Thing x: Evidence Based Practice – Getting Started

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If school librarians can’t prove they make a difference, they may cease to exist.   (Ross Todd – The Evidence-Based Manifesto for School Librarians SLJ, 2008)

This next two lessons were inspired by conversations that started at a workshop by Jennifer LaGarde on annual reports and collecting data. And by the work of Ross Todd, Lyn Hay and Joyce Valenza (among many others!) on Evidence Based Practice. Some of you asked us to put together lessons that would give you time and resources to think about using Evidence Based Practice (EBP)  to help improve your library’s program, and help you show how you and your library’s services help students succeed.

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

We’ll get you started over the course of two lessons, this one with introductory material to get you thinking about EBP and then next one on tools and ideas for collecting data. Up for the challenge??

Show the numbers and show me why they matter.
image CC0 Pixabay

But wait! Just what is Evidence Based Practice? If I had to summarize it, I’d say: “show me the numbers and show me why they matter.”  But obviously there’s far more to it. First of all, evidence is more than just numbers.

In The Evidence-Based Manifesto for School Librarians (SLJ, 2008), Dr. Ross Todd’s essential article on Evidence Based Practice in school libraries, Dr. Todd defines EBP for school librarians as:

“Evidence-based school librarianship uses research-derived evidence to shape and direct what we do. EBP combines professional wisdom, reflective experience, and understanding of students’ needs with the judicious use of research-derived evidence to make decisions about how the school library can best meet the instructional goals of the school.”

“In order to accomplish this, school libraries need to systematically collect evidence that shows how their practices impact student achievement; the development of deep knowledge and understanding; and the competencies and skills for thinking, living, and working.”

Hilda Weisburg points out in this blog post, Show Them The Evidence of Your Success, that it’s great to start a presentation or report by grabbing the attention of your “stakeholders by leading with emotions rather than logic. It is the best opening, but what about the follow-up?  You need to show them hard evidence that a library program staffed by a certificated school librarian makes a difference in student achievement.” 

She goes on to suggest starting with some of the major studies of the impact of school libraries on student achievement to get ideas and then focus on what pieces you might replicate in your library. Showing administrators data from national studies can be useful, but showing them what’s happening in their school is much more powerful.

And in the article, Evolving With Evidence (AASL Knowledge Quest, January 2015), Dr. Joyce Valenza recalls how we used to focus on numbers like book checkouts, door counts, reference questions, classes taught, etc. And goes on to say how those measures really didn’t 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 this lesson, we ask you to do some reading and thinking about EBP and how you can put it into practice in your setting. Think about what kinds of data you can collect and how you can use that data to show the value of your library program and its impact on student learning. In our next lesson, you’ll have a chance to explore tools and ideas for actually collecting data.

We encourage you to follow these two lessons with others in the Cool Tools workshop. For example, look at tools for gathering student feedback, consider using a new digital storytelling or presentation tools to share your story, and explore data visualization skills that will help you present data more effectively and powerfully. These lessons might be ones that you’ve already explored, but feel free to repeat them with a new purpose in mind.


As usual, we’ve included more resources than you’ll have time for. Don’t feel you have to explore everything.


  • This lesson is a thinking piece. There aren’t any specific tech tools to play with for this one, but there will be in the next lesson on collecting data.
  • Read some articles, view the webinar, look at examples of annual reports. Jot down the strategies that make sense to you.
  • Talk with your peers, fellow faculty, your administration – anyone who might help you look at your services from a fresh point of view.

Questions to think about:

  • What’s your school mission, primary focus, goals? This is key! You need to be able to show how your program is helping to meet the school’s mission.
  • What is important to your principal, school board, other teachers? How does your program help meet THEIR goals?
  • What measurable data can you collect that will show the library’s influence on student success?
  • What stories, anecdotes and personal stories might you collect from students and staff? These help support the quantitative data.

Your blog post: Share your thoughts and what you explored? What about this excites you? What challenges might you run into?


  • 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.




6 thoughts on “Thing x: Evidence Based Practice – Getting Started

    • Thanks for finding the replacement link Carol! Fixed it. Can’t find a replacement for the Jennifer LaGarde webinar.

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