Category Archives: ETL401 Teacher Librarianship

A critical reflection on how my view of the role of the teacher librarian has changed during this subject (ETL401)

In the first weeks of ETL401 Introduction to Teacher Librarianship we were asked to brainstorm and list what teachers do, what librarians do and what teacher librarians do. I had no difficulty after 21 years of teaching listing what a teacher does and the list was quite extensive however when it came to the teacher librarian I was a little bewildered. Beyond the obvious list of catalogue, shelve, resource and teach I had no real idea of what a teacher librarian (TL) did. Part of the reason for this is the fact that I have never been either a student or a teacher in a school that had a TL so my only experience has been of a librarian and the other part of the reason is that I have never really taken the time to find out what a TL actually does. I have been overwhelmed, intimidated, downright scared and excited as my study and readings have deepened my understanding of the role.

My own learning needs in relation to the knowledge required to fulfil the role of TL as media specialist have been daunting. I have always loved and been excited by information communication technologies and how they can enhance all areas of life but since having children I have not devoted the time I once did to keeping up with the latest developments and uses for technologies particularly in education. I posted on my blog, The Adventuring Librarian, about my excitement when learning how to access and use the Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) databases, “It has been an eye opening experience for me” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013a), and about library curation using Pinterest, “I can see the benefits of using a social media forum … as a curation tool” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013b). One of the challenges for me will be making the time not only to keep up with new technologies but to explore and learn them in order to explicitly teach the skills to others.

Beyond being a media specialist I have been intimidated by the incredibly large but essential role of TL as leader and advocate for the library in ensuring the continuation of the TL role through gaining the support of the principal and the use of evidence-based practice. Based on my own initial understandings of the role of a TL and further reading I can understand why many principals view the role of a TL as unimportant and easily expendable and I can see why TLs need to take the lead in making the principal an ally and helping them to see the importance of the role in the ‘big picture’ information literacy goals of the school. “They need to be strong, patient pioneers on a mission of meaningful change with their eyes firmly on the destination of a collaborative school environment” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013c). I can understand too why evidence-based practice is so vital and how it can be used in many ways not only to inform practice but “to educate and inform those in power in order to successfully advocate for the needs of the students and the school library” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013d).

Perhaps the component of the role of the TL that has excited and challenged me the most is that of the TL as developer of information literate students. Through my readings and research into information literacy (IL) I have come to realise the importance of these skills in a 21st century education and how they contribute to higher-order thinking  and develop life-long learning. In learning about the use of process models to assist in the instruction of IL skills I have reignited my passion for teaching and reaffirmed the reasons for incorporating these skills into the existing curriculum. “TLs are experts in embedding the skills of information literacy across the curriculum and teaching them explicitly through programs” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013e). I certainly feel far from an expert at the moment but I am hopeful and excited about a future where I can work collaboratively with teachers to make a difference to the information literacy skills of the students in my school.

In 10 short weeks (which feel a lot longer) I can now add to my initial list: media specialist, curator, advocate, leader, evidence-based practitioner, developer of information literate students, collaborator and I hope life-long learner. I look forward to the continuing development of both this list and my knowledge and skills as I progress further in my studies.

References:

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013a, March 13). Library databases [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/library-databases/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013b, March 18). Library curation using Pinterest [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/library-curation-using-pinterest/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013c, March 25). The role of the teacher-librarian in practice with regard to principal support [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian-in-practice-with-regard-to-principal-support/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013d, April 28). The role of the teacher librarian with regard to evidence based practice [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian-with-regard-to-evidence-based-practice/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013e, May 14). Information literacy is more than a set of skills [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/information-literacy-is-more-than-a-set-of-skills/

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Information literacy is more than a set of skills

Bundy (2004, p.7) draws attention to the fact that in the 21st century information resources are abundant, diverse, available widely and in many forms but increasingly unfiltered. This however does not necessarily result in more informed students unless they are able to evaluate, understand and use the information ethically and effectively. Information literacy is a relatively broad term linked to the library and teachings of a teacher librarian (TL) and involves a set of skills that will aid in finding answers to particular questions through the searching, sorting and applying of information from various sources.

But information literacy is more than just a set of skills. It is described by Bundy (2004, p.8) as an intellectual framework for working with information and an attainment of abilities that develop lifelong learning; and by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009) as a basic survival skill for successful 21st century learners. It is through information literacy that independent learners are formed as they become confident seekers of information; and independent learners become lifelong learners as they apply these abilities throughout their lives in many different situations. Eisenberg (2008, p.39) states that information and technology literacy are not just for students but for all types of workers and that those who rise to executive levels are those who can effectively apply information literacy skills to real situations.

ALIA (2011), states that library professionals have a responsibility to assist the development of information literacy for all and therefore the role of TLs in the process of creating information literate learners is a vital one. TLs are experts in embedding the skills of information literacy across the curriculum and teaching them explicitly through programs. This embedding of skills can only be achieved if TLs and teachers work collaboratively to develop the programs appropriate to their students through which the skills and abilities of information literacy may be taught. Fullan (1999, p.38) describes collaborative organisations as ones where knowledge and expertise are utlilsed to develop best practices. TLs have that knowledge and expertise when it comes to information literacy and therefore are invaluable contributors to collaborative efforts.

Herring (2011) raises a very strong point when he states the need not only for the learning of the skills but for the transfer of the information literacy practices across the curriculum and that this is the responsibility not of students but of teachers and TLs. Schools need to create a culture of transfer in order to develop students as active practitioners of information literacy and therefore lifelong learners. Collaborative organisations can facilitate this transfer through a culture of team-building, communication and information sharing with a focus on priorities, planning and core outcomes (Fullan, 1999, p.37) and TLs as the ‘constant’ can ensure a consistency in the teaching of information literacy skills across the school and across the curriculum.

Information literacy skills are the basic skills set of the 21st century (Eisenberg, 2008, p.39) but are not just a set of skills to learn, they are practices for independent and lifelong learning which are vital for our students to understand, utilise and master during their schooling and into the future in order to successfully function in and navigate an information overloaded world.

References

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009). Statement on information literacy. Retrieved from: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/information-literacy.aspx

Australian Library and Information Association (2011).  Statement on information literacy for all Australians. Retrieved from: http://www.alia.org.au/policies/information.literacy.html

Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).

Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.

Fullan, M. (1999). Chapter 3: The deep meaning of inside collaboration. In Change forces: The sequel, (pp.31-41). London, Falmer Press.

Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, information literacy and transfer in high schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3).

Rant about Evaluation and Assessment in my University experiences

Kuhlthau, Caspan & Manitoes (2007, p.111) in Assessment in guided inquiry state that “A grade on a paper is a limited indication of the specific learning that has taken place in inquiry…This type of evaluation provides limited opportunity for students to reflect on the process and develop their own growth potential”. Why then do universities the world over use academic papers as the main form of evaluation for their students? They could learn from this approach and start creating opportunities for evaluations that allow for deeper learning of the course content and also allow (where applicable) for the creation of a piece of work that could be practically applied in the field. For instance I would have gained a much deeper level of understanding of information literacy models if rather than write a paper critically comparing two information literacy models I had been asked to create a guided inquiry unit of work using one information literacy model for a particular grade or class in the school at which I teach. If this was the case I would have researched different models of information literacy, comparing and contrasting them, chosen one, collaborated with the classroom teacher to choose the curriculum area and broad topic and created a unit of work that I could have then actually implemented in the school in which I teach. This to me would have been a much more user-friendly and enjoyable assignment that I would have had a lot more motivation to complete.

Looking back on my early university years when I was first studying to be a teacher the assignments that really captured my attention and motivated me were the ones in which I created something that could be used practically in the classroom. I remember writing lots of essays but I certainly don’t remember what they were about or how they helped me once in the classroom however I do remember a lot of the units of work that I wrote and then utilised. It has certainly made me think more critically about the types of assessment and evaluation that I have given and will give in the future to the students that I teach.

Reference:

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

The role of the teacher librarian with regard to evidence based practice

The current educational climate is very data driven and achievement oriented. Teachers are under a lot of pressure and are expected to get results and be accountable for everything they do or don’t do. Teacher librarians (TL) are under even more pressure with the current economy to prove that they are effective, make a difference and get results in order to demonstrate their value to a school and retain their position in the school. In order to demonstrate this value TLs need to collect and collate evidence and be prepared to utilise this evidence to defend their position and prove their worth.

Evidence based practice is the process of documenting how teacher librarians make a difference in learning. It demonstrates the direct link between the activities of the TL and improved student outcomes, a link not recognised by many educators despite studies proving the fact (Todd, 2003). Evidence can and should be collected in a variety of forms and from different points throughout the lessons. This documentation can include things like work samples, rubrics, journals, test scores, evaluations and anything that will show success in what was being taught. This evidence should then be used to make clear statements outlining what the students have gained from the lessons taught.

Evidence based practice is also vital for the TL in their professional practice of teaching information literacy to students. In order to assess the effectiveness of the lessons taught TLs should be collecting evidence, reflecting on what worked or responding to what was not effective in order to facilitate change and create continuous improvement (Eldredge, 2000 in Todd, 2007). The 21st Century sees an increasingly complex informational and technological world that students need to function effectively in and TLs need to take the lead in planning for a learning centre that will be dynamic, flexible and high-tech in order to cater for these needs (Hay & Todd, 2010, p30). Therefore evidence based practice is also about strategic thinking, working with the evidence gathered to inform effective practice. TLs as a specialist practitioner need to take control of their own professional learning journey through such things as seeking access to professional development, joining professional networks and associations and attending conferences (Hay & Todd, 2010, p37).

Evidence gathered in evidence based practice should be used to demonstrate accountability for what TLs teach as well as to advocate for improvements in school libraries. To do this evidence findings need to be shared with others in meaningful ways over time (Oberg, 2002, p10-13). The school principle has the greatest influence from a school level to facilitate change and evidence gathered should be used to educate about the role of the TL as well as to gain support for the role. Through gaining support for the role of the TL and school library such things as time for collaboration, budget increases to meet growing requirements and flexible timetabling, etc can be seen as beneficial and therefore as greater priorities.

TLs must use evidence based practice in their role as a professional for several reasons; to have positive proof of their worth and value, to inform their own practice and facilitate effective programs and to educate and inform those in power in order to successfully advocate for the needs of the students and the school library. Evidence based practice is a powerful and effective tool for a TL in a 21st century library.

References

Hay, L., & Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: The conversation beginsScan, 29(1), 30-42.

Oberg, D. (2002). Looking for the evidence: Do school libraries improve student achievement?School Libraries in Canada, 22(2), 10-14

Todd, R.J. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievementSchool Library Journal.1st April

Todd, R. J. (2007). Evidenced-based practice and school libraries : from advocacy to action. In Hughes-Hassell, S. & Harada, V. School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 57-78). Westport, CY : Libraries Unlimited.

The role of the teacher-librarian in practice with regard to principal support

The unique role of the teacher-librarian (TL) is one that, recent studies have demonstrated, fosters student achievement when working collaboratively (Farmer, 2007). This collaborative planning can only be accomplished successfully with the support of the principal. It is therefore essential that TL’s take the initiative in getting their principal ‘on board’.

Hartzell (2002) states four reasons for the inaccurate perceptions of librarians: 1) the long-held images of librarians, often from childhood; 2) professional training not addressing the changing nature of their role; 3) the nature of the job, i.e. empowering others, often in the background; and 4) a lack of self-promotion. These perceptions need to be changed and it’s up to TL’s to change it.

Changing perceptions will require a concerted effort from TL’s and considerable communication not only with principals but with staff, students and parents. Oberg (2006) maintains that TL’s need to gain respect in three key ways: through professional credibility which requires qualifications in both education and librarianship, by communicating effectively with principals, and working to advance school goals.

TL’s must be leaders. They need to offer in-servicing and professional development to staff and principals and be active participants and professional advocates in the ongoing advancement of the school’s information literacy program. They need to seek and create opportunities for collaboration with all members of the learning community; discussing and cooperatively planning and teaching units of work. TL’s should inform their principals of their collaborative planning efforts and invite them to witness the outcomes in person. And as leaders they should also ‘’engage in reflective practice to increase their effectiveness’’ (Purcell, M. 2010).

They need to have a concept of the future development of the library’s program and services, including collection development and any issues that may affect the library’s potential. This vision should be explained to the principal. The information literacy program and the TL’s role in the implementation of that program should be outlined, including the opportunities for collaborative planning and teaching. The principal needs to see the library “as a centre of learning first and a centre of resources second” (Herring, 2007).

Oberg (2006) further suggests that principals and TL’s need to be allies with a shared view of school goals and a vision for the future. TL’s “should help their principals see the strong connection between library program goals and school goals, that a close alignment between the principal’s vision and the teacher-librarian’s vision is of benefit to both of them” (Oberg, 2000).

Some TL’s have quite a task ahead of them. They are dealing with long-held perceptions, often reinforced by the media of a role that has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. They need to be strong, patient pioneers on a mission of meaningful change with their eyes firmly on the destination of a collaborative school environment that facilitates student achievement.

References:

Farmer, L. (2007) Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide. 13(1), 56 – 65.

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

Hartzell, G. (2002). What’s It Take? Presented at the Washington 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.

Hartzell, G. (2009, August 25). Librarian-proof libraries? [Online blog post]. Retrieved from Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk blog, http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/8/25/librarian-proof-libraries-guest-rant-by-gary-hartzell.html

Henri, J. & Boyd, S. (2002). Teacher Librarian Influence: Principal and Teacher Librarian Perspectives. School Libraries Worldwide. 8(2), 1 – 17.

Kaplan, A. G. (2007). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303.

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

Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administratorsTeacher 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.

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.

Are school librarians an endangered species?

We were asked to view 5 leader’s responses to this question and state what we thought the ‘take home message’ was.

After viewing the 5 video podcasts I would have to say that ‘the take home message’ is very much focussed on 21st century learning and preparing students for being citizens of the 21st century. A century very much defined by information and technology.

As teacher librarians our role needs to be one of information literacy leader. We should be mentors to staff and students in being critical users of information and ideas and should be experts in finding, evaluating and using information for learning.

It is also important in this age of information that we maintain our core values and in particular the core value of freedom of information. We need to be keenly aware of censorship in its many forms and especially within ourselves in relation to the personal biases that we all carry.

We are not endangered but are in need of constant adaptation in order to survive and thrive.