Part B: Critical Reflection
Provide a critical synthesis of your reflection on how your view of the role of the teacher librarian may have changed during the subject.
Before starting the MEdTL course, I wrote a blog post labelling a TL as a “jack-of-all-trades… teaching classes here and there, helping out a classroom teacher, being the tech help, oh and the book person of course” (MacDonald, 2012a). Throughout this subject, my understanding of TL roles became much better informed largely due to inspiring literature and authors. The following is a selection of the most influential topics that helped shape my view of the role of the teacher librarian.
1. Defining the roles of the TL
Though initially blindly labelling a TL as a “jack-of-all-trades” (MacDonald, 2012a), I discovered in Topic 2 the immense literature that exists defining the many roles of the TL and the confusion over what these roles should be. I connected closest with Purcell’s (2010) 5 roles of the TL –Leader, Instructional Partner, Information Specialist, Teacher, and Program Administrator, although I “had a difficult time trying to prioritise the roles” (MacDonald, 2012b). Having now finished the subject, I believe the roles shouldn’t be prioritised but instead kept in balance throughout a day like Purcell’s “hub of a wheel” (2010, p. 31) analogy.
2. Principal Support
Continuing Topic 2, I was greatly influenced by the readings on Principal Support, ultimately becoming my first blog task. Before beginning the topic I had not giving a single thought to the TL/principal relationship necessary for the school library to be successful, but I “got the message loud and clear… collaboration cannot happen without the active support of the school’s principal and if the library and TL doesn’t have the principal’s support, well, they need to do something about that. Stat.” (MacDonald, 2012c).
There was abundant literature that outlined how actively supportive principals can benefit the library (see Blog Task 1, MacDonald, 2012d), but I was more interested in Oberg’s “occupational invisibility”(2006, p. 14) and Hartzell’s (2002) comments that some principals do not realise the important role they play in the library’s success. I recognised the need for the TL to “sell their value to the principal and make them also believe in the library’s power” (MacDonald, 2012d) being the library’s active advocator and “get them [reluctant principals] on board” (MacDonald, 2012d). This was an essential lesson to learn if I am to become TL of a successful, well funded, and high-standing school library.
3. Inquiry Learning
The next topic that had a profound effect on me, initially negatively, was Inquiry Learning. In my blog post “Drink the cool-aid? Thoughts on IBL and PBL” (MacDonald, 2012e) I was highly critical of the practice asking whether it is “taboo” for the “teacher to teach in this 21st century classroom” (MacDonald, 2012e) and struggled with “how it is implemented to make sure our students leave school at least knowing facts about the world” (MacDonald, 2012e). Afraid of “walking a plank alone” (MacDonald, 2012e) and determined to change my negative views, I researched Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) (see MacDonald, 2012f) finally seeing how Guided Inquiry could be possible even in language classes. My role as a TL is to show and teach classroom teachers, who may hold the same attitude I did, that IL is possible and vital to 21st century education.
As my IL enlightenment continued on the upswing, I was awe-struck by Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (1985; 2009). While relating the ISP to my first assignment in a forum post, I reflected on “how in-the-weeds (“in-the-dip”) I was for much of the initiation, selection and exploration sections” (MacDonald, 2012h). Relating the ISP to my own experience showed me how the model could be useful for students to also recognise their feelings in the search process. If students recognise these feelings, they can understand that “if they keep pursuing, clarity and confidence will come in the later stages” (MacDonald, 2012g), and concurrently TLs can identify areas “in which information users can do with advice and assistance in areas he or she cannot do alone” (MacDonald, 2012g). I saw that it was my role as TL to introduce a process model to help students understand and navigate the often-difficult inquiry process.
Showing a full circle of my opinion and understanding of IL, I wrote the 2nd blog task on the topic to show that I now better understand “what it is” and “why implement it” (MacDonald, 2012i) and its success in practice. My writings show how the readings and discussion on this topic helped me to understand the collaborative and instrumental role a TL has in inquiry learning and why it is important that I promote and foster it as an acting TL.
4. Information Literacy
Finally, after I had read all the required reading for the subject I felt confident in writing the 3rd and final blog task on Information Literacy being so much more than just a set of skills. As I navigated quotes from Herring, Langford, and Abilock, I felt confident of IL being a “process, a practice, an applied concept” and “calling IL just a set of skills is to rob our students of what to do with these skills… in school and beyond” (MacDonald, 2012j). I felt confident in this final blog task I could piece together the leadership and instructional roles TLs must undertake to be successful and how to provide evidence of the importance of these roles to anyone who might be uninformed to the TL’s extraordinary role in the school.
I look forward to continuing my TL growth as this subject comes to a close and another one begins.
Hartzell, G. (2002). What’s It Take? White House Conference on School Libraries. Retrieved September 29, 2012 from www.laurabushfoundation.org/Hartzell.pdf
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1985). A process approach to library skills instruction. School Library Media Quarterly, 4(1), 31-44.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2009). Information Search Process. Retrieved August 23, 2012 from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
MacDonald, S. (2012a, June 28). Hello World! Retrieved September 30, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/hello-world/
MacDonald, S. (2012b, July 17). TOPIC 2: The role of the Teacher Librarian – some author’s views. Retrieved September 20, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/topic-2-the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian-some-authors-views/
MacDonald, S. (2012c, July 21). TOPIC 2: Principal Support = Support, Scheduling, and Funding. Retrieved September 20, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/topic-2-principal-support-support-scheduling-and-funding/
MacDonald, S. (2012d, July 26). Blog Task 1 – TL role in regard to principal support. Retrieved September 20, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/blog-task-1-tl-role-in-regard-to-principal-support/
MacDonald, S. (2012e, August 16). Drink the cool-aid? Thoughts on IBL and PBL. Retrieved September 20, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/drink-the-cool-aid-thoughts-on-ibl-and-pbl/
MacDonald, S. (2012f). IBL à POGIL in the Foreign Language Classroom. Retrieved September 30, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/ibl-%E2%86%92-pogil-in-the-foreign-language-classroom/
MacDonald, S. (2012g, August 29). Kuhlthau’s ISP – not just a model but a dead on play-by-play for a struggling uni student. Retrieved September 30, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/kuhlthausisp/
MacDonald, S. (2012h, August 30). Kuhlthau’s ISP and reflecting on Ass. 1 [Online forum comment]. Retrieved September 30, 2012 from http://forums.csu.edu.au/perl/forums.pl?task=frameset&forum_id=ETL401_201260_W_D_Sub7_forum&message_id=5986862
MacDonald, S. (2012i, September 7). ETL401 Blog Task 2 – Role of the TL in Implementing a Guided Inquiry Approach. Retrieved September 30, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/blog-task-2-guided-inquiry-approach/
MacDonald, S. (2012j, September 21). ETL 401Blog Task 3 – Information literacy – a skills set, or something much more? Retrieved September 30, 2012 from https://shmacdonald.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/etl-401-blog-task-3-information-literacy/
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.
Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33.