The specific inclusion of “Evaluation” in the Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information Association’s “Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians” (2004), highlights the importance of Teacher Librarians being able to demonstrate their impact on student achievement.
How does this change the TL’s role? DiScala & Subramaniam (2011) discuss the leadership role of the TL – modelling teaching and learning best practice in the areas of reading, information literacy and curriculum collaboration. Whilst the Librarian’s research-based focus may differ from classroom teachers, good teachers should focus on these aims already.
Significant change may come in the formalisation of the process of evaluation and advocacy for the Library program. We can achieve this through Evidence-Based Practice. Todd (2007) defines EBP as a mind-set that promotes “decision-making, professional action, continuous improvement and building active support for school librarians and school libraries” (p58). We have to connect our teaching and learning to student outcomes so that we can demonstrate the contribution that research based, inquiry learning makes across the curriculum.
Our role in EBP is of researcher. We collect on-going data to develop student-centred learning experiences, to inform learning and instruction in real-time, and evaluate student achievements. Todd (2007) calls this the F-I-O Framework, or evidence FOR practice, evidence IN practice, and evidence OF practice.
So where do we begin? Using an inquiry framework helps us to gather evidence of critical thinking and deep understanding in a number of ways and Todd (2003) suggests that TL’s start at the instructional level, teaching students how to research using this framework. Many of us may already do this, but the difference with EBP is in the ongoing measurement.
Traditional standardised tests may not provide enough direct, connected evidence of learning, so it is essential that we have a clearly planned approach to evidence gathering from the outset. This is where I see a shift in my approach. Rather than focusing on the end-product, EBP requires a clear plan for data gathering at specific learning points throughout a unit. The tools that we can use are pre- and post-tests, rubrics, concept maps, process documentation tasks, or any variety of product that clearly shows what students have learnt (Todd, 2003) and demonstrates critical thinking and deep understanding.
I have now started using EBP to build my evidence of student learning. This week I taught Stage One students how to create their own digital portfolios using Microsoft OneNote and programmed data collection points into their unit. We have started using colour-in reflection sheets to assist with discussions about how we learn and how we can improve on our research and investigation skills.
But all of this is useless if the evidence goes no where. Perhaps the most important role for the TL in EBP is ensuring that we promote our results explicitly and not just rely on the natural follow-through of knowledge and skills acquired in the Library to the classroom. It is nice when other teachers notice the improvements in their students’ skills but it’s better if we combine our results with other evidence in the school and visibly celebrate these (Todd, 2007).
Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, available http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx
DiScala, J. & Subramaniam, M. (2011). Evidence-based practice: A practice towards leadership credibility among school librarians. School Libraries Worldwide, 17(2), 59-70.
Todd, R. J. (2003). Irrefutable Evidence. (cover story). School Library Journal, 49(4), 52.
Todd, R. J. (2007). Evidenced-based practice and school libraries : from advocacy to action. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada. School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 57-78). Westport, CY : Libraries Unlimited.