Empowering School Librarians to be Literacy Instruction Leaders through Professional Development

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Reed, Karen Nourse
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Middle Tennessee State University
Federal education policy has long emphasized the importance of literacy in student academic success, and the most recent policy example of this literacy priority has been the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. ESSA is noteworthy for its explicit designation of school librarians as being members of the literacy instruction team. With this increased role for collaboration with reading specialists and classroom teachers comes the responsibility of heightened attention to reading instruction as part of the school librarian workload. Despite federal and professional mandates stipulating literacy instruction, many school librarians do not see this role as a priority within the scope of their other duties. This study sought to improve school librarian knowledge and perceptions of their literacy instruction role through a professional development series emphasizing reading comprehension strategies.
The researcher conducted a six-week long professional development (PD) course emphasizing reading comprehension strategies. Thirty-five school librarians currently working in Tennessee K-12 schools were selected through an application process to receive instructional content. Participants for the study were recruited from this group of PD participants.
The study called for a convergent mixed methods research methodology. Participants were assessed through both quantitative and qualitative means to derive any change in their knowledge and perceptions regarding the literacy instructional role of the school librarian.
Analysis examined class-wide participant changes to knowledge and perceptions as a result of the instruction, as well as possible group differences between elementary and secondary school librarians. The study determined that statistically significant gains were made in both knowledge and perceptions on average, but that group differences in the two constructs were not present at a quantitative level. At a qualitative level, a larger number of secondary cohort members displayed a change regarding their perceptions of the literacy instruction role. In summary, the study demonstrated that the experience of receiving instruction on reading comprehension instructional strategies positively impacted participant knowledge as well as perceptions of the school librarian’s literacy instruction role.
Literacy instruction, Professional development, Reading instruction, School librarian