Looking Forward to 2016: 4 Professional Learning Topics

learn button creative commons licensed Flickr photo by 드림포유 As 2016 gets underway you might be thinking about opportunities for professional learning. YALSA’s “Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action” highlights the importance of continuous learning as a way to inform and improve practice and as a way to help others in your institution, and community, learn about the importance of the work you do with and for teens. As you start 2016 consider the following topics as areas you might focus on in your professional learning over the next year.

  • Design Thinking
    Using the process of design thinking to help teens develop knowledge in STEM, college and career readiness, and 21st century skills is something to add to your repertoire. Design thinking focuses on solving problems and coming up with solutions. In service for and with teens this kind of thinking should be embedded in everything you do. You might use design thinking in developing a solution to your teen library space needs. Or, you might use design thinking with teens as a part of a STEM-focused program. The design thinking process requires looking at a problem through the eyes of the user. Doing research to learn more about the problem and user needs. Brainstorming potential solutions. Prototyping solutions. And, iterating possible solutions. The process is collaborative and helps youth be empathetic to user needs, work collaboratively, and take risks and iterate. You can get started learning about design thinking by checking out Design Thinking for Libraries, Design Thinking for Educators, and the Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking.
  • Facilitating Learning
    Over the past several years connected learning has become an important part of what many library staff focus on in order to support teens successfully. Staff work to help teens connect library activities with each teens’ personal passions and interests. Staff develop programs and spaces to support this type of learning. But, sometimes it’s difficult to implement connected learning focused programs successfully. That’s where gaining facilitation skills comes in. When learning about facilitation you have the chance to gain skills in learning about teen interests, helping teens to take risks and learn from their mistakes, and focusing on inquiry. You develop skills that helps teens to develop a process that drives their learning and skill development. Facilitating can be difficult because it requires giving teens a lot of leeway in deciding how things work, and it can take more time then is usually allotted to teen program development and implementation. If you learn about and practice facilitation skills I bet you’ll find that teens are more fully engaged and learning more through the initiatives you provide. Check out the Family Creative Learning Facilitation Guide as a way to start learning about this topic and these skills.
  • Assessment
    Central to ensuring that the community understands the role the library plays in learning for and with teens requires that staff are able measure and articulate impact. That’s why outcomes based assessment is so important. Library staff need to be fluent in what outcomes are and in how to develop quality tools, techniques, and criteria for this type of evaluation. One place to get started is the Youth Program Quality Assessments developed by the David P Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. The Center developed a set of criteria and tools for measuring impact of programs provided by those in youth development fields. Check them out and maybe you’ll even find a training in your area that will help you to learn more about how to use the tools from the Center. Also, don’t miss the DML Commons Course, “Program Evaluation for Connected Learning” that begins in January. Anyone who is providing connected learning opportunities will want to look into this course. The course outline includes developing outcomes and measuring and using evidence.
  • Collective Impact
    In 2011 the Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article on collective impact. The central idea to the article, and of collective impact, is that in order to have an impact in a community organizations have to work together. You might be saying to yourself, “yeah, I know that already.” And, that’s true. But the ideas of collective impact provide a framework and a research focus for exactly how to work with community groups to achieve success and have an impact on the lives of youth and families in your community. You might want to start learning about collective impact by checking out the resources at the Forum for Youth Investment site on Partnering for Impact. In late January you can also read an article about collective impact in the winter issue of YALSA’s member journal, YALS.

When you think about the topics above, you might realize that all four actually fit pretty seamlessly together. For every library initiative you develop you’ll want to include design thinking, strong facilitation of connected learning, outcomes, and community engagement leading to community impact. Perhaps that means you’ll want to develop a learning plan for 2016 that focuses on learning about all four topics and finding ways to connect the four in all of your library’s initiatives.

As you start your professional learning in 2016 keep in mind that learning something new requires giving yourself time to learn, practice, and take risks. Don’t expect that you’ll learn everything you need to know in one workshop. Learning is a process and give yourself the chance to take part in that process fully over the next year.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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