Evidence-Based Practice

As teacher librarians, we can become frustrated and feel we are victims of occupational invisibility and that our contribution to whole-school programs and student outcomes are unseen and undervalued (Oberg 2006 ; Todd 2007 ; Todd 2003). This may be due to the nature of our work in empowering others. As a result, our contribution is often swallowed up and integrated into the successes of others. (Hartzel 2002 ; Oberg 2006). Our invisibility is also because, while we see the impact we make on a daily basis, we can usually only offer anecdotal evidence regarding our contributions (Hay & Todd 2010 ; Lamb & Johnson 2004-2007).

To remedy this we need to throw off the victim mentality and become proactive in self-promotion to make visible our contribution to our school’s teaching and learning outcomes. To this end, we need to gather hard evidence to unequivocally prove that we make a difference  (Hay & Todd 2010). According to the School Library Association (2004) excellent teacher librarians undertake evidence-based research to evaluate teaching practices, programs and services to ensure improved learning and teaching. Likewise, Hay & Foley (2009) advocate that in order to build capacity for student learning in the 21st Century, teacher librarians need to employ evidence-based practice to support a “continuous improvement cycle“. Similarly, The NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) has posited evidence-based practice as one of its foremost recommendations in creating sustainable futures for school libraries.

By undertaking evidence-based practice, we will not only be provided with hard evidence to show how and why teacher librarians make important contributions to student learning, we are also afforded an avenue for reflective practice to evaluate and constantly improve our teaching and learning programs. (Gordon 2010 ; Hay 2006 ; Todd 2003).

Undertaking evidence-based practice does not require exceptional analytical skills. We just need to begin gathering proof that we make a difference to student learning (Todd 2003). We can begin on the evidence-based practice journey by collecting documentation such as: student work samples, student reflections and surveys, observation notes, rubrics, peer reviews, lesson plans, checklists, critical feedback, circulation statistics, and test scores (Lamb & Johnson 2004-2007 ; O’Connell 2012 ; Todd 2003). One tried and true method of undertaking evidence-based practice is within a Guided Inquiry process. The Guided Inquiry framework is not only a model for promoting higher order thinking and information literacy skills, it is also provides a mechanism for conducting evidence-based practice (FitzGerald 2011 ; Todd 2003). The Student Learning Through Inquiry Measure (SLIM) was originally developed as an assessment tool for use during the Guided Inquiry process. (Gordon 2010 ;  Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari 2007; Todd, Kuhlthau & Heinström 2005) The SLIM toolkit also provides the dual purpose of allowing teacher librarians to undertake effective evidence-based practice (FitzGerald 2011 ; Scheffers 2008).

If we, as teacher librarians want to be taken seriously as education professionals, we need to be proactive and self-promote our own research findings using evidence-based practice in our schools. By doing this we can prove the contribution we make to improving student learning outcomes and demonstrate continued improvement in our teaching practices. To reinforce our own research findings, we can also direct teachers and executives to the strong empirical evidence of other academics who likewise prove the difference teacher librarians make to student achievement (NSW DET 2010 ; Oberg 2002).


Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

FitzGerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based  practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41.

Gordon, C A 2010, ‘The culture of inquiry in school libraries,’ School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1), pp.73–88.

Hartzel, G. (2002). What’s it take? Presented at the Washington White House Conference on School Libraries. Retrieved from: http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf

Hay, L. (2006). School libraries as flexible and dynamic learning laboratories? That’s what Aussie kids want. Scan, 25(2), 18-27.

Hay, L., & Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: The conversation begins. Scan, 29(1), 30-42.

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Assessment  in guided inquiry. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2004-2007). Library media program: Evidence-based decision-making. Retrieved from: http://eduscapes.com/sms/program/evidence.html

NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) School libraries 21c: A school library futures project.  School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit. Retrieved from: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/assets/pdf/21c_report.pdf

Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.

Scheffers, J. (2008). Guided inquiry: A learning journey. Scan, 27(4), 34-42

Todd, R. J. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: how to prove you boost student achievement. School Library Journal, 49(4), 52 ff. Retrieved from: http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA100608794&v=2.1&u=csu_au&it=r&p=EAIM&sw=w&asid=194fea091c82b000bb3b69ca05004411

Todd, R. J. (2007). Evidence-based practice and school libraries. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 57-78). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited

Todd, R.J., Kuhlthau, C.C. & Heinström, J.E. (2005), SLIM: a toolkit and handbook for tracking and assessing student learning outcomes of Guided Inquiry through the school library. Centre for International Scholarship in School Libraries at Rutgers University. Retrieved from: http://cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/slimtoolkit.pdf

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