Disclaimer added 5/17/17:  Due to erroneous information being circulated by certain academic librarians, I would like to clarify this post was written with appropriate permissions.  If you have concerns, I would appreciate your being professional and contacting me directly.

Update 5/18/17:  Due to misinformation that has been spread maliciously by at least once academic librarian through social media about this post, I have edited the original for clarity to keep the focus on the original theme of the post, resilience as an essential information literacy disposition.  It is unfortunate that some academic librarians who perceive themselves as the FERPA police and who know nothing of K12 education posted erroneous information about this post through their social media channels before bothering to contact me about the post, behavior that is unprofessional and most decidedly not in the spirit of the kind of librarianship I would hope colleagues would aspire to emulate.  When they did contact me, they did so in a manner I would not consider appropriate on many levels.  Here is the slightly revised post, and I hope you will glean food for thought whether you are a classroom teacher or librarian at any level.

When we think of information literacy, certain skills usually get great emphasis: understanding how to evaluate information and the sources of that information, search strategies, and citation management.  While these are all important skills, it seems that some dispositions get overlooked because they are soft skills that are not easily taught in neat tidy ways, nor can they be taught in a short time frame.  They are not considered “hard” skills that might be formally or quantitatively assessed with a test or performance task in some way.

I’ll be writing soon about my mini inquiry and research unit with 7th and 8th grade writers. However, there was a moment today I think is worth sharing and speaks to the importance of the soft skills and dispositions.  Ryland is one of my 7th grader writers who has gone from hating the class at the beginning of the year  to one who has flourished and thrived even with some setbacks as we took on more challenging academic writing during the second semester.  He has persisted in the face of assorted challenges.  He even signed up for my Creative Writing SOAR this semester (on top of having the regular writing class with me every day). Of notable importance, Ryland has discovered a love for writing poetry and shared that love of writing poetry with others.

As part of our project work, students brainstormed topics, narrowed down topics, and then engaged in presearch to confirm or change a final topic of interest.  After we completed presearch, students generated 10 different research questions using our question lenses method (more on this soon in a blog post, I promise).  From the 10 questions, I asked students to select their three choices with the understanding we would only focus on two but keep the third on standby in case they discovered one of the top two was not a viable choice as they continued with additional research. Like many other students during the presearch phase, Ryland needed some extra support with his search strategies and efforts, but he dug into the resources I helped him access.

In Ryland’s original research contract, he identified two top question choices around his interest in the Chattahoochee River.  He struggled to compose his 10 questions and to select his top two choices, which originally included:

  • How did the people use the river a long time ago?
  • How long is the Chattahoochee River?

Of course, the second question is not one that really lends itself to inquiry.  However, I wanted Ryland to be able to figure this out for himself.  After being introduced to EasyBib for crafting bibliographies and taking digital notes, he continued his search.  He fell behind for various reasons with his notes, and did not meet his deadline for getting 10 notes (a suggested 5 per research question); I gave him an extension, and he continued working on notes.  Yesterday, he began drafting his introduction to his research essay.  As we conferenced over his draft, we talked about how he had a terrific hook but that the thesis was falling flat.  Through this writing conference, Ryland realized that the second question was one that was more factual and not truly researchable in a deeper way.   I asked him if he would consider going back into his sources and review some the ideas he had read, including an article I had shared with him about the water wars involving the river between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.  Though he looked a little discouraged, he said he would try.

Today he returned to class in an upbeat manner.  He cheerfully and excitedly took out his research contract and told me that after doing some thinking last night, he had a new research question:

How did the water wars get started in the first place?

Not only did Ryland show resilience in developing a new research question (and a damn good one at that!), but he did so in a calm and thoughtful way.  Even more impressed is that Ryland demonstrated this quality at a time of year when many students think school is over with only a week to go!  While this academic move may not sound like a big deal to us as adults, problem-solving and persistence are a big deal for a 7th grader, especially for one who has little experience doing research projects.  Of course, I praised him!  He then set about taking some additional notes and then writing his thesis statement for his introduction now that he had two major research questions/points that worked.   If we look at AASL’s Standards for 21st Century Learners, we can see Ryland demonstrated these dispositions under Standard 1:  Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge:

  •  1.2.5 Demonstrate adaptability by changing the inquiry focus, questions, resources, or strategies when necessary to achieve success.
  • 1.2.6 Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges.
  • 1.2.7 Display persistence by continuing to pursue information to gain a broad perspective.

He also demonstrated these self-assessment strategies:

  • 1.4.2 Use interaction with and feedback from teachers and peers to guide own inquiry process.
  • 1.4.3 Monitor gathered information, and assess for gaps or weaknesses.
  • 1.4.4 Seek appropriate help when it is needed.

I find that frustration, especially when faced with challenging or unfamiliar learning tasks, is a major obstacle for teen learners.  Many students have low thresholds for frustration and give up easily for different reasons.   The majority of the students I teach, all of whom were identified as struggling writers last summer and placed into my Writing Connections courses for this academic year, especially grappled with a low threshold for frustration early in the year last fall.   As I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to teaching writing through a workshop/studio approach this school year, I have found that being able to frequently conference with students 1:1 and coach them through these rough patches goes a long way in building confidence and students’ belief that they CAN overcome new or difficult learning challenges.  These opportunities to regularly conference with students about their writing is a integral and critical part of helping them develop resistance in the face of a demanding or exacting learning situation.

Giving students opportunities to struggle through something hard, that requires thought,  and even asks for multiple efforts, is essential to helping students learn how to problem-solve and build resilience.  At the same time, we as teachers monitor them through the struggle; we know when to step in and when to step back.  We can be there for them and scaffold their efforts by serving as a sounding board they think/talk aloud a challenge/problem,  provide the “just in time” question to prompt or shift their thinking, and celebrate all their steps along the way as they learn from missteps and then ultimately achieve success.

As a librarian, resilience, adaptability, and persistence are essential dimensions of information literacy that I honestly could not cultivate very deeply or frequently with students in the media center in any scalable kind of way.  Why?  Because I lacked that regular interaction with students as well as the deep trust and relationship building that come from working with a student every day of the school year as a classroom teacher.   As a classroom teacher, I have the learning environment and access to students to help develop these dispositions of information literacy.  I’m situated in the heart of our writing and learning studio as we model, practice, share, and revise our thinking and our writing.  As I’ve said in the past, information literacy is not the work of only the librarian, but it is the work of the entire faculty who can work as a schoolwide team with the help of the school librarian to infuse information literacy skills on a meaningful and significant scale with regularity that will have genuine impact on student learning.

Ryland showed a major growth spurt today and has come from far from the writer and learner he was in August. Will this show up in our school’s growth bubble or as part of his test scores on the Georgia Milestones?  Most likely  no, but it will be an important part of his growth as a student and an individual that will go with him far beyond K12 education and hopefully help him as he encounters life challenges beyond graduation.  It is a joy and honor to be part of my students’ journey as learners and to play a role in helping young people like Ryland develop these fundamental dispositions.

15 thoughts on “Resilience: The Most Undervalued Information Literacy Disposition

  1. WOW! I am so happy Ryland did this project. As I told you in the parking lot the other day, he has made huge gains. I’m glad (but not at all surprised) you also realize that growth bubbles and Milestone scores are not the only way we can measure growth in a student. Ryland has grown so much this year, and he will continue to grow because you have instilled a love of writing in him. Kudos to you, and tears for Chestatee for losing you as a teacher. You are a gem!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve trained many young employees to become expert researchers. As I moved to teaching this in a school environment, it became clear that students would near more support than my employees – who had demonstrated ample soft skills by graduating from good colleges, and found resilience and perseverance from a paycheck.

    I taught one session about research to a grad school class for aspiring elementary librarians, at the end, one asked me the three things every student should know about online research before moving on to middle school. I answered, ” (i) they need to be able to ask insightful, comprehensive questions about their topic, and add more questions as they go along; (ii) they need to be absolutely determined to find the best answer they can find to each question; and (iii) they need to know that every search tip and trick they learn does not work in every situation, and tricks that exclude unwanted information also exclude desirable information, as the Web is not a structured information environment in the way a database is.” I then added “and if they do this, they’ll be better researchers than 99% of the adults I know.”

    I then realized that I had basically said “they need to be curious, resilient, persistent and adaptable.”

    Soft skills should be paramount at the elementary and middle school levels. One of the best books I know for teaching them is Angela Maiers’ Classroom Habitudes, which covers 7 of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi from Dubai
    Great post – I’d like to add my experiences because I have started noticing the same – that with Info Lit instruction the affective skills are more important than the technical ones.
    I teach a lot of the technical skills that you mention – Google, Bibliography, website analysis.But I’m focusing less on the details of the skill (low barrier to acquisition for most) and instead focus on their emotional reactions. Reactions to getting the task, fear of attacking the task, and what happens for them when they start searching. I teach the technical skills with sets of handouts and activities but most of my instruction is speaking to their emotions and reactions. At around the same time I train the teachers in the same skill set (I also agree that this can’t just be librarian’s work) because I need them for the student relationships, they have the trust. But whe don’t go in to the skills much, instead I usually train teachers about the pedagogical, psychological & sociological underpinnings of the students’ behavior at the time the skill is called upon and how it affects skill acquisition.
    This is my first year fully instructing in this way, it’s taken me a few years to get the concept right in my head. Now I’m waiting to see if the teachers and students take it back to the classroom. Fingers crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alan, I agree that we often overlook the affective domain. I would love to hear more about your work and how things evolve with the teachers and students as you move forward with this new approach after Year 1. I hope you will please keep me posted!

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  4. Your statements…
    “Because I lacked that regular interaction with students as well as the deep trust and relationship building that come from working with a student every day of the school year as a classroom teacher.”
    “the entire faculty who can work as a school wide team with the help of the school librarian to infuse information literacy skills on a meaningful and significant scale with regularity that will have genuine impact on student learning.”
    These are issues I can directly relate to as a high school library. I must continue to strive for school wide integration of information literacy skills, helping all staff to realize the information literacy principles impact every classroom!
    Thank you for your continued thoughtful reflection of information seeking processes and the impact on student learning!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Please tell me you got permission from this student and his parents to share his name, school, homework, medical issues, etc. Otherwise it’s one heck of a FERPA violation and a serious privacy issue.

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    1. You are the second academic librarian in four hours to pontificate to me and chide me as though I am some kind of incompetent and stupid educator. Of course, I got permission. As a K12 educator and former librarian, I find your comments insulting and demeaning. You can save your critical literacy holier than thou platform for someone else, thank you. I’m amazed anyone has time to try and tell other people how to do their jobs or attempt to scold them publicly.

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      1. First, I’m sorry. Not trying to scold you, just asking. Without any acknowledgement of consent in the text it was unclear. Second, critical literacy ain’t my thing. Again. Sorry for asking.

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      2. It wasn’t that you asked; it was the way it was presented and worded. And as Mark pointed out, why ask in this space? I personally don’t have time to be in the business of other people, especially those I don’t know or follow, but if I did, I would exercise some professionalism and manners by contacting that person directly through email. I see now at least one academic librarian was publicly circulating false information about the post without even bothering to get the facts straight and assuming I would be so stupid as to write such a post without permission—I have no respect for anyone, especially a librarian, who would be that arrogant to do such a thing. Unbelievable, truly.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmm…what is it about online that causes people to forget their manners? Such a shame to see such behaviour on a professional blog, those people need to stay on Facebook. on the other hand there’s lots of interesting comments about getting teacher buy in (scaling across the school as you put it) and the difficulties of gaining student trust. I think I can safely say that these are my two major issues and have been for years, everything else answers to them. i’m moving my focus away from students (which seems seriously counter-intuitive) and towards teachers. I don’t have the man-power or hours to cover all the student body without dumbing down what I do, but i can get to most of the teachers with the higher level psych-social content rather than basic skills.

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