The principle of evidence-based decision-making relates to those working in school libraries as it does to other educators. Evidence from a school library perspective can be used to assist in the processes of decision-making, development, and continuous improvement to achieve the school’s goals that focus on student achievement and quality teaching and learning.
Evidence can be used to identify problems, guide decisions on appropriate solutions, guide how resources should be used, and identify progress on meeting goals.
Evidence can be drawn from research, collegial best practice and from data.
Effective use of evidence moves the school library from an advocacy strategy to a learning outcomes approach, ensuring that all goals and initiatives are soundly based on research evidence and learners’ needs. The school librarian becomes a key player in supporting learning outcomes for students.
At the 2007 Leadership Summit hosted by The School Library Journal on “Where’s the evidence? Understanding the impact of school libraries” Dr Ross Todd, Director of Rutgers University’s Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL) explored what evidence-based practice means for school librarians.
Ross Todd emphasised the need to use research-based evidence to inform everything that a school librarian does.
He described three dimensions of evidence-based practice in school libraries: ‘Evidence for practice, evidence in practice, and evidence of practice’.
“Examining and using empirical research to form practices and inform actions, and to identify best practices. This is the informational dimension of school library practice.”
Examples of evidence for practice include:
“Integrating the available research evidence with the deep knowledge and understanding derived from professional experience, as well as using local evidence to identify learning dilemmas and needs, and achievement gaps. This kind of reflective practice enables us to make informed decisions about how the school library can bring about optimal learning outcomes and actively contribute to fulfilling the school’s mission and goals. This is the transformational dimension of school library practice.” - Ross Todd, The evidence-based manifesto for school librarians.
This is “derived from systematically measured, student-based data. It’s about the real results of what school librarians actually do. Evidence of practice focuses on measured outcomes and impacts, going beyond process and activities as outputs. It establishes what has changed for learners as a result of inputs, interventions, activities, and processes.”
A record of the library contribution to students learning can be collated from the desk diary kept on going or at certain times of the year or with groups classes of students.
The full manifesto includes a ‘to do’ list for school librarians at the end.
The draft Evaluation indicators for school reviews (June 2010) (PDF) from New Zealand’s Education Review Office (ERO) builds on the original ERO indicators for school reviews, and has revised them to align with the new Curriculum, and with the Ministry of Education’s Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis which has provided more information on factors that impact on student achievement and progress. Developed around six dimensions of good practice that are based on current educational research, the indicators also focus on building evaluation capacity in schools.
For teachers and school librarians it will be essential to look carefully at this document, especially page 30 under “Use of appropriate teaching and learning resources” where the indicator is “Students use the library effectively”, and on page 42 under “Allocation of resources” - with a number of indicators, and potential sources of evidence. Here is an opportunity to gather and present your “evidence of practice” that demonstrates effectiveness of the library and its support for learning.
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