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Aurora Institute

Using Evidence to Enhance Learning

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Pam Harland

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

LibraryThis post originally appeared at Pam Harland’s blog on February 14, 2016.

As librarians, we are good at collecting data: circulation checkouts, database use, number of patrons walking into the library, etc. But how valuable is this information? This kind of data has little to do with our students learning to evaluate sources, gather evidence to support a claim, and ask good questions.

Librarians are reconsidering how to collect data about our school library programs. We all need to ask ourselves:

  • How does my work make a difference in improving teaching and learning?
  • What is my value to the learning culture?
  • How might I use evidence to improve my practice and enhance learning?

When my PLC (a multi-disciplinary grade level team) was tasked to begin collecting data about our practice and instruction I suggested we use our school-wide research rubric (read Pam’s leadership story on how she created a research rubric here).

Our team of English, Social Studies, Science, and Wellness teachers picked 12 shared students. Each teacher used the research process criteria from our content area research rubric to give a quick formative assessment. The teachers had students compare given websites, or find evidence from a text to support a given claim.

The teachers brought the students’ work into our PLC and together we scored their work. We recorded where the 12 shared students were on the rubric’s continuum to gather a starting point for our data. We noticed right away that our students were lower on the rubric when they were asked to do research in Wellness and Science. They were higher on the rubric when asked to do research in English. We decided to perform some interventions and have all of our teachers work with their students on making it clear that our expectations are consistent across the disciplines.

Later in the Spring we did a second research-based formative assessment in most of our classes using the research process criteria from our content area research rubric. The teachers brought the student work back to our PLC where we graded and recorded where the students were now on the rubric’s continuum and we were happy to see our students had moved into a consistent grouping closer to proficient than our starting point.

It was a new way to find out what students know about research at our school.


Use this Tuning Protocol for reviewing student work.

Use this Rubric Scoring Guide as a method for developing rubrics.

Use this template to begin collecting data with your team. Set SMART goals, collect and compare data, and plan for next steps.

This post originally appeared on the Let the Librarians Lead website. Find out more about working with data and assessments from the website.

Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “Evolving with Evidence.” Knowledge Quest. 43(3) Jan/Feb. 2015. 37-43.

See also:

Pam Harland has been a librarian for over 20 years working in public libraries, academic libraries, and at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston as a research librarian. Currently she is the librarian at Sanborn Regional High School, Graduate Teaching Lecturer in the Educational Leadership Department at Plymouth State University, and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of School Librarians.