The current educational climate is very data driven and achievement oriented. Teachers are under a lot of pressure and are expected to get results and be accountable for everything they do or don’t do. Teacher librarians (TL) are under even more pressure with the current economy to prove that they are effective, make a difference and get results in order to demonstrate their value to a school and retain their position in the school. In order to demonstrate this value TLs need to collect and collate evidence and be prepared to utilise this evidence to defend their position and prove their worth.
Evidence based practice is the process of documenting how teacher librarians make a difference in learning. It demonstrates the direct link between the activities of the TL and improved student outcomes, a link not recognised by many educators despite studies proving the fact (Todd, 2003). Evidence can and should be collected in a variety of forms and from different points throughout the lessons. This documentation can include things like work samples, rubrics, journals, test scores, evaluations and anything that will show success in what was being taught. This evidence should then be used to make clear statements outlining what the students have gained from the lessons taught.
Evidence based practice is also vital for the TL in their professional practice of teaching information literacy to students. In order to assess the effectiveness of the lessons taught TLs should be collecting evidence, reflecting on what worked or responding to what was not effective in order to facilitate change and create continuous improvement (Eldredge, 2000 in Todd, 2007). The 21st Century sees an increasingly complex informational and technological world that students need to function effectively in and TLs need to take the lead in planning for a learning centre that will be dynamic, flexible and high-tech in order to cater for these needs (Hay & Todd, 2010, p30). Therefore evidence based practice is also about strategic thinking, working with the evidence gathered to inform effective practice. TLs as a specialist practitioner need to take control of their own professional learning journey through such things as seeking access to professional development, joining professional networks and associations and attending conferences (Hay & Todd, 2010, p37).
Evidence gathered in evidence based practice should be used to demonstrate accountability for what TLs teach as well as to advocate for improvements in school libraries. To do this evidence findings need to be shared with others in meaningful ways over time (Oberg, 2002, p10-13). The school principle has the greatest influence from a school level to facilitate change and evidence gathered should be used to educate about the role of the TL as well as to gain support for the role. Through gaining support for the role of the TL and school library such things as time for collaboration, budget increases to meet growing requirements and flexible timetabling, etc can be seen as beneficial and therefore as greater priorities.
TLs must use evidence based practice in their role as a professional for several reasons; to have positive proof of their worth and value, to inform their own practice and facilitate effective programs and to educate and inform those in power in order to successfully advocate for the needs of the students and the school library. Evidence based practice is a powerful and effective tool for a TL in a 21st century library.
Hay, L., & Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: The conversation begins. Scan, 29(1), 30-42.
Oberg, D. (2002). Looking for the evidence: Do school libraries improve student achievement?, School Libraries in Canada, 22(2), 10-14
Todd, R.J. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement, School Library Journal.1st April
Todd, R. J. (2007). Evidenced-based practice and school libraries : from advocacy to action. In Hughes-Hassell, S. & Harada, V. School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 57-78). Westport, CY : Libraries Unlimited.