Thing x : Evidence Based Practice – Collecting Data

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(NOTE: These resources in these four lessons (29 to 32) are very library-centric. But the ideas and strategies will work in any teaching setting.)


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CC0 Pixabay by stux

After working through Thing 29: Evidence Based Practice – Getting Started, you know that EBP comes down to being able to answer the “simple” question of how your library supports student achievement. If your administrator asked you that, what would you say and how would you back it up with real evidence?  The question may be simple, answering it takes some reflection and work. Reflection and work well worth doing.

In your learning activity for that lesson, you worked on identifying:

  • ways that your school library program contributes to student achievement and supports your school’s mission
  • types of measurable data you could collect to show the library’s influence on student success
  • and what sorts of anecdotes and personal stories you can collect from students and staff to support the quantitative data

In this lesson, we’ll continue to look at Evidence Based Practice (EBP) with a focus on collecting that information and data.

No doubt you already have some pretty solid routines in place for collecting circulation data, counting how many people come through the door and such. While this may be useful information (and probably required for various state reports), there’s more gold out there to be mined. In 2003, Violet Harada stated:

“The most common statistics collected by library media specialists are quantifiable data such as the number of books circulated and the number of instructional sessions conducted. Such data are important; however, they do not begin to describe the “tangible outcomes” that are directly linked to local student success.”  (Building Evidence-Based Practice Through Action Research Violet Harada, 2003)

Doug Johnson in Demonstrating Our Impact: Putting Numbers in Context also notes a move away from counting “things”:

“There is a movement away from counting things: materials, circulation, online resource uses, website hits, individual student visits, whole class visits and special activities conducted (tech fairs, reading promotions, etc.) to enumerating how many instructional activities were accomplished:  booktalks given, skill lessons taught, teacher in-services provided, pathfinders/bibliographies created and collaborative units conducted. Administrators are less concerned about how many materials are available and more concerned about how they are being used.

And in the article, Evolving With Evidence (AASL Knowledge Quest, January 2015), Dr. Joyce Valenza refers to this focus on data such as book checkouts, door counts, reference questions, classes taught, etc. as information that does little to get to the heart of what’s important.

“These “measures” had little to do with asking good questions, selecting quality sources, synthesizing information, and ethically and creatively constructing and communicating new knowledge. They didn’t address administrators’ achievement concerns or faculty’s engagement issues. They did little to capture real impacts our school library program made or my accountability to the instructional team. Better data were all around me. I wasn’t capturing it. I missed the connection between data and results and lost sight of essential questions. 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?”


In the last lesson, you gave some thought to how you could use EBP to document your library’s role in supporting student learning and now you’re ready to get started. So what will you measure? How will you gather data and evidence? How do you start? In the Teacher Librarians Toolkit for Evidence Based Practice we get the advice to “Start small. Gather stories, collect student work and reflect on how you made a difference.


In Irrefutable Evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement, Ross Todd provides some great examples of how school librarians can get started collecting the evidence they need to show how they support student achievement. And reminds us that:

There’s no standard approach to getting started with evidence-based practice, and strategies will vary from school to school depending on the learning goals of individual districts. But media specialists must develop paper trails to prove their worth. This documentation can include samples of students’ work, lesson plans, surveys, and test scores, anything that will help justify your job. While planning your lessons, focus on the need to explicitly identify what you are teaching and how to prove you were successful. A good starting point is to focus on any collaborative lessons with your colleagues. When teachers and school librarians work together, principals and the school board see firsthand evidence of your value. And when teachers see that you make a difference in student learning, they become your biggest advocates.

Fran Bullington in a 2012 blog post shared this reminder:School librarians are often so busy teaching that they forget to assess the learning taking place.  Can you imagine a classroom teacher NOT assessing student learning?”  Fran also offers several handy ideas for assessing learning in the library media center.



  • Reading Goals for Students : Example of a high school level librarian documenting effect of readers advisory efforts.
  • New Trier library wish list includes quiet spaces for students : In the Facebook group, EBP for School Libaries, Lyn Hay notes “This is an example of the use of school library survey data to seek funding support for school library facility improvements. The results of this New Trier Township High School student survey highlighted the value students placed on the school library as place for research, study and recreation. Also note the district board member’s observation about the collaboration between the school library staff and teachers and students. Lyn’s tip: when designing an evidence-based practice program, always consider the inclusion of ‘student voice’ as part of your evidence base. Student surveys, interviews and focus groups are strategies for collecting this data.”
  • Doug Johnson provides this example of EBP in action in Demonstrating Our Impact: “Information and technology literacy skill attainment, if assessed and reported, is another means of “counting” one’s impact. Our elementary library media specialists have primary responsibility for teaching these skills and complete sections of student progress reports similar to those done in math and reading. At the building level, it is possible for the library media specialist to make a statement like: “89% of 6th grade students have demonstrated mastery of the district’s information literacy benchmarked skills.” (source)
  • Jeri Hurd breaks down the type of evidence in this handy way: “Basically you will need three types of information: Data, examples and stories.  Here’s how I plan to gather that. DATA: Most of my library instruction sits in either the science or history departments.  I’m going to create a series of short, specific pre-post quizzes on various aspects of information literacy and collate the data.  I’ll do exit surveys after the series of extended essay workshops.  I’m fortunate in that I have 100 or so grade 12s every year being externally assessed on a 4,000 word research paper, and the school can pay to get that data. We will. EXAMPLES:  Display examplars of excellent student projects on your library blog or display, and either link to them. Or include them in your report in other ways. For example, in this year’s report, I included photos of some of the better student infographics. STORIES:  I’ve always include short quotations from students and teachers about the library program in my report.  It both promotes our services and adds visual appeal.  This year I took that a step further and embedded short  30-60 second interviews with students and teachers talking about the library’s impact on their learning and curriculum.  One student shared how the infographic really made him think in different ways and to discriminate among his choices of data.  His teacher related that she’d come to me asking for help with a poster assignment, and it turned into something far more meaningful.”  Source: Rethinking the Library Annual Report, Part II



  • For this lesson, read some to the articles in the Readings & Resources section.
  • Then explore the some of the tools in the Tools to Explore section above.
  • Identify some tools and strategies that might help you collect the data, stories, etc you need to support your EBR efforts.
  • Some ideas for your blog post:
    • discuss your reactions to the readings
    • tools that you tried (or hope to try)
    • plans to implement EBR in your library or classroom.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL (webpage address) for your post.
  • Return to the Google Classroom assignment page, find the assignment page for the lesson you just completed and follow the directions for turning in and sharing your work.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Google Classroom.

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