Thanks to all the people who contributed to the recent thread on the Schoollib listserv about what librarians might NOT do, in order to find time for more important things. There were great ideas shared, and I know from the responses I had, off-list, that many of you found it valuable to step back for a moment and give that some thought.
Today, I’m pondering evidence-based practice. It is an oft-spoken phrase, but can be difficult to put real structure around. We don’t traditionally have access to assessment data which measures the learning which can be directly attributed to the work we do with students. I had some experience in my last school which showed that it was possible to work with teachers to include this in assessment data gathering, especially if you are able to work collaboratively with teachers during the planning process. We did use the National Education Monitoring Project kit as well, (which can be purchased here) to evaluate student skills in the library and in information gathering, and repeated the activities (with modifications) later, to measure student learning. Here are some of the other ideas I/we employed:
The teaching staff met at the beginning of the year to look at various data sets gathered – you will know the variety of testing done in your school. I attended those meetings, and engaged with teachers around data related to literacy and information literacy. It gave me a picture of what the level of abilities were in different classes, and introduced me to the language of this kind of assessment. Invaluable. If you cannot do this, I’m sure individual teachers would be happy to share their class data with you.
I used simple observation tactics, moving around a class using the library (or accessing websites), and collated simple data about their skills and methods, and used this data to engage with teachers around student learning needs, and ways in which I could add value. This often led to follow-up lessons, or just-in-time learning, which can be anecdotally recorded.
Another method used was to engage with a class prior to beginning a research activity, ask them to place themselves on a continuum (usually a physical line across the library), expressing things such as level of confidence in using the library or a particular kind of resource. Take a photo, engage in the teaching and learning, and repeat the process – measure the shift in confidence. Very simple to do, and teachers appreciate that it doesn’t take a lot of time out of ‘their’ lesson.
I also worked with some teachers in looking at the final product of a research activity, and this allowed us to unpack the learning outcomes, what had we taught well, what had we missed, what was our next step. Often the greatest learning was the teacher-to-librarian learning. Reflective practice at its finest!
What methods do you use to gather evidence that what you do in your library makes a difference to student achievement? And how do you report on them to your learning community? Please post your ideas on this topic to the listserv, so that we can develop our collective wisdom.