Inquiry Summit II & Educator Training

July 28th, 2014


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?

Image: math partners, by woodleywonderworks on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0  License.

–Rebecca Morris

AASL Grant Recipients

July 20th, 2014

Awards & Grants | American Association of School Librarians (AASL) via kwout

As part of my trip to the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, I attended the ceremony recognizing this year’s American Association of School Librarians award and grant recipients. This annual program (free to attend!) celebrates innovative and dedicated individuals and teams of educators, library advocates, and school librarians.

I mentioned one of the recipients to a student today, and in searching for a link to the awards for the person’s name, I found that the entire program is online at AASL’s website! It’s a keeper, a collection of programs and people who work to make school libraries the best they can be for students and for learning. Take a look!

Here is the link to the awards program:

At the same website, you can read about the individual awards. Nominate someone or apply for next year’s awards yourself!

–Rebecca Morris

More on Inquiry Summit II: Links to CCSS

July 5th, 2014

This is the second in a series of posts about the 2014 Inquiry Summit II, held on June 27 in Las Vegas, prior to the ALA Annual Conference.

In my first post about the Summit, I wrote about the discussion that opened our session: participants’ responses to the question: “why are you here?” One of the reasons that we were all at the Summit (sponsored by ABC-CLIO and facilitated by Libraries Unlimited Senior Acquisitions Editor, Sharon Coatney) was to discuss and reflect on inquiry in today’s schools.

Following the period of sharing and introductions, we spent time in small groups moving around the room and answering three thought questions about inquiry. I’ll share some of the highlights of our discussions in my next posts!

With the exception of states which have not adopted the Common Core State Standards, the CCSS are an ongoing focus for schools and stakeholders. This was the direction of our team’s first question:

How are the Common Core State Standards changing the need/interest for inquiry learning?

The participants at my table concluded that the CCSS provides the impetus for classroom teachers to pursue inquiry with their students, and that this presents a timely opening for librarians to seize. As part of this collaboration and professional development process, librarians can remind teachers what inquiry is, and identify aspects of inquiry that they (the teachers) are doing already.

We talked a lot about this separation between librarians’ interests in inquiry and teachers’ commitment to their subject areas. There is a perceived lack of connection between the CCSS and inquiry activities, and this troubled us. There are links to be maximized.

Perhaps (we thought) some of the challenge may come in the appearance that inquiry activities are something extra, and that in the current climate, there isn’t time for anything extra. Really, though, as we talked about, teachers may well already be doing aspects of inquiry in their classrooms and possibly bypassing the library. For example, with the emphasis on constructing text-based evidence from primary sources in the ELA Standards for Social Studies, teachers might rely solely on materials suggested by textbooks or identified in the standards. The Emancipation Proclamation was an example that came up a few times as a go-to, but as we wondered: what OTHER primary sources and databases might librarians offer as part of this instruction? What connections might librarians build between their information expertise and the content-area expertise of the classroom teachers?

What do you think about this focus question about the changing needs and interest in inquiry because of the CCSS? What can librarians do when teachers bypass the library?

Share your responses in the comments, and check back for the next posts about Inquiry Summit II.

–Rebecca Morris