Archive of ‘ETL401’ category

Part B: Critical reflection

I have worked as a teacher librarian (TL) in an international primary school for three years. My love of reading and literacy is what first inspired me to become a teacher librarian. My own experience of reading in school was not a very positive one because of a lack of choice and a heavy emphasis on prescribed texts.  For this reason I am a strong believer in developing ‘reading for pleasure’ throughout my school. In the years since becoming a TL this has been a chief priority for me. I started by focusing on the learning environment. As stated in my first blog posting, I believe “A major part of the responsibility of the teacher librarian is to create a warm and inviting learning environment”. I then ensured that children who came to the library were encouraged to choose books that interested them and that they had time to sit and start actually reading a book. I wanted the children to get ‘hooked’ into reading!

I felt like I had accomplished a lot within my role but wanted to develop a deeper understanding and breadth of knowledge on the subject of teacher librarianship. I was therefore initially very excited to begin an MA on a subject I am passionate about. However, this was quickly followed by a sense of feeling overwhelmed once beginning research into exactly what the role encompasses. I found the varieties of interpretations of the role according to the aims and objectives of different educational settlings frustrating. However, I started getting a clearer picture as to what I should be aspiring towards through my studies and exposure to international, national and state-based librarian role statements which helped to start grounding my understanding of teacher librarian expectations. The forum discussions regarding ‘prioritising’ I found extremely useful in regards to reflecting on my own practice.

One of my priorities in my current school is to develop the library as a place for research and inquiry. I have previously spoken to the school principal about adjusting the school timetable to facilitate this – to allow for fixed weekly lessons as well as flexible timings but now through my module readings and reflections, I have a much better understanding of how I can achieve this goal for the library. In an early forum posting I stated, “It is important that the TL is clear about their own priorities in order for them to be effectively communicated”.   I still believe this to be true but now I am thinking more about evaluating why they are priorities and how I can communicate the ‘why’ most effectively.  A recent inspection of our school set a whole school goal of developing Guided Inquiry. This I felt was my perfect opportunity to state my case again. However, this time, through my readings and research in module 1, I am backed by research which luckily at the same time is aligning to current school goals. I have started by talking to other members of staff about GI and the role the library might play in developing this practice throughout the school. One Year 5 teacher in particular was extremely enthusiastic and said that we could plan some units together. I am also planning to meet with the school vice principal who works closely with ‘teaching and learning’ throughout the school.  I have also had extensive discussions with my library assistant on possible ways we can start its implementation in the library, working with others throughout the school.  In this way I have collaborated with a greater number of staff and now have multiple perspectives from within the school community and from research with which to discuss possible next steps with the school principal.

Working through this first module has given me a clearer focus of my priorities and next possible steps I can take to achieve them, and I have a greater sense of how collaboration can help achieve these goals.  I also started to think more about the librarian as a ‘leader’ which I started to understand more in terms of taking responsibility for leading change. This made me think about being more proactive reagrding my wish to implement Guided Inquiry into the library and throughout the school. I spoke to a collague and she told me about a blog called ‘The commited sardine’  which is part of the 21st Century Fluency Project.  The website is all about educational change relevant to the 21st century. I found the title really resonated with me, with the analogy being that we can make big changes by swimming against the masses, even if it’s a tough swim!

References

The Learning Centre. (2010). Reflective writing.  University of NSW.

Jukes, I. The Commited Sardine. In Fluency 21. Retrieved from https://fluency21.zendesk.com/hc/en-us

Implementing a Guided Inquiry approach

There is an increasing pedagogical shift towards Guided Inquiry (GI) in schools (Collins et al., 2008, p. 1). In this type of learning, children are encouraged to work at tackling questions in depth through a cycle of hypothesis, exploration and reflection. When children work in this way they benefit from support and resources beyond the classroom (Stripling, 2008, p. 2). When inquiry is central to a school’s curriculum, librarians play a pivotal role in helping children extend and make connections with their learning by working in collaboration with teachers on research projects and investigations.

The role of the teacher librarian in implementing a GI approach very much depends, I think, on the culture of learning and the curriculum in a particular school. I have worked in a fully accredited International Baccalaureate school within the Primary Years Programme (PYP) where a culture of GI was an expectation and was fully embedded into the curriculum.  High standards and expectations were set and an enabling framework existed in the school to ensure this happened.  Year groups and specialist staff had planning time set aside at the beginning of every ‘unit of inquiry’, and planning templates included cross-curricular links and highlighted transdisciplinary skills. Staff also met at the end of a unit to reflect and, if necessary, to adapt planning documents. Teachers guided children through the inquiry process and worked in collaboration with other specialist staff including the teacher librarian. In this context, the teacher librarian’s input was planned for and they worked collaboratively with teachers and all year groups across the whole school. Challenges can exist in schools where this approach to learning is not embraced.  Indeed, Gordon (2010) highlights that difficulties can arise because inquiry learning ‘contradicts a culture of teaching that can be isolationist and individualistic’ (p. 80). While challenges may exist, Stripling (2008) believes the teacher librarians, by working in collaboration with school staff, can play an important role in ‘restructuring the curriculum so that inquiry and problem solving are integrated into all subject areas’ (p. 2).

GI has been developed from Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process  (ISP) model  and is based on a constructivist approach to learning (Kuhlthau, & Maniotes,  2010, p. 18) (Fitzgerald, 2011). In order to implement the GI approach effectively, Kuhlthau encourages the use of open-ended questions as the starting point for a research project (Thomas, Crow, & Franklin, 2011 p. 41). This means that teachers need to model and use a range of questioning strategies in order to encourage children to formulate and ask questions.  This is just one of many specific teaching skills and strategies for inquiry which are grounded in extensive research. In order to effectively integrate inquiry in schools there needs to be a solid educational understanding of the theories and models surrounding GI and for educators to see for themselves the benefits to the GI learning approach. Indeed, the advantages of a GI approach are very evident when you walk into a school and see children who are enthusiastic, productive independent learners achieving success! I have seen children who have been in a school following this approach for many years to the point where they speak the language of inquiry themselves and take full ownership of their learning.

References

Collins, Trevor., Gaved, Mark., Mulholland, Paul., Kerawalla, Cindy., Twiner, Alison., Scanlon, Eileen., Jones, Ann., Littleton, Karen., Conole, Grainne and Blake, Canan (2008). Supporting location-based inquiry learning across school, field and home contexts. Proceedings of the MLearn 2008 Conference, 7 – 10 Oct 2008, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, UK. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/12393/1/mlearn-2008-0025-collins-crc.pdf

Gordon, C. A. (2010). The culture of inquiry in school libraries. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), 73-88.

Kuhlthau, C. K., & Maniotes, L.K.  (2010). Building Guided Inquiry Teams for 21st-Century Learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 18.

Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41

Stripling, B. (2008). Inquiry-based teaching and learning – the role of the library media specialist. Retrieved from http://lgdata.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/docs/4210/910814/Inquiry_Based_Teaching___Learning_Stripling.pdf

Thomas, N. P., Crow, S. R., & Franklin, L. L. (2011). Chapter 3: The Information Search Process: Kuhlthau’s legacy. In Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the 21st century school library (3rd ed., pp. 33-58). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

The role of the teacher librarian in relation to principal support

The teacher librarian job description can often be a good indicator of the school principal’s expectations and value placed on the teacher librarian role.  Church  (2009) argues that in the capacity of instructional leader, the school principal sets the parameters and framework for teaching and learning and in doing so “can make or break the library programme” (p. 40).

School budget

The budget allocated to the library by the school principal can have a huge impact on the quality of provision provided. An adequate budget ensures children access to the latest technologies, digital and print resources, high quality facilities and the correct ratio of librarians and support staff to guide them in their learning (Hartzell, 2003, p. 21).

 Timetabling and setting an environment for collaboration

Ideally teacher librarians work in an environment where there are high expectations for collaboration throughout the school which is fostered and encouraged by the school principal (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 49) (Haycock, 2007, p. 27). Practical considerations -such as flexible scheduling in the library and timetabling of common planning times for year groups with librarians – set an enabling structure for collaboration (Oberg, 2006, p. 14) (Gibbs, 2003, pp 6-7).  Expectations for how the library is used and how it fits into the goals and vision of the school as a whole should be made clear to all staff.

Building a positive relationship with the school principal

The school principal I work with is approachable, open-minded and has a solid understanding of the role of the teacher librarian. I am well supported regarding opportunities for professional development, am set yearly targets and have regular appraisals. I am responsible for creating a library action plan in collaboration with library staff, which is aligned to the school strategic plan. This is then reviewed with the school principal. Regular and focused communication with the principal is vital in order to work towards a shared goal and vision, which is especially important when introducing new initiatives into the library (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 53).

Studies have demonstrated the significant impact teacher librarians can have on students’ learning (Herring, 2007, p. 32) (Kaplan, 2007, p. 301) (Bush & Jones, 2013, p. 4). Supporting the teacher librarian is therefore in the best interest of the principal and the students (Hartzell, 2003, p. 21). However, degrees of support can vary considerably. One possible reason for this are some principals’ own out-dated views on the role (Church, 2009, p. 40) as well as the fact that the audience for news and research on library practice tends to be librarians themselves rather than school principals and senior management (Hartzell, 2003, p. 21). It is essential then that teacher librarians are advocates for their profession and regularly disseminate significant information, latest research and studies which could potentially impact on their work to the school principal.

Conclusion

Principals can potentially have a very positive impact on a school’s library programme when they fully support and set high expectations for teacher librarians based on current best practice in the field. This support can ensure the teacher librarians are “visible throughout the school, and integral to the mission and work of the school” (Oberg, 2007, i )

 References

Church, A. (2009).  The principal factor. Library Media Connection. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com/pdf/lmc/reviews_and_articles/featured_articles/church_may_june2009.pdf

Cooper, O. P., & Bray, M. (2011). School library media specialist-teacher collaboration: Characteristics, challenges, opportunities. TechTrends: Linking research and practice to improve learning, 55(4), 48-55. doi: 10.1007/s11528-011-0511-y

Dixon, P. (2008). Acting Up: Leadership and responsibility. Refocus Journal, 6(1), 9-11.

Gibbs, R. (2003). Reframing the role of the teacher-librarian: the case for collaboration and flexibility. Scan, 22(3), 4.

Hartzell, Gary (June 2002). What’s It Take? (PDF). White House Conference on School Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf

Hartzell, G. (2003). Why Should Principals Support School Libraries? Teacher Librarian, 31(2), 21-23.

Harvey, C. A. (2009).  Hands on handout. What should an administrator expect a school library media specialist to be? Library Media Connection.  Retrieved from http://hoorayforbooks.pbworks.com/f/lms+evaluation+ideas.pdf

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.

Kaplan, A. G. (2008). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’?’. Educational Digest, 73(7), 17.

McGhee, M. W., & Jansen, B. A. (2006). The Principal Component: Bringing Your Administrator on Board. Library Media Connection, 24(4), 34-35.

Morris, B.J. (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.

Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.

Oberg, D. (2007).Taking the library out of the library into the school. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), i-ii.

QUT Faculty of Education. (2011). To school administrators. Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools.

A look at librarian role statements – international, national and state-based statements.

ASLA’s ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ clearly lays out the rationale and reason behind the standards document, defines terms and describes how the document is to be used. ASLA’s standards are divided into three main sections – professional knowledge, professional practice and professional commitment. There are further sub-headings in bullet points. This standards document focus is on the expectations of the teacher librarian. The AASL’s ‘Standards for the learner’s document on the other hand, as the title would suggest, places the emphasis on the learner.  It describes the skills, dispositions and attitudes that should be demonstrated by a 21st century learner.

The IASL policy statement describes the function and purpose of the school library and the responsibility of the librarian within the setting. While the statement does not go into as much detail as the ASLA standards, it covers many of the same points related to the role and the professional practice of the TL. Similarly the IFLA/UNESCO’s ‘School Library Manifesto’ is a succinct document giving a broad overview of the goals and management of a school library.

All documents agree on the important role a school library can play in a child’s education. IASL policy statement describes the library as ‘a vital instrument in the education process’ the ASLA standards, when defining a TL state that they ‘support and implement the vision of their school’ and the AASL explain in their standards that school libraries ‘are essential to the development of learning skills’. They all also highlight the importance of the librarian not working in isolation but rather collaborating with staff and students to improve student learning and outcomes.

 

References

American Association of School Librarians (AASL) (2007). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/AASL_LearningStandards.pdf

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto (1999; 2006). Retrieved from http://www.ifla.org/VII/s11/pubs/manifest.htm

International Association of School Librarianship (IASL). (2003).  IASL Policy Statement on School Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.iasl-online.org/about/handbook/policysl.html

My understanding of the role of the teacher librarian in schools

Valenza (2010, para. 2) states “Well into the 21st century, it is clear that the concept of modern teacher librarian practice is not clear”. Indeed, while a number of Standards have emerged, the role of teacher librarian is interpreted in a variety of ways according to different schools and educational settings. The way in which a library is run, its policies and the role of the teacher librarian within this is often a reflection of the educational aims and objectives of the educational setting.

Purcell describes ‘media resource centres’ as “the hub of the learning community” (2010, p. 30) and Herring as “a vital part of the school” (2007, p. 27). I agree that the school library should be at the heart of every school. A major part of the responsibility of the teacher librarian is to create a warm and inviting learning environment. The physical space, layout and resources available should appeal and cater to the staff and children alike.

The teacher librarian juggles a number of different roles that are all interconnected. As an administrator, the running of an efficient library involves managing a budget, sourcing and ordering appropriate materials, running inventories, cataloging and processing books as well as managing staff and volunteers. The teacher librarian should have clearly developed policies and procedures which are communicated to staff and students to ensure the smooth running of the library.

As a teacher, the teacher librarian is responsible for promoting reading and literacy throughout the school and within the wider community including parents. This can involve the organization of book fairs, reading workshops, author visits, book weeks, competitions and making links to external literature events.

The teacher librarian must share the goal of the school as a whole. Increasingly this centres on improving student learning outcomes (Girolami, 2008, p. 12) (Purcell, 2010, p. 30) (Herring, 2007, p. 31). The efficacy of this is supported by studies which demonstrate the significant impact teacher librarians can have on students learning (Herring, 2007, p. 32).   A well-developed curriculum showing clear progression is essential so that children and staff are clear on the knowledge skills and understanding that each year group are working towards and are expected to achieve. The teacher librarian will need to teach some ‘standalone’ library skills within the setting but in order to maximise the impact of learning in the library it is important for the teacher librarian to collaborate with staff to integrate instruction with the classroom curriculum.

While the role can vary in terms of role and responsibilities, what is clear is that the position is multi-faceted and is continuing to change. I feel it is the responsibility of the teacher librarian and the wider profession as a whole to be open to this change and to continually adjust goals and priorities in order to be an effective practitioner and manager.

 

References

Girolami, A. (2008). The role of the teacher librarian in learning and literacy. Incite, 29(5), 12.

Hamilton, B. J. (2011). The School Librarian as Teacher: What kind of teacher are you?. Knowledge Quest, 39(5), 34-40.

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Lodge, D. & Pymm, B. (2007). Library managers today : the challenges. In S. Ferguson (Ed.), Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information services (pp. 289-310). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies,Charles Sturt University.

 Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books, right? A look at the roles of a school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.

Valenza, J. (2010). A revised Manifesto. In Neverending Search. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/