The skill set that defines modern literacy is constantly changing and evolving, so by definition, whatever educational standards say about literacies must be very general or they will quickly become stale and dated. Writers of both the Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools (2010), the Standards for 21st Century Learners (2007), drafted by the American Association for School Librarians (AASL) and the California Common Core Standards (2013) chose general criteria which apply to a variety of skill sets we now call literacy, and those emerging skills we may define as literacy in the future.

For example, here are some items from the Model School Library Standards which respond to modern literacy:

2.1 Determine the relevance of the information.

2.2 Assess the comprehensiveness, currency, credibility, authority, and accuracy of resources.

3.3 Use information and technology creatively to answer a question, solve
a problem, or enrich understanding.

By way of continuing the example, some similar items from the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners:

1.1.5 Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.

2.1.1 Continue an inquiry based research process by applying critical thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, organization) to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge.

Similar items from the California Common Core Standards for English Language Arts:

W 7.8 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source…

RST 11.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Upon examination, most of the standards contained in these three documents respond to skills and aptitudes which can be included in what we call modern literacy. Inquiry, critical thinking, decision making, application, synthesis, ethics, sharing of knowledge, productive contribution to society and personal growth all figure prominently as competencies contained in all three sets of standards. Instead of developing an exhaustive list of standards which relate to what we currently define as literacy, I was more drawn to the overarching belief statements in the standards documents, particularly AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners.  It seems to me that they serve not only as enduring guidelines for teaching of literacies, but also as roadmaps for promoting collaborative learning among students and educators in support of standards-based instruction.

After reading “Hands Off Teaching: Facilitating Conversation as Pedagogy in Library Instruction”, a blog post by Michelle Reale (2016), I found connections in several AASL belief statements.

“Learning has a social context. Learning is enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others. Students need to develop skills in sharing knowledge and learning with others, both in face-to-face situations and through technology.”

Standards for the 21st Century Learner  

Reale points out that her collaboration with students and their instructors in facilitating learning about research was greatly enhanced by beginning the interaction with social discourse. Librarians enhance collaboration by building real relationships with their stakeholders.

“Inquiry provides a framework for learning. To become independent learners, students must gain not only the {prerequisite] skills, but also the disposition to use those skills…understanding of their own responsibilities and self-assessment strategies.”

Standards for the 21st Century Learner

Reale points out that authentic inquiry takes place when researchers are safe in taking risks, articulating their questions/concerns and expressing their ideas. Librarians can create the ideal environment for collaboration by facilitating intellectual safety. This is affirmed by another AASL belief statement:

“School libraries provide equitable physical and intellectual access to the resources and tools required for learning in a warm, stimulating, and safe environment. School librarians collaborate with others to provide instruction, learning strategies, and practice in using the essential learning skills.’

Standards for the 21st Century Learner

There are hundreds of specific methods and strategies for collaborative teaching and learning which support standards-based learning. The definition of what constitutes literacy will continue to evolve over time. However, if educators can embrace fundamental ideas such as the value of social learning and sharing of knowledge in intellectual safety, whatever the specific learning targets are, students will learn in environments that support the development of their literacies.

John Severns USAF CC0 public domain,                                                  Desktop Still Life CC0 public domain


California common core state standards. (2013). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education.  

Ong, F. (ed.) (2010). Model school library standards for California public schools: Kindergarten through grade twelve. California Department of Education.

Reale, M. (2016, September 28). Hands Off Teaching: Facilitating Conversation as Pedagogy in Library Instruction [Web log post]. Retrieved October 04, 2016, from

Standards for the 21st century learner. (2007). Chicago: American Association of School Librarians.