school libraries and learning: a research journey

Dr Ross J Todd
Director, Center for International Scholarship in School
School of Communication & Information
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
[sízz'l] (noun) ¹Center for International Scholarship in
School Libraries where leading researchers and
professionals work together to create school libraries
that spark learning in information age schools around the
²Global hot spot for school library action, where the
synergies of school libraries,
inquiry learning, literacies
and information technology
spark ideas, research,
innovation and scholarship.
1. Undertaking research about learning in information age
2. Disseminating research to the scholarly and professional
communities throughout the world
3. Fostering the development and continuous improvement of
learning-centered professional practice that is underpinned
by high quality research
4. 4 faculty members (+ Dr Kuhlthau)
5 doctoral students
I part time Director of Prof Development
Self-funding : creates challenges re
basic and applied research
• Understand how students learn through school
• Understand learner attributes and patterns of
information seeking and use in schools.
• Understand the use of information for learning, the
process of inquiry, and building understanding of a
topic. Information-to-knowledge Journey
• Understand how learning is effectively implemented
through school libraries and demonstrated through
evidenced based practice.
• Understand how learning outcomes can be measured
and documented through the school library.
• Kuhlthau ISP as central framework
Gaver, M. Every child needs a
school library. Chicago, ALA,
Gaver, M. Effectiveness of
Centralized Library Service in
Elementary Schools. Rutgers
University, 1963
“With the school library
literally the heart of the
educational program, the
students of the school
have their best chance to
become capable and
enthusiastic readers,
informed about the world
around them, and alive to
the limitless possibilities
of tomorrow.” Mary Gaver,
Foundational Research
Keith Curry Lance: 12 State Studies: Correlational
In schools with well stocked, well-equipped school
libraries, managed by qualified and motivated
professional school librarians working with support
staff, one can expect:
Standardized scores tend to be 10 to 20% higher than
in schools without this investment;
Development of capable and avid readers;
Learners who have a range of information scaffolds to
interrogate multiple, diverse and conflicting sources of
information into deep knowledge;
Teachers who are partnering with school librarians to
create high-quality learning experiences based on
curriculum standards;
Explicit links between availability of resources,
technology, information literacy instruction and
student achievement .
Research Studies 2003 +
• Student learning through School Libraries
- Ohio
- Delaware
- Australia
- New Jersey
School Library Infrastructure Analyses Continuous
- Delaware
- NJ (in progress)
School Culture Dynamics
- Collaboration
- Principal’s Support
“Student learning through School Libraries”
• Identify how students benefit from school libraries though
exploring the “help” construct
• Provide statewide data on best practices in school libraries
• Improve teaching and learning in information age schools
• Encourage continuous improvement in school library
• Promote dialog among parent communities, school boards,
administrators, school librarians, and teachers on the value
of effective school libraries
Conceptualization of “help”
• Assumption that libraries contribute to “social good”
• Help refers to both the institutional involvement
through advice and assistance in the information
experiences of people (helps-as-inputs) and the
effect of this involvement on the people it serves
• This study has been informed by four streams of
- Information Search Process (Kuhlthau)
- Information Intents (Todd)
- Outcomes Measurement (Fisher & Durrance)
- Information Literacy Standards (AASL).
Context: value / infrastructure / personnel issues
Outcomes of the Austin Public Library Wired for
Youth Project (Fisher & Durrance)
3 Studies: Student Learning Through
School Libraries
• Ohio: 13,123 valid student responses and 879
teacher responses (39 schools) (2003-4)
• Australia: 6,718 valid student responses and 525
teacher responses (46 schools) (Lyn Hay, 2004-6)
• Delaware: 5,733 valid student responses and 408
teacher responses (13 schools) (2005-7)
• + many local replications / variations
• Tool of Evidence-Based Practice
Getting The Data
• 2 Instruments
Impacts on Learning Survey (Students)
Perceptions of Learning Impacts (Faculty)
• “helps” measure of 48-50 statements of learning
• Critical Incident response to capture voice of
• Evidence-based response to capture voice of
faculty “how they know the library helps students”
7 Sets of “help”
1. how helpful the school library is with getting
information you need
2. how helpful the school library is with using the
information to complete your school work
Information Literacy skills)
3. How helpful the school library is with your school
work in general (knowledge building, knowledge
4. How helpful the school library is with using
computers in the library, at school, and at home
5. How helpful the school library is to you with your
general reading interests
6. How helpful the school library is to you when you
are not at school (independent learning)
7. General school aspects –Academic Achievement
1. How helpful the school library is with getting
information you need
11. The school library has helped me know the different
steps in finding and using information
14. The school library has helped me know when I find good
How helpful the school library is with using the
information to complete your school work
21. The school library has helped me know how to use the
different kinds of information sources (such as books,
magazine, CDs, websites, videos)
24. The school library has helped me put all the ideas
together for my topics
How helpful the school library is with your school work
in general
38. The school library has helped me figure out my own
opinions on things
Critical Incident
• “Now, remember one time when the school
library really helped you. Write about the
help that you got, and what you were able to
do because of it”
• To validate – “witness” quantitative data; to
elucidate “helps” not identified in the statements;
to provide the “voice” of the students
How School Libraries Help
The effective school library helps strongly in terms of
providing access to information technology (sources and
tools) necessary for students to complete their research
assignments and projects successfully
It provides up-to-date diverse resources to meet curriculum
informational needs
Instructional intervention focuses on the development of
an understanding of what good research is about and how
you undertake good research
It engages students in an active process of building their
own understanding and knowledge
Reading enrichment, especially in elementary school
It demonstrates the link between school library services
and learning outcomes
Listen to the Voices
777 When I was working on a project about science I had no idea
what I was doing I asked my library teachers for help they helped
and by the end of the day I felt so much better!!! And from that
day on I knew what I was doing on that project and I got a A I was
so proud of myself and my confidence went up a whole lot and
now when ever I do a project I know I have a lot of power now to
do well on projects!!!
1075 Well one time was when we had to do a report on Animals
and I had no clue how to find information about my animal. So
Mrs. X helped me find the information on the computer. On the
internet if its true or false – to learn that is very important at
6256 Sometimes I argue with my parents about things and use
the library to check if my opinions are true
Listen to the Voices
3532 I was working on History project and we had to have
several sources (primary documents) and the librarians
instructed the students on how to go about finding the
information we needed and compiling it into something
worthwhile. I was able to combine everything together and earn
a good grade.
433 It helped me find info on racism for a 10th grade project,
and made me really think about that, especially I didn’t realize
how racist some of my ideas were
100 I needed help doing a project for government that had to do
with presidents and they had so many books and then the
librarian helped me find web sites. But then they gave me ways
of sorting through all the ideas to extract the key points so I
could get my head around it all
Infrastructure of Delaware School Libraries
• Commissioned by the Governor’s Task Force on School
Libraries established by Delaware Governor to gather
benchmark data on status of school libraries in Delaware
• Use data as basis for capacity building and continuous
improvement of school libraries in Delaware
• Capacity Building is broadly conceptualized as any
process, strategy, initiative or action that is employed to
strengthen or facilitate the ability of school libraries to
provide powerful and sustainable, high quality in their
schools, and to provide opportunities for school teams to
work together in new ways (Noah & Brickman, 2004;
Harris & Lambert, 2003).
Delaware Infrastructure Survey Instrument
• Sought to capture data related to the physical,
resource and personnel infrastructure (informational)
• In addition, to gain initial perceptions into the nature
and focus of instructional activities of school
librarians, initiatives related to fostering the
development of reading through the school library
• Some insight into what the school librarians perceive
to be the impact of the school library on student
learning outcomes and achievement (formational)
Key findings
Mismatch between stated goals, espoused beliefs, and practices and
Staffing and resourcing benchmarks not met (71% certified SL; 22% of
libraries have full time support staff)
Low levels of formal instructional collaborations; small number school
librarians (25%) engage in multiple collaborations
Major gap between espoused conceptions / rhetoric of information
literacy and practice of information literacy
Focus of information literacy instruction: access and retrieval of
information; limited attention to “use” of information: resource
interventions rather than knowledge construction interventions
Learning outcomes: focus on use and appreciation of school library;
limited notion of impact on curriculum standards library centric
Inability to identify / express “outcomes” statements beyond school
Very passive approaches to reading enrichment / promotion
Capacity-Building Approaches
• Measure and show the school library’s contribution to
reading initiatives, curriculum outcomes, vitality of the
school library to continuous improvement of schools
• Develop stronger collaborative instructional programs
targeted to curriculum outcomes
• Identify reading / literacy achievement gaps and
reconfigure reading programs through the school
• Develop and negotiate school and district improvement
plans that engage the school library in a direct and
deliberate process of identifying school achievement
gaps and developing evidence-based programs to
contribute to closing achievement gaps
NJ – IMLS Study
• Do students learn
anything when they
undertake librarybased research
• What does this learning
look like?
• How can it be
• To provide (if any) empirical evidence of the impact of
school libraries on student learning, and to use this as a
basis for developing a learning impacts measure for use
by school-based teams.
• What learning outcomes, aligned to curriculum
standards, does the school library enable?
• How might these learning outcomes be identified,
measured, and embedded into professional practice?
• Research Component + Development Component
• SLIM Tookit
New Jersey Research
• 10 New Jersey public schools
• Experienced and expert school librarians
• Diverse public schools
• 10 school librarians working on curriculum projects
with 17 classroom teachers
• 574 students in Grades 6 – 12; range of disciplines
• Key question: Did they learn anything? What did the
learning look like?
NJ-IMLS Research
What changes, if any, are evident in students’
knowledge of a curriculum related topic, as they
proceed through the stages of a collaborative
inquiry project?
What changes, if any, are shown in the students’
feelings as they proceed through the stages of a
collaborative inquiry project?
How does the students’ study approach influence
knowledge construction of a curriculum topic in
collaborative inquiry projects?
What interactions exist between knowledge
construction, feelings, and study approach, and
what are some of the explanations for these
Assumptions: Learning
• Process of personal and social construction where
people are actively involved in making sense of
information rather than passively receiving it
• Cumulative and developmental process
• Involves the whole person thinking, acting,
reflecting, discovering and linking ideas, making
• Transformative: developing and transforming prior
knowledge, skills, attitudes, values: conceptual
• Encompasses feelings and motivations
Kuhlthau: ISP
Data Collection Instruments
Five data collection instruments were used to collect
the data from the students:
Writing Task 1 (at initiation of inquiry unit)
Writing Task 2 (at midpoint of inquiry unit)
Writing Task 3 (at conclusion of inquiry unit)
Search Journal Log
My Research Style
The instruments consisted of a combination of
qualitative and quantitative questions.
Writing Tasks
Writing task 1 and 2 consisted of the following questions
1. Write the title that best describes your research project at
this time.
2. Take some time to think about your research topic. Now
write down what you know about this topic.
3. What interests you about this topic?
4. How much do you know about this topic? Check () one
box that best matches how much you know. Nothing, Not
much, Some, Quite a bit and A great deal
5. Write down what you think is EASY about researching
your topic.
6. Write down what you think is DIFFICULT about
researching your topic.
7. Write down how you are FEELING now about your project.
Check () only the boxes that apply to you. Confident,
Disappointed, Relieved, Frustrated, Confused, Optimistic,
Uncertain, Satisfied, Anxious or Other.
Additional Questions at Writing Task 3
Write down what you think is EASY about
researching your topic.
Write down what you think is DIFFICULT about
researching your topic.
What did you learn in doing this research project?
(This might be about your topic, or new things you
can do, or learn about yourself)
How did the SCHOOL LIBRARIAN help you?
How did the TEACHER help you?
Changes in Knowledge:
5 Approaches to Measurement
• Substance of knowledge. Analysis of changes in the
relational nature of statements by which students
described their topical knowledge.
• Amount of knowledge. Numerical count of number of
statements they used to describe their topical
knowledge, as well as isolated concepts / terms.
• Structure of knowledge. Thematic organization and
integration of themes into a meaningful structure
• Estimate of knowledge. Personal estimate of extent of
their topical knowledge
• Labeling of knowledge. The students were asked to give
a title for their inquiry project, which was considered to
reflect the degree of focus/specification of topical
Substance of Knowledge
Statement type
statements describing
The color of Valentine’s day is red
is red
statements describing processes,
processes, styles, actions
People drive aggressively in USA
in USA
statements of explanations of how
of how and why
The wall was constructed to block
block invaders
statements providing end result
(People eat too much) As a result,
result, people got very sick
statements showing some event
event causally leads to another
Too much alcohol can lead to liver
to liver failure
Set Membership
statements about class inclusion
Michelangelo created works such
such as statue of David, Cistine
Cistine Chapel and the famous
famous Pieta
statements showing predictive
predictive relations, inference,
He was suspected of poisoning
poisoning him
Changes in Knowledge
Two distinctive approaches to knowledge construction:
-- Transport
-- Transform
“Transport” Approach to Knowledge
• Gathering facts, then more facts, then more facts
• Stockpile of facts, even though facts were sorted,
organized and grouped by end of task.
• Remained on a descriptive level throughout
• Limited intellectual engagement with the ideas
• Surface knowledge
• Saw the collection of facts as the end of the
“Transform” Approach to Knowledge
• Initial: superficial sets of properties
• Moved beyond gathering facts:
- building explanations
- address differences in information
- organizing facts in more coherent ways
• Interpret information
Establish personal conclusions and reflections
• Collecting facts was the beginning and not end
• Facts were the basis for personal choice
Factors contributing to differences across Schools
• No significant variations across the age, grade, and
gender groups
• Nature of task you set: collection of facts or
transformation of facts
• Engagement and ownership
• Nature of Interventions: Development of skills to
construct knowledge rather than finding information
• Partnerships
Study of School Librarian – Teacher
Instructional Collaborations
• Dominant construct in professional rhetoric of school
• Advocated as a high priority for school librarians
• Important dynamic in student achievement (eg Lance)
• Lack of theoretical grounding: weakly articulated
education / social psychology / leadership / networking &
teaming underpinnings
• lack of consensus as to its conceptual boundaries and
operational definition; confusion between coordination,
cooperation, collaboration
• Goal: to enhance student learning? is it mastery of
curriculum standards; is it mastery of information skills
and the creation of students who mirror librarians;
collaboration itself sometimes appears as key goal
• Low levels of collaboration are documented (Callison,
2005, Todd 2005)
Purpose of Collaboration Study
• To develop a deeper understanding of classroom
teacher-school librarian instructional collaborations:
- their dynamics, processes, enablers, barriers
- their impact on perceptions of learning and
instruction, how (if at all) collaboration has changed
the nature of classroom practices
- impact on learning outcomes
- its role in continuous improvement and school
• Qualitative study of the experience of the
instructional collaboration
• Operational definition: Instructional Collaboration is
where the classroom teacher and school librarian
jointly set goals, design learning experiences, and
teach and evaluate a unit of study.
• 170 partnerships established as part of the IMLSKent State University IL program over a three year
program 2003-2005.
• Experience with the first instructional collaboration
undertaken with the school partner as a result of the
IL program
• 130 of 340 who participated in the IL training
program (38% response rate)
• 85 school librarians (65%) and 45 teachers (35%)
• 121 (85%) with masters degrees in LIS / education
• Average work experience: T: 12 years (range 1 – 36
years); L: 13 years (range 1 – 32 years)
• T & L: 25% had 5 years or less teaching experience
Some Key Findings
• Primary motivation for teachers: build collegial and collaborative
relationships: teaching as a social and collegial experience;
collaboration with librarian was a natural extension of social
dynamic of teaching
• Primary motivation of librarians centered on marketing library
services, increasing their status within the school, and spreading
library-centered collaboration in the school.
• Librarians also sought to lesser extent develop their content
knowledge or pedagogical skills around which they would
cooperate with teachers.
• Librarians acknowledged expertise with technology and
information skills
• Characteristics such as divergent and convergent thinking,
creativity, flexibility, openness to experience, organization,
planning were regarded as important traits that facilitated the
working process by both partners
What participants hoped to gain through
Improved pedagogy, content
knowledge, better
understanding of curriculum
Resources, technology help or
support from librarian to meet
teachers’ needs for students
Affective reason, eg friendship,
relationship with colleague,
have fun
School Librarians
Integrated notion of library as part
of the educational milieu,
marketing, model best practice for
Improved pedagogy of information
Improved status of librarian,
demonstrate importance
Affective reason, eg friendship,
relationship with colleague, have
What participants hoped the students would gain
through the collaboration
School Librarians
• students to learn curriculum
• students to develop
information literacy
• increased information
• students to develop a better
perception of the library and
the librarian
• Increased depth, better
quality of learning
Mutuality of Intent as key driver
Of instructional collaborations
Current Studies
• Pennsylvania: Principals’ Support for School Libraries
and relationship of this support to student achievement
(187 school principals)
• New Jersey (2009-2011): 2 phases
• Phase 1: NJ School Library Infrastructure & Personnel
Study: To provide a comprehensive picture of the status
of public school libraries in New Jersey in terms of
facilities, staffing, collection and access to information,
budget, and instruction
• Phase 2 To examine the dynamics of effective school
libraries to establish the outcomes and opportunities for
school libraries in New Jersey, and to establish the key
inputs (both library and school-wide inputs) that enable
these outcomes. Commissioner Davy’s concern: “Show
me what good school libraries in New Jersey look like.”
• 40 schools for in-depth study.
• Undertake an in-depth study of the dynamics of these school
libraries within a broader analysis of the schools and their
• perceptions of students: identify “helps – as – inputs” and
“helps –as-outputs”
• faculty attitude / values towards school libraries
• faculty use of school libraries – enablers and inhibitors of
library use
• faculty perception of impact and sources of evidence of impact
• principal attitude / value towards school libraries
• faculty perception of school library’s impact on student
learning, and evidence for impact
• principal support for school libraries and how it is seen to
impact on learning outcomes
• survey of school librarian actions to enable student learning
outcomes, and perceptions of how those actions impact on
learning, and what the actual impacts are
• school librarian data on evidence of impact
Key Challenges
• From Information to
Without inquiry, there is no
reason for school libraries
• Evidence-based
Without evidence, it is just
another opinion
• Building teams and
Without teams, there is limited
capacity for change
• Engaging Web 2.0
tools to develop
deep inquiry
Without Web 2.0, missed
opportunity for situating learning
in the real world of kids
• Re-imagining school
Vision for the future: you create
the vision. Without vision, you
walk in darkness