I. General Information
School Name: Hugh Boyd Secondary
School District: SD#38 Richmond
Inquiry Team Members: Jane Leung: email@example.com, Leanne McColl: firstname.lastname@example.org, Michelle Korber: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
II. Inquiry Project Information
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Areas Addressed: Language Arts – Literacy, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was to encourage students of all reading levels and backgrounds to read authentic texts with diverse perspectives.
III. Spirals of Inquiry Details
Scanning: We wanted to instill confidence in all students, of all abilities, that they could participate successfully in the activity to read diverse books. We wanted students to know that there would be many adults – classroom teachers, the Teacher-Librarian, Education Assistants, Resource teachers, etc. – who believe they could be successful. We also were very explicit with why we wanted them to read books from diverse perspectives -to be open minded, to value diverse experiences and stories, and to learn from those stories. We were able to see how students were doing in their learning with the feedback they gave us with each book read, and what they were reading and learning. We noticed that our learners were reading new books on different and diverse perspectives that they had not learned before, through their feedback. We also noticed that students of all abilities participated -students with special needs, ELL Learners, Honours students – everyone. We used the OECD principles of learning to guide the development of our actions – that students are at the centre and get to choose what and how they learn, that students’ individual differences and learning styles were recognized when any genre and type of print counted, and all students were challenged in their abilities according to their own level. The First Peoples Principles of Learning guided our activities throughout, as the length of our activity incorporated the principles that learning involves patience and time, the exploration of diverse perspectives requires an exploration of one’s identity, learning is embedded in memory, history, and story, and learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational.
Focus: We focused on Differentiated Instruction because we have a very diverse population with different cultural backgrounds, and different reading abilities. We wanted to focus on the First Peoples Principles of Learning because we had so many resources, texts, and books with Indigenous perspectives that we wanted to get into the hands of students. We wanted learning to be flexible – they could choose their own books to read, they could read in class or on their own, they could choose whatever text that was of interest to them. We were hoping that they, 1) would read books from different perspectives they had not read before, 2) they obtain ownership over their own reading and learning, and 3) they gain new knowledge from Indigenous and other BIPOC perspectives.
Hunch: Our English bookrooms are still filled with books from a European perspective. Students were not necessarily encouraged to read for pleasure or read books with diverse perspectives. I was concerned that despite our district’s diversity audit and focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion, it wasn’t actually translating into what was happening in schools, and what teachers and students valued. I knew this because I can see the circulation numbers at the library, and the diverse books that had increased in quantity were still not circulated well by staff or students. I felt the lack of awareness and knowledge was contributing to the dismal circulation of diverse books.
New Professional Learning: Being on the ProD committee at our school, I encouraged school proD sessions with our Indigenous Education consultant focusing on the First Peoples Principles of Learning. I attended many district ProD sessions focusing on diversity and Indigenous Education. I also joined a monthly book club on Anti Racism, reading Me and White Supremacy, as well as the Indigenous Book Club, reading Lee Maracle’s Conversations with Canadians. I found the Indigenous Book Club was the most helpful in terms of getting ideas from like-minded colleagues from around the district, led by our Indigenous Education Teacher Consultant. It made us feel engaged and ready to take on the work. We put in the parameters of why were were running a Diversity Book Challenge, and linked it back to our ProD learning on how to put what we learned into practice.
1. We started with ProD – the staff started the year at the UBC Museum of Anthropology to learn about Indigenous history in the local context and the First Peoples Principles of Learning. We continued the learning in subsequent ProD days throughout the year.
2. We debriefed some data as a team – diverse titles added to the library collection, the titles in bookrooms, our district diversity audit results of school secondary as a whole and our numbers as a school, and the circulation numbers of newly added titles. We decided that as a district and as a school, it was important to encourage students and teachers to value reading diverse titles to foster community and empathy by reading different stories.
3. We came up with ideas on how to promote diverse titles. We knew we wanted as many students as we could to participate, so we decided that we would run a school wide reading contest of diverse titles and authors over the course of most of the school year. We had to decide what counted as a diverse title, and what kind of book. We decided that students could read anything – novels, nonfiction, memoirs, graphic novels, etc. Any format counted. We also stayed within the parameters of our diversity audit, and that we would only count titles that were “authentic” texts – the author was of the same background as the protagonists. We included different cultures, religions, sexual identities, and different markers that were included in our audit.
4. We labelled all the books in the library that were authentic texts of diverse authors. We created contest parameters – prizes for most books read with their Block C classes, the first and second semester deadlines, and created marketing materials like posters and flyers. We created a ballot that students could fill out which included a personal reflection on what they learned and why they liked the book or not.
5. We let staff know at staff meetings well before the contest started, so everyone knew why and how we were running the contest. We put in announcements, put up posters, advertised on the school and library websites and parent newsletters, and we booked in the classes to explain the contest for the teachers.
6. We ended up splitting up two pizza parties for the winning class, as some classes had almost 30 students and some classes had a few number of students but the majority participated. So we had a class party for classes under 15 students who read the most diverse titles and one for classes over 15 students. We also added up the top 3 winners for most books read by individual students.
7. We tried to keep up the momentum in both semesters by enlisting the help of student council members posting on their social media.
Checking: We had over 300 ballots and significantly higher circulation of Indigenous and BIPOC titles. I was satisfied because books that previously had not been taken out by students before were taken out multiple times. We had entire classes do the reading contest as a class activity and incorporated it into their curricular learning. Reading student thoughts about the books were heartwarming and insightful. Even the students who didn’t like certain books had interesting and valid reasons. We had resource teachers taking their classes into the library to take out books that were at each students’ reading level, and one of the classes were ecstatic to win a pizza party in the second term. Their resource teacher and EA’s mentioned how welcoming the contest rules were for all students.
Reflections/Advice: I would say – get started with the ProD. Without the ProD based on Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning, we might have had less of a buy in from teachers. Get the teachers on board first, and show them how they can incorporate diverse perspectives into their classroom teaching. It helps to conduct an audit of your library beforehand. While we labelled all books in our library, if it takes too long for a school librarian to do that, they can focus on one section of the collection first (i.e. graphic novels, or non-fiction, or fiction novels, etc.) so it is not so daunting. I learned that once word gets out that there are books that represent their own identities, they will read. I also realized that I have to keep pushing, that change can be hard, a little tiring, and can feel a little lonely, but the rewards of seeing students reading previous unchecked books and reflecting on their learning was incredible.
As for what is next – I plan to approach classroom teachers to use the books in their classrooms on a regular basis, work with them on how to incorporate Indigenous and diverse perspectives into all their courses, and continue with the book challenge every other year to keep things fresh. I also plan to keep track of my purchasing of diverse books using an Excel spreadsheet, so I am aware of which perspectives I am buying the most, and keeping a balance.