This blog post comments on the role of the teacher librarian (TL) in practice in regards to assessing information literacy and inquiry learning. It begins with a comment on the need for clear definitions of these terms. This is followed by a brief discussion of both why and how the TL is involved in the assessment process.
What exactly is being assessed?
In order to assess information literacy and inquiry learning the assessor must first be clear on what exactly these terms mean. The literature abounds with definitions of information literacy (Langford 1998, Abilock 2004, Bundy 2004) and explanations of inquiry learning (Kuhlthau, Caspari, & Maniotes 2007, Scheffers 2008, Fitzgerald 2011). It would make sense for each school to collaboratively decide and develop whichever best suits their context and students. As part of the assessment process the indicators demonstrating student achievement will also need to be determined.
Why should the TL be involved in the assessment process.
The TL holds a unique position as the information literacy specialist who works with every student and ideally incorporates inquiry based learning across the curriculum. This naturally positions them to take a leadership role in designing authentic assessments.(Mueller 2005)
Increased accountability regarding measurable student achievement is the norm in the current education climate however it seems that the TL is also uniquely under pressure to demonstrate their relevance to student achievement. The data collected through the assessment process is ultimately used to guide future teaching and learning programs but it can also be used as evidence that the TL positively influences student achievement. TLs who are able to provide such evidence will be more effective in their teaching (Stripling 2007) The evidence may also encourage teacher confidence in the value that the TL brings to the collaborative planning process. Additionally TLs can use this information to advocate for better resources and funding for library programs and services.
What does the assessment process look like?
Student achievement in information literacy is best measured as an ongoing and integral part of the teaching learning cycle rather than as an isolated event. A mixture of diagnostic, formative and summative assessment tasks provide a snapshot of student learning at various points during this cycle. As part of a collaborative teaching team TL’s will provide leadership in setting explicit goals regarding the information skills to be taught, learned or used within a unit of work. They will assist in defining the criteria that will demonstrate the successful application of these skills. They will ensure that the teaching and application of these skills occurs as a natural and integral part of the program and assist students in the move towards independence in constructing meaning and knowledge. (Stripling 2007)
Action research is an effective tool for gathering evidence of student achievement. It is usually approached as a collaborative process based on case study methodology and is particularly well suited to project based, inquiry learning. (Harada 2004).
The TL’s input at all stages from planning through to implementation and assessment contributes to student achievement which in the overall picture is the common goal of all educators on the school team. Data collected from the assessment process can also be used by the TL to validate their contribution to student learning, enhance teacher confidence in the collaborative process and to advocate for better funding and resources.
Abilock, D. (2004). Information literacy: an overview of design, process and outcomes. (ETL 401 Module 4). Retrieved April 23,2013, from Charles Sturt University website http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201330_W_D
Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. (ETL 401 Module 4). Retrieved April 23,2013, from Charles Sturt University website http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201330_W_D
Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41.
Harada, V. H. (2004). Action research : How teacher-librarians can build evidence of student learning. Scan, 23(1), 27-33
Kuhlthau, C.C, Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2012). Chapter 2 – The research behind the design, in Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. (ETL 401 Module 4). Retrieved April 23,2013, from Charles Sturt University website http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201330_W_D
Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification. (ETL 401 Module 4). Retrieved April 23,2013, from Charles Sturt University website. http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL401_201330_W_D
Mueller, J. (2005). Authentic assessment in the classroom… and the library media center. Library Media Connection, 23(7), 14-18.
Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided inquiry: A learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42.
Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing information fluency : gathering evidence of student learning.
School library media activities monthly, 23(8), 25-29.