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

Constructivist Learning, the Australian Curriculum and the Teacher Librarian



The constructivist learning approach was first theorised by Piaget who postulated that individuals construct their own meanings through interaction with their environment (Cornish & Garner 2008 ; Gordon 2010). Vygotsky, however, developed a social constructivist stance and placed the social context of any environment at centre stage. He suggests that individuals construct their own meanings through a combination of their own cognitive processes and their social environment. These learning approaches have had a profound influence on pedagogy and current educational practices (Cornish & Garner 2008 ; Edutechwiki 2012).


The social constructivist learning approach is student-centred where the teacher is no longer the ‘expert’ and transmitter of knowledge and the students passively receivers. In this approach, the students actively learn collaboratively through inquiry and the teacher’s role is that of facilitator and coach. Problem solving and metacognition or reflecting on learning processes form a large part of the inquiry process. The aim is for students to be actively involved in their own learning process and for deep and transferable learning to occur (Blurton 1999 ; Boss & Krauss 2007 ; Cornish & Garner 2008 ; Edutechwiki 2012 ; Gordon 2010 ; Herring 2007 ; O’Connell ; UNESCO 2005).


The Australian Curriculum reflects a social constructivist approach as it supports the goals of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians which includes collaboration and an active role in their own learning as key skills for 21 Century learners (ACARA 2013 ; MCEETYA 2008). In fact, the Australian Curriculum has been even come under criticism by some for relying too heavily on constructivist views despite being uniformly adopted by educational organisations worldwide (Sydney Morning Herald 2014 ; Cornish & Garner 2008 ; UNESCO nd). Constructivist concepts such as collaboration, teamwork, group work and inquiry abound throughout the Australian Curriculum. Indeed, collaboration and teamwork forms much of the Personal and social capability component of the Australian Curriculum’s General capabilities. Likewise, inquiry, problem-solving and reflection feature markedly in the Critical and creative thinking capability of the Australian Curriculum’s General capabilites. (ACARA 2013).


Guided Inquiry is student-centred constructivist approach used by teacher librarians that has a strong 20 year long empirical background (Gordon 2010 ; Thomas, Crow & Franklin 2011 ; Kuhlthau nd. ; Kuhlthau 2020). Guided Inquiry is an Inquiry Based Learning model that evolved from Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (Kuhlthau nd. ; Kuhlthau 2010). It aims to develop the same essential skills espoused by constructivist theory and endorsed by the Australian Curriculum namely problem solving, inquiry, collaboration and reflection (ACARA 2013, Carey 1998 ; Kuhlthau nd. ; Kuhlthau 2010). As uniquely qualified educators and information specialists, teacher librarians are best placed to play a leadership role in integrating Guided Inquiry into the curriculum in schools (ASLA 2004 ; ASLA 2012 ; Kuhlthau 2010).


When teacher librarians collaboratively design and team-teach with classroom teachers using Guided Inquiry they can support authentic and transferable learning across the school (Gordon 2010 ; Haycock 2007 ; Kuhlthau & Maniotes 2010). By guiding students through logical sequential steps using the Guided Inquiry process, students can develop metacognition by becoming aware of their own learning processes (Herring 2007 ; Kuhlthau 2010). The role of teachers and the teacher librarian is to provide guidance at critical intervention points referred to as the zone of intervention. This is achieved by closely observing and asking timely questions to help students develop key thinking and learning strategies (Kuhlthau 2010). The zone of intervention is a strategy that has been closely modelled on Vygotsky’s concept of a zone of proximal development (Cornish & Garner 2008 ; Kuhlthau nd.)



Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2013). General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Sydney. Retrieved from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/overview/general-capabilities-in-the-australian-curriculum

Blurton, C. (1999). New directions of ICT-Use in education, UNESCO’s World Communication and Information Report. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/education/lwf/dl/edict.pdf

Boss, S. & Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning. Excerpt. Retrieved from: http://www.iste.org/images/excerpts/REINVT-excerpt.pdf

Carey, J.O., (1998) Library Skills, Information Skills, and Information Literacy: Implications for Teaching and Learning.School Library media Research, 1. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol1/SLMR_LibrarySkills_V1.pdf

Cornish, L. & Garner, J. (2008). Promoting student learning, Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest.

Edutechwiki (2010) Inquiry based learning.Retrieved from: http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Inquiry-based_learning

Edutechwiki (2012). Socio-constructivism. Retrieved from: http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Socio-constructivism#Socio-constructivist_learning_theory

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

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35

Kuhlthau, C. C. (nd). Information Search Process. Retrieved from: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm

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

Kuhlthau, C. C., & Maniotes, L. K. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for 21st-century   learners, School Library Monthly, 26(5) pp. 18-21. Retrieved from: http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/kuhlthau&maniotes2010-v26n5p18.html

MCEETYA. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Melbourne. Retrieved from: http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf

O’Connell, J. (2012). So you think they can learn? Scan, 31(2), 5-11.

Thomas, N. P., Crow, S. R., & Franklin, L. L. (2011). Chapter 3: The Information Search Process: Kuhlthau’s legacy. In Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the 21st century school library (3rd ed., pp. 33-58). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from http://CSUAU.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=715256

UNESCO. (2005). Information and communication technologies in schools: A handbook for teachers. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001390/139028e.pdf

UNESCO (nd). Most influential theories of learning. UNESCO Education. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/quality-framework/technical-notes/influential-theories-of-learning/