How will my learning from this subject inform my practice to build my leadership capacity?
Ability to thrive
The teacher librarian’s (TL) efficacy is dependent on the principal’s leadership, school culture and their own leadership capacity (Templeton, 2021c). Under the right circumstances, TLs can thrive, exert their prowess and become innovators of pedagogy and technology (ASLA & ALIA, 2004). However, if the stars are misaligned or the school is a quagmire of silos and entrenched bureaucracy, TLs can become stifled, bored, ignored or irrelevant. Therefore it is essential that TLs identify the circumstances that impact their ability tobecome future focused leaders.
I had assumed leadership was managerial in nature, occurred at the top and directives went down the chain of command (Templeton, 2021b). Therefore I was astounded that transformational leadership supports middle school leaders, teacher librarians and teacher leaders implementing changes (Templeton, 2021c; Templeton, 2021d; Templeton, 2021e). As the modules progressed, I learned that TLs thrive best under transformation leadership, as this style cultivates a positive learning culture, promotes team building, advocates professional growth and builds leadership capacity in others so that they can be instruments of change in their departments (Longwell-McKean, 2012, p. 24).
This video connects leadership to culture.
As teachers we all know that a positive learning culture is essential for optimum student learning outcomes, but there seems to be uncertainty if teachers are included in this learning paradigm (AITSL, 2017). Ambivalent or negative learning cultures directly impact implementation of school wide practices, however, TLs are able to make the library space a positive environment by supporting learning in their community through instituting professional development, modelling best practice, provision of resources and mentoring (Bourne, 2021; Templeton, 2021a; Sharman, 2021).
The single most important fact I gained from this course is that rapidly mandated change fails because there is lack of consultation, insufficient processing and integration time, lack of education and inadequate practical support for teachers (Armstrong, 2021b; Cherkowski, 2018; Dilkes et al., 2014). For change to succeed, it must be perceived to be valuable, effectively implemented and practical support during transition freely offered (Kim et al., 2019). Australian teachers are in a change crisis because the introduction of the national curriculum, standardised testing, shift to constructivism and digital learning has led to extreme change (Dilkes et al., 2014; Stroud, 2017). As a result, teachers often manifest disinterest or disinclination because of their reluctance to experiment with new ideas or technologies stemming from feelings of being undervalued, fear of failure, reprisals and even the transitory nature of those changes (Riveros et al., 2013, p.10). Change fatigue is a valid concern and needs to be effectively mitigated before any school wide changes are expected to succeed.
TLs often work independently and many lack clear expectations of their position and the moral confidence to pursue leadership roles (De Nobile, 2018, p.401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.419).
Whilst many TLs use the standards set by ASLA & ALIA (2004) and (AITSL) 2017 to frame their practice, it is recommended that AITSL’s Australian Professional Standard for Principals (2014) is used to future practice and develop leadership capacity (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412). However, many TLs may find these standards daunting, but it is important to remember that leadership is the use of social influence to exert others to achieve a goal or vision and is not restricted to just the top of an organisation.
The future focused TL has four main arenas that support the school vision, responsible resourcing, innovative pedagogies, formal and informal professional development opportunities to mitigate change fatigue, and development of information literacy (Armstrong, 2021a; Bourne, 2021; Stiles, 2021). By combining practical support with coaching or mentoring, the TL is able to slowly change the school’s groundswell. It is through these arenas of focus that TLs can support their colleagues and the principal in achieving the vision of active and engaged citizens who can problem solve effectively, work collaboratively as well as think critically and creatively (MCEETYA, 2008).
Kim, S., Raza, M., & Seidman, E. (2019). Improving 21st-century teaching skills: The key to effective 21st-century learners. Research In Comparative And International Education, 14(1), 99-117. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745499919829214
Lipscombe, K., Grice, C., Tindall-Ford, S., & DeNobile, J. (2020). Middle leading in Australian schools: Professional standards, positions, and professional development. School Leadership & Management 40(5) pp.406-424. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2020.1731685
Longwell-McKean, P.(2012). Restructuring leadership for 21st century schools: How transformational leadership and trust cultivate teacher leadership. UC San Diego. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6746s4p9
The selection of texts is an intrinsic part of education, yet finding appropriate and authentic resources that meet the needs of a diverse classroom can be very challenging for classroom teachers (Cervetti & Hiebert, 2019; Lupo et al., 2019). This difficulty arises from a combination of poor literacy skills, reading reluctance and academic disinterest, which has forced teachers to seek additional methods to facilitate learning (Elish-Piper et al., 2014, p.565). Theoretically similar to literary learning, text sets are collated using learning outcomes, curriculum links or themes and seek to develop literacy, language and learning in a social context (Derewianka, 2015). This strategy is an effective literacy tactic that addresses teacher concerns as well as meets the needs of a diverse classroom, develops critical thinking, promotes multimodal literacy, collaborative learning, and can be successfully integrated across the curriculum.
Text sets are a range of resources that is designed for collaborative learning and is specifically curated to address a learning outcome for a cohort of students (Beck, 2014, p. 13). At its most basic form, text sets are composed of four different textual elements and can be physical, digital or multimodal in nature (Hoch, et al., 2018, p. 701). The efficacy of text sets is increased in social learning environments as it is designed for collaborative learning groups (Beck, 2014, p.13). Like literary learning, text sets use a variety of genres to give students a diverse perspective, but their difference is in that literary learning uses entire pieces of literature to facilitate learning, whereas text sets are collated extracts that will vary in length, literacy level and structure (Beck, 2014, p.13). The first element, or main text, is aimed at the median class cohort literacy and contains most of the relevant information, with the remaining sets used to support the targeted text’s comprehension (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.47). These sets should include a motivation component in a digital, visual or interactive format; an informational portion that provides additional background knowledge; and an accessible element drawn from popular culture (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.47). It is important to note that for teenagers, it is the accessible text that the students use to make connections between themselves, the text and their world, thus placing the learning in that essential third space (Elish-Piper, 2014, p.565; Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.47).
Text sets and literary learning are an extension of Vygotsky’s and Halliday’s theory that language, literacy and learning develops in a social context (Derewianka, 2015). This theory, known as genre theory acknowledges that each genre has its own format and thus will showcase different aspects so that students are able to discourse in greater depth on the subject matter (Derewianka, 2015). Historically single class texts have been used as a foundation for student learning in the form of textbooks and class novels. But this dynamic is problematic in a modern classroom as the average Australian classroom contains a range and breadth of abilities and needs and textbooks are generally aimed at a specific year level (Beck, 2014, p.12). The other pertinent issue is that students are unable to perceive multiple perspectives from a single text viewpoint and this is particularly salient for the teaching and learning of history and science, where bias and perspectives can have significant impact on the reader (Beck 2014, p.12).
There are several literacy benefits to the incorporation of text sets in pedagogical practices. These include, increasing reading volume, improving text diversity, the provision of covert scaffolding, as well as expanding perspectives and connections (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.41; Lupo et al., 2019; Elish-Piper et al., 2014). A notable positive of text set usage is that it increases the reading volume. Many teachers minimise reading by providing textless information in the form of powerpoints to reduce the cognitive load of their students. Unfortunately, the removal of texts is detrimental to literacy development, as reading volume is correlated to comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, disciplinary literacy as well as reading stamina (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.41).
Text diversity is a natural consequence of text sets as the inclusion of literary fiction and fictional narratives introduce students to new and complex concepts and perspectives in a storytelling format; whereas informational texts scaffold students with additional background information for understanding challenging concepts (Derewianka, 2015; Elish-Piper et al., 2014, p. 567). Diversity in texts also exposes students to varying forms of literature that they may not normally experience, which in itself promotes literacy development (Lupo et al., 2019, p.514). Another merit is that text sets increase the number of connections a student will make with the text and thus increase their overall comprehension and understanding of the content within the text (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.43).
Text sets align with Australian educational values as they are child centred and constructivist in nature as students are required to utilise a span of literacy strategies to construct and compose their own meaning (Elish-Piper et al., 2014, p. 567). This construction of meaning occurs in two steps. Firstly, the variety and range of texts increase the number of connections between students and the texts, and thus allows them to go past the alphabet and construct their own knowledge (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.44). Secondly, the explicit instruction of literacy strategies before, during and after reading the texts promotes analysis and coalescence of the information within the texts. Teachers can facilitate reconciliation of prior and new knowledge by requiring students to compose their own analysis, discussions, evaluation, or summarisation (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.49). These compositions allow students to engage in low stake writing which increases their ability to make connections and construct their own meaning from the texts (Werder, 2016). They also offer valuable opportunities for formative assessment and student feedback. In fact the greatest educational benefit arises from the explicit instruction of literacy strategies whilst using the text sets in a student centred manner (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.41; Lupo et al., 2019, p.520). This shows that text sets can be effectively administered and utilised across the curriculum to effectively teach content and bolster literacy and improve learning outcomes.
Example 1: SCIENCE
The use of text sets in science classrooms has significant benefits for teaching and learning (Manie, Mabin & Liebenberg, 2018, p.389). Science textbooks often contain information at a superficial level and their format does not take into concern the developmental age of students (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p. 43). Their information overloaded pages often overwhelm low ability students, and the lack of varied viewpoints minimise opportunities for critical thinking (Lewis & Strong, 2020). The inclusion of text sets in classroom practice provides the students with a range of viewpoints and experiences, as well as engaging disinterested students, developing critical thinking, connecting students to the curriculum and improving disciplinary literacy (Lewis & Strong, 2020; Mania, Mabin & Liebenberg (2018).
Critical thinking in particular is increased when literary texts are used because it encourages students to develop empathy, use their imaginations to explore various perspectives and challenge what is considered normal (Mania, Mabin & Liebenberg, 2018, p.391). In particular, the use of science fiction text extracts allows teachers to combine storytelling with factual science to increase student engagement with the content, provide information in diverse formats and encourage students to envisage future scientific possibilities and their effect on society (Mania, Mabin & Liebenberg, 2018, p.391; Creighton, 2014). This is because science fiction highlights the human response and how science and technologies can be used and misused. The most famous of all these science prophets was Jules Verne who imagined space, underground and underwater exploration in the mid 1800’s. His fictional journeys to the bottom of the ocean, centre of the earth and other space broke social norms and spurred others into creating innovative machines over the past two centuries. Kay (2012) points out that Verne’s scientific calculations in his journey to the moon were only marginally different from the correct calculations of Apollo 11. Whereas, non fiction narratives such as Shetterly’s Hidden Figures (2016) shows how women can challenge racial and gender stereotypes in STEM courses.
Example 2: English
Novel studies in English could be greatly advantaged by the inclusion of text sets. A single class text for a novel study can be simultaneously daunting to low literacy and low ability students, and great frustration to advanced and adept readers. The other issue is that many students lack sufficient background knowledge to fully understand the author’s intent, themes and storyline. Text sets have the ability to put the novel and author’s intent into context as well as provide important background information that allows the student to make sense of the textual components. Harper Lee’s “To kill a mockingbird’’ and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” can be very challenging for students to comprehend, but the inclusion of text sets allows students to develop that prior knowledge and make those valuable connections to improve overall engagement and understanding of the novel (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.46). Including information about segregation in the American south or Jim Crow’s laws, a brief biography of Rosa Parks or even an extract from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech would help place Lee’s novel in context. Likewise, using Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s men” with “Macbeth” would help put the classic text into context of political power and corruption and interestingly, Howell (2016) suggests that embedding nonfiction such as the science of psychosis, hallucinations and sleepwalking, as well as Jacobean era misogyny with further support students trying to understand the plot to a deeper level.
Whilst there is evidence illustrating the efficacy of text sets in the study of literature, there are some teachers who believe that the study of an individual text is in itself a developmental milestone and an important reading experience. Whilst this is true, Lewis and Strong (2020) do point out that a single viewpoint reduces the number of meaningful connections made, and therefore minimises the variety of human perspectives that can be experienced (p.43). Therefore, the use of text sets in an English classroom allows the teacher to use more complex and challenging texts for their practice, as they are able to scaffold them appropriately and thus ultimately improve the overall literacy ability of their students.
Novel Study Year 10 Learning outcomes:
Compare and evaluate a range of representations of individuals and groups in different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1639
Evaluate the social, moral and ethical positions represented in texts (ACELT1812
Identify, explain and discuss how narrative viewpoint, structure, characterisation and devices including analogy and satire shape different interpretations and responses to a text(ACELT1642
Analyse and evaluate text structures and language features of literary texts and make relevant thematic and intertextual connections with other texts (ACELT1774
Text analysis: Biographies and Memoirs
Year 10 Learning outcomes:
Understand how language use can have inclusive and exclusive social effects, and can empower or disempower people (ACELA1564
Analyse and explain how text structures, language features and visual features of texts and the context in which texts are experienced may influence audience response (ACELT1641
Identify, explain and discuss how narrative viewpoint, structure, characterisation and devices including analogy and satire shape different interpretations and responses to a text (ACELT1642
Understand that people’s evaluations of texts are influenced by their value systems, the context and the purpose and mode of communication – ACELA1565
Analyse and evaluate text structures and language features of literary texts and make relevant thematic and intertextual connections with other texts (ACELT1774
Identify and explore the purposes and effects of different text structures and language features of spoken texts, and use this knowledge to create purposeful texts that inform, persuade and engage (ACELY1750
Identify and analyse implicit or explicit values, beliefs and assumptions in texts and how these are influenced by purposes and likely audiences (ACELY1752
This text set was constructed very differently. Most of the students selected a biography or memoir and were asked to analyse the way the text empowered the reader and how it conveyed meaning about the individual’s life and values. However, there were several students with low literacy and therefore did not have the skills to sufficiently interact with the text in a meaningful manner. The decision was made to curate a booklet with collated extracts from a biography of their choice and supported with additional resources for greater understanding of the text.
The humanities or social studies would greatly benefit from the inclusion of text sets. This is because many expository texts can be very dry and unappealing for the modern student that craves narratives and visualisation (Batchelor, 2017, p.13). As literary learning is already a part of this learning area, teachers are more receptive to utilising text sets as part of pedagogical practices. In particular the inquiry component of the History curriculum scope and sequence allows for the inclusion of information through disciplinary and inquiry sources because they promote critical analysis and evaluation (Lupo et al., 2019, p. 519). Picture book extracts are useful in text sets for History classrooms as they provide meaning through illustrations and imagery. This is especially useful for EALD (English as an additional language or dialect) students and those with low literacy as they are able to use the illustrations to make connections with the content and increase comprehension of the information presented (Batchelor, 2017; NSW DET, (2020).
There is a plethora of literary texts that can be effectively used within text sets. Picture book examples include, Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu (2019), Barbara Knox’s Forbidden City (2006), Gouldthorpe’s The White Mouse (2015), and Zee & Innocenti’s Ericka’s Story (2013), whereas Spiegelman’s Maus (1991) is a fantastic Holocaust source for teenagers about the Holocaust. Other texts of value include Anne Franks’ Diary (1947), Kokoda (2004) by Peter FitzSimons, Simpson and his donkey (2008) by Greenwood, The Rabbits (2008) by Marsden and Pemulway, and The Rainbow Warrior (1988) by Willmot to name a few. Interestingly, Lannin (2020) suggests the use of poetry in text sets as it asks students to look beyond the text and into the imagery that it offers. This means that plays, songs and poems such as Manning’s Close to the bone (1994), Roach’s Took the Children away (1989) and Mackella’s My country (1904) would be useful additions to multidimensional text sets (Lannin et al., 2020).
Even though there is sufficient information available as to the efficacy of utilising text sets as part of pedagogical practices for a diverse classroom, there are detractors with their concerns. These reluctant teachers feel that there is insufficient time to use literature and literacy strategies due to pressing and continuous assessment (Balkus, 2019, p.25). But their fears are misplaced. Students are still able to gain content knowledge from literary sources and at the same time, bolster their own literacy abilities and cognitive processes (Derewianka, 2015; Balkus, 2019, p.25).
The inclusion of text sets has many benefits within a diverse classroom. It utilises a compilation of resources to heighten background knowledge, improve student engagement, ameliorate literacy and increase textual comprehension (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.41). Whilst the benefits are easily visible with text diversity, the greatest educational benefit arises from the explicit instruction of literacy strategies whilst using the text sets in a student centred manner (Lewis & Strong, 2020, p.41; Lupo et al., 2019, p.520). This shows that text sets can be effectively administered and utilised across the curriculum to effectively teach content and bolster literacy and improve learning outcomes.
Balkus, Brenna C. (2019). Utilizing Text Sets To Teach Critical Literacy: Bringing Literacy Into The Social Studies Middle School Classroom. School of Education Student Capstone Projects. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.hamline.edu/hse_cp/309
Derewianka, B. (2015). The contribution of genre theory to literacy education in Australia. In J. Turbill, G. Barton & C. Brock (Eds.), Teaching Writing in Today’s Classrooms: Looking back to looking forward (pp. 69-86). Norwood, Australia: Australian Literary Educators’ Association. Retrieved fromhttps://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2620&context=sspapers
Hoch, M., McCarty, R., Gurvitz, D. & Sitkoski, I. (2019). Five key principles: guided inquiry with multimodal text sets. The Reading Teacher 72 (6) pp701-710. International Reading Association CSU Library.
Lannin, A., Juergensen, R., Smith, C., Van Garderen, D., Folk, W., Palmer, T., & Pinkston, L. (2020). Multimodal text sets to use literature and engage all learners in the science classroom. Science Scope, 44(2), 20–28.
Lewis, W., & Strong, J. (2020). Chapter 3 – Designing content area text sets. In Literacy Instruction with Disciplinary Texts: Strategies for Grades 6-12. Guildford Publications. CSU Library.
Lupo, S., Berry, A., Thacker, E., Sawyer, A., & Merritt, J. (2019). Rethinking text sets to support knowledge building and interdisciplinary learning. International Literacy Association 73 (4). Pp. 513-524. CSU Library. DOI:10.1002/trtr.1869
Pennington, L. K., & Tackett, M. E. (2021). Using Text Sets to Teach Elementary Learners about Japanese-American Incarceration. Ohio Social Studies Review, 57(1), 1–14.
Mania, K., Mabin, L.K., & Liebenberg, J. (2018). ‘To go boldly’: teaching science fiction to first-year engineering students in a South African context. Cambridge Journal of Education48 (3), pp389–410, https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2017.1337721
Graphic Organisers in Inquiry Learning – Facilitating the critical thinking process.
Figure 1. (ACARA, 2016) Critical and Creative Thinking.
The ability to pose a question is clearly detailed in ACARA (2016) General Capabilities – Critical and Creative Thinking as a stimulus to learning. Students are challenged to create a rigorous question that can be challenged, examined and analysed to provide useful information for the investigator to draw a conclusion (Rattan, Anand & Rantan, 2019; Werder, 2016; Aslam & Emmanuel, 2010). Werder (2016) in particular argues that inquiry questions need to contain specific disciplinary languages and parameters that define the depth and breadth of the learning experience. Unfortunately, many of the questions constructed by students fall short of this standard because they struggle in developing inquiry questions that are sufficiently open-ended for further investigation, yet within the parameters of their task. This quagmire led to the discussion of using a graphic organiser to scaffold the students into forming an appropriate inquiry question.
Figure 1 – ACARA (2016) Critical and creative thinking continuum.
Theory of Graphic Organisers – Framework for critical thinking.
Language, literacy and learning are greatly improved when graphic organisers are used as they allow for the collection, curation and construction of information in categorical, comparative, sequential or hierarchical organisation (Ilter, 2016, p.42; Lusk, 2014, p.12). Graphic organisers are a constructivist approach to learning because the chart encourages students to write as a method of constructing their knowledge, and can be used to introduce a topic, activate prior knowledge, curate information, connect ideas and concepts, as well as visually present information and assess student understanding (Cox, 2020; Lusk, 2014). They are effective across all year levels, curriculum areas, as well as in educational, personal or professional spheres of life as their efficacy lies in their structure (Cox, 2020). Graphic organisers are diverse and can range from maps, diagrams, tables, and charts, with venn diagrams, concept maps, tables and T-charts are the most frequently used in classroom settings (Cox, 2020).
Graphic organisers allow for the holistic understanding of a topic by allowing challenging concepts to be displayed in a meaningful manner (Lusk, 2014, p.11). Students are able to visually see the breadth and depth of their learning and this can be particularly useful for scaffolding more challenging concepts or to assist low ability students. This visual organisation is especially important for disciplinary literacy development, accumulation of knowledge and the comprehension of challenging concepts (Werder, 2016, p.2; Ilter, 2016, p.42).
Science Learning Outcomes:
Science as Human Endeavour
Solutions to contemporary issues that are found using science and technology (ACSHE135)
People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced development in areas of human activity (ACSHE136)
Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge (ACSIS139)
The year 8 guided inquiry unit was constructed collaboratively between the Science team leader RW and the Teacher librarian. The goal was to scaffold the students into creating inquiry questions that were of a high standard within the defined boundaries of the task. The Teacher Librarian conceived the idea of using a graphic organiser, and then worked collaboratively with the Science Team Leader to frame and integrate the questions within the chart. The end result was a chart that used a layer of questions to build connections between prior knowledge and new information; before narrowing down to identifying relevant disciplinary literacy which is then used to formulate the scientific inquiry question. As many of the science teachers were unfamiliar with the GID process, a joint decision was made by the Teacher librarian and the Science team leader that certain sections of the inquiry would be team taught by the classroom teacher and a teacher librarian. The entire year 8 science cohort of ten classes utilised the library for five consecutive lessons each. This collaborative practice supported both the teacher in their practice and the student in their learning.
English Learning Outcomes:
Explore the ways that literary texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts may reflect or challenge the values of individuals and groups (ACELT1626)
Recognise and explain differing viewpoints about the world, cultures, individual people and concerns represented in texts (ACELT1807)
Interpret and analyse language choices, including dialogue and imagery in short stories, literary essays and plays (ACELT1767)
The success of the Science modified lotus chart inspired the English team leader CB to create a similar one but instead of using a single layer of questioning, CB decided the students needed to funnel down from a broad focus to a narrow focus before coming to their inquiry question. This meant that students were asked to look deeper into the various perspectives of Shakespeare’s World and then pose a series of questions before arriving at their main inquiry question. At this point the students were familiar with the concept of inquiry learning but there was still some uncertainty from the classroom teachers. Therefore, the English team leader CB suggested that the classes be brought to the library so that they could be supported by the teacher librarians. Unfortunately, there was less uptake from the English department in comparison to the science team, and this meant only a few teachers were willing to work collaboratively in a flexible learning space.
For both the Year 8 inquiry tasks, the modified lotus chart was integrated into the learning journal and included questions of varying cognitive levels to scaffold learning, promote metacognition, elicit writing for meaning, and facilitate the formulation of a robust inquiry question (Tofade, Elsner & Haines, 2013). Most students received the standard chart and questions, but those with additional needs were offered supplementary cognitive scaffolding, and highly adept students were given the opportunity to create their questions for a self-directed approach (Lusk, 2014, p.12). The integration of questioning increased the success of the inquiry task as it promoted metacognition, differentiated the learning, minimised accidental sedge ways, developed disciplinary vocabulary and allowed students to stay within the learning goal parameters. Another advantage is that the questions within the chart were task, rather than subject specific, which meant that students were able to engage in learning based on their own interests rather than predetermined topics (Werder, 2016).
Evaluating the impact of the graphic organiser on the learning process.
SCIENCE INQUIRY TASK –
The student’s ability to create a question that was specific, yet with enough depth to allow for an open-ended investigation was assessed both informally and formally. Initially, the question was informally assessed by the classroom teacher and teacher librarian for its suitability before the students could proceed to the next step in their inquiry task. In most circumstances, the question that was too broad and or too difficult for students to investigate successfully in their limited time frame. This meant that students were asked to go back and use the questions to extend their thinking processes and narrow down their investigation parameters. They also had to clearly illustrate their cognitive process through their modified lotus graphic organiser as part of their formal and summative assessment of learning identified within the task rubric. Anecdotal evidence from classroom teachers suggests that students seemed more prepared, and their questions were of a higher quality in comparison to previous years where there was no graphic organiser used.
ENGLISH INQUIRY TASK –
The English inquiry question was also informally assessed by the classroom teacher and the teacher librarian to their suitability during class time. Like the science inquiry task, students used the modified lotus to formulate a question that was narrow enough to be completed within the time frame, but yet open-ended enough to investigate. The main difference between the two inquiry tasks was that the English chart requested students use two levels of questioning to develop their inquiry question. This proved to be more problematic than requesting disciplinary literacy from the middle layer, as students often needed guidance to understand that they were supposed to narrow into specifics at that point. This confusion was exacerbated by the fact the English task immediately followed the science inquiry but the change in lotus chart format caused some teacher and student anxiety. In similar circumstances to the Science inquiry, the questions formulated by the students were of a higher quality than when the modified lotus graphic organiser was not included.
Reflection of learning process
The inclusion of a modified lotus chart with an embedded line of questioning was a crucial factor in the student’s ability to formulate a suitable inquiry question because it allowed for the clear visualisation of parameters, alternative perspectives and integrated essential disciplinary literacy. It enabled students to effectively plan their investigations, identify gaps in their own reasoning, organise their thinking process and reflect upon their learning. The chart also mitigated teacher anxiety about unaddressed learning outcomes and unexpectedly promoted low stakes writing.
Many classroom teachers were concerned that a student centred inquiry task would lead to tangent investigations and lost learning outcomes. However, the modified lotus diagram allowed teachers to guide their student’s learning by using the questions to lead the students directly to the desired learning outcomes and the formulation of an appropriate question and investigation. Anecdotal evidence showed that previously reluctant teachers were satisfied with this process and were amenable to using a modified lotus for future inquiry investigations.
One of the unexpected advantages that the modified lotus diagram provided was the students were able to engage in low stakes writing. Werder (2016) points out that writing in schools is often a high stakes activity as students are often required to know the information prior to being questioned in settings, such as within exams and assignments. Cunningham (2019) elaborates upon this and calls it ‘writing to show learning’ but points out that rarely do students get to engage in ‘writing to learn’ (p.76). This means that students are seldom given opportunities to engage in writing that allows them to promote critical thinking, build content knowledge and make meaning in environments that are context rich, and situational without the pressure of assessment (Cunningham, 2019, p.79). This can be particularly an issue in high schools where students are less likely to participate in free writing. Therefore by integrating a modified lotus graphic organiser into an inquiry task, teachers are encouraging to develop their cognitive strength by connecting concepts, making meaning and creating new knowledge (Cunningham, 2019; Werder, 2016, p. 2).
The inclusion of a modified lotus diagram with an embedded line of questioning was very beneficial to both the faculty staff members and the students. It increased the quality of inquiry questions because the graphic organiser allowed the students to develop an understanding of the topic, which then led to a creation of a question that can be challenged, examined and investigated more deeply. The format of the diagram also ensured that the students developed disciplinary literacy and addressed the learning outcomes as required. Interestingly, the unexpected outcome of low stakes writing proved to be very beneficial to the learning process and as such, future graphic organisers will be constructed to provide ample writing space.
Quigley, C., Marshall, J., Deaton, C.C.M., Cook, M.P., & Padilla, M. (2011). Challenges to inquiry teaching and suggestion for how to meet them. Science Education (20) 1; p55-61. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ940939.pdf
Tofade, T., Elsner, J., & Haines, S. T. (2013). Best practice strategies for effective use of questions as a teaching tool. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 77(7), 155. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe777155
Wilson, N.S., & Smetana, L. (2011). Questioning as thinking: a metacognitive framework to improve comprehension of expository text. Literacy 45(2). UKLA.
Zion, M., & Mendelovici, R. (2012). Moving from structured to open inquiry: Challenges and limits. Science Education International 23(4): p383-399. International Council of Associations for Science Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1001631.pdf
Strong educational leadership has been clearly linked to a positive learning culture and increased student outcomes as effective leaders have a strong vision, are able to lead by example, manage their resources in a flexible manner and are able to develop strong collaborative teams (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020; Yeith et al, 2019, p. 452). But whilst there are numerous types of leadership styles, research has indicated that distributed leadership (DL) has the greatest influence on students and their learning outcomes (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020, p. 12; Bartlett, 2014, p.1). DL advocates for the distribution of leadership roles within the school community based on expertise rather than a formal position of power, and as such is fundamentally based upon positive and collaborative interactions between colleagues and teams (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020, p. 13-14. It is these interactions and team development that leads to the promotion of middle school leaders and the development of teacher librarians as leaders of information literacy, innovative pedagogy and educational technology.
Middle school leaders (MSL) are an important aspect of educational environments as their position of responsibility operates between senior leadership and teaching staff (De Nobile, 2018). They are often responsible for mentoring new teachers, leading a team, a project or a faculty, as well as managing the traditional aspects of classroom teaching (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408-411; De Nobile, 2018, p.398). Unlike principals whose leadership role is based upon actions, MSL’s responsibility is often linked to maintenance of resources, professional development, school improvement plans and thus their role is dependent on interactions with others and on their individual context (De Nobile, 2018, p.398; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408-409).
In primary schools, MSL are often team leaders or year level coordinators, whereas in secondary schools, they manifest as faculty heads and or leaders of wellbeing (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408). As experienced teachers, MSL are able to combine classroom teaching with leadership positions, and therefore are well placed to make a direct and positive impact upon the teaching and learning (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.407-408). Whilst the context may differ, MSL operate on behalf of the school leadership team as they are often required to interpret the agenda of senior management as well as expected to develop and staff towards the principal’s shared vision (De Nobile, 2018, p. 400).
The efficacy of MSL is dependent on several clear parameters. The variability of the role and range of possible contexts means that there is no distinct career pathway or associated professional development. Therefore, in order to be effective, these emerging leaders require clearly established responsibilities, explicit support from the principal, a positive learning culture, expertise in their field and a framework for professional development, so that they can successfully meet the expectations of their school community (De Nobile, 2018, p. 401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.407). Due to the lack of a formal career pathway, Lipscombe et al., (2020) advocates AITSL’s Australian Professional Standard for Principals as a framework for informing current practice as well as providing direction for future MSL professional development (p. 412). This framework is useful because there is little structure for leadership development within the professional standards for teachers (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412). Unfortunately not all MSL have clearly defined expectations, or adequate sufficient support from the principal, and this can severely impact their ability to effect change within the school especially when it comes to innovations in pedagogy (De Nobile, 2018, p.401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.419). This inability can impact the MSL’s capacity for job satisfaction and can lead to increased attrition rates (Stroud, 2017).
The main purpose of MSL is to improve and innovate pedagogical practices and positively impact learning outcomes (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.417). By these parameters, teacher librarians (TL) are ideally suited to the task based upon their Masters of Education, as well as the significant overlap between their role in the school and the requirements of MSL. Unlike ATSIL’s Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher which is focused on using classroom teacher’s expertise to develop professional practice in others, teacher librarians are required by their professional standards to demonstrate leadership within school communities, have thorough knowledge of the curriculum and actively promote collaborative learning (AITSL, 2019, p.3; ALIA & ASLA, 2004; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412). Additionally, from a school hierarchy perspective, most TLs are classified as coordinators or as faculty heads, and therefore their position within a school is literally in the ‘middle’. TLs are able to lead from the middle by supporting their colleagues with their expertise, promoting collaborative teaching and learning as well as modelling good pedagogical practices (ALIA & ASLA, 2004).
The reality is that even though teacher librarians have a great capacity for leadership, their ability to fulfill that role to the best of their ability requires adequate time, support and structure (Johnston, 2015). Time is the most desired resource as TL do require adequate time to balance the roles of managing an information agency, along with the developing informational literacy as well as sufficient time to plan strategically for future educational trends (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412). Unfortunately many TLs are restricted in their ability to strategically plan, co-plan and collaborate with their colleagues due to significant teaching loads, lack of support from the principal and insufficient authority.
Middle school leaders have a great capacity to improve student learning by sharing their expertise, promoting professional development and collaborative learning as well as by modelling best practice pedagogy. Teacher librarians make ideal middle school leaders because of their human and social capital. They are academically qualified, have the necessary professional knowledge, extensive curriculum understanding and collaborative approach to education. As such their ability to significantly improve learning outcomes is immense provided they are supported by their principal, a positive learning culture and sufficient time to do their role properly.
AITSL. (2014). Australian professional standard for principals and the leadership profiles. Education Services Australia.
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Lipscombe, K. Grice, C. Tindall-Ford, S., & DeNobile, J. (2020). Middle leading in Australian schools: professional standards, positions, and professional development. School Leadership & Management 40 (5) pp.406-424. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2020.1731685
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