An International Study on Principal Influence and Information Services in Schools: Synergy in Theme and Methods

Article excerpt

Support of the principal is a key factor in the implementation of effective programs in schools, An international study of the principal's role in developing and supporting school library programs was conducted in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, Scotland, and South Korea. The purpose of the study was to provide information, for principals and teacher-librarians in countries throughout the world that might inform their efforts to develop information-literate school communities. Principals and teacher-librarians completed three survey instruments: (a) participant demographics; (b) the participants' perceptions and beliefs about the principals' current and future roles; and (c) the participants' views on such concerns as the strengths and challenges of the school library, the contributions of teacher-librarians to teaching and learning, the nature of information literacy, and barriers to integration of information skills. The overall findings of the research project included the following: (a) principals and teacher-librarians differed in age and gender; (b) beliefs of principals and teacher-librarians about the role of the principal were well aligned except where librarians were not also qualified teachers; (c) principals and teacherlibrarians differed most on their current and future perceptions of the role of the principal in advocating and facilitating the development of an information-literate school community; and (d) principals and teacher-librarians agreed that principals should spend more time informing new teaching staff about the importance of collaboration with the teacher-librarian.

Roots of the International Study

The study was based on some key basic assumptions about the nature of school library programs, the role of school librarians, the goals of school library programs, and the future of school libraries. The Australian and Canadian researchers began from a belief that school library programs involve a bundle of innovations that can be difficult to implement, because they require changes not only in how teaching and learning occurs in the library. School library programs that support student learning and that facilitate good teaching practice require many changes outside the specific domain of the school library. For example, teachers need to work with other teachers, to use multiple resources, and to involve their students in designing and evaluating learning projects. A whole-school approach is needed to implement a successful school library program. The school librarian has a critical role to play, but he or she can only do this with whole-school support and, in particular, with the support of the principal.

The Australian and Canadian researchers had been studying the role of the principal in relation to school library programs in their own countries. The roots of the international study can be traced to the network of school library researchers and professionals brought together by the conferences of the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The design of the international study was based on the insights gained by the Australian and Canadian researchers from their studies, using qualitative methods, of principal and teacher-librarian collaboration (see, e.g., Henri & Hay, 1996; LaRocque & Oberg, 1991; Oberg, 1991). These studies found that principal support involved: understanding and believing in the collaborative library or information literacy program; recognizing the importance of the teacherlibrarian; ensuring collaborative planning time and other program resources; providing appropriate staff development; and monitoring implementation of the collaborative school library program. Two underlying patterns pervaded these aspects of principal support: expressing commitment to the school library program and integrating the program into the general program of the school. …

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