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.

Becoming Literate: A Lifelong Process

December Podcast Episode 4: Traditional Literacy Learning

I could not have written Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy without dedicating a chapter to school librarians’ role as literacy leaders on their campuses. Chapter 4: Traditional Literacy Learning is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and essential to my thinking about school librarian leadership.

When I taught preservice K-8 classroom teachers, I learned how much support beginning educators need in order to be effective literacy teachers. Many of the undergraduate students in the courses I taught were not proficient readers and writers. When I served as a junior high and high school librarian I cotaught with content-area classroom teachers who were, without a doubt, experts in their disciplines, but had not been taught to support students in reading and writing in their content area.

It was (and still is) my belief that every educator is a literacy teacher and every educator’s proficiency in teaching reading and writing matters. This belief is why I wrote three professional books on classroom-library coteaching reading comprehension strategies (Moreillon 2007, 2012, 2013).

Reading
Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are considered traditional literacies. Of these four, reading has captured the lion’s share of attention from parents and policy makers. Students’ standardized test scores in reading have been the topic of conversation and concern for decades. In recent years, there has been a national emphasis in the U.S. on students reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

As a former elementary classroom teacher and K-12 school librarian, the children in the schools where I taught clearly demonstrated to me that readers progress in their ability to comprehend “grade-level texts” at various rates. It is curious to me that some policy makers focus on third-grade reading scores when it is in fourth grade that the curriculum turns sharply from narrative texts to informational texts. This transition can be a difficult one for developing readers.

Perhaps this is why the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the only standardized national test in the U.S., tests reading (and math) in fourth and eighth grades. This does not mean, however, that learning and practicing strategies to comprehend difficult texts starts in fourth grade or stops in eighth. Young children enjoy informational texts in their preschool years and learning to make meaning from difficult texts certainly extends post K-12 schooling.

In fact, I am often reminded that my own ability to comprehend texts is greatly dependent on my background knowledge, my ability to make inferences, and willingness to ask questions and seek clarification and greater meaning. In short, my willingness to make time to read deeply. This is particularly true when it comes to conflicting information from multiple sources and articles on subjects for which I lack prior knowledge. Reading with deep understanding is a lifelong process for me, as I suspect it is for you.

Writing
Writing in likely the second most emphasized literacy in the school community you serve. While it may very well be true that the more one reads, the better one writes, writing in various registers and genres must be practiced. Two writing applications that have challenged the students with whom I have worked are summarizing and synthesizing. Both require students to understand the purpose for the piece of writing and to filter information through their own understanding in order to be successful.

Summarizing and synthesizing require that students are able to separate main ideas from supporting details; they must be able to determine importance. Importance is based on the purpose for writing and on what the reader considers essential or new knowledge (that answers their questions). When students have made effective notes, summaries will be based on writers having put information in their own words. Synthesizing can be especially challenging when readers have discovered conflicting information.

One of the most effective (and personally satisfying) professional development opportunities in my career occurred when a high school principal required that the entire faculty adopt a writing process method and a particular writing format. Students were required to practice the format in all content areas and at all grade levels (Note: The scripted format was intended to be a starting place for writers, not the ultimate goal.) When educators and students had a common language for talking about writing, more students were able to achieve the basic skills they had lacked. Proficient and excelling writers also had a format on which they could return when they were stuck in their writing. It worked for students and for educators. (And for full disclosure, it worked for me when I was writing my dissertation!)

Foundations for Other Traditional Literacies
Listening and speaking seem to be getting short shrift in many schools today. Many of us listen to media-delivered voices more than we listen to the real-time face-to-face thoughts of other human beings. In schools, many students are not given or do not take opportunities to learn to speak clearly and with ease on topics about which they are passionate. When educators facilitate discussions about literature and informational texts (including material found in textbooks), they model and help students practice these important skills. Responding to texts orally, as well as in writing, builds understanding while it builds classroom community. Speaking is a way to have our voices heard. Listening to one another is a way we build empathy.

Students also practice speaking and listening during presentations. Even when students have created technology-supported or other visuals to share with audiences, they can also speak to the impact of new knowledge on their thinking, feelings, and actions. They can ask and answer questions during a Q&A and reflect on the effectiveness of their communication in all four traditional literacies.

School librarians can take up the cause for traditional literacies during coplanning. (See the lesson and unit plans in my coteaching reading comprehension strategies books cited below.) We can share the importance of traditional literacy learning and teaching as we collectively determine the essential agreements of our school or district’s common beliefs about literacy. (See next week’s post.)

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you demonstrate to students that “literate” adults can be challenged to create meaning from difficult texts?
  2. How do you, as a school librarian, support students in further developing traditional literacies?

References

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

_____. 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.

 

Curiosity, Experimentation, Creativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

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

Works Cited

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

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

School-wide Inquiry Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check it out!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

Classroom-Library Coplanning

Through coplanning, school librarians and classroom teachers engage in reciprocal mentorship. They learn with and from one another during the planning process. As they negotiate learning objectives, they identify alignment and connections between classroom curriculum, state and national standards, and literacies, including information literacy skills. They approach their collaborative work as equal partners who share responsibility for gathering resources and materials, developing and analyzing formative and summative assessments, modeling strategies, and guiding students through the learning process.

Coplanning Forms
I have found that coplanning forms can be quite useful in guiding school librarians and classroom teachers through the collaborative planning process. These forms help educators apply the Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) as they plan with the end in mind. From objectives to assessments and all of the components in between, forms help educators cover all the bases.

Elementary Collaborative Planning Forms

Secondary Collaborative Planning Forms

Coteachers will identify various subskills such as notemaking that students will need to learn, review, and practice. They may create graphic organizers to scaffold student learning. These scaffolds guide students and help educators identify areas of mastery and areas where students need more instruction, guidance, and practice. These formative assessments as well as summative assessments that measure student achievement at the end of the learning event are important to prepare in advance or prepare with students so that students’ path to success is supported and clear from the beginning.

Responsibilities in Coteaching
Educators’ roles during direct instruction will likely need to be discussed in advance of lesson implementation, especially if one or the other educator is new to coteaching. When school librarians coteach, they may be engaged in direct instruction alongside classroom teachers. One or the other may take the lead in teaching specific subskills.

Direct instruction involves educators in sharing information and modeling strategies and tasks to help students learn and meet learning targets. When two educators coteach during direct instruction, they can authentically demonstrate various pathways for thinking using think-alouds. They can model collaboration, communication, discussion, debate, and other skills. For example, if educators are coteaching/teaching questioning strategies, notemaking skills, website/information evaluation, ethical use of information/citation, and more, they may take different roles such as question poser and responder or note identifier and recorder.

Both educators will monitor student practice and conduct inquiry/reading/writing conferences with individual students or small groups. Lowering the student-to-educator ratio offers coteachers the opportunity to interact with more students and offers students more individualized interventions.

Co-Assessment Responsibilities
Direct instruction is followed by formative assessments that help school librarians collect and analyze data on students’ progress as well as on the effectiveness of their teaching. Two or more educators look for gaps in comprehension and reteach individuals, small groups, or whole classrooms of students, if necessary. They also use summative assessments to measure students’ overall achievement in terms of the learning objectives and the overall success of the unit of instruction.

As equal partners in planning and implementing instruction, school librarians must be equal partners in assessment.

Engaging Relevant Learning Opportunities
In my experience, coteachers inspire and energize each other’s instructional planning and teaching. They bounce ideas off one another. They may push each other to take calculated risks to stretch their teaching and students’ learning. During instruction, they may take a playful attitude and demonstrate that wondering, puzzling, and problem solving is fun. They model communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in an authentic context.

School librarians have an important role to play in guiding the planning and teaching process toward involving relevant questions, challenging problems, exciting resources and tools, and increased opportunities student-led learning.

Coplanning with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to influence curriculum as well as instructional practices. This is leadership work. Misti Werle, school librarian supervisor in Bismarck, North Dakota, and I created a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” matrix. School librarians and classroom teachers in her district are using it to co-assess and chart their understanding of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Their goal is to increase classroom-library coteaching in their district.

You can access the matrix as a Web Extra or find it on page 28 in the book.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your role in recording ideas and decisions made during coplanning?
  2. Why should school librarians share their coplanning activities with their administrators?

Reference

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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

Professional Development Is Key

One of the long-term trends (five or more years) in the 2017 K-12 Horizon Report is advancing cultures of innovation. As noted in last week’s post, collaboration and leadership are both essential aspects of innovation and change. As innovators and change-makers, school librarians working alongside their administrators and colleagues can be at the forefront in a distributed leadership culture.

If innovation is a process of thinking that involves creating something new and better (George Couros paraphrase), then school librarians, as professional developers, will always be seeking improvement. As Senge and his colleagues suggest: schools that learn are “… places where everyone, young and old, would continuously develop and grow in each other’s company; they would be incubation sites for continuous change and growth. If we want the world to improve, in other words, then we need schools that learn” (cited in Moreillon 2018, 10).

Formal and Informal Staff Development

Formal staff development and informal professional learning (coteaching) are ways that school librarians lead in their schools. In recent years and in many quarters, the term “professional development” applied to adult learning has been replaced with “professional learning.” For me, development implies improvement. If we agree that all learning requires change, then I, for one, welcome “professional development” as a term that indicates an upward continuum of growth. I do not perceive of “development” as contrary to the autonomous aspect of andragogy, adult learning. (In my book, I use both terms: “professional development” and “professional learning.”)

There are many examples in editors Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet H. Harada’s book Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers. I highly recommend Maximizing School Librarian Leadership (MSLL) readers return to that book for examples of the many pathways school librarians have taken in leading professional development. (I would contend that all the examples in Growing Schools required collaboration in order to achieve success!) My chapter in that book provided the foundation for MSLL Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development.

Banned Books Week: Professional Development Opportunity
The American Librarian Association is part of a coalition of organizations that focuses a spotlight on Banned Books Week September 23rd – September 29th. School librarians can lead by coteaching and providing professional development focused on “Call Out Censorship.”  For inspiration read Jacqueline Higginbotham’s post “What? I am not allowed to read that” and comments on the TxASL Talks: Advocacy for All blog.

Then, ask yourself how you can offer your school community an opportunity to consider the ramifications of censorship. Follow up and ollaborate with classroom teachers to invite students to consider issues of censorship in light of the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017.”

MSLL Book Study Support
The discussion questions, activities, and reflection prompts at the end of each chapter in MSLL are designed to position school librarians as professional development leaders. The majority of the questions, activities, and prompts are focused at the building level but can be adapted for other contexts. By guiding MSLL co-readers through these activities, school librarians demonstrate leadership and their impact on adult learning in their schools and districts.

For example, one of the activities offered at the end of Chapter One is a job description writing exercise. It starts with the end in mind—the job description of a future ready student. From that foundation, MSLL readers are invited to write job descriptions for any stakeholder in that endeavor. School librarians facilitate these kinds of adult learning activities in order to build trust with and among colleagues, to develop shared values and priorities, and to improve instructional practices in their buildings or at the district level.

Brain research confirms that metacognition—thinking about our thinking/learning—is the way we modify our understandings and integrate new knowledge into our schema. I have included reflections prompts at the end of every chapter. I offer one prompt especially for school librarians. In this question in Chapter One, I encourage school librarians to think about how they make connections and contribute to a culture of learning in their schools or districts. (This will be one of the questions #txlchat participants will discuss on Twitter focused on Maximizing School Librarian Leadership tomorrow, Tuesday, September 25th. Join us!)

MSLL readers are encouraged to adapt the book study components of each chapter to their unique learning environments. Developing site-specific or district-level discussion questions is recommended as appropriate. Activities and reflection prompts can also be modified.

There are no shortcuts to culture building. Educators must develop trust and invest in their own and each other’s continuous learning. Shared professional development is the way.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you currently lead professional development in your school?
  2. What are your plans for increasing your contributions to your own and to colleagues professional learning this academic year?

References

Abilock, Debbie, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet Harada, Eds. 2012. Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

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

New Media Consortium and Consortium for School Networking. 2017. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition.

 

Collaboration and Leadership Are Essential

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

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

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

Simply put, collaboration is not an option.

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

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

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

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

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

Simply put, leadership is not an option.

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

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

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

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

Works Cited

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

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

Additional Reading

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

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

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

Building Connections

Welcome to the official launch of the Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) 2018-2019 Book Study. I invite you to read one chapter each month and participate in weekly blog discussions throughout this school year.

Podcast – Episode 1: Building Connections for Learning

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership Facebook Group

Each chapter in the book opens with an invitation to connect your background knowledge and experience with the content of the chapter. The prompt in Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning asks you to consider how the current culture in your school supports your personal growth and how does it support individual and collective risk-taking, problem solving, and innovation.

These may or may not be easy questions to answer. You may be new to a school, or you may be serving in a new role this year and have yet to realize the affordances of your current school culture. If that is the case, think about your previous school or work environment.

Have you served, or do you serve in a culture that supports your professional growth?

School Culture
According to the glossary in MSLL, culture is “a way of life. It is comprised of shared beliefs, values, knowledge, attitudes, language, behaviors, social interactions, and more. Cultures are created by people over time. Cultures are dynamic; they are not fixed. Cultures change as people’s needs and norms change” (Moreillon 2018, 170). For me the keywords in this definition are “people” and “dynamic.”

Building Relationships
When building a culture of learning in your school, your relationships with people are THE place to start. People who know, like, and respect each other are more likely to invest in the success of the entire learning community. As a school librarian, you make sure that the strongest relationship you form and nurture is with your principal. You will build relationships with library staff, volunteers, and student aides. You will build relationships with individual classroom teachers and specialists and with grade-level or disciplinary teams. You will build relationships with the Parent-Teacher Association/Organization leaders and students’ family members.

Simply put, you must build relationships in order to position your work and the library program at the center of the learning community.

There are many ways to build connections via relationships. With your principal(s), it may be through regular face-to-face meetings, via email or other electronic communication, by sharing lesson plans, monthly newsletters, and quarterly reports. It may be through professional development opportunities you are facilitating for faculty. Wise school librarians regularly leave invitations to see what’s happening in the library and other positive notes in their principal’s mailbox. All of these communication venues will focus on sharing how you assist your principals in meeting their goals for faculty, students, and the school.

The teachers’ lounge in any school can be a positive point of contact, or it can be a place for airing complaints. If it is the former, be sure to get out of the library and into the lounge whenever you can. Get to know about classroom teachers’ own children (grandchildren) as well as their students. Listen and learn as they share the successful happenings in their classrooms. Be on the alert for problems they might share that you can help them solve. Share yourself as well as the resources and learning experiences centered in the library. If you cannot change the teachers’ lounge into a positive place for developing relationships, steer clear of it.

Forming advisory committees that include administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families is one sure way to build relationships. Make sure these committees have a defined purpose, such as setting library procedures, overseeing the library’s Web presence, or planning a literacy event. Library student aides can become the school librarians “own kids.” Not only do they help manage the library, they also further develop literacies and give school librarians insights into possible challenges other students may be having in using and creating with information.

Building Connections
Effective school librarians build connections between professional development and practice; resources and curriculum; libraries and classrooms; inquiry and the disciplines; and future ready learning and college, career, and community readiness (see figure 1.5).  Building these connections can best be achieved in a learning commons model. This model “for the use of the library’s physical and virtual spaces, its resources, and the school librarian focuses the library program on knowledge-building by students and educators alike” (Moreillon 2018, 173).

Cultural Transformation
“Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation. Schools must be structured to promote the exchange of fresh ideas and identify successful models with a lens toward sustainability — especially in light of inevitable leadership changes” (NMC/CoSN 2017, 4). I believe that school librarians can play a pivotal role in initiating, maintaining, and sustaining cultural transformation in their schools.

If the school library is known as a place for the open exchange of ideas, school librarians can help ensure that the school culture is a dynamic one. This open exchange will happen when there is trust among educators, students, and community members. With an exploratory and risk-taking approach, school librarians who have co-created a “learning commons” in the library will be on the forefront of identifying, testing, and developing successful strategies for transforming teaching and learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your go-to strategies for building connections in your school learning community?
  2. How does your school library program reflect a “learning commons” model, and how can you capitalize on this model to transform learning and teaching in your school?

Works Cited

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

New Media Consortium and Consortium for School Networking. 2017. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition. https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Maximizing Book Study: An Invitation

Dear Colleagues,
This is your personal invitation to join a professional book study during the 2018-2019 school year. As you may know, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy was written as a book study selection. Each of the nine chapters is intended to be read and discussed – one chapter a month – over the course of an academic year.Ways to Use this Book
In her book, Professional Development: What Works (2011), Sally Zepeda provides guidance for how to form a book study group, choose a book, make decisions about how to read and discuss a book, and evaluate the book and the book study process. I have had first-hand experience participating in professional book studies and have facilitated or co-facilitated studies at two elementary schools (see Moreillon 2012, 150-151) and for one university faculty.

The following are my ideas for organizing a book study specifically for Maximizing School Librarian Leadership.

Lone Reader
You can read this book and interact with it as a lone reader. You can keep a journal and write about the discussion questions and reflection prompts. Although the majority of the activities are intended for small or large groups, you may find several that you can do on your own. One way solo readers can maximize learning from the book is to post responses, thoughts, and questions to colleagues in their professional learning networks (PLNs), such as posts on email distribution lists, in Facebook groups, or in Twitter chats. Another way is to participate on this blog.

Partner Reading
School librarians may opt to read this book with a principal, district superintendent, another school librarian, educator, or administrator. This strategy might be especially effective if one of the partners is new to learning how school librarians can positively impact school culture, professional development, and change initiatives.

If, from my perspective, it was the best of all possible worlds, a school librarian and principal would co-lead a year-long book study to immerse a faculty in the ideas in this book while they were in the process of building a vision, mission, and goals for their schools. Such a book study could be conducted in face-to-face environments or facilitated by online tools such as email, blogs, Google docs or sites, wikis, social media, and more. (If you are using Twitter, I invite you to use these hashtags: #SchoolLibrarianLeadership and #BuildingConnections4Learning.)

Small Groups or Larger Cadre Book Study
Small groups or larger cadres of school librarians may also select this book as a shared prompt for monthly discussions. In districts with district-level school librarian supervisors, these may be organized by the supervisor for the entire cadre. If there is no supervisor, job-alike librarians, such as all middle school librarians, may choose to organize their own book study group.

A group of district-level school librarian supervisors may also opt to use Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy for their own book study. The book is intended to provide inspiration, strategies, and guideposts to help site-level school librarians strengthen their practice. District-level supervisors may choose to pass on this information to the school librarians in their charge.

Discussion Questions, Activities, and Reflection Prompts
At the end of each chapter, I provide three discussion questions, three activities, and three reflection prompts. The discussion questions are my best guesses about what you may want to dialogue about after reading each chapter. The opening quotes or the pull quotes for each chapter can also be used for this purpose. Whoever is leading the discussions in your learning environment may develop site- or district-specific questions around which readers can focus discussions.

The activities are intended for partners, small groups, or whole faculty groups. They can be adjusted to meet readers’ needs. For example, the first activity in Chapter One asks readers to use a mind map to illustrate the interdependence of stakeholders and instructional activities in their schools. If you are working with a cadre of school librarian supervisors, you may each do this activity at your district level and then compare your map with those of your fellow supervisor colleagues.

At the end of each chapter, there are two general reflection prompts and one specifically for school librarians. Of course, readers may create their own prompts. Responses to the prompts can be shared orally, in writing, with a sketch, or any other way that makes sense for the reader(s). When reading with a group, sharing reflections with others can be especially important to making meaning and perhaps arriving at a collective meaning from the text.

Why a Book Study?
In my experience, professional book groups can strengthen relationships, develop collegiality and shared beliefs and practices, influence curriculum, and help educators work together as a team. These experiences are one reason why I wrote Maximizing School Librarian Leadership as a book study selection. Next month, my blog support for the year-long book study will begin in earnest. Stay tuned for a podcast Episode 1 and for four blog postings related to Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning.

Questions for Discussion

  1. If you are reading this book with one other individual, such as your principal or your district superintendent, what will be your role in facilitating the book study and how will you ensure the success of your study?
  2. If you are reading this book with a group of colleagues—school library supervisors, school librarians, or classroom teachers for example—what will be your role in facilitating the book study and how will you ensure success for all participants?

References

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 H. Harada, 141-156. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Zepeda, Sally J. 2011. Professional Development: What Works. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.