The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

Overview

As technology brings changes to the learning environment it also alters the roles educators play in how they guide students and facilitate learning experiences.  This change is particularly apparent for school librarians as both their role as an educator and the physical space of the library is shifting.  In considering these changes, I chose to focus my final practicum experience for my DEL master’s program on how the school librarian can facilitate and promote project based learning experiences.  

For this project, I chose to look at the role of the librarian because I recently began coursework to attain my library media endorsement.  Through my learning I became interested in how a school librarian directly collaborates with classroom teachers and students to create, deliver, and reflect on instruction.  This caused me to want to learn more about my school librarian’s role and how facilitating the prominent learning method project based learning might fit into that role.

Before sharing my resources is necessary to say that I have such an appreciation for my school librarian, Cyndi, and her willingness to embrace this project.  This year marks Cyndi’s 38th year as an educator and, with her tremendous experience sometimes comes a negative stigma around educators in their last few years of teaching, the idea being that they are unwilling to try out new ideas.  This is so not the case with Cyndi.  Each time we met she was eager to learn more about PBL, she brought resources and shared research she had done on her own between meetings, and our conversations often shifted to other opportunities to collaborate on all types of topics–we even planned out a few student clubs we might want to facilitate together next year!  Having such an enthusiastic educator to collaborate with definitely gave some momentum to our conversations and we are eager to see where we can take our work together to create valuable, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for students at our school.

Below, I include my complete project, an infographic I created on high quality student work in PBL, and a reflection on my next steps in continuing my learning and implementation of PBL as well as well as my collaborative work with Cyndi.

How to Get High Quality Student Work in Project Based Learning

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) has been my go-to for resources and information on PBL.  I reflect on and share many of these resources in the summaries and next steps sections of my report, but one in particular that stood out is John Larmer’s post titled “How to Get High Quality Student Work in PBL” as I think this information is essential to understanding how to start to create a PBL learning experience.  In the infographic below I summarize his tips and insights on the topic.  I created this in hopes of having it as an easy-to-follow resource for educators.

The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

I compiled my project into a report, included below, that discusses what PBL is, provides an overview of my school, shares and summarizes my interview and collaborative experiences with my librarian, and offers resources for beginning to implement PBL at our school.

Next Steps

This project was only the start of my learning regarding project based learning and my collaborative work with Cyndi to facilitate and promote PBL at our school.  Since we still have a lot of work to do, below are the immediate next steps in continuing this project.

  1. After sharing the resources and summaries from this project with Cyndi, her and I will work together to plan a PBL experience for students next year.  We will work together to take my ninth grade English students through a PBL designed learning experience.
  2. I will advocate to my principal that Cyndi and I, along with other interested educators, would like to attend professional development on project based learning.
  3. I will follow up with the teaching and learning team in my district to see that they provide PBL professional development either on our online learning portal or through planned collaborative time.
  4. I will work with Cyndi to brainstorm ideas so she can advocate for less time managing Chromebooks or other similar tasks so she has more time to collaborate with educators across subject areas to design and deliver instruction.

References

Driving Questions Webinar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/object/webinars_archived/driving_questions

Larmer, J. (2013, October 1). PBL Blog: How to Get High-Quality Student work in PBL. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/blog/how_to_get_high_quality_student_work_in_pbl

Larson, T. (n.d.). The 4Cs Research Series. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.p21.org/our-work/4cs-research-series 

Markham, T. (2017, May 08). How PBL Can Fulfill Its Promise to 21st Century Students. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.edcircuit.com/pbl-fulfill-promise-21st-century-students/

Miller, A. (2014, May 20). PBL and STEAM Education: A Natural Fit. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-and-steam-natural-fit-andrew-miller

Project Search. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/project_search

Recharge Learning Blog. (2015, April 06). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://rechargelearning.blogspot.com/2015/04/collaboration-communication-crit cal.html

Waters, P. (2014, July 09). Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-through-a-makers-lens-patrick-waters

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)? (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

Soliciting and Providing Feedback through Peer Coaching Experiences

Overview

Imagine peering into the engine of a running vehicle.  It is likely that you visualize several parts, working together harmoniously so the car runs smoothly.  It is less likely that you think about how many trials and errors, restarts and near quits it took for the vehicle to get to the point where it ran at all, let alone well.  Observing extremely effective peer coaching may look the same–it just seems to work.  However, unless I’m missing the secret key to coaching, this is very far from true.  In fact, the one “key” idea I have learned is that becoming a great peer coach and implementing a peer coaching plan is extremely difficult.

In building anything great, the process needs to be altered, refined, expanded, and sometimes thrown out.  In prior blog posts for the quarter I have shared some peer coaching strategies I’ve found effective as well as reflected on my successes and areas of improvement.  For my final reflection, I wanted to look at how to continue to grow a powerful peer coaching system, specifically by looking at when feedback is and is not appropriate, how and when to solicit feedback, and what to do with it once gathered.  I chose to include my final reflection on my recent “real world” peer coaching experiences along with this post to provide a reference point and to keep me thinking about how to continue growing as a peer coach.

Feedback vs. Evaluation

The infographic below represents the difference between feedback and evaluations, which I created by synthesizing some of the most relevant information from various resources, listed in my “references” section. I thought that it was important to distinguish between these two terms before looking further at the place for feedback and evaluation in peer coaching opportunities. I am glad I did so as it actually appears that feedback is much more effective at encouraging growth, and is therefore more appropriate in peer coaching.  Evaluations, while useful in determining areas of growth, are best suited for conversations between administrators and individual teachers. Examples of how feedback can be used in peer coaching, with resources, are included further on.

Feedback in Peer Coaching

In our cohorts Google Hangout several weeks ago, one of my professors, David Wicks, made a quick side comment about how a coach must be careful with how feedback and evaluation are used in peer coaching.  This was a sticky comment, it got my brain spinning, and it gave me a good framework for my research. I chose to spend the remainder of my peer coaching course exploring the question, “How can a peer coach effectively self-assess and gather feedback from others in order to grow as a coach and ensure that the feedback is accurate?” While I never directly asked David why he said this, my initial inquiries helped lead me to two possible reasons:

  1. Evaluations have no place in peer coaching.  From here on, I will only talk about feedback.
  2. One must be very intentional in seeking feedback and consider how feedback is solicited, how the questions are worded, what is done with the feedback once received, and who gets to review it.

To help further focus my exploration, I appreciated that my classmate, Liz Ebersole, asked me the following question:  “Would you use this type of evaluation/feedback to plan PD for coaches or to collect data to advocate for adopting a peer coaching practice at the school/district level? What do you hope to learn from the feedback and how will you share it and who with?”

Using David’s comment and Liz’s question, I created the following infographic to display a rough idea of how feedback can be used in peer coaching and included a few resources that might help start the process.

Reflection on My Peer Coaching Experiences

This quarter I had the opportunity to practice peer coaching by working with a teacher at my school.  While there were a few hiccups in the process, this experience was so valuable for me because I was able to debrief and share ideas with my master’s program cohort.  An overview of what I learned during this process, along with the work that my colleague and I produced, is included in the document below.

Future Inquiries

  • In my peer coaching experience, I worked with a colleague who is also a close personal friend.  This presented unique challenges and made parts of the process easier.  What additional tools and strategies might a coach want to use when working with someone they are less familiar with?
  • One topic that myself and others in my cohort explored this quarter was that other professional fields, outside of education, offer great insights into how to be an effective coach.  I would like to explore this further in the future.
  • In this blog post I touched on providing feedback in peer coaching.  I would like to look at this deeper too and gain some “field experience” to help explore this further.

Resources

Baehr, M. (n.d.). 4.1.2 Distinctions Between Assessment and Evaluation. Retrieved December 08, 2016, from http://www.pcrest3.com/fgb/efgb4/4/4_1_2.htm

Rehman, S. (n.d.). Effective Feedback. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://phoenixmed.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/content/facdev/rehman-512014.pdf

Redefining the Writing Process through Digital Instruction, Collaborative Projects and Assessments

Reflection Overview

While last semester of SPU’s Digital Education Leadership master’s program focused on ISTE standards for students, this semester has examined ISTE standards for teachers.  So far, we have looked at standard one, to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity, and standard two, to design and develop digital age learning and assessments.  Naturally, these two standards fit together as the first asks educators to consider the learning experience and the other focuses on the assessment process. This connection allowed me to fully rethink how I teach an area of instruction, from its inception to its conclusion.  Subsequently, I choose to focus on how to redefine the writing process using digital tools.  The questions that I chose to explore for each standard, listed below, gave me a starting point.  However, as you will read in the reflection, my research lead me to various conclusions.

Standard 1 Question: How can I revamp the standard essay writing process to foster creativity and utilize technology tools?

Standard 2 QuestionWhat digital tools or digital experiences are available that allow students to collaborate on the writing process, specifically those that can easily be monitored and assessed by the teacher?

Digital Tools to Redefine the Writing Process

My first considerations when looking for quality digital tools are to find those which are easy to use and are simple to implement immediately, with little set-up or training necessary.  I also tend to choose tools that are cloud-based so they can be used on any device, or those which are compatible with Chromebooks as I am at a Google-school.  With that said, the following tools meet these qualifications and address the two parts of the writing process that I personally don’t always teach effectively, brainstorming and publishing.

Brainstorming Tools

I recently asked students to create a timeline of pertinent events from their life as a way to brainstorm for a narrative essay. In the past, I had students create this timeline on paper but figured that there was likely a more engaging and valuable option for completing this task–I was right!  In looking for digital timeline tools, I found a lot of different options, but found that HSTRY and Read Write Think Timeline seemed the most appropriate for education.  Both allow students to incorporate media and offer various organizational ideas, totally revamping the traditional timeline.

Additionally, my master’s program has turned me on to mind-maps as a way to organize ideas.  We use Coggle to reflect on each module, which is great as it incorporates pictures, media, and is very visually appealing.  Below is the Coggle mind map I made based on ISTE standard one as an example.

I also recently equipped my Google Docs with the Mindmeister add on.  This is another great tool that allows students to create a mind map out of an outline.  What I like about this is that it would be a good way to teach the outlining process, which I know I sometimes overlook!  Below is a Google Doc displaying a sample, based on a few points we covered regarding ISTE standard 2.

 

Additionally, I explored tools for creating citations and bibliographies withing Google Documents.  The best tool I found was the Paperpile extension, which allows for users to easily embed both parenthetical citations and a works cited section.  I also tried out EasyBib, which was equally easy-to-use but was a bit more limited on what all it offered.

Reconsidering Assessments to Increase Educational Value & Relevance

Over the past few years, my district has begun assessing students through “performance tasks” in the core subjects such as math, science, history, English, and Health/PE.  These tasks require all students to take common assessments, typically involving a lot of writing, over the year. Teachers then gather data on these assessments to provide to the district.  The data is meant to inform instruction, identify areas of need, and hypothesize about how students may perform on state-mandated tests.  There are definitely benefits to these tasks, such as that they do provide valuable data on our students, compiled by our teachers rather than a hired scorer who-knows-where.  Creating these tasks also provides time for departments to align instruction and norm grading.  However, I believe there are a few ways that these tasks can be redesigned so they are more valuable instructional tools and more meaningful to students.
 
Our performance tasks are meant to be served “cold”, by which I mean that students do not get to prepare for them at all–besides general class instruction throughout the year–and they are not allowed to receive help from the teacher during the process.  These guidelines make sense, as they are similar to what is required for a state-mandated test.  The issue however is that, at least in English classes, these tasks have replaced various essays or big writing assignments we have done in the past, in which students received a lot more instruction.  I cannot see the value in taking out instruction to get a general idea of how a student MIGHT do on a state test.  It is also difficult to watch some students get hung up on a simple formality, which makes them unable to complete the task at all.  Additionally, since these tasks must be competed in class, it is very difficult to account for absent students.
Another area to reconsider is in what is how the writing process is taught through these performance tasks.  As an English teacher, I argue that the most important part of writing is the revising and publishing.  ANYTHING someone writes, from an email to a novel, should be read over, often several times, for accuracy.  Then, when the finished work is turned in, it should be published and received in a way that encourages others to read it, or for it to have some valuable purpose.  For these tasks, students jump right into writing the paper, very rarely read their work over, and then immediately forget about them when they are finished.  It is really hard to “sell” something when it’s hard to find much value in it myself.
 
A final potential issue with these performance tasks lies around the necessity to norm writing expectations beyond just their department. As it is, teachers only discuss how to score these performance tasks with their own subject-area departments.  This means that writing expectations may be inconsistent among each group.  Incidentally, this leads students to be confused when they are getting high scores for writing in math or science, and much lower scores in their English class.   

My Collaborative Project

The big project for my master’s program this semester is a global collaborative project.  These types of projects ask that educators “flatten their classroom walls” to collaborate with individuals outside of the classroom.  I have been exploring various global projects and have found some really awesome ideas out there, such as.  However, I have also learned that the last month of the school year is not the time to start this type of project as it requires a lot of planning!  In consideration of time restraints, I am trying out a mini-collaborative project this year, where I will have my ninth grade English class work through the writing process with a sixth grade language arts class within my district.   Specifically, these students will work together to edit each other’s papers and I will collaborate with the other teacher on strategies for teaching narrative writing.  While I’d love to try some “bigger” projects in the future, starting small is a good way to step into this cool idea to take make learning more relevant, valuable, and collaborative.

Analyzing Argument in Advertisements: A Lesson Using the ASSURE Method

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Overview:

The ASSURE Model, detailed in the infographic below, is an excellent tool to help teachers develop an appropriate and effective learning environment for their students.

untitled-infographic

Using this model, I developed a lesson plan on analyzing argument in advertisements.  What was great about this project was that it not only fulfilled a school assignment for my SPU Digital Ed. Leadership master’s program, but I was actually teaching it to my students at the same time.  This made it very relevant to my teaching and I was able to fine tune the lesson through trial and error.  Additionally,  the lesson combines Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts with ISTE Standards 1 and 2.  While this lesson is intended to be taught in a ninth grade English classroom, it could easily be adapted for a different age group or subject area.

The complete Advertisement Analysis Project Lesson can be found by following the link or it is embedded below.

Reflection:

I found the ASSURE model very useful for creating specific, thoughtful, and thorough lesson plans.  I really liked that it asks you to consider modifications and adjustments so you feel prepared in case anything goes contrary to the plan.  It is especially important to consider this when dealing with technology as it seems like, in navigating digital learning, there is a lot that may not go as planned.  Overall, I appreciated the process but I do think that this model might be a bit too extensive for a day-to-day lesson.  It is very appropriate when planning units, particularly those that heavily rely on digital tools.  With that said, the greatest pleasure I had in teaching this lesson was in the level of student engagement and therefore the quality of the finished projects.  I believe this was in large part due to having to think through each lesson component and possible outcome really helped me address any issues quickly and efficiently.

References:

ASSURE. (n.d.). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/assure.html

ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

Media Literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2016, from http://www.teachinctrl.org/lessons/mediabetweenlines.php