Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Librarians and Teachers as Research Partners: Reshaping Practices Based on Assessment and Reflection

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Librarians and Teachers as Research Partners: Reshaping Practices Based on Assessment and Reflection

Article excerpt

As critical partners in shaping quality learning experiences, school library media specialists have a major stake in examining their teaching practices through the lens of actual student behaviors. Empowerment results when they collaborate with fellow teachers in implementing strategics, reflecting on the results, and sharing them with the professional community. This article focuses on the transformative nature of practitioner research. It describes a multi-year project to identify key components of effective teaching in collaborative elementary school classroom-library settings, and to translate this knowledge into practitioner-facilitated professional development alternatives. A summary of this article was presented at the International Research Symposium sponsored by the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, Rutgers University, convened in New York, April 28-29, 2005. The Symposium was funded by a grant from the US Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Introduction

The key to building instructional leadership is empowering partners to examine their teaching practices through the lens of actual student behaviors. Practitioners effectively gain this knowledge when they collaborate with colleagues in implementing strategies, reflecting on the results, and sharing them with the professional community (York-Barr & Duke, 2004). This learning is situated in practice and must be learned in practice. In short, schools are places where educators as well as students learn (Hiebert, Gallimore & Stigler, 2002).

Frequent critical reflection is a formal and central part of inquiry. The idea of reflective practice, which was originally popularized by Schon (1983), emphasizes that the tacit knowledge implicit in professional actions must be described through a process of observation and reflection. Mezirow (2000) states that such learning is transformative; that is, meaning is made by negotiating interpretations, using contextual understanding, critically reflecting on assumptions, and validating meaning by assessing rationales. Proponents of the notion of reflection-in-action maintain that this results in elaborating frames of reference, learning new frames, altering points of view, and transforming habits of mind (Mitchell, 2003; McNiff, 2002; McKernan, 1996; Schön).

The process of reflection is not necessarily a private activity. Research on restructuring schools indicates that teachers in effective schools do not operate in isolation (Newmann & Wehlage 1995). Student achievement is related to teachers being collaboratively responsible for student learning. McGregor (2004) stipulates that library media specialists must situate themselves "solidly in the middle of this collaboration" (p. 202). As key members of school communities, they have a crucial stake in contributing to the quality of teaching that shapes students' learning.

Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (AASL & AECT, 1998) places student learning unequivocally at the core of services provided by the library media center. As instructional colleagues, library media specialists are strategically positioned to assume a leadership role in curriculum reform (Lance, 2003; Doiron & Davies, 1998; Todd, 1997; Woolls, 1997; Stripling, 1995). They help to resolve instructional problems and model reflective practice. Information Power states that "leadership is demonstrated when information literacy is integrated across all subjects and grades, when connections are made between information-based learning and the skills students will need in the workplace and home" (p. 52).

Research Focus

Over the past decade, my investigations as an academic researcher have converged on the following overarching questions related to the importance of reflective practice in improving classroom and library instruction.

* How do instructional partners effectively facilitate student learning, particularly learning that embeds the information search process? …

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