state of Texas and beyond are gathering in Dallas for the annual Texas Library Association Conference (#TxLA18). This year’s theme is “Perfecting Your Game: A Win for Your Community.”

I was invited to facilitate two sessions at the conference. Last week, I gave a brief preview and made connections to my Wednesday, April 4th session “Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature.”  You can also view the presentation wiki that includes handouts and will include the slides after the conference.

On April 5th, I will be sharing “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners.” In this session, we will focus on the leader and instructional partner roles of school librarians and make connections to Texas and national school library standards. If you are attending TxLA, I hope to see you at one or both sessions or to cross paths with you during the conference.

Last week, Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel published an article in Phi Delta Kappan (and available online) titled “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.”

Their article and the research they share fully supports the premise behind “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners,” my forthcoming book, and my years of teaching, scholarship, and service. It provides evidence on which to further develop school librarians’ practice, to build effective school library programs, and to grow our profession.

The correlational research cited in the article has been collected over a twenty-five-year period—not coincidentally about the same number of years I have been involved in the profession. While the presence of a state-certified school librarian is correlated with better student learning outcomes, particularly in reading, the quality of a school librarian’s work also matters.

I have bolded key phrases in the excerpt that follows. “Multiple studies have found that test scores tend to be higher in schools where librarians spend more time:

• Instructing students, both with classroom teachers and independently;
• Planning collaboratively with classroom teachers;
• Providing professional development to teachers;
• Meeting regularly with the principal;
• Serving on key school leadership committees;
• Facilitating the use of technology by students and teachers;
• Providing technology support to teachers, and
• Providing reading incentive programs” (Lance and Kachel 2018).

To summarize, effective school librarians serve as leaders and instructional partners.

The activities and priorities of more effective school librarians have a school-wide impact on learning and teaching in their buildings. “Fully integrated library programs with certified librarians can boost student achievement and cultivate a collaborative spirit within schools. School leaders who leverage these assets will realize what research has shown: Quality school library programs are powerful boosters of student achievement that can make important contributions to improving schools in general and, in particular, closing the achievement gap among our most vulnerable learners” (Lance and Kachel 2018).

April is School Library Month (#AASLslm). “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners” supports the Learner and Educator Connections identified by AASL’s SLM Committee.

There is no better time than the present to step up our literacy leadership and reach out to collaborate with administrators and classroom teacher colleagues to maximize school librarian leadership by building connections for learning and advocacy.

What are you doing every day to practice the leader and instructional partner roles in order to transform learning and teaching in your school? If you are attending TxLA, come to the “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners” session and share your strategies. See you there!

Work Cited

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan 99 (7): 15-20. http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research

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