Friday, January 15, 2016

MARC: Mentoring, Accountability, Research, Community

Treasure Mountain Canada has fostered much research over the past few years, and each symposium moves us forward in our practice. At TMC 2016 we will be focusing on the growing impact of
Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada. Of course Leading Learning is in part a product of the work of past TMC symposia. For TMC 2014, Judith Sykes, a leading expert on action research and a project leader for Leading Learning, wrote a paper delving into the factors for sustainable development of the school library learning commons: a perfect set-up for this year's symposium. 

Leading Learning + MARC = Sustainability

With a clever play on acronyms, Sykes alludes to MARC, which library practitioners will recognize as standing for machine readable cataloguing. Sykes' MARC stands for the factors she sees as critical for ensuring sustainable development of school library learning commons practice: Mentoring, Accountability, Research, Community. MARC helps to move past the vagaries of political change and shifting priorities that frequently undermine sustainability.

M - Mentoring: Much research cites the critical role of a supportive principal for developing an effective SLLC. Sykes makes a strong case for much stronger emphasis on the ongoing mentorship role that should be a focus of the principal's practice. True mentorship supports continuous learning and program growth. 

A - Accountability: Efforts to implement learning commons pedagogy across a school is often undermined by educators' perception of this as an "add-on", undermining their ability to cover the curriculum. Sykes firmly plants learning commons pedagogy into the mainstream of the current shift to inquiry learning across Canada's educational jurisdictions. She encourages us to fully understand how learning commons expectations connect to broader education priorities, and to be accountable for practice by embedding program assessment into practice, grounding that assessment in student learning. 

R - Research: Action research should be embedded into practice, to truly understand what works and what doesn't work. That research should inform ongoing practice, and be shared amongst the broader community of teachers. "Gathering evidence does not need to be time consuming or 'yet another thing to do' but needs to become a way of thinking about teaching and learning in a reflective, strategic and data based fashion."

C - Community: Sykes positions community as the most vital part of her MARC model.  Collaboration within the school community, the SLLC team and across professional learning communities is critical for sustaining school improvement initiatives. She explores the competencies of successful teams, and makes strong connections to Leading Learning's advice for moving forward with the school library learning commons. 

Sykes offers great advice for sustaining the "joyful pedagogy" of Leading Learning. Schools and school districts that frame the development of the SLLC within a sustainable MARC approach can make a greater difference over time, ensuring that all students in Canada can indeed expect to find good libraries in every school in Canada. 

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