In my last post about the June 2014 Inquiry Summit, I wrote about the connections between inquiry and the Common Core State Standards from our team’s conversations at the Summit, including how the emphasis on evidence in reading and writing tasks opens up a door for librarians to contribute to an existing priority for teachers.
As Allison Zmuda writes in School Library Monthly (January 2013, Volume 29, Issue 4),
“The goal of the Common Core is to have students engage with complex problems and questions that require perseverance, analysis, and revision to come up with a solution or conclusion that is grounded in evidence. It requires cross-disciplinary connections, considering multiple points of view, and making sense of contradictory evidence and irrelevant information.” (page 10)
In our team’s second of three table discussions, we considered some of the people and processes involved in making those cross-disciplinary connections. Thinking again about inquiry in the library and fostered through the library program, we were tasked with responding to these questions:
How do we train educators? What materials are needed?
Our second facilitator was Marlene Woo-Lun, who was also this year’s AASL President’s Crystal Apple recipient! She shared with us that the first team to visit her table tackled the term “educators,” defining the persons covered in that group. We worked with their determination that “educators” can represent persons in the school community at-large, including teachers, librarians, administrators, specialists (e.g., guidance), and pre-service teachers in schools and even extending into the higher education pipeline. (That last group is of particular importance to me, thinking about the pre-service librarians taking courses that I teach.)
For me, one of the lasting themes from this discussion was the importance of librarians conveying to teachers that inquiry is a way to amplify what teachers are doing well already within their content areas. Demonstrating the need for increased emphasis on inquiry WITHOUT stepping on colleagues’ toes was a big concern– not to mention avoiding the message that librarians want to share inquiry because teachers might be doing something wrong. Dialogs with teachers might include questions like, “what do you need?” and “what can we build together?” Thus, any inquiry training must attend carefully to the partnership between teachers and librarians, wherein teachers are the content-area experts and librarians are the information experts.
We also talked about the power of first impressions educators have shaped in terms of libraries and librarians. We considered how a mediocre or even poor experience with a school library program may discourage educators from opening up their schedule or curriculum to library involvement. To this end, lots of examples about what inquiry looks like today would be a key component of any materials for inquiry training. We liked the idea of workshops, articles, or blog posts offering different examples of learning experiences for the same standard(s), representing different schedules, integration of different content areas, or just varied approaches to instruction.
Check back for more on Inquiry Summit II and some thoughts on professional development. In the comments, I invite you to offer your responses to these inquiry-related questions. How do we train educators? What materials are needed?