Scholarship, Practice, and Leadership
In this modern age of information and ever expanding educational program requirements, school and district leaders must have the skills necessary to combine scholarship and leadership with practices that lead to facilitating and better managing the needs of diverse student groups. Therefore, educational leaders must be advocates of programs and initiatives that provide information literacy skills for their students and communities as well as be masters of accessing information themselves.
The authors of the final report of the Presidential Committee on Information Literacy commissioned by the American Library Association declare that our very way of life and democratic values is dependent on how the public and leaders deal with this current age of information. “On a daily basis, problems are more difficult to solve when people lack access to meaningful information vital to good decision making. Many people are vulnerable to poorly informed people or opportunists…” (ALA).
The report is impassioned and replete with examples of how a lack of information literacy can affect people. In California, parents of children who are limited-English proficient must determine what instructional program they would like their child to be enrolled in. As several of these parents are illiterate in English, they must rely on the information provided to them by school leaders. The programs they may choose from are not always offered by schools, even though, if enough requests are made, they must be. Although the law requires that school leaders not coerce the parents into making a decision that best falls in line with the school’s already offered programs, in most cases, parents become dependent on school leaders to inform them as to what would be best for their child.
One of the core responsibilities of a leader is to empower people to be able to make educated choices. By doing so, the school leader creates a resource and supporter out of an otherwise uninformed parent. By providing bilingual workshops on information literacy, school and district leaders can produce a more capable community as well as represent principled conduct in order to re-culture their schools and communities for excellence.
Even more specific is The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP): A Tool For Teaching With An International Perspective which provides a more precise example of how scientific information literacy can be better attained in American classrooms by way of using the ISSP tool. This tool is “…an annual social survey conducted in over 30 countries throughout the world. The aim of the ISSP is to gather cross-nationally comparative data on a wide range of topics…” (Lauer & Yodanis, 2004). In the report, the authors clearly suggest ways that the ISSP can be utilized to teach substantive courses by providing examples of data sets for teachers to consider in devising lessons. This is an excellent example of how scholarship, in this case, by way of the administration of a social survey, can lead to practices that promote information literacy. The program managers, through compiling the results of the ISSP survey, devise, annually, sets of data that can empower educators to “…assist in internationalizing the sociological perspective in the classroom.” (Lauer & Yodanis). This, in turn, can bestow power to and encourage educators to provide more globally inclined perspectives for their students.
Comparatively, A Reaction to “Information Literacy and Higher Education” (Zabel, 2004) investigates the role of academic libraries and how they may be a factor in advancing information literacy in students. Although the previously cited report and article detail the need for information literacy to become more prevalent and a tool by which this may be attained, Zabel’s article strikes to the core of how information literacy should be influenced by scholarship, practice, and leadership. “For information literacy instruction to succeed, it must be integrated, relevant, ongoing, collaborative, and applied.” (Zabel, 2004). Today’s educational leaders must make information literacy a central tenet in how they engage their students and not simply as a tool to be used in supporting instruction. This integration will not only lead to stronger scholarly practices by students, but will prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Finally, educational leaders should focus on how information literacy can be better encouraged in American school systems by way of combining scholarship with practice. “Knowing what leaders [should] do is one thing, but a rich understanding of how, why, and when they do it is essential if research is to make a meaningful contribution to understanding and improving leadership practice.” (Sillane & Orlina, 2005). For example, in the field of education, the need for equipping our school libraries with high-speed internet access and the most recent references to guide parents and students can be seen as a step towards supporting students and the community in being more self-reliant. However, unless this is coupled with a shared vision for preparing our communities to take advantage of these resources and providing teachers with professional development in how to integrate information literacy skill acquisition into their lessons, all that might be gained is a very expensive library that is not used to its potential.
Surely, one way of creating better school systems by entrenching knowledge of how to access information lies with administrators leading with internal consistency (Collins, 2001) tempered by a scholarly approach and sensible methods. The responsibility of educational leaders, therefore, is to be advocates for this learned skill so students may better navigate the waters of an information rich world.
American Library Association (1989, January 10). Presidential committee on information literacy: Final report. Retrieved April 11, 2008, from http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/witepapers/presidential.htm.
Collins, J. (2001). Good to great--Why some companies make the leap...and others don't. New York: Harper Business.
Lauer, S. R., & Yodanis, C. L. (2004, July, 2004). The international social survey programme (ISSP): A tool for teaching with an international perspective. Teaching Sociology, 32(3), 304.
Sillane, J. P., & Orlina, E. C. (2005, September,2005). Investigating leadership practice: Exploring the entailments of taking distributed perspective. Leadership & Policy in Schools, 4(3), 157-176.
Zabel, D. (2004, January,2004). A reaction to "information literacy and higher education. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30(1), 17-21.