The pillars of my teaching are shifting

I’ve only read Chapters 1 and 2 (and 10) in Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case’s Creating Thinking Classrooms, but I can feel the foundation of my beliefs, the pillars of my teaching and the roof of my practice shifting.  I’m looking through two of my school roles as I read this book.  Firstly, I have to look at the whole school and especially how our teaching with technology is (or is not) changing. Secondly, I am both librarian and e-learning teacher and I want to make sure that my library goals align with the thinking goals of my online classroom self.  There are some practices that have definitely affected the way that I teach (backwards design) but there are lots of other practices that are muddy.

So in Chapter 1 when the authors describe the number of initiatives that are happening in any one school building I naturally asked “Which of the operational components is most accurate in regards to the purpose of schooling?”  My Directions Team spent an entire afternoon trying to align our core values or Finding our Why (Simon Sinek).  It’s so difficult!  When we brought our work to the next group of department heads, they tore it down to the beginning again.  Yet I know that it’s a worthwhile exercise because, as the authors say on page 16, we can’t rush to the practical.

I fear that the digital technologies that we have rushed to put into the hands of students and teachers are just sustaining existing principles rather than transforming them.  I see all the time that Inquiry tasks performed about Google-able answers are minimally impactful on student learning.  For the first time in 3 years, we are suddenly having a scarcity issue of devices again but I’m not convinced that a) our wireless infrastructure can handle more devices and b) that we want them.  We are convincing our students through our repetitive actions that they can rely on the school’s tech rather than to begin exploring their own.  I’m especially thinking of our graduating students who need to get comfy with making their own decisions about which tech tools to use for which purpose.

I never questioned before if student-centred learning had any disadvantages but of course the two things I see everyday as a librarian are clear disadvantages!  They are that the curriculum is often underrepresented or not represented at all in student-centred learning; and that students choose safe/known topics.  One of the frustrating reasons that inquiry continues to be less impactful though is because or our grading system which I know I constantly use as a stick to beat our students into motivation!  After reading Implications for personalized learning I am left with the question How can we separate grades for measurement from grades as reward?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if students found that the learning was the reward instead of the number on their report card?

In my elearning environment, I’m currently playing with the new badges tool where I can recognize students’ behaviour and achievement with a badge.  I know this isn’t a strong motivator at the grade 12 level that I’m teaching, but I want to recognize when a student achieves a technology skill; a foundational skill and a social skill that will serve them well in the environment.  My ultimate plan is to tie more badges into the competencies that are outlined in the curriculum to see where my teaching weaknesses are and also to make sure that my students have a solid foundation when they finish the course.  As a librarian, I think my career goal could be “Sense-making must be grounded in rigorous investigation.”   I like the examples given of inquiry on pages 38 and 39 but I’m hoping there will be more of these in less content-based circumstances as we go through the book.  Although these models gave me a clear point of view when we’re teaching a concept, this format doesn’t always apply to English or the Arts which are often based on skills-based learning.

Research methods and methodologies in education by Larry V. Hedges

Research Methods and Methodologies in EducationResearch Methods and Methodologies in Education by Larry V. Hedges

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A qualitatively comprehensive guide to research methods in education. I guess education by nature is a social science so my only disappointment with this book is that it didn’t make me any better at math. I was hoping to really walk away with a better understanding of statistics…but that was one of my first big learnings about educational research….that it’s highly subjective.

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IGNITE presentation: Arts-based research

For those of you who haven’t found out about the Pecha Kucha style of presentation, there’s already another kid on the block.  It’s even faster than Pecha Kucha with 20 slides at 15 seconds each. I found it really difficult to do asynchronously but that’s what my professor wanted so I tried.

First she had us do a warm-up a week ahead, putting just a few slides together to show that we had mastered the technology.  Here’s that attempt:

Then we put the whole thing together:

What I really liked about the method of making this IGNITE presentation was how scaffolded the difficulty was. Here are the steps again:

  1. Make a mini-presentation with just a few slides and a clear topic for each slide.
  2. Make a full IGNITE presentation on your upcoming essay topic.
  3. Write a 3000 word essay.

I’m still working on the essay but I knew a week ago how I would organize it based on the work I needed to do for the IGNITE presentation.  I can think of a whole bunch of ways that I can adapt the same scaffolded strategies to levelling up in digital literacy, building content knowledge and writing/research skills.

Change Agent rant

WARNING: the following response could be seen as a rant.  It probably is.

I read the Cochran-Smith & Lytle article with some trepidation.  One of the hard things about being a teacher-librarian in 2013 is that I expect any day now that some policymaker is going to make me redundant.  Ouch.  So when I read this quote about the latest developments in Core Curriculum making and standardized testing, I actually felt reassured:

Part of what these developments have in common is a set of underlying assumptions about school change that de-emphasizes differences in local contexts, de-emphasizes the construction of local knowledge in and by school communities, and de-emphasizes the role of the teacher as decision maker and change agent. (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1999, p.  22).

That paragraph could have been written yesterday and still had as much impact!  Here we are 14 years later still battling to be treated as professionals or at least to be taken seriously…losing the battle to locally develop solutions for our students.  I know I’m atypical, but people ask me all the time why I’m doing my M.Ed. now….there’s no financial advantage, I don’t dream of being a principal or superintendent…I love learning.  I research because I want to know more about how to solve systemic problems that are preventing students from achieving better results.  I read this paragraph out loud to my husband this morning saying that I feel sometimes that being a teacher-librarian and an agent of change is like painting a big target on my back and I do sometimes feel like retreating back into an autonomous classroom.  But now that the veil has been lifted, and I can see clearly the larger perspective of how many compromises we’re making in public education at the expense of our students, I can’t go back.  I can’t stop trying to be heard.  I only hope that through research and my own discovery that my voice will somehow become more valid in the eyes of policymakers.

References

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). The teacher research movement: A decade later. Educational researcher28(7), 15-25.

My right brain play fighting with my left brain

Even after just one week of studying educational research, I find myself reaching for the vocabulary of research as I read to identify patterns in the research papers that match my emerging understanding.  In examining Gallop’s ideas about ethical reading, I am reminded of Derrida’s theories of deconstructing texts and McLuhan’s ideas about the medium being the message.  Both of these men wrote ideas that were ahead of their time.  I did my B.A. in drama and lived in the world of MLA for many years until starting with the University of Alberta.  So much of this M.Ed. program has felt like being able to see behind the wizard’s curtain, and entering into an entirely different world as I moved into APA.  The most difficult reading I’ve done in this course thus far was Chapter 4 of the textbook.  I desperately want to understand what I’m reading but I kept reading the same phrases 2 and 3 times in order to break them down, grasping the vocabulary and then building them back together to find meaning in the entire phrase.  Maybe some of my classmates felt the same way about reading Gallop’s writing…but her style of expressing with adjectives and adverbs, using metaphors and analogies….this is where I live.  This is where I feel most comfortable.

If I have a preconceived notion about the reading we’re doing in this course, it’s that I assume my reading will be dry, scientific, and generally over my head.  What is surprising me is how fascinating I’m finding the minutiae of educational research.  There is magic in the construction of problems, developing expectations that data will highlight areas of need and the unexpected.  I can feel my right brain play fighting with my left brain.  I tend to read most things with a wide-eyed awe towards the the courage of written expression, the audacity of the author to suppose that what he/she had to say was worth saying.  Friends have often commented that all of my Goodreads reviews have 4 and 5 stars…that I must be easy to please.  I suppose I am…reading is what I do, so I’m getting pretty good at separating the worthy from the trash.

I’m not confident that I’m gaining the momentum I need to say “I’m a confident reader of educational research”.  I’m emerging.  I’m surprised that the research is so messy and unpredictable.  I’m kinda loving that.  I wonder if the very nature of educational research, studying people of usually a young age, is always chaotic and challenging or if it’s possible to anticipate results.  I look forward to finding out.

References

Gallop, J. (2000). The ethics of reading: Close encounters. Journal of 
Curriculum Theorizing16(3), 7-17.

 

 

I’m an amateur researcher

I have been a teacher since 1994, spending 3 years teaching English in Japan, and the rest in Ontario teaching drama, English, and media arts in the classroom and online.  I became a teacher-librarian full-time in 2009.  Currently working ⅚ a teacher-librarian in a large secondary school.  My other ⅙ has me back in the classroom (by choice!) and I’m loving it.  This past semester I taught grade 12 media arts face-to-face and next semester I’ll be teaching grade 12 English online. I’ve really missed having my own students and dealing with the day-to-day tasks of teaching keeps me grounded as a school leader.  I am also part of my school’s Directions Team and we are constantly analyzing our school’s data.  2 favourite methods are: 1) the survey of staff and students and 2) looking at trends in student achievement.  I’m frustrated by how narrow these methods are and how little impact I see them having on how we move forward in our team.

Educational research has never meant more to me than it does now in my position in the library. As a classroom teacher I used to rely on the findings of the experts.  This July I’m taking my 7th course with the U of A TLDL M.Ed. program and I find now that I have more questions than answers.  My exposure to the rich resources available in the University of Alberta library have been a great influence on the integrity I seek in finding educational data.  I have spent the entire school year working on three projects which are strongly rooted in educational research.

1)  Inquiry question: What will the role of school libraries be in 20 years and how should I modify my physical library to embrace these changes?

Research description: based on theoretical research I am now applying interventions

I’ve been working towards improving the physical library and suddenly found out that the work orders to fix my unsafe shelving, ancient carpet and water damaged ceiling were going to be combined with money to build an accessible elevator and entrance and a big project ensued.  Then my principal became ill, replaced with an acting principal, and I’ve had to justify every idea in the last 8 weeks in order to make the renovations happen.

2) Inquiry question:  How can I better determine the needs in reading of my students?  Is there a cause and effect relationship between reading ability and success in grade 9?

Research description: gathering empirical data to better describe our student needs; began by correlating data on each student

We have developed a significant special education focus at our school in the last 4 years.  Our Transitions classes (students with developmental delays) have increased to 5 full classes and in total we have 450 identified students in the building.  I question our ability to accommodate these students without more research being done.  With money from our board’s Student Success department, I put in about 60 hours of work studying students’ reading abilities in grade 9 in order to find a consistent tool for identifying reading level.  The Student Success group wanted to relate the reading research to success in grade 9.  I ‘hired’ (i.e. coerced, cajoled and got release time for) one of our special education specialists to use the literacy portions of the Woodcock-Johnson test to test 31 grade 9 students.

2) inquiry question: How can I better emphasize the creative process to my students?  How can I use a digital portfolio to help them make their process thinking visible?

Research description: action research applying interventions and then gathering feedback

Together with 5 other secondary teachers from our board, we were able to get 4 release days to try to answer these questions above.  We each used various online tools to encourage and monitor our students as they learned to make their thinking visible.  We presented our findings to teachers across the province.

As an aside, I’m also the mom of an 8 year old, Max, who was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum in 2012.  We’ve volunteered to be part of two studies so far.  The first was to see how children transition from the daycare setting to the public education system.  The second is to track the genome of autism through families on a global scale.  Both studies, through the Offord Centre for Child Studies, are fascinating in their complexity and educational profiles were done of Max to an extent that is very insightful as a parent.

In trying to define my research position, I’m trying to think of it as a Myers-Briggs personality test or a Kinsey quadrant.  I’m strongly constructivist leaning towards interpretivism.  I tend to butt heads with my administration when they ask me for hard calculable data so I’m pretty sure that I’m an Internal-idealist, although I can see both sides to the epistemological assumptions.  Although my goals are to show definitive conclusions in my research thus far, I tend to find deeper meaning through interpretation.

In this course I hope that I’ll move away from being an “amateur researcher” (Rolfe et al., 2010, p.6) because I am guilty of “quasi-scientific conclusions” (p. 7).  I’d like to make my research  more valid in order to:

a) advocate for library resources

b) advocate for further research support including release time

c) maintain and increase the importance of the role of a teacher-librarian at our school and in our board

References

Rolfe, S.  & Naughton, G.  (2010).  Research as a tool.  In G. Naughton, S. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (pp. 3 – 12).  Bershire, UK: McGraw-Hill.

Designing space for children and teens in libraries and public places by Sandra Feinberg

Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public PlacesDesigning Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places by Sandra Feinberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The traditional role of school libraries is no longer pertinent when reading and research can happen anytime, anywhere. Rather Feinberg and Keller maintain that the future success of high school libraries lies within our ability to create a space where teenagers perceive that they are “needed, respected and …belong” (p. 17). Instead the mandate of accessible and available learning becomes embodied in a physical and virtual space known as The Learning Commons. This book on design thinking is the perfect harmony of theoretical and practical for making positive, student-centred changes in libraries.

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Grown Up Digital: How the net generation is changing your world

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your WorldGrown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad that Don Tapscott is Canadian. Knowing that he’s a local expert and is so prescient in his thinking made this book an even more enjoyable read. I actually listened to it on audiobook through Audible.com.

This is one of those books that caught my attention 4 years ago when it first came out (2009) but I was only ready to read it now. Tapscott calls the current generation of students in high school “The Net Generation” and describes them as valuing these eight norms: freedom, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, entertainment, speed and innovation (p. 74). As such education is experiencing a massive paradigm shift and is moving towards inquiry-based learning, where students direct their own studies. Tapscott describes school’s new dominant role as one to “encourage students to discover for themselves, and learn a process of discovery and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the teacher’s information” (p. 130). School libraries need to morph to extend this role as well, creating flexible spaces where student innovation can happen. This book has a lot to do with the transformation that I’m pushing for from school library to learning commons.

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Tuned out: Engaging the 21st century learner by Karen Hume

Karen Hume Tuned OutTuned Out: Engaging The 21st Century Learner by Karen Hume

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you want a quick snapshot of all that’s happening in educational theory, this is the book for you. At the risk of sounding over-confident, this is exactly why this book was not for me. It’s a basic primer on how to engage students. While there are a few gems along the way, these come not from Hume herself, but from those she is quoting. I was encouraged that there might be deeper material online, and a way to interact with Hume herself in her blog or social media, but the online portion is static, not dynamic, and hasn’t been active since the book’s release. As such, the whole thing smells of a marketing ploy and I’m deeply suspicious. Some of my favourite people are quoted on the cover as responding favourably to this book, but I will try to forgive them for this. I’m going to quickly move on to something more exciting in professional development, in hopes that the bad taste of Hume’s work will leave my mouth.

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Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in ActionComprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey & Harvey Daniels

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bit 101 for my taste. It was so busy trying to be all encompassing that I’m not sure it presented any new information…. It outlines the phases of the inquiry process very well, but doesn’t follow through on the execution of inquiry as well.

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Becoming a Great High School by Tim Westerberg

Becoming a Great High School: 6 Strategies and 1 Attitude That Make a DifferenceBecoming a Great High School: 6 Strategies and 1 Attitude That Make a Difference by Tim Westerberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Westerberg manages to combine a whole whack of educational theorists work in this short book. We read it as a conversation starter for our department heads/administration/directions’ team day away which falls between semesters. What I appreciated is how he manages to reference so many of these theorists and mash them all together. He even references Carol Dweck’s Mindset, which is a game-changing book for many workplaces including education. However, it’s not a book that has time to go into depth on any one theory. This book would be great for new teachers as it might lead them to greater works on educational theory. It’s also a nice snapshot to get the conversation flowing.  It would be a great choice for staff that are non-readers themselves.

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Reflection: on entering the library

E contacted me today thinking about career changes, or sidesteps moving from classroom teaching to some of those rarer positions in schools like teacher-librarianship, and asked what are the differences between being a classroom teacher and being a librarian.  Moving into my fourth year in the library, I had a lot to say.  Here’s my response:

I’m doing my M.Ed. right now with a focus on teacher-librarianship. To my knowledge, there are only 2 programs of this calibre and distinction in all of North America…the one I’m in at the University of Alberta is completely online. The other is at the University of San Jose …and I don’t know much about it except that in my program we reference a lot of the work being done there.

I love being a librarian. Doing my M.Ed. I’ve discovered that I could happily move into educational research for the rest of my life. I’m actually going to be teaching one section of media arts (back with real students of my own!) this coming semester. I really miss being able to plan curriculum and I really miss developing relationships with students. However I love the autonomy of working as a teacher-librarian and I love the diversity of the topics and questions that come at me all day long. There’s an awful lot of psychology in the library that I hadn’t anticipated … coaxing students and staff to try new things all day long and building their confidence to go for it. I’d say my job is 3 parts: advocacy, collection and technology. I have a blog threadbarebeauty.wordpress.com if you want to check out my process in learning how to be a librarian, and I’m also really really into Twitter. So do I take my work home? Yeah…reading and information and sharing it is totally addictive and I pretty much do it every waking moment of every day. It’s a total obsession.

However, the role of librarian is completely morphing and you have to be prepared to go there with it. It’s exhausting trying to be the change agent all the time and I feel like my persona is now “that quirky girl with all those crazy ideas”. I’m not sure that they’re taking me seriously. I stimulate a lot of thought maybe, but change takes forever to happen. I have let go of the need to be the expert in the room and I hear myself saying “I don’t know but let’s go find out!” all day long. I read professional reading with breakfast, listen to an audiobook on the car to and from work, and read a third book again before I fall asleep at night.

And most of the work I do is never seen and I have to be ok with that. Going from teaching English/drama/media arts where there were shows and accolades and contests to library meant putting down a lot of ego. I’m trying to get comfortable with servitude but I humbly accept that I may never get there. Like teaching, it’s really busy and always different, but there’s a reliable structure to my day that makes it all possible.

Not sure if I inspired you or scared you, so ask anything.

Starting a path of inquiry

Intrinsically, I have emphasized information and literacy in my work for the brief time that I have been a secondary school teacher-librarian.  I have witnessed staff frustrations when students can’t seem to go more deeply into topics and I too have been frustrated when students seem to get stuck.  I hoped that in taking this course on inquiry-based instruction that I would learn techniques that would help me to guide us all through to successful completion of inquiry projects.  What I did not expect is that I would learn and embrace a new philosophy of teaching through evidence-based instruction, action research and inquiry.  To this point, I have struggled to be both an agent of change for education reform and to be a stable collaborator in my school.  Yet I feel now that there is a clear path I can follow for success in my personal and professional development.

Scaffolding inquiry

I was first introduced to the inquiry-based model by reading work of Barbara Stripling (2007) when she emphasized the necessity of explicitly teaching metacognition and active questioning to deepen understanding.  At that time I wondered aloud: Can metacognition be applied to reading fluency? Can literacy be taught through inquiry?  Is inquiry-based learning (IBL) a constructivist approach to digital fluency?  I see now that IBL provides repeated opportunities for practice of metacognition, literacy and digital fluency. As librarians, Stripling says we can provide a supporting role to teachers and students as their “cycle of reflection is bolstered by an attitude of empathy and collaboration and a cognitive stance that is both critical and open-minded” (p. 53).  In August 2011, I attended a lecture by Mike Schmoker after we had read his latest book as a school leadership team.  In his lecture he said that we needed to return to basics in education and do away with using tools like the narrative structure. I knew then that he was fundamentally wrong, but I couldn’t describe how.  Stripling says that the construct phase of inquiry is very difficult as teachers “struggle to teach students how to construct their own understandings” (p. 48).   Using the narrative framework is a way of helping provide a basic structure that can help students see history as a series of stories about choices that people make as they face challenges (Stripling, p. 49).  Looking at inquiry as the vehicle for narrative exploration lends itself to more reading and writing, through self-reflection and analysis.   

For the first time I clearly see the continuum in inquiry. Since I began teaching in the library, I have relied on the model of instruction outlined by the Toronto District School Board (2010) to develop a continuum of research skills in my school.  It outlines phases of research and steps to take in the diagnostic, formative and reflective phases to deepen and develop research skills. After reading Harvey and Daniels (2009) book, I realize that there is so much more to the inquiry process than research skills and information literacy:

In true inquiry, kids have to take responsibility for things that real learners do. They have to identify worthy problems and questions. They have to use the proper disciplinary tools (microscopes, timelines) and procedures (surveys, formulas), just like real practitioners. They have to work with others, build knowledge, and ultimately, submit their findings to a peer or public audience (p. 57).

Since our electronic pathfinder assignment was an inquiry, I enjoyed experiencing the phases firsthand, reminding myself of the pitfalls.  At first I wanted to begin exploring diversity in libraries but I found that it was too broad of a topic.  After narrowing my topic to autism and libraries was both personal and professional, I found myself wandering to related topics within databases or other sources of information.  I particularly enjoy the retrieving phase of hunting down resources.  I was also reminded how much bias plays a role in publishing and found that many sources were from advocacy groups that didn’t have research backgrounds.  

Through firsthand experience I came to more deeply understand that inquiry is based on prior knowledge and is, therefore, individual.  This means that we must allow for personal choice in inquiry-based learning. If I chose to focus just on the advocating for the element of personal choice at my school, I would really be taking on a challenge.  Subjects that can be chosen as electives in my secondary school generally see more success as students, from the outset, can exercise their right to choose.  Inquiry empowers the learner through choice at every phase.  Similarly, teachers will be empowered to provide this ongoing stimulation in their courses.  Sometimes teachers forget how challenging each phase is and beginning with experiencing an inquiry of their own may be a strategy I employ to opening productive discussion with colleagues.

Implementing inquiry

One of the discussions in this course that I found stimulating was about developing a whole school vision through inquiry-based learning.  My group discussed how inquiry peaks the curiosity of students and we wondered if implementing an inquiry-based program could help to lower the dropout rate in secondary school.  I pushed the boundary further and suggested that no courses should be mandatory after grade 10 in order to truly empower our students through choice.  This led to a discussion of how inquiry is a kind of literacy and should be an embedded part of every course.  Megan Jakse argued:

Literacy and inquiry skills definitely need to be embedded across the curriculum.  If the English department is teaching these skills, other departments should be building on them.  That would require a lot of collaboration among staff members but could be really worthwhile!  English should (in theory) be the least irrelevant course for students as the skills in the curriculum could be met by students in very different ways.  In the discussion, English teachers could easily model “personalized,” inquiry-based learning as students engage in self-directed (and possibly cross-curricular) projects, build literacy skills, and plan for their futures (M. Jakse, personal communication, July 6, 2012).

I see more clearly now how research skills, digital literacy and information literacy can all be better emphasized through the inquiry-based learning model that is collaborated upon by staff.

As with this discussion, Harvey and Daniels (2009) agree that implementing and modelling collaboration during inquiry is an essential component to deepen the process.  In their small-group inquiry model (2009, pp. 61-62), collaboration of teachers with students and students with students, is immersed in each inquiry phase. This collaboration model helps the students to monitor their own timelines and understanding putting the onus of learning, where it belongs, onto the students themselves.  I wonder now how I can continue to collaborate openly in front of the students in order to model the benefits and challenges of collaboration.

I also never understood before how project-based learning (PBL) differs from inquiry-based learning (IBL) until Kuhlthau clarified.  She says “[PBL] falls short in two respects.  First, it overemphasizes product and underemphasizes the learning process.  Second, students are frequently left to their own devices, and when parents step in, many end up doing the actual research.”  (2007, p. 3).  One of the issues with inquiry is how to implement it when there are so many other curriculum strategies being enforced right now.  My school has been working on the curriculum development theory of backwards design as outlined by Wiggins and McTighe (2005).  We have had the same goal for three years to backwards design every department, every course, every unit, and every lesson.  We began by developing the big ideas of each course, which look something like the overall expectations developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education for each secondary school course.  I`m wondering if we can tweak these big ideas by phrasing them into questions to stimulate inquiry.  For example, my media arts course has the big idea of Anonymity and Identity in its final unit.  If I change it to: How do identity and anonymity interact in media arts? I hope the students would feel that this is more of an invitation to explore the concepts rather than memorize them.  I plan to continue my exploring this transition into inquiry-based learning by examining each course for the possibilities in inquiry and map my school’s curriculum in this way.

Future path as teacher-librarian

I feel that this course has really focused my role as teacher-librarian in a secondary school.  I’ve often wondered how to structure my time and how much emphasis I should put on each need in the school .  Everywhere I look there is a need for organization, for resources, for direction in technology use, for projects, for literacy and in my last two years I’ve felt very stretched.  After taking this course, I feel that if I focus every moment of my day in helping staff and students to improve their inquiry experiences, that all of the other needs will fall in line.  As I plan to renovate my library, I must keep this vision of inquiry in mind.  I will deny the use of library resources for simple things like word-processing unless it is part of inquiry.  I will prioritize library resources for inquiry.  I will harness my time for endeavours in inquiry and action research.

Before the physical library changes, I can begin with adjusting the culture of the library.  The school library paradigm shift (Harada and Yoshina, 2010) and the corollaries outlined by Gordon (2010) developed the idea for creating a wikispace of evidence-based templates for each phase of inquiry.  After these readings, I realize that the student independence in the library must be the focus of our library materials as well.  I plan to change all the handouts in the library to represent the learner first, rather than the transmission of learning.  I see these as the graphic organizers for each inquiry phase that we collated for our wikispace.  Although I can’t truly measure the effectiveness of our wikispace, I can testify to the rewarding experience of collaborating with colleagues to create it.  Each element was created, challenged, revised and tweaked to maintain a clarity in our message and quality in our work.  The end result is very satisfying.  I wish that we could come together in a year to report back to each other on its success.  As we completed the wikispace, I tweeted out a link to it to garner some immediate feedback and was welcomed by Lisa Neale, an Ontario elementary principal, and Sheila Morrissette, a British Columbia secondary principal, who both informed me that they are investigating inquiry-based learning for their schools (Neale, Morrissette and King, 2012).  Now that we have created the wikispace, I wonder if I can further enhance it with reflection as we implement each phase of evidence-based inquiry.  As Neale and Morrissette indicated, evidence-based practice to support inquiry-based learning is a timely issue and I’m sure any reflection of process in its implementation would be welcome to the education community.

The professional is the personal

Thanks to Harada and Yoshina (2010), I understand how the paradigm within the library itself needs to shift.  Their chart which outlines moving from a focus on resources to a focus on student learning (p. 16) will direct my role.  In it the emphasis becomes less about teaching skills of location and retrieval and more on the evaluation and interpretation of information; less about product and more about process; less about grades and more about learning.  I know that I must build qualitative evidence that the library has an essential role to play in student and staff development.

Evidence-based practice was the crux of my learning in this course.  Carol Gordon (2010) was very influential in the development of my understanding as she describes the need for paradigm shifting and corollaries for the implementation of evidence-based inquiry instruction.  Gordon says: “Paradigm points to reform, setting the purpose for the research and indicating solutions to practical problems” (p. 76).  The current education system is inhibiting greater success in secondary learning and teaching.  My aim is to reform the system from within.  As Gordon suggests, I see now that I can strengthen my advocacy for reform by researching each problem, developing suggestions and creating action research to test solutions.

This knowledge is powerful and it gives me hope that reform is possible.  Gordon continues saying “The evidence-based paradigm constitutes a shift in the culture of teaching and learning in schools that has the potential to reform education.  If research in school library instruction has a mission, this is it” (p. 75).  For the last few years I have struggled with how to focus a balance between work and home.   The career change from classroom teacher to full-time teacher-librarian has consumed me.   What I’ve realized is that I can’t separate these two places because for the first time in my career, my job reflects who I am.  As a result of this inquiry course, I see even greater horizons beyond my school and I think advocating for inquiry may take the rest of my career.  The task of creating an education system that is student-centred, inquiry-based and proven effective by self and social-oriented action research (Gordon, 2010) may seem monumental, but it is a goal worth fighting for.

References

Alberta Learning. (2003). Focus on inquiry: A teacher’s guide to implementing inquiry-­based learning [Pamphlet]. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/‌media/‌313361/‌focusoninquiry.pdf

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

Harada, V. H. (2010). Librarians as learning leaders: Cultivating cultures of inquiry. In S. Coatney (Ed.), The many faces of school library leadership (pp. 13-28). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2010). Assessment for learning. In Assessing for learning: Librarians and teachers as partners (2nd ed., pp. 9-18). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension and collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

King, A., Lunny, J., & Hobbs, T. (n.d.). Evidence-based planning tools. Retrieved July, 2012, from Inquiryandevidence website: http://inquiryandevidence.wikispaces.com

Neale, L., Morissette, S., & King, A. (2012, July 20). Using evidence to support inquiry [Tweet].

Schmoker, M. (Presenter). (2011, August). Results now: How we can achieve unprecedented results in teaching and learning. Speech presented at Upper Grand Learning Fair, Orangeville, Ontario, Canada.

Stripling, B. K. (2007). Teaching for Understanding. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada (Authors), School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 37-55). Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

TDSB Library and Learning Resources Department. (2010). Research success @ your library [Pamphlet]. Retrieved from http://www.tdsb.on.ca/‌libraries/‌files/‌research_guides.htm

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.