I’ve just placed a new response over on the School Libraries 21C site.
This is the section I’ve put off answering because, really, I find it quite daunting. We, as educational practitioners in school libraries, can spout off about how we should be listened to until we are blue in the face, but helping to provide the necessary statistics as evidence for change – in an organised way, that can be trusted and accurately interpreted – is so difficult.
When governments do attempt to initiate national testing of students, to gather that hard evidence of the value being added to learning, we look at their motives with great suspicion – and rightly so, when we all know how statistics can become such a powerful weapon for cost-cutting and false advertising. After all, teacher-librarians spend a lot of time teaching students how to analyse data and texts to detect their authority, validity and reliability.
Ross mentioned that “one of the critical challenges in terms of continuous improvement and personal capacity building is keeping up to date with the vast body of research”.
Having just attended the two-day NSW DET “Connected Learning 2009“ conference (and presenting in a session last Wednesday), I’m internalising a lot more than just “research and carefully looking at how this can be interpreted and translated into daily professional practice”. This year’s conference was subtitled “Transforming Learning and Teaching” (even the order of “learning” and “teaching” in the title was examined!) and it made me think back to this blog site on more than several occasions.
Some of the points raised by the keynote speakers were so important, thought-provoking and challenging. The presentations by Mark Treadwell and Peter Blassina, particularly, were quite mind-blowing. If you haven’t seen the TED talk on “The Sixth Sense” by Pattie Maes (MIT Media Lab), as discussed by Peter Blassina at the conference, it’s a must-see:
After that video, we were all feeling more than a little inadequate, and yet incredibly excited by the possibilities. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, here I was thinking my iPhone was pretty clever, and a harbinger of how students of the future would still be needing the help of teacher-librarians to plough through our information world. If “The Sixth Sense” becomes a commercial reality, the learning curve starts anew before the current one is even finished. Are any of us ready for the next paradigm shift?
Ross also mentions how “often teacher librarians claim that much research is so remote and disconnected from their professional practice. This is an important challenge. In order for research and practice to be more intricately connected, how can this be done? What would you like to see?”
Colleen Foley and I were pleased we had plenty of school principals at our session! But there was so much information to convey in a 50 minute session of a two-day conference – at which all attendees were giving up two days of their vacation. Thus “strategies / initiatives / support at the practitioner level” depend upon practitioners giving up their own leisure time to keep pace. Which is hardly ideal. How else can we ensure that principals are empowered to act in the most effective ways? And will every teacher-librarian be comfortable and capable of providing the local research data being asked of them, and then interpreting it, and internalising the research from further afield, and making it relevant to their day-to-day educational encounters?
At my school, I’m probably very fortunate that we are part of the Priority Schools Program (PSP). In order to keep getting our funding, compiling statistics of our evidence-based practice is embedded. As teacher-librarian, I made sure I was part of the PSP committee, but I can see that setting up something similar – regular, planned pre-testing, post-testing and evaluating – is not easy in non PSP schools.
The time (and funding) needed to analyse results, particularly, and prepare reports that convince all stakeholders that certain changed practices are achieving, or not achieving, outcomes is substantial.
Essential “Strategies / initiatives / support”: Hasn’t it always been about this, and don’t we always complain there’s never enough planning, reflection, money, time and training?