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"Skills in Action": The Importance of Concept-Based Research

Statement of Need
Twenty-first century educators know that reading and literacy skills are vital for academic achievement, and
that those skills extend beyond the classroom walls. Students must understand texts in all formats and are
expected to successfully navigate today's complex information landscape through the acquisition of digital,
visual, textual and technological literacies. As partners in our school community, we, as media specialists, are
responsible for implementing the tools with which students become competent users of media and technology,
as well as globally literate citizens--“information adventurers,” as Donham notes. It is imperative that we create
a learning environment that values equitable physical and intellectual access to resources and provides our
students with the strategies and skills required for success in our contemporary landscape and beyond. The
information provided to you today was compiled by the AASL (American Association of School Libraries) and
published as Standards For The 21st Century Learner in Action (2009).

Proposal Brief
As media specialists, we propose a Staff Development session for the administration and faculty that conveys
the importance of providing our students with skills necessary to become lifelong learners and thinkers and
confident, ethical, and effective users of information. Using the Standards for the 21st Century Learner, media
specialists will instruct the staff on how to create assignments rooted in inquiry-based learning and how to
actively collaborate with school librarians.

According to the AASL, the expansion of technology and today’s informational demands necessitate that all
individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn independently. Concept-based research
enhances the likelihood that children will engage in “deep learning” experiences. By asking students to
generate topics based on interest, we afford them the opportunities to ask relevant questions that in turn allow
them to explore their topic to its fullest. Collaboration between media specialists and classroom teachers will
instill in students a love of learning and reading, and encourage them to develop an intrinsic motivation to work
and achieve to their maximum potential.

Strand 1.1 of the “Skills “section of Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action contains the following
1.1.2: With guidance generate a list of keywords for an inquiry-based project.
1.1.3 Assess questions to determine which can be answered by simple facts and those
which would lead to an interesting inquiry.
1.1.4: Use multiple resources, including print, electronic, and human, to locate information.

1.1.5: Select information to answer questions or solve a problem.
1.1.6: Draw conclusions based on facts and premises.

Accomplished media specialists apply best teaching practices to meet the above standards in several ways,
which include, but are not limited to:
● Using expert knowledge in acquiring and evaluating information.
● Developing and promoting the effective use of learning resources to support instructional programming.
● Integrating information literacy standards into the curriculum content and objectives.
● Planning instructional units collaboratively with classroom teachers.
● Knowing curriculum programs mandated by the state, district, and school.
● Providing leadership in collaborative program planning and teaching.

Library media specialists provide the essential link that connects students, teachers, and other stakeholders in
the educational process to the informational resources they need. By implementing the preceding skills into
everyday lessons, media specialists can justify their rationale for promoting concept-based research methods
to administrators and classroom teachers.

The primary goal of our workshop series, Skills in Action: The Importance of Concept-Based Research, is
to provide teachers and support staff with an overview of the AASL Learning Standards that drive the school
library program. Teachers will gain knowledge of the four core Learning Standards and the first workshop will
provide in-depth coverage of the first standard, “Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.” During the
first workshop, media specialists will stress the importance of concept-based research and discuss the skills
students must develop in order to successfully meet the Standards’ benchmarks and become more competent
researchers. Teachers will be given opportunities to develop a concept-based research lesson for their grade
level and discuss the importance of providing students with opportunities to guide, monitor, and assess their
own learning. This will be the first in a series of four workshops based on the Learning Standards of the AASL
(pending funding).

Examples (To be used as introduction to the workshop)

1. Why should we teach Authentic Research?
● Observation-grounded
● Concept-oriented
● Value beyond the classroom

2. Typical topic-based graphic organizer (See Figure 1, Donham)

3. Concept-based graphic organizer (See Figure 2, Donham)

4. Conceptual lens yields deeper questions (See Table 1, Donham)

5. Illustrating shift from topic to concept (See Table 2,

In large group, pre-assess teachers’ existing knowledge of the purpose and role of school media specialists as
well as their familiarity with concept-based research. To maximize honest input, facilitators will use Sharepoint
technology to assess teachers’ level of experience and expertise with utilizing the research process. This initial
activity will help determine the level of expertise we should provide to them during this collaborative project.
The Sharepoint survey will include the following questions:
● What role do media specialists play in student learning?
● What role do media specialists play in the school community?
● What is your primary purpose for assigning research projects?
● When assigning research projects, do you have students research topics or concepts?
● Have you ever engaged in concept-based inquiry? If so, what has been your experience?
Discuss answers with whole group.

Teachers begin by forming table groups to discuss the following questions:
● What is the difference between topic-based research vs. concept-based research?
● Which one are you most comfortable with? Why? Why not?.
● Teachers will regroup in grade-level teams to develop research topics for their grade levels based on
Illinois Learning Standards in either science or social studies.
● “Make and Take” activity: After instruction, teachers will create an initial outline of a concept-based
research project they will conduct with their students. Teachers may differentiate this assignment for
struggling learners by allowing them to research topics rather than concepts. Graphic organizers will be

● Distribute and collect exit tickets and acknowledge formal district survey.
● Optional, if time allows: Teachers will break into small groups to create their own short- and long-term
goal setting worksheets and/or assessment rubrics.
Materials required
● Space large enough to accommodate approximately 70 staff members
● Laptop with Internet access and Microsoft Share Point software installed, along with Seventy-five
Microsoft Share Point clickers
● LCD projector (for Prezi-based presentation and video viewing)
● Document reader
● Handouts (see appendix)

Facilitator Responsibilities
School Media Specialists from Lincoln and Eisenhower Schools of District 99 will provide the professional
development to the 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-grade classroom teachers entitled "Skills in Action": The Importance of
Concept-Based Research, based on AASL’s Standards For the 21st Century Learner in Action. The
Professional Development will take place at Lincoln School on December 14, 2010 during the afternoon of a
School Improvement Day (SIP). This PD session has been approved by the District Superintendent as staff
development, and the building principal has been asked to monitor.
I. Initial proposal by media specialists to provide PD for Standards For The 21st Century Learner in Action
II. Lincoln Media Specialist approaches her principal to ask permission to provide PD on Standards in Action
III. Eisenhower Media Specialist develops PD proposal, sends to Superintendent and waits for approval
IV. Approval is granted
V. Media Specialists collaborate and develop a three-hour workshop on Standards in Action to be shared at
the next School Improvement Day (SIP)
VI. Media specialists split responsibility for implementation of PD

This workshop is intended to take place during the second half of a School Improvement Day (SIP), and the
duration of the presentation should be no longer than three hours. Since a single specific topic is the primary
focus, this presentation is intended to be the first in a series of four on the Standards for the 21st Century
Learner in Action. Each of the proceeding presentations should also average about half a day in length during
a SIP.

Session Date Objectives

“Inquire, think critically, and gain 12/14/10 Provide teachers and support staff with an overview
knowledge.” (3 hours) of the AASL Learning Standards that drive the
school library program.
situations, apply
kfunding) knowledge
and create to new
new knowledge (3 hours) further
the investigate
Macrorie conceptual
I-Search model. information, utilizing

our democratic
funding) and productively
society (pending
as members of (3 hours) projects
is still needed
and asby
understanding ofa students
to have
concept-basedlevel improved
see what support

Pursue personal and aesthetic growth 03/16/11 To be determined. This final workshop will be based
(pending funding) (3 hours) on faculty need, which will be determined by the
input received from the staff regarding effectiveness
of previous workshops.

This program can accommodate several varying types of assessments. When staff leave the PD, they will be
given an exit ticket with a series of questions focused on how they intend to put their new skills of conceptual
assignments into practice. This assessment is to not only evaluate staff reaction to the presentation, but also
to hold them accountable for change. Each staff member will also be asked to complete a survey hosted on
surveymonkey.com, which will record his/her reactions to the presentation’s effectiveness. Follow-up surveys

will be issued at the end of the semester so that staff may self-evaluate the level of success at their new


Amount Purpose Explanation

= $1200.00 compensation
16 and for2010,
14, media specialists
16, 2011
Jan. 15, development
the year led byfortwo
four workshops
specialists.during the course of
$120.00 hour
Jan. workshops
15, 2011) (Dec. 14, 2010 & Nutrition Break
$30.00 Materials Packets and handouts
$1350.00 (n/a) cost for the initial workshop is approximately $340.

Teachers and media specialists alike share a common goal of providing optimal instruction to our young
charges. By collaborating with educators and instructing them in how to implement various strategies and
methods to best achieve this goal, we are honoring our commitment to best practices. As Donham noted in
her article, “When the shift from a fact-based to a concept-based inquiry occurs, there is greater likelihood that
the investigation will have value beyond school because abstract concepts have transferability” (2010). Thus,
we feel that this first workshop of a planned series, centered around concept-based inquiry, is a solid
introduction to long-term cross-departmental collaboration and implementation.

American Association of School Libraries (Eds.). (2008). Standards for the 21st Century Learner In
Action. Chicago: AASL.
Donham, J. (2010). Deep Learning Through Concept Based Inquiry. School Library Monthly, 27(1).
Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/Donham2010-v27n1p8.html
Educational Broadcasting Corporation (Eds.) (2004). From Concept to Classroom. Retrieved from
Johnson, D. (2008, May 4). Best Practices for School Library Media Programs [blog posting]. Blue Skunk
Blog. Retrieved from http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2008/5/4/best-practices-for-

Handouts provided at workshop:
● Outline
● informational packet on concept-based inquiry
● blank graphic organizers

Videos to be watched:
● Multi-part videos in the “From Concept to Classroom” series, accessible at: