Part B: Critical Reflection

Provide a critical synthesis of your reflection on how your view of the role of the teacher librarian may have changed during the subject.

This should include examples captured from your three compulsory blog tasks, other personal reflections posted on your blog, and from participation in the ETL401 forums.

When I began my journey in ITL401 I understood that the role of the teacher librarian encompassed both administrative and teaching aspects.  However, what I did not realise was how large both these roles are.  My awareness of the myriad aspects of the role of the TL was first awakened after reading Valenza’s manifesto (2010).  The readings, blog and forum posts have really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the impact a successful TL can have.  I feel as though I’ve started to make my way towards an understanding but haven’t quite reached it as yet.

Singing for my supper.

It makes complete sense for a TL to collaborate with classroom teachers.  However, it is not something I have encountered either when I was a student or as a classroom teacher.  There are so many positive outcomes for classroom teachers, the TL and the students that could be achieved if the power of collaboration was used.  The TL really needs to take the initiative in this area.

Before undertaking this course I had not considered the need for the TL to prove their worth to the school.  However, the readings have convinced me that evidence based practice is essential in order for the TL to be able to demonstrate their value and more importantly to inform their direction.

Omnipresence

Something that really excited me, although I hadn’t really thought about it before, was the requirement for a successful TL to be omnipresent in the school community, both physically and virtually.  There are so many ways in which a virtual presence can be maintained, including blogs, websites, emails, twitter, QR codes – the list goes on.  There are heaps of wonderful library blogs around.  My favourite would have to be the Daring Librarian.   I’m still working on my own blogging skills.

I realise how important it is to be physically present as well in terms of the TL being a school leader and collaborator.

A better teacher

Constructivism was something I encountered when I was undertaking my teaching degree.  I’ve had few forays into constructivism whilst teaching and this course has fuelled my desire to return to this path.

The essay about information literacy has probably had the most impact on me as a classroom teacher (and as a future TL).  I was intrigued by the notion of models for students to follow.  I had always thought of information literacy as research skills so one outcome for me of the readings was the development of a new vocabulary and awareness. I was amused by the irony that I was experiencing  Kuhlthau’s uncertainty principle first hand whilst researching.   I was really taken by McKenzie’s Research Cycle.  I like the idea of question formulation to direct and refine research.  I also love the idea of opportunistic learning which I now realise I have been doing all along.

Finding my voice

This subject is the first time I’ve studied entirely online.  It’s been much easier than I thought, although I do still find nothing can replace physical interaction with people. I’ve found reading the forum posts very enlightening.  I have been particularly impressed with David Ralston’s posts.  They are delivered with confidence – something I aspire to in my writing, although I have to say I’m a bit of a fence sitter.

I’ve tried out a couple of online sites to help me with studying.  The first is citelighter in order to track my readings. I even purchased a year’s subscription so that I could have access to PDFs.  However, whilst it has helped with tracking my thoughts on websites, the PDF bit is rather clumsy, and the bibliographic tracking could be much better.  However, I am going to recommend the free version to my senior students.  I have also been using Livebinder to save and organise any websites that might be useful.  This has been much more successful.

My academic writing skills are a bit rusty.  One of the marker’s comments from my first essay was that I needed to find my voice.  I hope I have done that in the second essay – I’ve certainly strived to do so.  I think, like anything, my academic writing skills can only improve with practice.  Something I’ve enjoyed about the blogging is the relative informality of it.

Techno wizard

I’m really looking forward to the next subject ICT Experience.  The technological aspect of the role of the TL fascinates me.  I’m still finding my way as far as blogging goes.  I have not used tags and now I wish that I had.  I will definitely use tags in any future blogs.  During this course I have developed a love for the infographic – there are so many possible applications.

On a smaller point, I have finally mastered the art of the hanging indent in Word.  A valuable skill for referencing in essays!

Word count: 806

References

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

Customisable search engine

I’ve just finished researching and writing an essay about information literacy.  The model I was looking at, McKenzie’s Research Cycle, looked at serendipitous finding of information and at searching strategies.  I’ve just come across a website serendipitously about how to customise web searching.  Might come in handy for training students about reliable and pertinent sources.

http://www.teachthought.com/technology/how-to-create-a-custom-search-engine-for-your-students/

Blog Task 3: Information Literacy is more than a set of skills.

 Present an argument for or against this statement, drawing upon the research and professional literature to support your views.

Information literacy is more than a set of skills.  It is both a set of skills and a process that is contextualised.

There has been a lot of debate about exactly what constitutes information literacy.  Whilst it is recognised as important that information literacy be included in the school curriculum, there are many varied definitions and little consensus as to what these definitions are (Herring, 2013).   Just how important is it to define information literacy?  Williams (2001 cited in Herring, 2013) thinks that all this debate about what constitutes information literacy is irrelevant to the practise of it.

 

Is information literacy even the correct term to be using in this day and age of digital technologies?  There is debate even over the definition and relevance of alternative terminology.  Kapitzke 2003 (cited in Herring, 2013), uses the term hyperliteracy.  Digital literacy, multiliteracy and transliteracy are other terms being bandied about.

 

I tend to agree with Williams in that the raging debate in the literature about the terminology is confusing and to some degree pointless in terms of students, teachers, teacher librarians and schools.  As a teacher and an aspiring teacher librarian, at the coal face, as it were, this debate is not helpful.  It is being able to assist students in attaining information literacy and how to assist them to do so which is of prime importance.  Research suggests that school students are not being taught information literacy (CIC, 2012) and the almost limitless available information or ‘infoglut’ (McKenzie, 1999) is making it increasingly difficult for students to find “relevant and accurate answers” (Head, 2013, p. 476).

 

Information literacy models such as the Big 6, the PLUS model, Seven Pillars, McKenzie’s Research Cycle, and Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) outline a process for the information seeker to follow.  This is indicative of information literacy as a process. 

 

Internationally, information literacy has been identified as a set of skills that is required for lifelong learning.  This is evident in the Prague declaration of 2003, the Alexandria proclamation of 2005, the definition given by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and other similar bodies (Information Literacy website, 2013). 

 

I like to think of information literacy as both a set of skills and as a process, as posited by Abilock (2007).  Indeed, Big 6 developer, Eisenberg (2009) argues that information literacy skills sit within a logical process.  Bruce (2003) and Sundin (2008), note that the way in which information literacy is experienced is contextual.  I feel that context is a particularly important aspect of information literacy.  Without context, the information seeker is lost.  Without context, information literacy models are too generic and therefore do not help the information seeker.

 

References

Abilock, D. (2007). Information literacy: building blocks of research: overview. Retrieved from http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/1over/infolit1.html

Bruce, (2003). Seven Faces of Information Literacy: Towards inviting students into new experiences. Retrieved from http://www.bestlibrary.org/digital/files/bruce.pdf

Cable in the Classroom (CIC). (2012). Tmi: Reflections on information literacy. Retrieved from http://www.ciconline.org/blog/posts/tmi-reflections-on-information-literacy/

Eisenberg, M. (Executive Producer). (2009, June).

Information Literacy: The most basic of basics. [Webcast]. Retrieved from http://uweoconnect.extn.washington.edu/publicmbeinfolit/

Head, A. (2013). 472 project information literacy: what can be learned about the information-seeking behavior of today’s college students?. ACRL. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2013/pape…

Herring, J. E. (2013).  A Critical Investigation of Students’ and Teachers’ Views of the Use of Information Literacy Skills in School Assignments. American Association of School Librarians (AASL).  Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume9/informationliteracy.

McKenzie, J. (1999). The research cycle. From Now On The Educational Technology Journal, 9(4). Retrieved from http://www.fno.org/dec99/rcycle.html

 

 

 

Collaboration

The role of the teacher librarian is fulfilled in a school that believes in collaborative practice and where teachers are leaders. But many teachers see working with other teachers as a major challenge. In fact they might fight against this.

In such circumstances what would be an appropriate response from the TL?

The TL’s job is about people (NSW DET, 2010).  Softly, with regard to the people in the school community, but with zeal and consistency, would be an appropriate response from the TL.  Essentially, embracing the multiple roles that Valenza (2010) has outlined for teacher librarians and simply being the best TL possible, is the way to go.  Collaboration occurs more easily with principal support (Farmer 2007), so the first objective would be to get the principal onside.  Other key staff members to have on the TL “roll” include the STLAs and head teachers (especially of teaching and learning).  These staff members might ‘grease the wheels’ in terms of encouraging other staff to collaborate with the TL.

Being visible (virtually and physically) in the school community by taking a leadership role and becoming involved in committees and providing professional development opportunities for staff will make sure that the TL is known to, and hopefully respected by, teaching staff.  Target reluctant teachers and ‘soften them up’ by sending them the occasional useful resource. TLs should take the initiative by approaching teachers either individually or as a group and offering services using concrete examples with possible collaborative tasks.  Word of mouth is still a powerful motivator and reluctant collaborators might be more inclined to ‘give it a go’ once there have been some successful TL/teacher collaborations.

Finally, understanding that 100% collaboration might not be possible or even feasible (imagine how busy the TL would be if every single classroom teacher was clamouring to collaborate!).

From your reading so far, can you build a convincing argument for collaboration between the TL, Principal and teachers at a school that you know?

The literature is adamant.  Students benefit from teacher collaboration.  Using action research as proposed by Harada (2004) can assist the TL in making a case for collaboration.  At the school I work in (as a classroom teacher) I would definitely call in the head teacher of teaching and learning to assist me with collecting, collating, analysing and presenting any action research I decided to undertake (imagining I am now a TL).  She is a gun at using NAPLAN and HSC results and other data.

References

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.

Harada, V.H. (2004). Action research: How teacher-librarians can build evidence of student learning. Scan, 23(1), 27-33.

NSW Department of Education and Training. (2010). School Libraries 21C.  Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/assets/pdf/21c_report.pdf

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

Time Management

In your group, share your thoughts on how a TL, who is the only professional TL in the school, makes decisions about devoting time to aspects of library management such as:

  • managing the physical space;
  • collection management and access;
  • using the library management system, and
  • also devoting time to planning for and teaching information literacy in the school.

In a position such as TL, in which the day (appears to be, at any rate) much less structured than that of a (secondary) classroom teacher with a rigid timetable, it is important to allocate blocks of time for various tasks, creating a timetable. Prioritising and making lists are essential steps to good time management.

Of course, there are unplanned things which can crop up during the day.  These would “disrupt” any planned activities.  Flexibility, is therefore a necessary attribute – one has to be able to ‘roll with the punches’.

If the TL is fortunate enough to have support staff, and/or volunteers, then delegation of appropriate tasks is another strategy.

I found the Effective Time Management for Teachers webpage interesting.  It posed the question “How do you manage your time”.  As a new TL, or one struggling with time management, it might be useful to keep a diary for a week or two to record exactly what was done during the day during what times and for how long.  This would help with allocating time for tasks and in identifying areas of faffing about, or tasks that could be delegated or otherwise dealt with.

References

Wilson, T. (2009-2013).  Time Management Success. Effective Time Management for Teachers: How to manage your workload

 

Information Literacy

Has the school in which you work (or know best) developed an information literacy policy?

The secondary school in which I work does not have an official information literacy policy. We were recently informed that our school is the recipient of Commonwealth funding to improve literacy and numeracy.  It will be interesting to see if a broader view of literacy is taken in terms of the use of this funding or if it will go to traditional forms of literacy – ie reading and writing.

Should this be an essential policy for a 21st century school?

It would seem from the myriad interpretations of the definition of information literacy (Langford, 1998) that creating such a policy might be rather tricky. However, an attempt should be made to create a flexible policy that fits the school culture and how the school community views information literacy.  I think, with the looming implementation of the new Australian curriculum in some faculties, that information literacy will need to be addressed in the planning of new units as technology is embedded in the syllabuses.

How is information literacy approached in your school or experience? Do you see gaps in the approach used, and if so, where?

Information literacy is approached in a rather haphazard manner at my school.  It seems to be up to the classroom teachers as individuals to apply information literacy to varying degrees and standards, or not at all.  The TL runs some basic introductory lessons and is very happy to help with information literacy when approached – but has not directed or implemented an overarching or uniform approach in the school.  I have no idea what happens during computer lessons – I imagine there would be some form of information literacy addressed there.

How can a transliteracy approach expand the teaching role of the TL beyond the traditional information literacy paradigm?

Ipri (2010) has effectively stated that transliteracy is difficult to pin down both in terms of defining it and in terms of where it is headed.  It appears to be still evolving.  This makes it rather difficult to identify how the teaching role of the TL could be expanded by using a transliteracy approach.  However, it is evident that the TL does need to keep abreast of the developments.

References

Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567.

Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification

Blog Task 2: The Role of the Teacher Librarian with regard to constructivist learning and the Australian Curriculum

The essence of constructivist learning is that the learning is student centred rather than teacher centred.  The role of the teacher librarian and classroom teacher is that of facilitator.

There are a number of constructivist learning techniques.  Project based learning, problem based learning and guided inquiry are all examples of constructivist learning. The differences between them are fairly subtle and they all share common characteristics such as collaboration, the use of ICT, and the development of higher order thinking skills.  These characteristics of constructivist learning are supported by the NSW Quality Teaching Model (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2006) that outlines the following three dimensions of pedagogy:

“promoting high levels of intellectual quality.

…promoting a quality learning environment.

… develops and makes explicit to students the significance of their work”

(NSW Department of Education and Training, 2006, para. 3.).

The goal of constructivist learning is to enable students to develop lifelong learning skills and skills which are appropriate for the 21st century.

With the introduction of the Australian Curriculum, there has been an emphasis placed in the new syllabus documents on precisely these elements.  The NSW History syllabus, for example, states that the value and attitudes of the K-10 students aim for is “…to develop a lifelong interest in and enthusiasm for history….[and] the opportunity to contribute to a democratic and socially just society through informed citizenship”  (Board of Studies NSW, 2012, para. 3.).

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has outlined seven general capabilities which “will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.”  (2011, para. 3.).  These are literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology (ICT) capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding, and intercultural understanding.

ICT capability, critical and creative thinking and personal and social capability lend themselves especially well to constructivist learning models.

It is obvious that ICT capability falls well within the purview of the role of the teacher librarian.  The ASLA and ALIA Standards of Professional Excellence (2004) outlines collaboration with teachers, a focus on positive student learning outcomes and evidence based practice as something for all teacher librarians to aspire to. All of these aspects of the standards are met when teacher librarians take an active role in working with classroom teachers in developing and implementing constructivist learning opportunities.  In addition, it is telling that ASLA (2012) has a statement on guided inquiry, one of the forms of constructivist learning.  Fitzgerald (2011) points to inquiry learning as a vehicle for evidence based practice.

A number of authors have outlined roles for teacher librarians with which constructivist learning is clearly aligned.  Harvey (2009) outlines a number of roles for teacher librarians as innovator, technology integrator and collaborator.  Whilst constructivism is championed by the Australian education system, it is not necessarily put in place at the classroom level.  Doing so requires a level of innovation –  Harvey’s teacher librarian is perfectly placed for such an undertaking.  Valenza’s (2010) detailed manifesto of the role of the teacher librarian includes aiding students to see their impact beyond the classroom – a key goal of constructivist learning.  Haycock (2007) cites several studies which identify collaboration between teacher librarians and classroom teachers as positively affecting student learning outcomes.  Constructivist learning is a team effort (Kuhlthau and Maniotes, 2010) between, at the very least, the teacher librarian and the classroom teacher.

There is a clear need to, and advantage for, the teacher librarian aspiring to Standards of Excellence (ASLA and ALIA, 2004) to embrace constructivism.  The teacher librarian has a valuable skill set well suited to such an undertaking and constructivist learning will assist teacher librarians to meet the mutli-faceted and complex role assigned to them.

References

Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2012). Statement on guided inquiry and the curriculum.  Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/Guided-inquiry-and-the-curriculum.aspx

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

Board of Studies NSW. (2012). NSW syllabuses for the Australian curriculum: Objectives. Retrieved from http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/hsie/history-k10/objectives/

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

Harvey, C. (2009). What should an Administrator expect a School Library Media Specialist to be? Library Media Connection, 28(2). p.45.

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

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

NSW Department of Education and Training. (2006). Professional learning and leadership development: Quality teaching. Retrieved from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/areas/qt/

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

Guided Inquiry

According to Kuhlthau and Maniotes (2010), a minimum of 3 members is required for an instructional team when undertaking guided inquiry tasks, with the option of bringing in further expert members when required.  Whilst a classroom teacher and teacher librarian working together can be arranged, bringing in a third core member into this  team would certainly pose challenges regarding time tabling issues.  However, (and I’m coming from a high school perspective here) the cross curricular emphasis in the  new syllabuses certainly lends itself to this sort of thing. 

Having all 3 members present at the same time during the inquiry process might be much trickier to arrange. Technology could be harnessed to address this in a variety of ways.  Pre-recorded help could be made ready by the various expert members and then produced when the available members thought they were necessary.  Additional experts could be brought in virtually.  The problem with both of these is that the assistance would be static and not necessarily meet the exact needs of the students.  Scheffers (2008) mentions the use of connected classrooms – joining up with classes at other schools.  In Sheerman’s  (2011) account only the teacher librarian and classroom teacher were involved in each lesson of the guided inquiry project.

The experiences of Caddies Creek and Broughton Anglican College were certainly very encouraging.  Students and teachers alike seemed to find the projects beneficial. Fitzgerald (2011) notes that guided inquiry serves a dual purpose – it is useful gathering evidence as well as beneficial for student learning.  This is a strong incentive for teacher librarians.

References

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

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

Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided inquiry: A learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42.

Sheerman, A. (2011). Accepting the challenge: Evidence based practice at Broughton Anglican College. Scan, 30(2), 24-33.

Topic 3 – the TL and the curriculum

How do the dimensions of quality teaching relate to inquiry learning and project-based learning approaches?

According to The Australian School Library Association’s (2009) policy statement on resource based learning and the curriculum, there is a change in teaching practice away from the traditional teaching role towards the teacher as a facilitator of learning. 

I find the differences between inquiry learning, project based learning and problem based learning to be quite subtle.  The common element between them all is that the teacher is a facilitator of learning with the students as the driving force.  This does require that the students are proactive and take responsibility for their own learning (O’Connell, n.d.).

Examine this same question from the pedagogical perspective your school or education system is currently employing. 

My school does not have a unified pedagogical approach to teaching.  Each faculty works differently and each individual  teacher uses different teaching techniques.  This is beneficial in that, as all students do not learn in the same way, all teachers do not have the same teaching style.  A unified pedagogical approach would be too constrictive in terms of the teachers but also in terms of being able to differentiate learning for varying learning styles.  However, there is a slow and subtle shift towards constructivism across the faculties in the school.  This movement is somewhat limited by the rigid assessment policies and timetables that are in place but there are ways around this.

What is an appropriate role for the TL in curriculum development?

As seen in the video Highly Effective School Librarians Cultivate 21st Century Learners (Colorado State Library, 2011.), “A highly effective school librarian teaches students how to locate, select, evaluate and synthesize information”.  That is, the role of the teacher librarian is to equip students with the skills necessary to undertake their own learning.  These skills are transferable.  This is ‘lifelong learning’ in action.  Collins et. al. (2008) suggest that scaffolding and supporting resources are important in project based learning.  This is an area in which the TL should be collaborating with the classroom teacher.

Should a Principal expect that teachers would plan units of work with the TL?

Herring (2007), in his list of the multi-faceted role of the teacher librarian, lists curriculum leader and instructional partner.  If we accept this, then a school Principal should absolutely expect that teachers plan units of work with the TL. ASLA (2003) focuses on curriculum leader as one of the three main roles of the TL (Herring, 2007).  The Canadian guidelines also focus on TLs as teacher collaborators (Herring, 2007).  However, in order to fulfill this role, the TL does need the support of the Principal.

What benefits can a school obtain from the active involvement of the TL in curriculum development?  How are students disadvantaged in schools that exclude the TL from curriculum development?

Herring (2007) cites a number studies which have demonstrated that the students in schools with active TLs who collaborate with classroom teachers demonstrate increased learning.  Conversely, in schools that exclude TLs from curriculum development, student learning is, if not decreased, then somewhat stymied.

“The school media specialist is in the unique position to help classroom teachers differentiate instruction.” (Lamb, 2011, p.33)  As TLs, we have the skills to enhance student learning. 

References

Australian School Library Association. (2009). Statement on resource based learning and the curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/resource-based-learning-curriculum.aspx

Collins, T. et al  (2008, 7-10 October) Supporting location-based inquiry learning across school, field and home contexts.  In Proceedings of the MLearn 2008 Conference,
 Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, UK.

Colorado State Library. [coloradolibraries].  (2011, July, 27). Highly Effective School Librarians Cultivate 21st Century Learners [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXEBOMjh7AI&list=PL8DD57FDA3F082313

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.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. TechTrends, 55(4), 27-36.

O’Connell, J. (Producer). (n.d.) Teacher Librarian and the Curriculum [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/heyjudeonline/etl401-topicthreeslideshare