End of the Semester Reflection

Monday evening was the last virtual synchronous class session for IS516: School Library Media Center. This week iSchool graduate students will be sharing their course learning in an online discussion forum . As a co-learner in this class, I am taking the opportunity to reflect here and will share this post with the class.

Time
There never seems to be enough time to accomplish all that we set out to do in a single class. All educators must prioritize. Inevitably the instructor’s values combined with the course description and stated student learning outcomes figure into those decisions.

Course Content and Textbook
To put this course in context, IS516: School Library Media Center focuses on instruction through the library program. Currently at the iSchool, school library administration topics are addressed in students’ practicums and in a general library management course. It was this focus on instruction that led me to apply to teach this course.

This was a golden opportunity for me to use my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018) in a graduate-level course for school librarians. I feel luck to have had this opportunity.

I believe the book offered students a framework for exemplary practice. Each of the chapters fit into a flow of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that can lead school librarians into leadership roles on their campuses. Last June at ALA, I received one of the highest compliments of my career from a colleague who teaches school librarians at another university. She said, “We recommend your book to prospective students. If they see themselves serving at this level of leadership, we encourage them to enter our program.”

For me, the downside of using my book was that we could not take full advantage of the discussion questions, activities, and reflection prompts. The book was intended to be read one chapter a month, digested, and reflected upon over a nine-month period. Some of the questions, activities, and prompts are most effective for practicing school librarians rather than candidates. That said, I hope students in IS516 and other preservice courses will keep, revisit, and use the book in their practice of school librarianship. Perhaps they will share it with a principal or other decision-maker to start a conversation about how school librarians can serve as leaders.

Pre- and Post-Course Surveys
I asked students to complete a pre-course and a post-course survey. All students completed the pre-course survey; fourteen out of nineteen completed the post-course survey at the time of this blog post.

On the survey, I listed in alphabetical order the five roles identified by the American Association of School Librarians and asked students to rank them in importance: information specialist, instructional partner, leader, program administrator, and teacher. While leader remained number one by a narrow margin, both information specialist and instructional partner increased their rankings in the number one and number two slots. I assume this was a direct result of the content of this course and the assignment tasks as well.

The survey asked: “In your role as a school librarian, who will be your most critical ally and advocate, and why?”

Position  Responses
Classroom Teachers

7

District Level Librarian Supervisor and Site Instructional Leader

1

Principals

4

Teachers and principal

2

I believe the focus on instruction in this course put the emphasis on classroom teacher colleagues. I agree that classroom teachers and school librarians must collaborate and coteach in order to move the work of the school librarian into the center of the school’s academic program. This can be started without the explicit support of the school principal. But in terms of long-term success, in my experience and in school library research, the principal’s support for the school librarian and the library program are absolutely essential.

Students’ Top Priorities and Lingering Questions
The survey asked: “What is your top priority in maximizing school librarian leadership?” It was compelling to me that many students’ top priorities and their lingering questions were directly related. Top priorities included increasing understanding and gaining respect for the roles of the school librarian, the perception of administrators and colleagues that the librarian is an equal partner with classroom teachers, building relationships, and launching collaboration.

Many lingering questions focused on how to begin collaboration conversations and launch coteaching as an expected practice in their buildings. I would ask students to return to the “diffusion of innovations” Activity 2 on page 35 in our textbook. Who are the most promising partners? Who are the most strategic in terms of their ability to influence colleagues? To students who asked about collaborating in large schools, I would recommend identifying someone in the English language arts department, preferably the chair, as a first effort since every student must take ELA-R classes. (That was my strategy when I served in a high school with 1,800 students.)

Others asked about changing school cultures, (traditional) perceptions of school librarians’ roles or teaching as a “solo” activity. Although it seems like a simplistic response, everyone is from “Missouri,” the Show Me State. If you can show the benefits of clasroom-library collaboration to classroom teachers and students, you can begin your effort to create a collaborative culture of learning. When you strengthen that effort by partnering with administrators to help every school stakeholder reach their capacity, you have a recipe for successful change.

One student also wrote about advocating for full-time state-certified school librarians in every school in their district. (I invite you to follow the progress of the Tucson Unified School District School Librarian Restoration Project). Another asked about moving to a completely flexible schedule. Again, advocates for change must demonstrate how the need for professional school librarians and schedules that allow students to access the library at the point of need make a positive difference in student learning outcomes and in classroom teachers’ satisfaction and involvement in the library program and its resources, including its most valuable resource—the librarian.

My Reflection
The first time an instructor teaches a course can involve a steep learning curve. I was happy that I could align my book’s content with assignments that are prescribed for IS516. This course combined content from three courses I have previously taught at other universities. I was able to revise and update resources from those courses and identified or created many additional resources as well.

I created checklists and rubrics for all of the assignments in the course. All teachers learn from the first time out with assessment tools. This semester was no exception for me. Thank you to students for teaching me where the gaps were and where I can (and have) made improvements for next time.

The two-hour weekly synchronous meetings were new to me in a 16-week course. I still find this format challenging in terms of ensuring interactivity in that time slot and keeping our conversations fresh over the course of the semester. I especially appreciated students’ willingness to explore Twitter chats as a learning platform. Our chats were an ideal way for everyone to share in real time. They were also a way for me to learn more about what students were gleaning from the textbook and how they were connecting it to their current and future practice. I hope students will continue to grow professionally using this tool. This semester, I also learned about some new technologies and their applications in classrooms and libraries from students’ work products.

I am grateful to the students in IS516 and for the iSchool for giving me the opportunity to teach this course. I appreciate IS516 students for co-creating a culture of collaboration within our course. From my perspective, the course focus on instruction and my emphasis on leadership through coteaching combined to make this learning experience influential for students’ current and future practice. It also offered me the opportunity to practice what I preach—continuous learning. I will apply my learning in future courses with graduate students and in my work with school librarians practicing in the field.

“The conditions are right and ripe for school librarians to maximize their leadership roles in building collaborative school cultures. There is an urgent need for students, educators, administrators, and community to work together to create dynamic learning environments” (Moreillon 2018, x).

Our profession needs the best prepared candidates to serve school library stakeholders through the library program I believe IS516 Fall 2019 students are prepared to create optimal conditions for teaching and learning and for taking leadership roles in their schools.

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

Image Credit
mrkrndvs. “Isolation vs. Collaboration.” Flickr.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/35978055230

School Librarians Share and Celebrate

The 2019 AASL conference in Louisville (November 14-16, 2019) was a non-stop, jam-packed learning and networking event for me. Due to meetings, a school visit, and my own presentations, I didn’t have a great deal of “free” time to take full advantage of all the conference presenters had to offer. I suspect that may be the case for you as well.

School Librarians Share!
That is why I am particularly grateful to Nancy Jo Lambert for curating presentations, notes, and links on this Google doc.

I have been dipping into this rich well of learning as I reflect on my own conference experience and further develop my understanding and practice in our profession. Thank you, Nancy Jo.

An Important Session You May Have Missed
That said, I attended a powerful session offered in the very last concurrent time slot for the conference: “Leadership Partnerships.” Misti Werle, Library Systems Innovator, Bismarck (ND) Public Schools (BPS), moderated this session that should have been spotlighted and REQUIRED for every attendee.

Misti brought BPS principals, librarians, a classroom teacher, and an instructional coach from all three instructional levels to share how they are collaborating to meet the needs of the K-12 students they serve. WOW! This is the link to their presentation.

This is what I took away from the session.

  • A whole-school approach results in the most successful outcomes for students.
  • School librarians earn the trust and support of administrators and classroom teacher colleagues by building relationships and helping others meet their instructional goals.
  • Administrators build school librarians’ confidence and leadership skills when they trust and support librarians’ change initiatives.
  • Administrators are focused on helping all educators reach their capacity. This is a responsibility of leaders and one that school librarians can support through collaboration and coteaching.

Congratulations to the “Leadership Partnerships” team:

High School:
Tom Schmidt: Principal
Michael Jacobson: Library Media Specialist
Maggie Townsend: Instructional Coach

Middle School:
Tabby Rabenberg: Principal
Kat Berg: Library Media Specialist
Jenni Kramer: Classroom Teacher

Elementary School:
Brenda Beiswenger: Principal
Alisha Kelim: Library Media Specialist
Stacy Olson: Library Media Specialist

Celebrate!
Along with you, I celebrate the amazing work you are doing in BPS. I wish everyone who attended #AASL19 could have heard your powerful testimonials on the impact the school librarian and the librarian program can have on building an empowered culture of learning and collaboration in our schools.

Thank you and keep on sharing and celebrating!

Students’ Rights to Literacy Instruction

The International Literacy Association (ILA) recently released a position statement titled: “Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction.”

As you read, you will note that librarians and libraries are not mentioned in this document. Many of us who are school librarians and long-time members of ILA have struggled in the past to make sure school librarians and libraries were included in ILA’s position statements.

I am sorry to say that, this time, we dropped the ball…

Does this mean that the members of ILA who drafted and the board who approved this statement do not view school librarians and libraries as stakeholders in students’ literacy instruction?

I certainly hope not…

That said, there is a great deal for school librarians to consider in this document. The document is organized around four value statements. I have quoted a bit from each one and added my “School Librarians” comments.

Children Have the Right to Knowledgeable and Qualified Literacy Educators
In my worldview, school librarians would be included in the list of literacy educators mentioned in this section along with “principals, reading/literacy specialists, literacy coaches, and literacy coordinators.” The varied roles of literacy educators include designing “literacy learning environments, both face-to-face and virtual, that meet the needs of all students.” These educators are also charged with “dismantling” forces that marginalize any student.

School Librarians: Equity of access and opportunity are cornerstones of school librarianship.

Children Have the Right to Integrated Support Systems
In the position statement, integrated support systems depend upon the “successful alignment of a complex system of stakeholders working cooperatively to strengthen teaching and learning practices and knowledge-building framework.” Educators, who take a systems thinking approach, can help ensure that the “overlapping spheres of influence” support positive progress toward shared goals.

School Librarians: Coteaching and working alongside principals and teacher leaders, school librarians can be key contributors in cocreating a vital system of support for all stakeholders in the learning community.

Children Have the Right to Supportive Learning Environments and High-Quality Resources
For me, this section is ALL about school libraries and the work of school librarians. These are a few quotes. Supportive learning environments with high-quality resources are “accessible learning environments that provide opportunity for robust, literacy-rich experiences, interactivity, and exploration of thought.” Resources and practices within this environment must be audited “to ensure they are bias free, culturally responsive, and student centered.”

School Librarians: In both physical and virtual spaces, school librarians, who are stewards of the school library’s print and digital resources, align the collection and the literacy learning experiences that weave through the library program with the teaching and learning needs of all students, classroom teachers, specialists, families, and the community.

Children Have the Right to Policies That Ensure Equitable Literacy Instruction
From the position statement: “Policymakers should recognize the professionalism and autonomy of teachers to implement curriculum in well-resourced classrooms. Every child, everywhere, benefits from policies that safeguard not only their welfare but also their educational potential.”

School Librarians: School library policies that provide for open, equitable access to resources and protect students’ (and educators’) privacy and intellectual freedom ensure safe learning spaces that support all stakeholders in reaching their capacity.

ILA’s position statement ends on this call to action: “Excellent literacy instruction builds a strong foundation for learning and, in turn, equips children to develop their potential, growing into adults who participate fully in their communities and society, enjoying the fullness that continuous learning brings to their lives.

It is our collective responsibility to advocate for, ensure, and protect these rights for every child, everywhere.”

School Librarians: In our daily practice, I hope that all school librarians are advocating for students’ rights to excellent literacy instruction. When school librarians can articulate the intersection of library resources, reading development, information literacy, and inquiry learning, their work as instructional partners alongside their colleagues can contribute to equitable, effective literacy instruction.

As reading researcher Dr. Nell Duke writes: “Learning to read without books is like learning to swim without water” (2019, 11). I hope everyone involved in education and educational policymakers remember critical importance of access to reading materials in students’ reading development.  I want our ILA colleagues to know exemplary school librarians serve as partners alongside other educators to collectively close the gaps between access and opportunity for all of our students.

Work Cited

Duke, Nell. 2019. “Learning to Read by Third Grade: How Policy Makers Can Foster Early Literacy.” National Association of State School Boards of Education. http://www.nasbe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Duke_May-2019-Standard.pdf

Image Credit:
Created at Tagxedo.com

Digital Learning Twitter Chat

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

It is fitting that we are preparing for our chat and talking about digital literacy and learning during “Digital Inclusion Week” (10/7/19 – 10/11/2019). For me, #digitalequityis fully resourced school libraries led by state-certified school librarians who provide access and opportunity to close literacy learning gaps for students, educators, and families.

Monday, October 14, 2019: #is516 Twitter Chat: Digital Learning

 “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills” (American Library Association 2013). As educators with expertise in curating and integrating digital resources and tools into curriculum, school librarians and libraries are perfectly positioned to be leaders and coteachers of digital literacy.

School librarians serve as technology stewards. Stewardship is an activity that requires one to practice responsible planning and management of the resources one is given, or over which one has authority. In school libraries that serve as hubs for resources, effective school librarians curate resources that support standards-based curricula as well as students’ needs for independent learning. Students, families, classroom teachers, and administrators rely on proactive library professionals who plan for, manage, and integrate digital learning tools and experiences into the daily school-based learning lives of students.

Access and equity are core principles of librarianship. With their global view of the learning community, school librarians have an essential role to play as digital literacy leaders who help address gaps in technology access and in opportunities to use digital resources for learning and creating.

In schools with plenty, school librarians advocate for a digitally rich learning environment for students and coteach with colleagues to effectively integrate digital resources, devices, and tools. In less privileged schools, librarians will dedicate themselves to seeking funding and advocating for students’ and classroom teachers’ access to the digital resources and tools of our times.

School librarians can be leaders in codeveloping, coimplementing, and sustaining digital learning environments in their schools. They commit to closing the gap between access and opportunity by collaborating with classroom teachers and specialists and ensuring that the open-access library makes digital learning opportunities and tools available to all students.

#is516 Chat Questions
These are the questions that will guide our chat (for copy and paste).

Q,1: What are the benefits of #coteaching digital literacy/or collaborating to integrate #digital learning tools? #IS516

Q.2: What future ready dispositions are students practicing when engaged in #digital learning? #IS51s6

Q.3: How do you or how can you serve as a technology mentor for individual Ts? #IS516

Q.4: How do you or how can you serve as a school/system-wide technology mentor? (Share a tool or website!) #IS516

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

For previous chat questions and archives, visit our IS516 course Twitter Chats wiki page. Thank you!

Work Cited

American Library Association. 2013. Digital Literacy, Libraries, And Public Policy: Report of the Office of Information Technology Policy’s Digital Literacy Task Force. www.districtdispatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2012_OITP_digilitreport_1_22_13.pdf

 

Speak-ing of #BannedBooksWeek

This week (September 22 – 29, 2019), classroom teachers, librarians, and libraries across the country are honoring the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom’s annual Banned (and Challenged) Books Week. When I served as a secondary school librarian, this week was one of my most treasured. For those three years, I collaborated with 8th grade (one) and high school English language arts classroom teachers to spotlight the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000-2009. (I look forward to the 2010-2020 list!)

I gathered as many as possible children’s and young adult books from 100 Most Frequently Challenged list from our library and interlibrary loaned through the public library. (There were a few titles that were not appropriate for the school environment such as Private Parts by Howard Stern.) We launched the lesson by helping students make connections among these three terms and books written for youth: banned, challenged, and censored. Students who had read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 made connections and often led the discussion.

The classroom teachers and I co-read one of the picture books from the list and modeled a conversation about why the book had been challenged. Then, students working in small groups were given a short stack of books and the task of discussing each one to determine why they thought the book had been challenged. Students read picture books and book jacket information for novels to guide their thinking. Their ELA-R teachers and I facilitated these discussions by monitoring students’ conversations and asking probing questions.

Each group reported to the class by selecting the most surprising book in their stack and shared their determination for the “reason” the book had been challenged. One of the biggest takeaways from this lesson was that students had read a good number of these books in the past and where annoyed or shocked that any adult would think they were incapable of thinking critically or shouldn’t have even be allowed to read the story or information.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Books
Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak appears as #60 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000-2009. I have been a fan ever since the book was published… and this year read both the graphic novel version and her latest book Shout. It isn’t often that readers have such a powerful example of three texts—one novel, one graphic novel, and one free verse memoir—to compare their responses to the “same” story told by the same author. Anderson has given us all a gift with Speak (1999), Speak: The Graphic Novel (2018), and Shout: The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced (2019).

Speak, the Novel
I read this book when it was first published. In 2002, I facilitated a student book club at Sabino High School. (It was my first year as a high school librarian after serving in elementary school libraries for ten years.) The students in the club were freshmen and sophomores. I provided students with a stack of books for which I could secure multiple copies. They picked Speak as our first read. I sent home information to students’ families about the book club (we met once a month during lunch) and noted the list of nine books the students had chosen to read that year.

Of course, I suspected that Speak would be an important book for the young women in the group. Protagonist Melinda’s experience, silence, inner turmoil, and trauma were clearly and poignantly conveyed in the story. What surprised me, at the time, was that the young men in the group were equally affected by Melinda’s story. Anderson’s voice rang true and authenticity created an invitation for readers to relate to the story on an emotional level. Students’ discussion was open and frank. It was an outstanding beginning for building our caring and thoughtful community of readers.

Speak, the Graphic Novel
Emily Carroll’s illustrations in the graphic novel add another dimension to Anderson’s story that may help some readers relate more deeply to Melinda’s story. The black, white, and sepia tones of the illustrations portray the fear and suffering of a freshman girl who has been raped and shunned. Her isolation and depression are vividly drawn. When Melinda finally takes the opportunity to strike back at the rapist, the image of her punching him captures the emotional power of finding one’s courage, using one’s strength, and protecting one’s self from further harm.

The parallels with the acts of superheroes will not be lost on readers. Carroll, who is known for penning horror comics, was the perfect pick to illustrate Anderson’s modern classic. The graphic novel format with brief text, frames that sequence and chunk the text, and drawings that pack an emotional punch will bring many new (and returning) readers to this text.

Shout, the True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced
And finally, for me, Shout, the free verse memoir brings Laurie Halse Anderson’s first-hand experience with abuse, rape, and resilience into an even sharper focus. Her intimate poems about family dysfunction, microaggressions (a word I didn’t “have” when I first read Speak), and most importantly of all, ending the shame associated with sexual assault will tear at your heart. As a woman, mother, and grandmother, I wept for young women who have suffered and continue to suffer in silence and must find resilience without family or societal support.

With today’s #MeToo movement, I believe all three “versions” of Speak/Shout provide a rich literary experience for critical conversations. But from my personal perspective Shout was the most powerful of the three. For me, Anderson’s memoir presents undeniable truths from which I, the reader, could not turn away.

Thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson, for your courage in breaking the silence, for openly sharing your life experiences, and for your heartfelt truth telling.

As you honor and celebrate The Freedom to Read and The Library Bill of Rights, this week and 365 days a year, school librarians must recommit to advocating for and protecting students’ rights. Our library materials reconsideration policies are a place to begin. Please read Mona Kirby’s article that appeared in the September issue of American Libraries: “Up to the Challenge: Dealing with School Library Book Challenges Before They Happen.”

Twitter Chat: Job-Embedded Professional Development

This fall graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” are participating in bimonthly Twitter chats. The schedule is listed below. The chats will be based on the pull quotes from chapters in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018). We invite you to join us for our first chat on Monday, September 9th from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. Central Time. Chat questions will be posted on this blog on the Wednesday before our Monday chats.

Monday, September 9, 2019: #is516 Twitter Chat: Job-embedded Professional Development

“A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other” (Sinek, Mead, and Docker 2017, 104).

Professional learning embedded in the everyday practice of educators is an effective way to transform teaching and learning. In this model, school librarians can serve as professional learning leaders. They enact this role in a number of ways: through providing formal staff development; by serving as a member or team leader in one or more professional learning communities (PLCs); and through classroom-library collaboration, which involves trusting colleagues in coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing learning outcomes.

Coteaching offers educators the opportunity to hone their craft while teaching “actual students in real time, with the taught curriculum, available resources and tools, and within the supports and constraints of their particular learning environments” (Moreillon 2012, 142). School librarians add value when they co-collect evidence (student learning outcomes data) to demonstrate the effectiveness of their teaching in terms of what is important to colleagues and administrators. These data point the way toward continuous instructional improvement. Coteaching also creates the opportunity for school librarians to co-lead in a culture of adult as well as student learning in their schools.

#is516 Chat Questions
These are the questions that will guide our chat on September 9, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. CT.

Q.1: What does the term “reciprocal mentorship” mean in terms of classroom Ts & #schoollibrarians #collaboration? #IS516

Q.2: What is your experience in coplanning w/Ts? #IS516

Q.3: What’s an example of “engaging curriculum”? #IS516

Q.4: How do #schoollibrarians & administrators work together for change? #IS516

Please respond with A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4 as each question is posted.

Join us and bring your ideas, resources, experience, questions, and dilemmas to our conversation so we can learn with and from you!

Thank you!

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2012. “Job-embedded Professional Development: An Orchard of Opportunity.” In Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers, edited by Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet Harada, 141-156. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. 2017. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin.

 

#IS516 Twitter Chats: Time: 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. Central

Second and Fourth Mondays – Fall 2019

September 9 | Twitter Chat #1
Topic: Chapter 2: Job-embedded Professional Development
Questions posted on Twitter and on my blog (SchoolLibrarianLeadership.com) on: 9/4/19

September 23 | Twitter Chat #2
Topic: Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning
Questions posted on Twitter and on my blog (SchoolLibrarianLeadership.com) on: 9/18/19

October 14 | Twitter Chat #3
Topic: Chapter 6: Digital Learning
Questions posted on Twitter and on my blog (SchoolLibrarianLeadership.com) on: 10/9/19

October 28 | Twitter Chat #4
Topic: Chapter 7: Assessment
Questions posted on Twitter and on my blog (SchoolLibrarianLeadership.com) on: 10/23/19

November 11 | Twitter Chat #5
Topic: Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy
Questions posted on Twitter and on my blog (SchoolLibrarianLeadership.com) on: 11/6/19

December 9 | Twitter Chat #6
Topic: Chapter 9: Sustaining a Connections in a Culture of Collaboration
Questions posted on Twitter and on my blog (SchoolLibrarianLeadership.com) on: 12/4/19

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/