School Libraries Play an Active, Transformational Role in Student Learning and Achievement

Gayle Bogel

Abstract


A review of:


Todd, Ross J. “Student Learning Through Ohio School Libraries: A Summary of the Ohio Research Study.” Ohio Educational Library Media Association 15 Dec. 2003. Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA), 2004. 15 Nov. 2006
http://www.oelma.org/StudentLearning/documents/OELMAResearchStudy8page.pdf.

Objective – This study explored links between school libraries and student learning outcomes that were defined in a multidimensional context, using data provided by the students themselves. The researchers examined learning outcomes that reached beyond the existing correlations of school library services and standardized test scores. Insight was provided into the interactions between students and school libraries that affect student learning. An overarching goal of the study was to establish ongoing dialogue to focus on evidence based practices that may lead to continuous improvement in school library services and to provide the basis for further research.

Design – Web based survey.

Subjects – Participants were 13,123 students in grades 3-12 and 879 faculty at 39 schools across the state.

Setting – Ohio Public school libraries.

Methods – Thirty-nine effective school libraries, staffed by credentialed school librarians, were chosen through a judgment sampling process, using criteria based on Ohio Guidelines for Effective School Library Media Programs. The guidelines are aligned to academic content standards, assessments, resources, and professional development.

Two web based surveys were used to collect quantitative and qualitative data from students and faculty:

The Impacts on Learning Survey, composed of Likert scale responses to 48 statements and an open-ended critical incident question for students.
The Perceptions of Learning Impacts Survey was a similar survey for faculty.

Survey questions were based on Dervin’s theory of information seeking that advances the idea of ‘helps’ as the constructive process of bridging gaps in information use that lead to new knowledge or making sense (sense-making) in relation to a perceived information need (Todd and Kuhlthau). The term ‘helps’ includes both inputs (help that the school library provides in engaging students in learning) and outputs (learning outcomes of academic achievement and active agency in the learning process).

The survey statements included a combination of conclusions based on selections from school library research studies, and the Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning from the American Association of School Librarians’ Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning.

The two surveys were used to triangulate multiple sources of data to illustrate the “helps” provided by the school library to student learning. Students were also given the opportunity to describe “helps” in their own words in an open-ended critical incident question.

Main results – The data showed that the selected effective school libraries were perceived as providing ‘helps’ in dynamic ways that appeared to have a transformative effect on student learning. School libraries and librarians were viewed as having an active role in the learning process. Of the students surveyed, 99.4 % believed that school libraries helped them become better learners. The results were grouped into seven blocks of ‘help’ concepts that frame the contributions of the school library and the school librarian to student learning (Table 1).

The study noted that perceptions of the effect of school libraries are strongest for elementary students, and perceptions of the effect decrease as students move through middle and high school. Comments from students indicate that mastery of information skills that lead to independent learning may contribute to the perception that the library is not as strong a ‘help’ in later school years.

In ranking the mean scores of the block concepts, the effective school library ranked strongest as a resource agent and technical agent, to support student research and projects with both print and non-print resources. The qualitative data further clarified student perceptions that the library contributed to individualized learning, knowledge construction, and academic achievement. Instructional interventions that benefited from contributions by the librarian included conducting research effectively; identifying key ideas; analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information; and developing personal conclusions.

In comparing student and faculty data, there was consistency in the perception of value in the top three conceptual groups of “helps”: libraries as resource agents, as agents for information literacy development, and as agents for knowledge construction.

Conclusion – The data analysis illustrated that school libraries were actively involved in student learning and were perceived as important factors in student learning and achievement by both students and faculty. Consistency throughout the sample showed perceptions of multiple effects of school
libraries in facilitating student learning for building knowledge.

Student comments and survey results showed that students perceived the library as providing strong support for reading for curriculum and informational needs and as less helpful with regard to individual reading for pleasure or personal pursuits. The study speculates that perhaps the emphasis on academics and test-oriented schooling may leave students little time to pursue independent reading interests during school hours.

The study identified factors for effective school libraries: informational, transformational, and formational elements. These factors may be used as building blocks for shaping practices that help effective school libraries bring about student achievement.

Informational: Resources, technological infrastructure, and reading resources.
Transformational: Information literacy, technological literacy, and reading engagement.
Formational: Knowledge creation, use, production, dissemination, values, and reading literacy.

The visual model of the factors for effective practice and their relationship to student outcomes will be of particular help to practitioners. (Todd and Kuhlthau 23)


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