Journal Number Five

My field is practitioner focused; I am working with learners who are translating library science theory into practice that will happen in schools or libraries. I have found instructional strategies that are grounded in scenarios and solving problems encourage the development of skills and knowledge that will transfer to the real world.  For example, I will provide students with a set of parameters (audience, library type, budget, community needs) under which the learners make selections for a library collection. Or the students will be presented with a human resources scenario such as a memo exercise and will have to decide how they will prioritize a number of managerial tasks.  

While I have built project-based strategies into some of my courses about developing lesson plans and programs, this is an instructional strategy I would like to figure out how to use more often.  My undergraduate students often struggle initially with these more constructivist approaches. They seem to expect more direct instruction and either do not trust themselves to find a unique solution to a problem or project prompt, or they do not trust me to actually be willing to give them that much freedom. They ask for examples and seem convinced that I already have a specific work product in mind.  Once they realize I really am interested in their ideas, rather than expecting them to guess mine, they really enjoy the approach and talk about how “fun” and, interestingly, “easy” it is to work that way.  I would like to use this more because I do see more intrinsic motivation from my students when they have choice in terms of the focus of their projects. They also seem to take more ownership of the projects because they are investing more of themselves into the process and the outcome. If the project can also be given parameters that encourage authentic explorations of contexts that my students will be practicing in during their professional careers.

 

I can see using scenario-type strategies in my intervention, in addition to direct instruction, I think using a project-based strategy might be more challenging considering the format and audience. I want to think about it though, because I might just need to look for examples beyond the k-12 context, which is where I usually see them. Given the increase in makerspaces within libraries, many lessons are now maker-based.  While there are similarities between project-based and problem-based learn, I do need to spend some time learning about maker-based instruction so that I can look into ways I might also use these strategies to prepare my students for the maker-based contexts in which they will be teaching.

Journal Number Four

Since my research revolves around whether training, or specific kinds of training, will impact the self-efficacy of youth services librarians my intervention will attempt to introduce, review and/or reinforce what youth services librarians know about storytime and integrating best practices for early literacy into their programs.  The tricky part is I do not know what training or experience my learners will be bringing to this intervention. Some learners might find the entire intervention to be review, others might never have encountered the material before, and still others may be familiar with some concepts but not others. My challenge will be introducing the content in a logical way so that it builds on itself, but also in a manner that will allow people to move through the content at their own pace depending on their level of familiarity.   Perhaps each module will have a fast track and a leisurely track, with a diagnostic assessment at the beginning to suggest which route to take?

 

Much of my content will be based off the “Every Child Ready to Read” 2nd edition.  These materials are designed to be used in public library storytimes and are free for educational use so long as attribution is given. Most professional development offered at public library conferences references the language of ECRR, meaning most public library youth services librarians should be at least passingly familiar with the terminology used and the basic ideas presented in the ECRR toolkit.  Because I would like to focus on improving efficacy, I would also include modules about infant brain development, so that my learners have an understanding of why early literacy is important, as well as modules to reinforce the librarians’ identities as teachers and educators of both children and caregivers. This section will dwell at least partially in the affective domain, as many librarians do not see themselves as educators and struggle with how to take on that role with adult caregivers in particular. Content would be presented in a variety of formats, including audio, video, readings, peer discussion and interactive activities.

 

The tasks will also  include formative knowledge checks to make sure learners have a grasp of basic concepts before moving forward.  These might include simple drag and drop activities that allow the learner to demonstrate the know the kinds of activities that reinforce early literacy skills, assessments for understanding of basic vocabulary and concepts.  Task will also be authentic, with learners designing storytimes with integrated early literacy content which will be evaluated by peers and the instructor. Finally, there will be self-reflection tasks that will help learners process their identities as teachers.

Journal Number Three

The fact that I will be working with adults in a professional development context will make assessment a bit tricky: there will be no grade, for example, to serve as an extrinsic motivator or demonstrate that the learner has demonstrated enough “mastery” to receive credit for a course.  In my personal experience with online professional development for adults, modules are typically accompanied by short multiple-choice style quizzes to check for understanding. These can often be retaken until a high enough score is earned to allow the learner to progress to the next module.  This leaves open the possibility that a learner will skip the content and go straight to the assessment and/or retake the assessment until they pass. When professional development is conducted face-to-face, the facilitator might encourage a discussion or place participants into groups to complete an activity.  I have even been in a professional development workshop where the group took a quiz at the end, as a group, with no individual accountability.

 

In graduate level courses, instructors often rely on peer feedback and self-reflection as a means of assessment in adult learners who have a higher level of intrinsic motivation. This same method has been suggested as a means of assessment in adult learners engaged in professional development (Kelleher, 2003). This might be a model I could apply to my intervention, but it would rely on multiple people completing the same module at the same time in order to facilitate the peer feedback component.

Self-assessment and peer feedback could serve to assess both the knowledge and affective domains.  A module might include guided discussion or self-reflection that would ask learners to probe their initial beliefs about their efficacy and track any evolution in their feelings of efficacy or the values related to different storytime activities. As structuring a storytime to include early literacy skills is a goal of Every Child Ready to Read and other programs aimed at improving storytime outcomes, learners might be asked to provide a storytime outline or script that would include the selected titles, songs, and activities and ask for peer feedback on their choices. Psychomotor might be a bit more difficult, although if students posted videos of themselves conducting storytime and received peer feedback upon their physical presentation of books and other activities during a storytime, this might work as well.

In terms of content, I would begin with the established programs that already exist and are relied upon for professional development during library conferences and local/regional training. Every Child Ready to Read is the most central of these and the vocabulary that I would use would be drawn heavily from their “Play, Talk, Write, Sing, Read” language and guidance. I would also include videos of librarians demonstrated best practices in program delivery and caregiver engagement and access to model program plans and suggested resources participants could use to create their own custom plans. I would also include information about the latest research into literacy development in children, the important role of caregivers, and the importance of the librarian.  The focus of my intervention would be to improve the self-efficacy of the librarians, to remind them why what they do is important and to reassure them that resources are available to help. I will, therefore, be looking for strategies that work in the affective domain, where self-efficacy dwells. These might include real-world scenarios and modeling, and clear discussions as to why these early literacy strategies are so important.

Kelleher, J. (2003). A Model for Assessment-Driven Professional Development. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(10), 751–756.

Journal Number Two

While not quite in my dotage, I am old enough that I am aware of how trends build, plateau, and recede only to be taken up again by the next generation under a new name (shoulder pads, I see you trying to make a comeback).  My elementary school was designed in the 1970’s around open spaces called “pods” with no physical barriers between the grade level classrooms. The theory was that this would encourage collaboration between students and teachers and allow students more freedom to engage with content on their own level.  By the time I attended this school in the mid-1980’s the teachers had erected barriers between the classrooms by using rolling chalk boards and books shelves. By the time my friend was teaching in a similar school in the early 2000’s actual walls had been installed between classrooms.  If you search for the “Open Schools” now, you find news stories like this one that details all the reasons why the concept fell out of favor.  When I was watching the video about learner-centered environments, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between that school concept and the open schools of the 1970’s.  I was reminded of my own tendency, when my house gets cluttered and dirty, to purchase an organization rack. When I come home, I happily install my new toy and, yes, it makes my pots line up.  But it doesn’t do anything about the dirt on the floor and, just because the rack is present, it doesn’t stop my kids from not putting the pots away, or carelessly tossing them into the cabinet without using the rack. I think too often we look for the shiny fix without addressing the structural issues lying beneath that are the true cause of the problem. My hesitation with learner-centered environments or personalized learning are that they are seized upon as a solution without also addressing the inequities that exist that are often at the root of problems in our education systems.

With that in mind, however, I do feel that there are things schools can do to make learning more learner-centered.  My younger daughter attends a Waldorf-methods charter school where the development of the child guides the curriculum, rather than a reverse engineering from standards. Reading is not formally taught until 3rd grade because mountains of research shows that a large number of children are not ready to read until they are 8 years old.  Desks are not introduced until later grades because, again, it is not developmentally appropriate for young children to sit at desks all day. The school prioritizes movement and time outside, again, because we know young learners NEED those things, and those needs supersede the more arbitrary need to push through content that will appear on a standardized test.

In my own teaching, I do respond to my learner’s needs.  For example, my undergraduate students prefer for major assignments to be due at the end of the week so that the work does not hang over their heads during the weekend. My graduate students prefer Sunday night deadlines, because most of them are working professionals and they prefer to have the full weekend to complete their school assignments. I also allow for students to modify their assignments to make them meaningful to contexts in which they live and work, I provide structured and unstructured options, and I always try to inject a little bit of humor or, to borrow Farrah’s word, whimsy, so that my students remember I am a person too and that we don’t need to always take ourselves too seriously.

For this course, the intervention I plan on developing is a professional development module for youth services librarians.  I am well-acquainted with the general demographics of this group as I was myself a member of this professional community for many years and I have continued to monitor the demographics for my own research which is centered on youth services programs in public libraries. I belong to several online learning communities that foster conversations and resource sharing within this learner group and I stay up to date with published information about trends within this population from its associated professional organizations (ALA, PLA, ALSC and PaLA).

This is a challenging group to pin down in terms of learner characteristics.  On the one hand, there are some similarities: these learners would all have similar work contexts in terms of the primary mission of their organizations – public libraries serve their communities through collections, programs, and other informational, educational and recreational services. They also will be serving youth as at least a portion of their job responsibilities. By nature of social norms, the majority of learners will likely be female, because women are overrepresented in these positions. Beyond that, however, there will be wide variation in age, from young people who are new to their adult work experiences, to people on the brink of retirement.

They will also vary in terms of education and training, as there is no federal mandate and very few state mandates that guide libraries when making hiring decisions.  While the ALA- accredited master’s degree is considered the terminal degree in the profession, not all libraries require the people who provide youth services programs to hold the degree. In the same vein, the ALA MLS is not, on its own, focused on youth services; it is possible to have one without taking any courses with youth-related content. Some libraries hire people with teaching or pre-school experience, and others “hire the smile” and encourage or require the individual to pursue professional development.  

Cart racing meme

Since these individuals all work in libraries, it is relatively safe to assume that most will have access to basic technology such as computers, web-cams, and a decent internet connection in their workplace, if not at home. In terms of motivation and learning preferences, I would hope they would be motivated by a desire to improve their practice, but I know many may not see the need to do so because they feel they are already doing a good job, or because they are resistant to any suggestion that they take on more responsibility.  In these cases it will be important to present myself as an advocate, rather than a taskmaster or evaluator, to help them feel motivated to take on additional training. There may be extrinsic rewards in the sense that the library may count this training towards required continuing education training hours. Their learning preferences would likely be a course that does not over-burden their time and/or which could be completed during regular work hours. It would likely need to be largely asynchronous or built into existing professional development workshop days at the regional or system level.

Journal Number One

I had a round-about journey into the study of education.  My initial professional experience was in librarianship, and while I created programs that included educational content on a regular basis I had never studied education theory or instructional design.  Rather, I learned through observing my mentors and colleagues, and through trial and error (and error, and error). Overtime I developed a programming style that adults and children alike seemed to enjoy. This was an iterative approach to instructional design (although I did not know to call it such) – I listened to, and watched, my program attendees, I looked for what worked, and I tweaked or discarded what didn’t work, until I had a storytime program style that hummed along like a well-oiled machine.  When I began teaching at Kutztown University, I went through the same process again. I was hired for my professional expertise, not my teaching experience, and I had only my own experiences as a student in higher education context upon which to draw as I created my own lessons. Again, I gauged my students, I tried things (and failed, and failed) until I came up with ways to present material that was engaging and rewarding for my learning community, using an iterative approach.

During my first semester at Lehigh I took a curriculum course and had my first introduction to Backwards design.  I had never heard of it before. I quickly realized how the approach aligned with contemporary assessment models (for good or ill).  At KU, we are accredited by CAEP for our education programs. To make our case for continued accreditation, we have to demonstrate our students’ proficiency as aligned to professional standards.  We accomplish this by designing authentic core assignments that serve as the final, capstone-style assessment for each of our courses. We are, therefore, designing our courses backwards from that final core assessment that is meant to demonstrate the student’s proficiency in the given content area.  Once again, I realized I was using a version of an instructional design model without realizing it.

For this course I plan to return to Iterative Design, albeit a more informed version of such,  for several reasons. First, I think it is my natural inclination to empathize with my learners.  Second, I am not afraid to try an idea out and change it as needed. Third, for the intervention that I plan to work on, an iterative approach that is responsive to learner feedback might be most appropriate. My hope is to build a professional development intervention for youth services librarians that might help improve their sense of self-efficacy – this kind of training would seem to be particularly suited to an iterative approach.

 

The process to explore this model will begin with empathizing with my audience.  In this context I will be thinking about individuals who provide storytime programs in public libraries.  They may come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds, they may have vastly different types of experience, and they may be serving diverse communities. My goal will be to provide an intervention that is sensitive to all of these variables.  I will need to define exactly what I am trying to share with these learners before ideating and prototyping the modules.  Feedback from experts that I hope to engage in this project and from individuals who volunteer to test the modules will help me refine the project and bring it closer into alignment with what might benefit my specific learning community.