Allowing Students to Pursue Their Passions

As a high school librarian, I am blessed with student library assistants each semester. These students are placed in an elective course that I call “Library Leadership.” Primarily, my library assistants do tasks in the library such as reshelving books, creating book displays, helping with inventory, sanitizing books and furniture, etc. However, I also assign projects such as book reviews and social media graphics. This year, I decided to introduce a new assignment. I am having each of my library assistants complete a passion project. I guided them through selecting a topic of interest that they are passionate about. They are conducting research independently (with my support), and they will create a product to illustrate their learning by the end of the semester.

At this point in the project, students have just submitted their preliminary list of sources. They are required to complete weekly reflections on a discussion board in Canvas (our learning management system) in which they detail traits of independent learners that they have had to rely on and their general thoughts, feelings, and concerns about where they are in the process. I periodically have one-on-one or small group conferences with my students to support their work. The students I have this semester are academically advanced so they are able to do a lot of the work independently with success. For less advanced students, I would likely need to be more involved in the process. The reflection piece is key because it allows me to gauge how students are doing, what support they might need, and forces them to think about what skills are necessary for this type of work.

The most exciting thing about this assignment is the wide variety of topics my students have chosen. I only have a small group of students this semester, but they have chosen topics as wildly different as how psychology interplays with political beliefs, faery myths of Ireland and Scotland, and American classic literature. I’m also super excited about their ideas for how to illustrate their learning. The student studying faery myths is planning to write a fictional tale spanning generations.

This project is providing students the opportunity to pursue learning based on their own interests, practice conducting quality research, and fostering independent learning skills, thus meeting multiple AASL Learners Standards in one go. I am hopeful that I will be able to create similar projects with other teachers collaboratively so that more of our students experience personalized learning opportunities.


Author: Brandi Hartsell

Brandi Hartsell is the school librarian at Halls High School in Knoxville, TN. She was awarded Teacher of the Year at HHS in 2021. Brandi was also recognized alongside colleagues as recipients of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL) Teacher Collaboration Award in 2019 and 2021. She has served (and continues to serve) in many leadership roles within TASL. Brandi has presented professional development sessions for TASL, Halls High School, and Knox County Schools. Brandi loves sharing ideas and brainstorming…also cats…and true crime. Follow her on Instagram @hhslibrarytn.

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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1 reply

  1. I absolutely love this idea of a library leadership course. Although I am not at the secondary level at this point, I do foresee myself being placed there in the near future. Can you share with me your program. I think I would like to try this in the future.

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