|Job-embedded Professional Development
The zone of proximal development, the "ZPD,"
as described and studied by Vygotsky (1978) is not only for
children. Learning is social for all human beings regardless
of age. Engaging in interactions with more knowledgeable peers
as we attempt new learning (teaching), we build new understandings.
We go farther because we have the support of someone who's
been there, who knows more, and who is willing to risk with
us. We grow and develop more fully and more quickly in the
company of our peers.
My dissertation research was a case study of a faculty development
initiative at the University of Arizona (Moreillon 2003).
I set out to learn how new and veteran university faculty
adopted technology tools and reconsidered their teaching practices
after participating in a week-long workshop. Each participant
received a laptop computer and a series of mini-lessons on
particular pieces of software and on instructional strategies.
Most importantly, they had support for developing learning
tools for their courses in a ratio of about two participants
to every technology/teaching facilitator.
What made these workshops successful? It was the convergence
of people, place, and process. The workshop facilitators kept
their focus on helping the faculty achieve their own learning
goals. The learning environment was non-threatening, learner-centered,
collaborative, and respectful. The emphasis was on people.
Facilitators were there to support faculty in risk-taking
and offered on-going support after the initial week of training.
The technology facility where the workshop was held had the
necessary tools and offered continuous support. The process
was self-paced, hands-on, and active. For me, this research
is directly transferable to the school library environment.
With a focus on people, place, and process, school librarians
can help classroom teacher colleagues reach their goals through
As more and more veteran classroom teachers reach retirement,
the number of new classroom teachers will continue to increase.
During my tenure as a teacher educator, I learned that beginning
classroom teachers need a great deal of help with gathering
resources to support their teaching. They need help with
curriculum design so they can integrate performance objectives
from more than one content area into standards-based lessons.
Like all learners, they need explicit modeling and specific
feedback about their teaching. School librarians are in
a key position to provide support to novice classroom teachers
in hopes that they will remain in the classroom and continue
to develop as educators.
I conducted a longitudinal study entitled
"Two Heads are Better than One: The Factors Influencing
the Understanding and Practice of Classroom-Library Collaboration."
The study participants were members of an undergraduate
teacher education program in which I served as the lead
faculty. In all of the courses I taught these preservice
teachers, I designed collaborative assignments. Under my
supervision, they conducted their classroom practicum teaching
experiences with partners. A panel of classroom teachers,
school librarians, and principals shared examples of how
classroom-library collaboration worked for the benefit of
students in their schools. I also shared collaboratively
planned and taught lesson plans, and along with the science
methods instructor, I modeled both a collaborative planning
session and cotaught a science lesson so preservice teachers
could experience collaboration in action. The study participants
also read a book about the impact of classroom-library collaboration
on student achievement.
This is what I learned during the study participants' student
teaching and first-year of classroom teaching experience. Little of what we had done in the university
classroom made a significant difference on their actual
practice of classroom-library collaboration during student
teaching or during their first year of practice. If their cooperating teacher had a value for classroom-library
collaboration and worked with the school librarian, then
the student teacher did so as well. These student and first-year teachers
collaborated with the library program if the school librarian
reached out to new teachers. If, on the other hand, the
school librarian was unfriendly or worked in isolation,
or if there was a paraprofessional or an incompetent school librarian
serving in the library, then these student and first-year teachers did not
collaborate with the library staff (Moreillon 2008).
School Librarians as Teacher Leaders
The bottom line is this: The administrators, classroom teachers,
student teachers, students, and families in each school
community view their school librarian as the representative
of the profession. School librarianship is only as strong
as each individual who serves in the role of school librarian.
The purpose of this book is to provide background information
and offer support to secondary school librarians who want to take
a leadership role within their schools. Reading comprehension
is one of the core competencies of all students. School librarians
who coteach comprehension strategies (aligned with AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner) are contributing to an
area of curriculum that is vital to all students, educators,
and administrators. With knowledge and with experience, school librarians
can take a place as teacher leaders within their schools.
I hope this book is one tool that can support school librarians
in taking this step.
Moreillon, Judi. 2003. A case study of
university faculty development utilizing technology: People,
place and process. Unpublished doctoral dissertation,
University of Arizona.
____. 2008. Two heads are better than one:
The factors influencing the understanding and practice of
classroom-library collaboration/ School Library Media Research 11. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume11/moreillon.cfm.
Vygotsky, Lev. 1978. Mind in society: The
development of psychological processes. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.