Flexible Scheduling: Implementing an Innovation tables and appendix

Table 1: School Characteristics [ Back to Article]

Public/ private

Grades

Socioeconomic or other relevant descriptor

Number of students

Number of classroom teachers

Number of SLMSs

Support staff
time

School A
Public

K–5

Primarily middle to high

560

19

1

1.3

School B
Public

K–6

Mixed; over half low to middle

n/a

22

1

1

School C
Private

PreK–8 (data collected regarding  PreK–5 only)

Gifted students

310

17

1

2

School D
Public

K–5

Low to middle

220

10

.5

.5

School E Public

K–4

Middle to upper; middle

600

26

1

1.5

School F Public

K–6

Mixed

700

29

1

none


Appendix. Stories of Successful Implementation of Flexible Scheduling

Each implementation of flexible scheduling in the current study followed a different path, had different circumstances, and ended up in a different place. Each school had unique characteristics that may have affected implementation of flexible scheduling. Each of their stories contains important truths that could be useful to someone interested in promoting the concept of flexible scheduling, and considering the differences is just as important as examining patterns of consistency. Lincoln and Guba (1985) in their work Naturalistic Inquiry describe the extent to which a researcher, or inquirer, is responsible for ensuring that transfer is possible:

An inquirer cannot know all the contexts to which someone may wish to transfer working hypotheses; one cannot reasonably expect him or her to indicate the range of contexts to which there might be some transferability. But it is entirely reasonable to expect an inquirer to provide sufficient information about the context in which an inquiry is carried out so that anyone else interested in transferability has a base of information appropriate to the judgment. (125)

In this study there are potentially many transferable elements. School library media specialists (SLMSs) wishing to learn from these schools' experiences can compare these various situations with their own and determine how these stories relate to their own circumstances.

Each story provides a snapshot of the unique characteristics and context of the school involved; an interpretation of how flexible scheduling was defined and carried out in that school at the time of the interviews; how flexible scheduling was introduced originally; a description of how planning time was provided to teachers in that school at that point in time (because loss of teacher planning time seems to be one of the biggest concerns of teachers when flexible scheduling is introduced); and a keyword or phrase that best represents the programmatic feature that drove acceptance of flexible scheduling (see the main article for further explanation of the importance of a programmatic feature). All school and personal names are pseudonyms, selected and arranged alphabetically for ease of association.

School A. Atwood (Public)

Characteristics and context

At the time of the first interview, Atwood School, located in a relatively affluent community, had a population of 560 students in grades K–5, representing mixed socioeconomic levels. Flexible scheduling had been introduced eighteen years earlier across the school district, and Alison, the SLMS who participated in the study, had been there from the inception. The interviewed principal had been in the school for only a year but was familiar with and in favor of flexible scheduling based on previous experience in another school district. The school library media center was staffed by a full time school library media specialist, 1.3 support staff and numerous volunteers. This school did not participate in any reading incentive programs.

What is meant by “flexible scheduling” in this school?

Teacher participants from Atwood suggested that the media center is an extension of the classroom, to be used as needed, regardless of availability of the SLMS. The principal and Alison both acknowledged that a media center's schedule exists, but that it is continually changing. Teachers select appropriate times to visit the library and sign up for that slot for the short term, but they do not have a set time each week. The principal mentioned that teachers plan with Alison for what will happen during that visit.

What does a typical day in this library look like?

The days are highly varied and variable. There could be many classes in the library at any given time, some doing research and others checking out books. A literary club might be taking place with parent volunteers working with individual children who have learning problems. Alison might be working with students in the library or in the classroom.

How was flexible scheduling introduced?

Flexible scheduling was introduced district wide by the director and presented to principals. Alison convinced the principal to accept the idea because it would promote an integrated curriculum. At first many teachers did not know how to take advantage of the new arrangement because they did not necessarily view an SLMS as a teacher. In the interest of expanding the teachers' view, from the beginning Alison kept a plastic wipe-off schedule in full view so all teachers could see what she was doing at any given time and be aware of her involvement with teaching and curriculum.

How is teacher planning time provided in the school?

Teachers of art, music, PE, the computer program, and the literacy program provide planning time for regular classroom teachers.

What programmatic feature emerged as key?

The principal, the teachers, and the SLMS all emphasized research and the curriculum.

School B. Barker Heights (Public)

Characteristics and context

Barker Heights School contained Grades K–6 and was described as small by the SLMS (actual population numbers were not available). The school contained a mix of socioeconomic levels, with the majority being lower-middle. Flexible scheduling had been introduced by the current SLMS, Brenda, fourteen years prior to the beginning of data collection for this study. She had been in the school for two years at the time of implementation. The principal had also been in the school throughout the period since flexible scheduling was introduced and had always been highly supportive. A full-time support staff position existed, job-shared by two people, and four volunteers each spent about ten hours a week helping in the library media center. The school was actively involved in the Accelerated Reader program, but de-emphasized the point system. A multitude of reading and language arts programs existed in the school, with students reading for an hour each day.

What is meant by “flexible scheduling” in this school?

Flexible scheduling involves unlimited access to the library and its materials, to allow use as needed for book checkout and for research. Classes have library passes that students use to gain access as needed. Access might be by individuals or classes. The principal defined flexible scheduling in terms of services being available at all times. She emphasized the role played by Brenda interacting with children for book selection. Brenda meets with each grade level every week to discuss the reading records of their students and to develop mini-units to support what students are reading about in their basal readers.

What does a typical day in this library look like?

Students come in on an individual basis all day, after obtaining a pass from their teacher. Kindergarten and first grade schedule their classes on a fixed basis for a fifteen-minute storytime. These students are still able to visit the library at other times during the day as needed. Brenda spends a lot of her time in reading guidance with individual students across all grade levels. Classes are able to come to the library to do research as needed and parents can drop in and borrow books.

How was flexible scheduling introduced?

Brenda approached the principal with an idea of how students' use of the library could be more effective. Because of mutual respect between principal and Brenda, the principal trusted her idea to be sound. As a teacher, the principal had felt a need for a more flexible way of using a library and the services of a SLMS, which made her receptive to the idea. She could easily see the need for expanded access but had been unable to bring flexible scheduling about in her first principalship, due to lack of support among staff. At this school, with the SLMS an enthusiastic driving force, the experience was quite different. Flexible scheduling was introduced gradually over the years, starting with the sixth grade and moving down by grade levels. Teachers were consulted about the proposed change and were part of the decision. Because the teachers were hesitant initially about losing their breaks, the principal reassigned a teacher to the science lab to provide those breaks. As a result teachers were less concerned about losing a break previously covered by the SLM program. The teachers agreed to have larger classes in order to make the change and gain the benefits provided by a flexibly scheduled library.

In the beginning, Brenda assumed that all teachers had the same understanding of flexible scheduling as she did, but she discovered that some teachers had different expectations. She found in some cases that her collaborative suggestions and open attitude were interpreted as a willingness to take over the class while the teacher left. Brenda overcame this difference in interpretation by including roles for each of the teachers in carrying out the collaboratively planned lesson. The teachers developed a new understanding of what collaboration meant, and the SLMS learned to share tasks.

Kindergarten and first-grade teachers requested a fixed schedule to provide an opportunity for children to be read to by someone with the expert knowledge about books and authors that Brenda has. Initially this period of fixed time was forty or forty-five minutes, but has diminished over the years to fifteen minutes.

How is teacher planning time provided in the school?

Teachers plan during the times when students go to music, computer lab, science lab, art, and PE. The principal recognized the fact that when flexible scheduling was implemented, had she not been able to replace the planning time previously provided by the SLMS with time in the science lab, the transition might not have been as easy.

What programmatic feature emerged as key?

The active reading programs, including Accelerated Reader, seemed to drive the acceptance of, and need for, flexible scheduling.

School C. Castlegate (Private)

School characteristics and context

Castlegate School was a small school, with a population of 310 students in Grades PreK to 8. Data collected represent only up to grade 5 in this school, because grades 6 to 8 are considered middle school. Flexible scheduling had been introduced when Corrine, the current SLMS, became librarian, almost twenty years prior to the first interview. The principal interviewed for the study had been in the school for a year prior to the interview and was highly supportive of the concept of flexible scheduling because it supported his constructivist views. A new principal had arrived when the second interview of the SLMS took place, and this principal indicated her support by participating in the library program wherever possible, e.g., reading to children. Corrine believed that this principal's focus on curriculum mapping would enable her to involve some teachers who tended to use the library less with their classes. This school's population consisted of gifted students, primarily from upper socioeconomic levels. The school employed one full-time SLMS (who was interviewed), one full-time assistant librarian, and one part-time cataloguer. Teachers tended to call all these people “librarians.” A volunteer helped in the library twice a week. The school used no formal reading incentive program but the library media center provided a great deal of support for reading through locally developed programs.

What is meant by “flexible scheduling” in this school?

Students come to the library whenever they need to. Most students pass by or through the library on their way to and from the classroom and they use it frequently at those times. Because of the close proximity to many classrooms, teachers also send students to the library whenever they need information. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten have a fixed schedule. They are not as close to the library but as they learn their way around the building they are likely to come on their own or with an aide during other times. Each elementary grade except third and fifth (at the time of the second interview with Corrine) has a fixed time each week during which they come to the library, some just for book exchange, some for a story time and book sharing, some for research. The principal described flexible scheduling as not locking in a schedule and adjusting to need. He also described multiple uses going on at once, such as small groups, getting assistance from someone, or working with the technology. Teachers described flexible scheduling as the ability to send or take students to the library at the point of need, in groups or alone, without having to check a schedule or determine availability. Corrine meets with teachers regularly to plan curriculum and share ideas.

What does a typical day in this library look like?

The library is open any time the school is open, because it is located in an open area of the school, with no doors closing it off. Every day is different. Students exchange books or access the Internet first thing in the morning and then move to their classrooms. Parents might also come in to borrow from the parent collection. Students come to the library throughout the day on an individual basis or in small groups, where they might exchange books or sit down and read. Tutors conduct lessons and meet with parents in the library. Sometimes teachers spend their break in the library, where they might find coffee and bagels, and may meet with the librarians or each other. Some classes or groups could be booked in to do research, or individuals might spontaneously come from the classroom for this purpose. In this school, flexible scheduling can apply to both the facility and the SLMS, since it is possible to book the library without booking Corrine (and vice versa) or to book both.

How was flexible scheduling introduced?

After a year or two in the position with a fixed schedule, teaching research skills in isolation, Corrine decided to change the policy, because the previous system was not meeting the needs of the curriculum or the students. Corrine described the principal who was in the school at the time of the introduction of flexible scheduling as a critical thinker and problem solver. She asked important questions and trusted Corrine to follow through on the elements they discussed, such as making sure that all children were exposed to the information literacy learning they needed. Since teachers in this school were flexible and many were already doing project-based learning, they could appreciate the value of integrating the teaching done by the SLMS with what was going on already and recognized the need for a more flexible arrangement. Corrine was gradually able to convince teachers who did not use the library to bring their classes by improving the collection in such a way that students would be disadvantaged if they were not given access to this improved collection.

How is teacher planning time provided in the school?

PE and music times provide some planning time. The school has also implemented a Choices program, primarily in first and second grade during the afternoons. During this time all the classes at those grade levels disperse to a variety of different classes, usually in small groups, offered by teachers, teacher aides, and parents. Choices change from week to week, and a single teacher teaches the same course to different students each day of the week. Each teacher has one afternoon during which they do not offer a Choice subject, and that time is then used for planning. Team planning also takes place after school.

What programmatic feature emerged as key?

A mix of reading promotion and research makes this flexible schedule necessary.

School D. Delaney (Public)

School characteristics and context

Delaney School's population of 220 students from K–5 represents a low to middle socioeconomic level. Flexible scheduling was introduced within the school district almost ten years prior to the first interview, and in this particular school eight years prior, at the time this SLMS (Diana) moved to this school. The principal who was interviewed had moved to this school two years before the interview took place and was highly supportive of flexible scheduling. This principal had worked with Diana previously as a teacher and was familiar with the things that could happen in an effective school library media center. There had been several other principals throughout the years since flexible scheduling had been introduced, all of whom were supportive. The school has a Chapter 1 reading program. A new computer lab was created next to the library which demanded a lot of Diana's time. She works part-time and has a half-time aide. Three volunteers work ten hours a week. The library is kept open all week due to the staggered times that the two staff members and the volunteers work.

What is meant by “flexible scheduling” in this school?

Diana defined flexible scheduling in terms of what happens in terms of teaching and learning. She stated that “we have the schedule meet the need, not the teaching meet the schedule.” Collaborative planning and teaching are important elements, with teachers describing working as a team and meeting objectives together. No classes have fixed schedules and children check out books as needed, although one teacher wistfully wished for more access to a very overworked part-time media specialist who tries her hardest to meet children's needs. This teacher believed that a fixed schedule for the younger children would be preferable but was impossible in these circumstances.

What does a typical day in this library look like?

Students check out materials as needed throughout the day, often coming individually with their teachers' permission, while at the same time Diana is teaching a class or working with a small group. Diana spends about two thirds of her day teaching and the other third planning with teachers, preparing for future classes, ordering, locating resources, developing units. Occasionally students might use the library to take a missed test. Teachers might bring whole classes or send small groups as needed.

How was flexible scheduling introduced?

The idea grew out of the 1988 Information Power document. The district coordinator met with teacher committees from schools to discuss how the ideas in Information Power could be implemented, and these teachers brought the ideas back to the schools. Diana followed up by reading further about the initiative. She had had experience with a fixed schedule and was strongly in favor of doing something different. She said, “I knew what not to do. I hated [fixed scheduling] . . . because [learning] wasn't integrated.” She began to work with individual teachers, gradually training them to become collaborative by involving them more and more in the activities that were going on during projects. The various principals have trusted Diana to bring flexible scheduling in at her own pace.

Because Diana works part-time, it took awhile to settle on a working schedule for her that would support classes needing to come to the library daily for a period of time to work on a project. After trying several schedules, she settled on one in which she worked several consecutive mornings and several consecutive afternoons, rather than a more sporadic schedule. Training the teachers to consider the possibility of working in the library for consecutive days was a key to making the schedules work. Diana does some teaching in the classroom as well to keep the collaboration active.

How is teacher planning time provided in the school?

Teachers plan while their students attend their music and PE classes. They do not necessarily have a planning time at the same time as others in their grade level. Kindergarten teachers plan during their lunch break, because their students do not have PE or music. Teachers also plan before and after school.

What programmatic feature emerged as key?

Key elements are collaborative teaching and the integration of information literacy, technology, and curriculum.

School E. Ellerton (Public)

Characteristics and context

Ellerton School's population is about six hundred students, from K–4. The community is primarily middle to upper-middle socioeconomic level. The SLMS, Evelyn, had been in the school for ten years prior to the time of the first interview and had introduced flexible scheduling after about five years, soon after the principal involved in this study arrived at the school. The principal was very supportive of the idea of flexible scheduling. This school has a very supportive PTA organization and parents sponsor and run a “Parents as Reading Partners” (PARP) program. The library media center has 1.5 full-time support staff and several volunteers.

What is meant by “flexible scheduling” in this school?

The library is available as needed for research, independent work, and group work. Kindergarten and first grade have a fixed schedule, although often only half the class comes at a time during this fixed period, and anyone is able to schedule their class as needed. Grade levels have certain times during each day during which they may exchange books, sometimes on an individual basis and sometimes as a whole class, but they can also visit the library throughout the day. Some teachers also identified flexible access as a feature, when students can be sent alone or in small groups for a specific purpose, such as exchanging books or looking up information. The principal saw the plan as a way to make student activity in the library meaningful. She suggested that students are able to use the library in a "real-world" manner—for research or to find quick information when they need it. Teachers referred to the concept as "open library."

What does a typical day in this library look like?

The library opens before school for teachers. Students arrive at school by bus and proceed to their classrooms, from which they can come to the library if they wish. Teachers may schedule their classes into the library for blocks of time spanning several days, during which time half the class might be with the SLMS and half with the teacher. More than one class might be scheduled into the library during that time. Sometimes teachers will schedule whole classes to work on research projects for a regular block of time or they might send part of the class down to work as a group.

How was flexible scheduling introduced?

A shared-decision-making team was exposed to the concept and set up a task force to explore it. Evelyn provided them with extensive documentation to assist their deliberations. She had read about the idea extensively, but a previous principal had been opposed to it. The new principal was not only very receptive to the idea, she actively promoted it. The change was made at the same time as the library moved to a new, larger location with more space for multiple groups of students at the same time. The time was right for the change. As the principal said, “You just have to see the right moment and seize it.” Evelyn discussed the initiative with teachers and planned how to use it effectively.

How is teacher planning time provided in the school?

Planning time is provided by the PE, music, and art teacher. This school also provides an IDEAS program, involving the GT teacher (Gifted and Talented). All teachers in a single grade level plan at the same time each day.

What programmatic feature emerged as key?

Research across grade levels takes place in this school, with each grade becoming successively more independent.

School F. Ferndale (Public)

Characteristics and context

Ferndale School was used in the pilot study and was the largest of all the schools, with seven hundred students in grades K–6. The population comes from a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds. Flexible scheduling was introduced district wide about five years prior to the study, when the school had only been open a year or two. The SLMS (Frances), who had been in the school since it opened, was responsible for implementing it in her school. The principal came to this school at the same time as Frances did. The school population has grown considerably since it opened. This school library media center has no support staff and has about one hour a day of volunteer participation. Student volunteers carry out many tasks for the SLMS.

What is meant by “flexible scheduling” in this school?

Interviewees described flexible scheduling as a variable schedule to allow the library to be used for doing research. Planning and carrying out integrated library projects is an important element. No classes have fixed schedules.

What does a typical day in this library look like?

The first forty-five minutes and the last hour of the day are set aside for book exchange, at which time any student may come to the library. Otherwise, classes might be scheduled in to work on integrated library units. Typically, an entire grade level will work on a similar unit at the same time of year. If there is room in the schedule, teachers may bring their classes to the library at a moment's notice. If the library schedule is too full, teachers may request a collection of materials be sent to their classrooms to work with.

How was flexible scheduling introduced?

The idea originally came from the district library services director, who visited all the schools to introduce the concept. The move to flexible scheduling was taking place across the district. Some of the teachers visited other schools to view the way in which it operated. The teachers voted initially on whether to introduce flexible scheduling, with a 50/50 result. The principal agreed not to introduce it that year, but assured teachers that it would begin the next year. Teachers were concerned about losing the break previously provided by students going to the library media center.

How is teacher planning time provided in the school?

Teachers plan while students go to PE and music classes. Children leave school forty-five minutes before teachers do, and that time is used for planning. Grade levels tend to plan together once a week.

What programmatic feature emerged as key?

All grade levels are involved in integrated units planned in collaboration between Frances and the teachers at each level. These might be major units or mini-units. As students' information literacy skills develop in sophistication over the years, the planning necessary and the amount of teacher direction diminishes.