Planning for the year ahead through reflection on past practice

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by Lisa O

Planning for the year ahead through reflection on past practice.

As you start back at school, you will be setting goals for the year ahead.

  • What have you done in the past that has worked well?
  • What are you planning to revise / repeat?
  • What didn’t work out?
  • What did you learn?

To help with your planning, take some time this week to reflect on last year’s achievements.  Make a list of what your students learned as a direct result of programmes/activities in the library or via the library. How do you know what they learned? Have you created ways of measuring your impact?

If not, take time this year to ensure you incorporate measurement and evidence gathering in all your programmes for the year.  Time spent planning measuring, collecting and analysing the data is time well spent.  This is not only evidence to inform your future practice, but also the tool for your advocacy work.  Encourage your students to reflect on their learning throughout the year and create a place for them to write their reflections (digital or analogue).
Students' reflections and your data collection over time, will serve you well, not only in your planning to be the most effective you can be, but also in your advocacy work with teachers, administration and the wider community. As you think about what evidence you will collect and incorporate into your practice over time, consider your school's overall goals. If raising literacy rates is a key goal for your school, then you will want to ensure that you are measuring the ways that the library is contributing to the successful attainment of that goal.

The work we do in school libraries is important!  Make sure that it counts by gathering and using the evidence of your practice. Your time is precious, make the most of it.  Prioritise the tasks that most evidently contribute to student learning and literacy.  As Ross Todd famously said: "Don't tell me what you believe. Show me what you do and I'll tell you what your priorities are".

As you reflect on the many and varied tasks you perform each day/week/month in the library, consider which of these has a measurable impact on student achievement.  Consider the proportion of your time spent on the different tasks.  Is most of your time spent on those tasks that directly impact on achievement?  If not, then perhaps this year is the year to make some changes.  Maybe there are some tasks taking up a lot of your time, maybe they are enjoyable or comfortable, but if they are having a negligible positive effect on learning it might be time to leave them behind.  Tasks we did in the past may be less important today.  Once we had to spend time cataloguing, now we can quickly and easily get our MARC records from a variety of sources. Once we clipped and indexed articles from magazines and newspapers, now we create electronic pathfinders to digital source material.

The landscape of school libraries and learning is shifting continuously.  Our role as always, is to help students and teachers navigate in that landscape.  Keeping current with new developments and tools, we are better positioned serve our students in achieving their learning and literacy goals.  Evaluate your programmes and your tasks against these goals regularly.  Ensure that there is a strong correlation between time spent and impact on learning and achievement.  Be sure that your hard work is achieving the results you want.

School libraries are tremendously important.  They are a key element in student achievement.
There are great things happening in school libraries in New Zealand.  Invest in the future of school libraries by spending your time on the work that matters most, documenting the evidence of your results and using that evidence to inform your future practice and to advocate for your library.

See Evidence & Learning Outcomes for more information