School Libraries

Book Reviews, Research, Issues

Metacognition and Inquiry

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 9.49.29 AMMinshift often publishes excellent summaries of research studies and this one about metacognition is no exception.  The author describes metacognition as thinking about thinking and traces its effectiveness, particularly by struggling learners as one major way to improve learning.

See it at:

Years ago, when Carol Koeschlin and I were developing high level inquiry projects that we recommended to teacher librarians who were coteaching alongside classroom teachers, we recognized that many teacher librarians were struggling with the teaching of inquiry. We often heard complaints that every year, it seemed as though students involved in research projects had to be taught the same thing over and over. College librarians were complaining that students came to them unequipped to do research for term papers even though these same students had done multiple papers in high school.

Why were students forgetting inquiry and research skills? Taking the clues from the idea of metacognition, we developed eight different metacognitive strategies that could be used by classroom teachers and teacher librarians AFTER an inquiry project was over and after the grades were in. The idea was that the students would be more open and honest after the learning event than before the “final test or assessment.” we also took our clue from sports coaches who regularly tape sports events and then have their athletes watch and analyze what went right or wrong during the game, and while the outcome of that game could not be changed, the outcome of upcoming games could be affected.

One such strategy would be the bringing to the class an expert after a learning experience was over. The class could explore what they learned; how that compared with the expert’s ideas and then think forward. The next time we do research together what should be do differently than we did this time? What did we learn? How did we learn it? What could we do to become better?

During a typical school year, if a classroom teacher engaged in three inquiry projects with the teacher librarian, we might expect improvement over time.  The first time, we would reflect on a number of problems and possible solutions. Before starting on the second project, we would reflect on what went right and wrong during the previous one  and resolve to do better. And, the third time, we would do the same. The hope is that the sophistication level of inquiry would grow over the year just as a basketball team would improve after watching and analyzing every game they played.

Teachers often say they don’t have time for such activities because of the pressure of the next topic on their docket. We argued in our The Big Think  book that if you don’t take the metacognitive thinking time, you will continue to have a losing season of inquiry projects…

Challenge: There is only one way, we think to test out this idea in your own school. First, sit through a number of critique sessions with an athletic coach, then try different strategies when you have inquiry projects. Then ask yourself the so what questions and then ask what’s next.


August 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OERs and the Library Learning Commons

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OERs or Open Educational Resources are free materials that can be used by students for instructional purposes and many teachers are starting to replace textbooks with them. At the very least, these resources can be used to supplement textbooks that presume that one size fits all learners. In a recent article, the case for OERs is strengthened.  Se it at:

In my own work with graduate students in the School of Information at San Jose state University, we have been creating several important resources that are examples of what the teacher librarian and their colleagues in a school district, a region, a state, or even from a nation, could create that suggests that the library learning commons can be an important factor in this effort.

Our first example is an entire fourth grade curriculum for fourth graders on California history based on the 2016 social studies framework developed by the State of California.  It is at:

This is a participatory site that invites both teachers and students to contribute as well as use the resources. We have found that so many wonderful materials are available from libraries, museums, state agencies, organizations, etc. But what is even more important is the fact that our students have created major lesson plans that encourage classroom teachers to coteach alongside their teacher librarian for a much higher percent of students who meet or exceed both adult’s expectations.

The second example is a Symbaloo webmix known as The Virtual Makerspace. It is available at: or, just google “Symvaloo the virtual makerspace”

Here, over 50 tools for various grade levels have been curated to provide any school the opportunity to have a free virtual makerspace alongside their physical one. The tools help kids and teens build, create, invent, and do things on their own without have to be required or “taught” how to do things.  It is a source worth checking out.

Challenge: What could your local teacher librarians do to contribute OERs that support the curriculum in your school?




August 10, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Computer Algorithms and the Future of Jobs

A TED talk about advance of smart computer algoritms is worth watching several times by teachers and those whom they teach. it is at:

One popular solution is to teach everyone coding during their school years. While coding can help in many ways, I think it should be accompanied by the idea of making, creativity, inventing, and even entrepreneurship during childhood and teen years. Such can be included in the opportunities provided by the professional staff in the school library learning commons. For many bored students, a fresh creative and participatory learning environment is as refreshing to the mind as recess is to the body.

Challenge: Have the learners in your school help you reinvent what goes on in your library learning commons on a regular basis.

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Syracuse researchers link higher test scores with certified librarians in schools

Quoted from:

Preliminary findings of research conducted by iSchool professor Ruth Small and graduate students in the Center for Digital Literacy (CDL) show a statistically significant increase in the ELA test scores—almost a 10 point difference—among fourth-grade students whose schools had certified librarians over students in schools without certified librarians.

“We believe these findings are important to consider, not only because of the higher ELA test scores. These certified librarians are having a larger impact on students’ overall learning as well,” says Small, who directs the school library media program at the iSchool and was recently appointed to the Governor’s New York State Council for Universal Broadband’s Digital Literacy Committee. “Although we’re still analyzing the data, our preliminary results show that certified librarians are also more likely to provide students with materials that present more diverse points of view and that better support the curriculum than non-certified librarians.”

Certified librarians are currently not mandated at the elementary level in New York state, but they are at the secondary level.

“This preliminary report reaffirms what 19 other state studies have shown, that school libraries staffed by certified librarians and equipped with current books and technology can have a positive impact on student academic achievement,” says Michael J. Borges, executive director of the New York Library Association.

The research, which is being funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Studies, included survey responses from 1,612 schools, proportionately representing New York City; large upstate cities such as Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester; other high-needs schools from urban and rural districts; average-need schools; and low-need schools. Even when the need levels of schools were taken into consideration, there was still a 2.2 point difference in average test scores.

“These initial findings support our efforts to require school library media specialists in grades K-6, especially in those school districts that are not meeting state and federal standards,” says Alan Lubin, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers.

The researchers are now currently analyzing more in-depth information gathered from surveys and focus groups involving school library media specialists, students, principals, teachers and parents from 48 elementary, middle and high schools across New York state. They will analyze these various groups’ perceptions of school library specialists and their effect on education.

“The New York State Assembly values libraries and believes they are an important part of our educational system. This preliminary report reinforces the need to continue to invest in our schools, especially those lacking a quality school library program,” says Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, chair of the Assembly Libraries and Educational Technology Committee.

Small hopes to better understand the impact these trained library media specialists have on motivating students to learn, influencing the adoption and use of technology and servicing students with disabilities and special needs.

“Our preliminary results support what school librarians already knew,” says Small. “Best intentions only go so far. We need people educated in school librarianship and dedicated to motivating students to read and learn in our schools.”

The New York Library Association is supporting an increase in library materials aid from $6.25 per pupil to $10 per pupil as recommended by the New York State Board of Regents. Library materials aid is used by schools to purchase books and other reading materials for their libraries. NYLA is also asking the governor and the legislature to amend the Contracts for Excellence initiative to allow the extra funds that high-need school districts receive to be spent on hiring school library media specialists and equipping libraries with up-to-date books and technology.

“This study confirms the direct impact of certified school librarians on the educational success of our children,” says state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Libraries. “That is why I am sponsoring legislation (S.1686) to ensure that every school in the state has a library and a school librarian. In recent years, the Senate has successfully proposed record increases in state aid to public libraries, and I will continue to promote support for school libraries. The New York State Senate has successfully proposed increases for libraries over the past two years, and we will continue to make library funding a priority.”

August 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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