Librarian-Teacher Partnerships for Inquiry Learning: Measures of Effectiveness for a Practice-Based Model of Professional Development
Keywords:professional development, inquiry based learning, communities of practice, teacher-librarian collaboration, practice-based course design
AbstractObjective – This study analyzed the effects of a practice-based model of professional development on the teaching and collaborative practices of 9 teams of librarians and teachers, who created and implemented units of inquiry-focused study with K-12 students during a yearlong course. The authors describe how the collection and analysis of evidence guided the development team in the formative and summative evaluations of the outcomes of the professional development, as well as the long-term results of participation in this initiative.
Methods – The authors used an interpretive, participative approach. The first author was the external reviewer for the project; the second author headed the development team and served as a participant-observer. Triangulated data were collected from participants in the form of learning logs, discussion board postings, interviews, questionnaires, and learning portfolios consisting of unit and lesson plans and student work samples with critiques. Data were also collected from the professional development designers in the form of meeting notes, responses to participants, interviews, and course documents. For two years following the end of the formal course, the authors also conducted follow-up email correspondence with all teams and site visits with six teams to determine sustained or expanded implementation of inquiry-focused, collaborative curriculum development.
Results – The practice-based approach to professional development required continual modification of the course design and timely, individualized mentoring and feedback, based on analysis and co-reflection by the developers on the evidence gathered through participant logs, reports, and school site visits. Modeling the inquiry process in their own course development work and making this process transparent to the participating community were essential to improvement. Course participants reported beneficial results in both immediate and long-term changes in practice. The summative evaluation identified significant changes in practice in three areas: (1) the design of inquiry-focused learning, (2) the roles of the teacher and librarian in collaborative development of instruction, and (3) the impact on student performance. Two years after the yearlong professional development course, most participants indicated that they continued to incorporate inquiry-based approaches, and over half of the participants were involving other colleagues at their schools in inquiry-focused practices. Six of the librarians assumed major curricular roles in their respective schools.
Conclusion – The practice-based model of professional development appears to be effective and sustainable. It has been tested and modified by other development teams in the last two years. More extensive use of the model in other contexts with further testing and refinement by other developers is needed to ensure that the model is robust and widely applicable.
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