BLOG TASK #2 Assessing information literacy and inquiry learning

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   

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   

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

Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification. (ETL 401 Module 4). Retrieved             April 23,2013, from Charles Sturt University website.

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.




The Evolution of Information Literacy

There has been a progression over time in definitions of information literacy and correspondingly in what is taught in school libraries. From the isolated teaching of library skills we moved on to teaching information skills for completing curriculum based assignments and have arrived at the more holistic information literacy definitions and practices of today. Focus now is that students are not just taught skills in isolation but are expected to think about how and when they might use these skills. There is also an increased emphasis today on the hows and whys of incorporating emerging technologies into our understanding and teaching of information literacy.

Langford queried whether information literacy is a concept or a process and also if it is a newly emerged literacy born of new technology and the need for 21st century skills merging with existing models of info literacy. He also asked if it is a TL generated literacy not relevant to the classroom teacher. I really liked his quote “ the concept of literacy really depends on the information needs of the society of the time.” (Langford 1988)

(Abilock 2004) thinks that to be info literate means one is able to engage in a creative process to find understand evaluate and use info for a variety of social, personal and global purposes

The (Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework. Bundy, 2004) lists a number of indicators that define an info literate person which incorporate a number of 21st C skills and processes and require the use of higher order thinking.

Herring and Tarter (2006, p.3) translate this more specifically in terms of what an information literate student is be able to do. They are more specific also about the importance of transfer of knowledge and skills across time, content and context.

While I understand the need for academic discussion I find the plethora of attempts to define information literacy a frustrating journey into semantics and would rather just accept that it probably encompasses all these elements. It depends upon the learner, the context and what stage of their lifelong learning journey they are on.

Comment On The Role Of The Teacher Librarian In Practice In Regard To Guided Inquiry

This post begins with the author’s understanding of guided inquiry learning and then proceeds to a discussion of the teacher librarian’s role in the implementation of this model. It concludes with a reflection on how this is impacting within the author’s primary school setting at this point in time.

Lupton (2012) and Kuhlthau (2010) lead me to the conclusion that inquiry learning is a cyclical process that involves asking questions and then locating and using information in a way that promotes individualised and deep understanding for the learner. It incorporates traditional information literacy and information seeking processes but goes a step further with increased learner involvement in the definition and direction of the research cycle. The guided inquiry model adds teacher guidance to this mix and the focus and direction of the research cycle becomes a shared decision. Ongoing guidance throughout all stages of the cycle enables the learner to focus and achieve depth of learning.

Lupton (2012) argues that the traditional information literacy models initiated and maintained by librarians lack an underlying pedagogical and curriculum design framework. She suggests that inquiry learning which includes questioning frameworks and an action research cycle provides a more educational sound foundation for the development of information literacy. This shift in focus is being echoed throughout the currently changing information landscape which includes our school libraries. It is also being touted by professional bodies such as the Australian School Libraries Association. It is clear that a qualified educator such as the teacher librarian will be needed to implement the inquiry learning model in any setting. Our expertise as teachers and as information specialists positions us as the obvious choice.

Kuhlthau (2010) emphasises the role of teacher librarians as agents of change who are redesigning schools to foster student learning using 21st century skills such as inquiry. To bring about such change she sees it as imperative that teacher librarians operate as collaborative partners who work as part of an instructional team.

Inquiry is embedded throughout the new Australian Curriculum (Lupton 2012 ). Parts of this curriculum become mandatory in NSW in 2014 therefore I have begun the journey toward implementing a guided inquiry approach to learning at my school. Initial discussions with the school community have sparked an abundance of questions and calls for guidance. Some perceived challenges include availability of funding, time, suitable resources and training for teachers. The general consensus is that we would like to view and experience some examples of best practice in guided inquiry for primary schools, especially for younger students. As the resident information expert and in the interests of advocacy it is crucial that I, the teacher librarian, take a leadership role in finding, organising and presenting this information. It is also a perfect opportunity to model to the school community this real world example of the inquiry process in action.

In conclusion it is clear that a guided inquiry based model of learning is one backed by a sound pedagogy. The implementation of such models will be a collaborative effort and perhaps a work in progress at this moment in time for many school communities across Australia. The transition presents the teacher librarian with an opportunity to showcase the multifaceted nature of their role and perform as an agent of change sharing their expertise in a collaborative role to enhance student outcomes.


Australian School Library Association. (2012). Statement on guided inquiry and the curriculum. Retrieved from Australian School Library Association website:

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16, (1), 17 – 28.

Lupton, M. (2012). IL is dead, long live IL! In Inquiry learning and information literacy. Retrieved from

Lupton, M. (2012). What is inquiry learning? In Inquiry learning and information literacy. Retrieved from

Lupton, M. (2010). Inquiry skills in the Australian curriculum. Access, 26(2), 12-18.

Responding To Some Authors Views On The Role Of The TL

The Readings (Herring, 2007; Purcell, 2010 ; Valenza, 2010 & Lamb, 2011) clearly reinforced the fact that the role of the TL is constantly evolving in line with advances in technology and pedagogy.

All four authors stressed that our underlying mission should be to support and enhance student achievement in line with curriculum goals. We therefore prioritise the myriad of tasks within our role with this in mind.

Purcell and Lamb both emphasise reflection as crucial to our effectiveness as TLs navigating a constantly changing environment. Purcell encourages us to engage in ongoing professional development in order to keep abreast of our changing roles and give us guidance in performing our tasks. The use of time studies is recommended by Purcell as a tool to identify exactly how we are spending or squandering our most valuable resource (time).

Lamb, Herring  and Purcell all agree that the role of the TL is diverse and constantly changing and that it is underpinned by a focus on student outcomes. Lamb places a stronger emphasis on the nurturing of 21st C skills such as inquiry, problem solving, thinking, and ethical behaviour. This author also stresses the importance of being an effective communicator across all sectors of the school community.

In order to implement the exciting visions of Lamb and Valenza it is clear that I will need to become an expert at delegating the clerical tasks which currently take up chunks of my time and energy and sap my creativity.

Where do I fit in with the roles proposed by these authors? Well I am definitely a work in progress. I am enthused and inspired by the rich tasks I can potentially bring to my role but am still figuring out the logistics. I have begun by ensuring that my program and lesson plans encompass some the 21st century skills. I am engaging in informal collaboration and advocacy in the staffroom and at staff meetings. I have found a mentor who is doing wonderful things in the primary school context and aim to emulate some of his work. I am in the process of writing myself a “Business Plan” to set goals and timelines for changing the culture of all things library at my school.

My answer to the question would I change the order of the roles that Purcell identifies is yes. Teaching should be in number one position because it is beyond a doubt our most important role. This is the avenue through which we improve student outcomes and support and enhance learning across the curriculum and it is this that must underpin all our other decisions, tasks and roles.


Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp.27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection, 29(3), 30-33.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.

Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. In School Library Journal . Retrieved from

Take Home Message From Speakers Regarding Our Endangered Status

Those of us who are afraid that teacher librarians are an endangered species can calm down. Although some of the speakers concede that there may be a threat they also reassure us that our unique position as information experts is as relevant and in demand in the 21st century as it has ever been. They do emphasise however that we need to be strong advocates for our profession, maintain our core values and continue to redefine our roles in a changing environment. Good schools, regions and education systems recognise that we are integral to student learning. Only those with a fundamental ignorance about our role suggest otherwise.


Jenkins, H, Johnson, D, Luhtala, M, Moorefield-Lang, H and Neuman, D  (2012, Jan/Feb) 30 Second Thought Leadership: Insights from Leaders in the School Library Community. The American Association of School Librarians.                     (Audio podcast)  Retrieved from,

Role Statement

If your school has a teacher librarian role statement compare it with these statements. What are the similarities and differences, and foci to those presented in the above international, national and state-based statements? Post your thoughts on your blog.

I have just moved into my TL position this year and am replacing a retired TL who has been in the position for 15 years. My school does not have a role statement for the TL but the following are the unspoken expectations

  • Small budget for library to manage acquisitions outside of those ordered by KLA committees  (picture books, nonfiction related to children’s interests, fiction (for reading for enjoyment)
  • Accession, process, manage and circulate  new resources
  • Provide RFF for classroom teachers/Collaborate with them as to content/curriculum areas covered

Obviously a great deal of advocacy is  needed to guide my school community into a change of mindset that sees the TL role as something much more than a story reading babysitter/clerical worker.  .  I will start by posting Joyce Valenza’s poster  in a prominent position and begin to campaign for my inclusion in the KLA resource selection decision making process. I can also begin to show by example some of the rich teaching/learning activities that an effective TL can engage their students in.


So…here it first post! We were asked to share our experiences using the databases at CSU Library.This is the first time I have used databases and I think they are a fabulous source of easily accessible information. Well…. I’m expecting them to get more easily accessible the more I use them. I need to practice things many times before they become automatic. I have happily squandered quite a bit of time getting lost in articles within the databases. So much interesting stuff to read yet so little time……..
The folders are definitely a welcome tool. I often used to save my google search pages (back when I thought online searching was all about google!!) so I think I will quickly become comfortable with using this format of saving searches and articles.
I am finding the tutorials very useful when it comes to navigating the CSU library.