“The school library media program is guided by regular assessment of student learning to ensure the program is meeting its goals.”

(Empowering learners: Guidelines, 2009)

Effective documentation of the school library instructional program’s impact on student learning and achievement is accomplished by gathering evidence from a wide range of input and output measures. Together, the accumulated evidence provides a more complete picture of your program’s impact over a period of time, such as an academic year. Since information literacy instruction should be integrated into each teacher's curriculum and timeline, David Loertscher emphasizes that integration efforts for information literacy skills taught also must be tracked:

"No one way of tracking is recommended as superior, however, not tracking would be a disaster. Evidence-based practice requires tracking, assessing, and reporting if improvement is an important part of the program. Such tracking need not be time intensive, but it needs to be informative and should stimulate reflection." (Loertscher, 2003)

Loertscher recommends:
  • Tracking what is taught for each teacher's class over the course of the school year;
  • Tracking with a grade-level matrix of skills
  • Tracking with software.

"To make our programs count and to be accountable, we need to take a hard look at the research findings, assess where we are and decide what we need to do.. We can’t wait for someone else to do it for us. We have the academic proof now let’s build the grassroots proof. We need to set some achievable goals, and develop an action plan."

(Making Library Programs Count: Where’s the Evidence? School Libraries in Canada, Koechlin & Zwaan 2003)

A long-range plan for gathering the evidence to be shared should include the following strategies:

What Informs Instructional Efforts

Resources and efforts related to providing instruction, such as national and state standards for information literacy, charts of information skills appropriate for specific grade levels, a school-wide information literacy model, and defined learning outcomes (students will know and be able to do...).

Output measures

Evidence of implementation of input measures (e.g., collaborative planning notes, lesson plans, and collaborative units with differentiation strategies).

Learning Outcomes

"The real value of the work of school librarians can be measured by the impact the school library program has on the lives of the children in schools...learner-based outcomes are important to any determination of impact." (Tilley, 2011)

Student progress in achieving targeted learning outcomes should be documented through assessment strategies that serve specific purposes and that are implemented at various stages of the instructional process. Marjorie L. Pappas defines assessment as, "the process of gathering evidence to show student understanding of information literacy."
(Pappas, 2007)

Assessment strategies can include:

  • Pre-assessment (diagnostic) of student background knowledge and current skill development. Examples include brainstorming - “What do we know?”, surveys, and mind maps.
  • Formative assessment to monitor student progress during instruction. Examples include student journal entries, learning/research logs, checklists, reflections, graphic organizers, observations and conferences.
  • Summative (post) assessment for evaluating student progress on targeted learning outcomes at the end of instruction. Examples include rubrics, presentations, performances, and created products.
  • Self-assessment by students to reflect on their own progress in learning. Examples include learning logs, lesson exit slips. Self-assessment should also include reflections by the the school librarian and teacher(s) on a collaborative instructional unit, i.e., what worked well, what did not work well, what should be done differently the next time?

Assessing Learning: The Missing Piece in Instruction?

Violet H. Harada and Joan M. Yoshina suggest the following steps for assessment:
  • Identify the learning target.
  • Develop criteria for assessment.
  • Select an assessment tool.
  • Design a performance task.
  • Use the assessment results to improve instruction.

All of this evidence should be consolidated in a portfolio or folder (physical or virtual) for review by administrators. Specific highlights and examples can be summarized and showcased for advocacy efforts in monthly and annual reports, newsletters, updates and features on the library media website, and in presentations.

(2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago: American Association of School Librarians.
Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2006). Assessing learning: The missing piece in instruction?. School Library Monthly, 22(7), Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/Harada2006v22n7p20.html
Koechlin , C., & Zwann, S. (2003). Making library programs count: Where's the evidence?. Retrieved from http://www.accessola.com/osla/toolkit/Resources/Making%20Library%20Programs%20Count.pdf
Loertscher, D. and Todd, R.J. (2003). We boost achievement: Evidence-based practice for school library media specialists. Salt Lake City: Hi Willow Research & Publishing.
Ontario School Library Association. (2003). The teacher librarian's toolkit for evidence-based practice. Retrieved from http://www.accessola.com/osla/toolkit/home.html
Pappas, M. L. (2007, May). Tools for the assessment of learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, XXIII(9), 171-5.
Tilley, C. L. (2011, May-June). The true value of what we do. School Library Monthly, XXVII(8), Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/Tilley2011-v27n8p45.html
Vance, A. L., & Nickel, R., editors. (2007). Assessing student learning in the school library media center. Chicago: American Association of School Librarians.
Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2006). Assessing learning: The missing piece in instruction?. School Library Monthly, 22(7), Retrieved from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/Harada2006v22n7p20.html