Keep Going! – Change the culture of schools to develop conversation

My journey continues…

Between 2000 and 2010 I told teachers and students about ISP. We tried in all kinds of ways to adapt what we learnt from it in our information seeking instructions, in our supervision and in the instructions that the teachers gave to the students. We were convinced that it should inform our practice. We made many mistakes. We thought we knew, over and over again. But since the students kept getting more or less impossible assignments and I knew that they wanted us to be kind and needed us to understand their “non-library” questions we learned and learned and learned.

In 2010 I got the chance to get to know Randi Schmidt. The story is long about how this meeting came about but it contains my story with ISP as you’ve read it above, people in Sweden whom I had found and networked with, coincided with financial possibilities and Randi´s and my conviction that ISP/GI really had it. I don´t know if Randi is known to you but my short version of her goes like this: When she found out about ISP she decided to create a program at her school (Gill St. Bernhard, Gladstone, NJ ) that would fully implement the findings of the research – her practice should be based on research. And that she did.

Ten years later I walked into that library. I came as prepared as I could and the ten days that I spent with her, her colleagues, students, teachers, researchers at CISSL and the colleagues that I travelled with from Sweden equipped me with a massive experience. It was just as holistic as the voices I heard from my informants only that the web was getting even more complicated. But there were connections, there were methods, there were forms to be filled in and reflection sheets, structured lessons and instructions and there were questions answered and I saw it all, it wasn’t just talk but also walk.

During my visit I asked myself: what am I going to do with this when I come home? I just thought it would be so sad if I would plant the seeds but then fail to make them grow and flourish. It would be so sad. I wanted so badly to be part of a listening and encouraging culture that would help both grownups and teenagers to create deep knowledge.

So I asked for advice and thought and read my own notes from the trip and the ISP/GI texts over and over again.

I decided to trust conversation and discussion.

I don’t think that we have that as a natural part of our culture in my school when the intention is to develop professional knowledge in the staff.

And I decided to challenge that.

I decided that it was the only way to go and that I knew that I had to be patient and firm. If I or the teachers assumed that we were getting nowhere, nothing was happening I had to remain in the position of a discussing, conversing person. If that didn´t work, nothing else would.

I started by talking to my principals and somehow they must have experienced that there was something – not clear what – of quality in my sayings and doings and a year later I had a full time job. Still unclear what I was doing or should be doing, but there it was.

My vision was not to become a star school librarian but to teach the teachers and then work together with them. In 2013 I had evaluations from teachers, their voices and student voices from six projects, involving about 200 students and six teachers and I was invited to present as a practitioner at the CISSL Symposium celebrating the 30th anniversary of the dissertation of Dr. Carol Kuhlthau.

I flew to the US to talk for 15 minutes. It’s kind of funny to think of it that way, but of course there was so much more to it. I was back at Gill with Randi, I met with new people, learned that my presentation and the result we had was worth something – we were on the right track – and that there was interesting stuff going on in Australia as well. So, going back home again, what next?

I went back and told my school and anyone else that was interested that those who know say that we’re on the right track. We don’t really know what we’re doing but people who know say: keep going. So we did.

Lena

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson in her library

Lena Fogelberg Carlsson in her library

Greetings from Norman, again!

My name is Stacy Ford and I am the Teacher-Librarian at The John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Norman, Oklahoma. I have been an educator for 11 years.  Four of those years were spent as a middle school social studies teacher and the last seven years I have been a Teacher-Librarian.  My current school serves approximately 450 students in grades Pre-K through 5.  Our free and reduced lunch rate is approximately 90%.   An important feature to note for our upper grades (3-5) is there is pretty much a 1:1 student to Chromebook initiative which allows for ample technology integration for our units. The school library operates on a fully flexible schedule.  My schedule allows me to meet with whole groups, small groups, pull out students and push into classes as planned with teachers.  Currently, Kennedy is under construction and the library is under major renovation, where we will have walls for the first time since the building was constructed in 1968!  On a personal note, my wife Erin and I have two kiddos on the ground, ages 3 and 5, and a sweet girl that could be wheels down at literally any moment.  They keep us busy with trips to the local sno-cone stand, public library and right now to any pool we can get into.

As a Teacher-Librarian I was introduced to Guided Inquiry Design by our district library coordinator, Kathryn Lewis, in the 2014-2015 school year.  I participated in a Guided Inquiry Design Institute in the fall of 2015.  Prior to these experiences I was introduced to Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process during my M.L.I.S graduate program at the University of Oklahoma.  My school district has been very supportive of the Guided Inquiry Design process by sponsoring multiple GID institutes and having school librarians lead workshops at district and state conferences.  Most importantly, teachers and principals are being brought into this process alongside librarians, so that Guided Inquiry has not become a “library thing,” where Teacher-Librarian’s are expected to be the expert and implement everything.  This has allowed for TLs and the Teachers to develop better working relationships and a greater understanding of each others role in the instructional process.

As a classroom teacher my students were consistently involved with research projects.  Through my work with my school librarians I began to make these research projects better.  However, they still revolved around a rubric checklist of items, not authentic inquiry questions.  In my role as a teacher-librarian I would say that I have worked with teachers on authentic research projects, that is to say, not simply reporting information the majority of the time.  However, I would admit to working with teachers to assist in the reporting of information in my current practice as well.  The thing I love about Guided Inquiry, and what my school district is doing is that it lets me teach how I have always wanted to teach.  By teaching the way that I want to teach, I mean to say that I allow students the opportunity to research content related information to create knowledge in an authentic fashion.  Along, the way I am able to practice best teaching practices by allowing students to reflect on their learning and make connections with each other based on content.

This week I will be referencing two different Guided Inquiry Design prototype units that I have conducted with teachers and students at Kennedy.  I call them prototypes because they were not perfect examples, but I learned from both of them and the units I have since designed with teachers have benefited from the missteps our teams have made before. Back to the units I will be discussing.  One of the units will be a 3rd grade unit where students were focused on studying animal classification and the other was a 4th grade Native American unit.  There are specific things I love about each of these units and there are things I will redo when we implement them again.  

I’m looking forward to sharing with you this week! 

-Stacy

@StacyFord77

GID Coaches

Hi Happy GID followers!

We’re having summer here in the US and lots of professional development in GID.IMG_0366

As I mentioned in my last post, this week was the fourth GID institute in Norman Public Schools. Because of the size of this district and the way Guided Inquiry requires a collaborative team, the librarians at each school have attended one GID institute this year.  But because many have teachers who now want to join the fun, the librarians are attending the institute a second time to come with their teachers so they can participate as a collaborator.  As you all know, we believe that the school librarian has a critical role to play in the Guided Inquiry Design team.  She is the information specialist/professional as well as the information literacy teacher.  These are two cornerstones to GID a. that information literacy is valued by all team members and taught (Kuhlthau 2004) and b. when students are locating, evaluating, and using information to learn, the information specialist is a key player.

Since the librarians (and one English Language Arts teacher) had already attended the full institute, and implemented at LEAST one unit of GID this year (some, like Kelsey Barker had implemented 5) the leadership in the district and I felt like it was time that we could build capacity in the district to develop coaches for GID.  (I have to take time to acknowledge and thank these amazing leaders who have done everything to implement GID at the highest level, without them NONE of this would be possible, Kathryn Lewis, Shirley Simmons and Beth Fritch.)

In the institute teachers in collaborative teams design a unit of study.  By doing that, they engage in the inquiry process themselves as design requires you to identify the concept of the unit prior to determining the activities that would support students to arrive at their own questions around that concept.  So, teams are going through their own inquiry during the institute. We know that all people going through inquiry can use guidance, and that the strategy of conversing is a support to the process.  Maybe stemming from my background of five years as a teacher effectiveness coach in Denver, I have made coaching an integral part of the GID institute. Typically, I coach each teams during the institute on their units to help them stay on track, answer any questions and push their thinking to move beyond their known ways of doing things.  This institute included double the number of teams than I could handle coaching in the time we had. So, we decided to have the librarians who had been through the training before get some further training on how to coach teams and then give it a go in this institute.

As a result, this wonderful energetic and brilliant group of librarians who have now proved their accomplishments with the process and implementation of GID took on the role of coach in our June 2016 institute.  I want to thank them for their dedication, passion for the work and professionalism in learning with me and coaching their colleagues.  This is the beginning of something bigger and growing GID to help districts build capacity in the future.

Each district might have a different way of handling this, but for me, it is exciting because I think that the role of coach is another great role for librarians.  They are already really good listeners, and work with so many teachers, so collaboration and leading collaborations is natural to them.  Also, as they use the process over and over with different grade levels and content areas, the GID process begins to become internalized, and that is what you really need to understand well in order to coach a team in GID.  I’m excited about the prospect of GID coaching, and this stellar group was a wonderful place to start. Here’s a picture of our first GID Coaches!  There will be more trained in July.IMG_0392

 

I mean come on! Aren’t they great?!  Here we have (L->R) Kristin Lankford, Dana Phillips, Martha Pangburn, Paige Holden, Kelsey Barker, Lee Nelson, Buffy Edwards, and Stacy Ford.  Kudos team!  What a pleasure it was to work with you all!  Aaaaand…

As a result of their coaching, we had 20 excellent prototype units come out of this week’s institute.  10 at the elementary level and 10 more that the secondary level.  Typically an institute can only handle 10 units, so these educators efforts doubled the impact of this professional development for Norman Public Schools!  Kudos!

The Celebrations and presentations of the units were fantastic.  More on that in my next post!

Leslie Maniotes, PhD

Co-Author of Guided Inquiry, Trainer of Guided Inquiry Design

The Guided Inquiry Design Institute

Gearing up for the Guided Inquiry Design Institute is always a time of exciting inspiration for me.  Each time, I think about the audience, consider the perspectives and as I go over my slides I reflect on what is to come.

This institute is such a joy for me to lead because not only does it give me a chance to share the power of the process with teams of teachers and librarians and to some who have never heard about the ISP or GID before. But not only that, the teams get to experience it.  And out of three days they learn so much.  They learn about the process as they themselves engage within it, for designing a unit of study is an inquiry of its own. They learn about themselves as a teacher, and as a learner. They learn strategies for effective instruction and have time to collaborate DEEPLY with their colleagues and teammates. It’s an intensive both ‘oh so worth it’ three days.

This school year I have had the wonderful pleasure to work with Norman Public Schools.  (Have you noticed how many from Norman have contributed to this blog?  Well this is why…) They have partnered with me to provide the full 3 day GID institute for over 100 educators district wide.  Each school has sent a team and now we are working on getting more teachers onboard with two more summer institutes and another coming up this fall. I am more than thrilled because of my passion for this work, sharing this process empowers educators to use a learning centered approach that gives them the process, and flexibility to teach “the way they’ve always wanted to teach.”  This week I have the privilege of working in this brand new school, with over 45 educators to design 20 units of study from Kindergarten to 12th grade in every content area, math, science, social studies, language arts and literature.  It’s been amazing.  We are on day 2 and tomorrow is the final day of sharing, revising and reflection.  Things are HOPPING in Norman.

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Leslie Maniotes

Wait a second, who is the teacher and who is the student?

The things I’ve learned this year with GID are endless.  The students have taught me so much.  As adults who are helping students become lifelong learners, it is important to remember that we are also lifelong learners.  When students are allowed and encouraged to ask their own questions, authentic learning happens.  I knew this, but seeing it firsthand was beyond what I imagined and understood.  The students were enraged at some of the events that happened during the civil rights movement.  They went beyond the who, what, and where questions, and focused on the why.  This is at the heart of lifelong learning.  The students didn’t spit out facts to pacify teachers for grades; they asked the socially conscious questions that could potentially help form who they become as people.  If as educators we can design and implement lessons that end in students questioning such concepts of racism and discrimination, won’t we all be better in the long run?  That’s the goal for me.

When working with students, we are always looking for ways to improve and do it better next time.  This is true for the civil rights movement unit that we did with 7th graders.  While I couldn’t be more pleased with the depth of the questions the students asked, we need to make a few adjustments.  These were mistakes that WE made, not a problem with GID or the students.  As a team, we discussed that the novelty of working with all three classes together was a bit of a distraction for students at first.  One possible solution would be for the students to have more opportunities to work in different groups throughout the year.   Another mistake that we made was not having a note catcher for the students to work on while they were reading and discussing the articles at the stations.  This would help to focus some of those little ones that aren’t necessarily interested in doing what they are supposed to do and provide a bit of comfort for the over-achievers that want to be doing everything right.

One of the struggles that I need to personally work on is time.  To do it properly, GID takes some time.  It takes time to plan and collaborate, and time for implementation.  I think this might be more of a challenge for middle and high school teams than elementary teams.  At the secondary level in our district, students are only in class with a particular teacher for 50 minutes each day.  In order to do a full unit, you need several weeks.  Here is the deal, though.  It takes several weeks IF you only implement in one class.  When working on a smaller unit that I planned with English teacher Paige Holden, we were able to piggyback off of a lesson done in social studies class to drastically cut down on the time needed in English class.  We didn’t have much time in the spring semester with the crazy standardized testing schedule that our students have, but by having social studies teachers do the first two phases of GID, we were able to squeeze in one more unit!  We have 4 days of school left, and we can’t wait to see their final products.  There seems to always be a solution to struggles through creativity and collaboration with colleagues.

Terri Curtis

New Kid on the Block

Hello from Norman, Oklahoma!  My name is Terri Curtis, and I am currently a library assistant at Whittier Middle School.

First and foremost, I’m a mother to three fabulous teenagers.  I know what you are thinking.  Did I actually use fabulous and teenagers in the same sentence?  Yes, I did.  I genuinely like teenagers, and I’m kind of partial to the ones with which I share a home.  This is the end of an era for my family as it is the last of 9 consecutive years with a middle schooler in my house.  In that 9 years, I’ve learned a few things.

  • There is never a dull moment.
  • It is never quiet.
  • Someone is always hungry.
  • Kids have a lot of important things to say and want to be heard…  just like adults.
  • Their feelings and emotions are very real.
  • There is no point in buying new carpet until everyone moves out.
  • They don’t all think and process things the same way.
  • Don’t ask them what they think if you aren’t prepared to listen to an honest answer.

I truly love this age of child, both as a parent and as an educator.  I get to laugh every single day, and I look forward to seeing my home kids and my school kids as often as humanly possible.  This is a picture of me with my favorite middle school student.  He also happens to be my son.

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In my early parenting years, I got a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.  I used this degree while serving as a director of the preschool in my church.  Once my children got a little older, I decided to head back to school to get my MLIS degree.  I graduated last December, and I’m excited about the thought of having my own library in the future.

As a library assistant in a middle school in Norman, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to GID.  This past school year, our district sent many teams to GID training, and I was happy to have been included.  I’ve been involved in planning and implementing a few units at the middle school level.  I’m excited about GID and the authentic learning that happens when a team of educators collaborates to design and facilitate inquiry-based units for their students.  We truly hold the key to raising a generation of thinkers.

Terri Curtis