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Evidence-based Programs and Practices

We know that school library media programs make a difference in learning. Your role is to develop an effective, inquiry-based learning program in your school. This program must focus on working collaboratively with teachers and documenting your work and the work of students.

Scientifically-Based Research

From personal experiences and intuition to observation and research, teachers and library media specialists use a wide variety of techniques to make instructional decisions. With increasing pressures for accountability, school reform, and standards-based curriculum, professional educators must refine their teaching practice to reflect research-based knowledge. This begins with applying scientifically-based research.

According the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), scientifically-based research is defined as "Research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs." This research must include systematic, empirical methods; rigorous data analyses, reply on measurements or observational methods; use experimental or quasi-experimental designs; ensure replication; and be accepted by independent sources.

This recent emphasis on evidence-based education policy led the National Research Council to study the nature of scientific inquiry in education. The report, Scientific Research in Education (2002) focuses on methods for scientifically-based educational research and the appropriate use of these methods. The foundations of scientific inquiry are the same across fields focusing on the “continual process of rigorous reasoning supported by a dynamic interplay among methods, theories, and findings” (p. 2). The study also noted that “rarely does one study produce an unequivocal and durable result; multiple methods, applied over time and tied to evidentiary standards, are essential to establishing a base of scientific knowledge” (p. 2).

Scientific Research in Education (2002) also states that a healthy community of researchers should work collaborative and follow six guiding principles of scientific inquiry: (1) pose significant questions that can be investigated empirically, (2) link research to relevant theory, (3) use methods that permit direct investigation of the question, (4) provide a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning, (5) replicate and generalize across studies, (6) disclose research to encourage professional scrutiny and critique (p. 3-5).

The State Educational Technology Director’s Association (2003) has developed a comprehensive website to disseminate information related to scientifically-based research approaches in educational technology. They suggest an eight step process for designing a scientifically-based research study including creating a plan, generating questions, establishing a conceptual framework, designing methodology, acquiring resources, implementing project, synthesizing findings, and reporting findings.

Evidence-based Library Media Programs

In 2003, the ALA Resolution: School Libraries and Librarians are Critical to Educational Success states that numerous research studies conducted in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas have shown a high correlation between exemplary school library programs led by a certified school librarian and student achievement on state standardized tests.

With an increasing focus on accountability, it's more important than ever for library media specialists to document their work with teachers and students. Evidence-based programs carefully document and study how the library media program makes a difference in learning. Their programs are constantly revised to reflect their findings.

eye means readRead Our Instruction DOES Matter! Data Collected From Students' Works Cited Speaks Volumes by Sara Poinier and Jennifer Alevy in Teacher Librarian, February 2010, Volume 37, issue 3, p. 38-39. The authors discuss their development and application of an assessment for library instruction applied to a class assignment in conjunction with high school health classes. It notes that data was collected from health classes that had received library instruction as well as from a health class that had not received instruction from a teacher-librarian. Works cited pages created by the students were examined and evaluated and differences between classes that had library instruction and those without are explored. Changes made to library instruction based on the results of the assessment are also discussed.

Action Research and Library Media Programs

Action research is an approach used by educators to evaluate teaching methods and learning processes. It is "process of systematically evaluating the consequences of educational decisions and adjusting practice to maximize effectiveness” (McLean 1995).

Through action research, educators gain insights and improve their teaching practice. Action provides an orientation to research, a form of professional practice, a research process, and a reflective way of teaching (Arhar, Holly, & Kasten, 2001).

Action research has a long history. Although the specific origins of action research are open for debate, many have placed it with the work of Kurt Lewin (1946). He viewed action research as a tool for generating knowledge about a social system while at the same time attempting to change it. In 1953, Steven Cory stated that action research is conducted in authentic classrooms to solve practical problem using scientific methods to determine, on the basis of objective evidence, whether or not goals have been accomplished (Herrick, 1992). Action research can assist educators with a systematic method for determining what is best practice and policy for their students and can promote educational reform (Heckman, 1996; Zuber-Skerritt, 1991).


Educators have always been accountable for their actions. However, with the No Child Left Behind Act, accountability has become a focus of schools (Schultz, 2002, p. 38). Accountability refers to the connection between student performance and the teacher’s preparedness. Through action research, educators use sound data to evaluate their educational programs. Action research is used to examine and address a particular problem, which ultimately leads to an improvement in teaching practices and assessment (Herrick, 1992, p. 47). Action research is directly linked to the legislation (NCLB). Teachers are able to show that they are making a difference with their teaching for all students and it allows them to study the effects of their teaching on student learning (Mills, 2003).

Continual Professional Development

According to Calhoun (2002), action research focuses on continual professional development—a direct route to improving teaching and learning. According to Calhoun, action research asks educators to study their practice and its content, explore research base for ideas, compare current practices with what they find, participate in training to make need changes, and look at the effects on the students and themselves (p. 18). Action research is a sound tool to help educators solve problems or investigate how students learn and succeed. Action research is a powerful tool used by teachers and administrators to measure the schools effectiveness.

Real Problems

Action research involves educators on a personal level with real problems that need solved and provides educators the opportunity to reflect on and act on real-life problems encountered in their own practices.
In the case of the proposed project, action research involves collaboration at all levels including students, researchers, and practitioners.

The research and the practice inform each other to help develop new knowledge and effective action (Ziegler, 2001). Action research is different from other research. It focuses on problems that happen in everyday life and in the learning process. Action research uses quantitative and qualitative methods. It uses qualitative to describe what is happening to understand the learning processes. Another difference is that action research is used to take action to make the necessary changes in teaching methods to help all students succeed.

In the article, A Bumpy Road to Action Research, the link needed to professionalize teaching and teachers is action research (Gilbert & Smith, 2003). Many educators and research feel strongly that action research should be a mandatory component of teacher education (Gilbert & Smith, 2003).

As self-directed professional development, action research asks the educator to start with their own knowledge, experiences, and perspectives and use these to improve teaching methods. It is unique research used to reach a specific goal. Gilbert and Smith (2003) conducted a study on the use of action research in schools. They found that when teachers view good teaching as good research, they open the gates to the future. Teachers will see how the system can be changed through their research, creating new knowledge that empowers them and their learner. Teachers have the goal of helping students become life-longer learners. Shouldn’t teachers be life-long learners, too? Another result of the their study, showed how teachers appreciated sharing their action research with each other. The teachers found it very valuable to see what others have done and changes they have made.

Action Research Takes Time

Although action research appears to be an ideal method to evaluate schools’ effectiveness and improve learner outcomes, it is not used thoroughly in schools because teachers lack the time and expertise to engage in action research. In a study of action research by teachers, Gamoran (2003) found that educators need time to develop their skills and conduct research. They also need the support of administration. When these two elements are in place, teachers were able to collaborate and collectively focus on improving student learning.

Action Research Changes Thinking

Action research changes how educators think about themselves, their work, and their school. Teachers become committed to action research because it gives them tangible results in their work and in students’ performance (Senese, 2002). Action research is used to generate data to measure the effects of various teaching methods, help make effective decisions, and assist teachers in learning new practices (Calhoun, 2002).

Hoshmand and Polkinghorne (1992) noted that the traditional concept of the relationship between science and practice has generally posited a one-way influence of science on practice. This perspective is limiting and underutilizes and undervalues the ways of knowing that are germane to practice. Action research brings those two realms of knowledge and experience together. Viewed as a frame of mind, action research calls us to a continued interest in serving our students better and providing increased accountability for our teaching. As such, action research is not simply a good idea. Instead, it becomes an ethical responsibility for monitoring the effectiveness of our practice and increasing the competency of our teaching (Elliott, 1991).

Applying Evidence to Professional Practice

Evidence-based programs use the data they collect from their own program, as well as applying scientifically -based evidence from other programs.

Many quality research studies have been conducted on topics of interest to school library media specialists on topics related to information inquiry. As you explore research studies, consider how the results can be duplicated or adapted for your program. Think about ways that you could apply the results of one of these articles to your professional practice.

Meta Analysis

Rather than wading through volumes of research studies, some educators prefer to focus on quality meta- analysis research.

According to Bangert-Drowns and Rudner (1991), “meta-analysis is a collection of systematic techniques for resolving apparent contradictions in research findings. Meta-analysts translate results from different studies to a common metric and statistically explore relations between study characteristics and findings”.

Meta-analysis has become an increasingly common and widely supported means of synthesizing findings from research (Glass 2000). According to Viadero (2002), this type of systematic review of research provides empirical evidence that certain approaches are effective in improving student learning.

video clipView Evidence-based Programs (2:48).

In this video interview, Daniel Callison discusses evidence-based decisions for information age instruction.

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.

eye means readChoose ONE of the following research articles. Think about ways that you could apply the results of one of these articles to your professional practice.

Seeing Different: Portayals of Disability in Young Adult Graphic Novels by Marilyn Irwin and Robin Moeller (SLMR, 13, 2010). This study explores the representation of disabilities in graphic novels. How might this impact your use of graphic novels?

Challenges to Teaching Evaluation of Online Information: A View from LM_NET by Frances Jacbson Harris (SLMR, 12, 2009). This article explores the issues in teaching evaluation skills.

Mental Models of Information: The 1993-94 AASL/Highsmith Research Award Study by Judy M. Pitts (SLMR, 23(3), 1995). The purpose of this study was to examine the question: When students are seeking and using information, why do they make the decisions they make?

Current Research: A Study of High School Students' Online Catalog Searching Behavior by Shu-Hsien Chen (SLMR, 22(1), 1993). This study investigated the search behavior of high school students using an online catalog.

The Science Library Catalog: A Springboard for Information Literacy by Virginia A. Walter, Christine L. Borgman, and Sandra G. Hirsh (SLMQ, 24(2), 1996). This study explores student use of catalogs.

Information Search Process: A Summary of Research and Implications for School Library Media Programs by Shu-Hsien Chen (SLMQ, 18(1), 1989). The author summarizes a series of five studies on students' perspective of information seeking in response to a research assignment.

eye means readRead the article The Effect of High-Quality Instruction on Reading Outcomes in Research Brief (ASCD, 3, 3, February 1, 2005).

Learn More

Arhar, J., Holly, M., & Kasten, W. (2001). Action research for teachers: Traveling the yellow brick road. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Bangert-Drowns, Robert L. & Rudner, Lawrence M. (1991). Meta-analysis in educational research. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 2(8).

Calhoun, E. (2002, March). Action research for school. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 18-24.

Carnahan, Danielle and Fitzpatrick, Michele. (Spring 2003) Digging out: how to avoid getting buried under a mountain of research. NCREL’s Learning Point, 8-11.

Elliott, J. (1991). Action research for educational change. Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Elements of a Quality Library Program from the Colorado Department of Education.

Gamoran, A. (2003). What are they thinking? National Staff Development Council, 24 (2), 56-60.

Gilbert, S. & Smith, L. (2003). A bumpy road to action research. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 39 (2), 80-83.

Glass, G. V. (2000). Meta-analysis at 25.

Heckman, P. E, (1996). The courage to change: Stories from successful school reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Hoshmand, L. T., & Polkinghorne, D.E. (1992). Defining the science-practice relationship and professional training. American Psychologist, 47 (1), 55-66.

Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues, 2(1), 65.

Loertscher, David V. (March 2003). School Library Media Programs and Academic Achievement: A Bibliography and Availability List.

McLean, J.E. (1995). Improving education through action research : A guide for administrators and teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Mills, G. (2003). Action research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Poggi, Sheryl. (Spring 2003) Wake-up Call: Facing the challenge to use scientifically based research in schools. NCREL’s Learning Point, 4-7.

Schultz, R. (2002). Teachers as learners. Gifted Child Today, 25 (4), 38-45.

Senese, J. (2002). Energize with action research. National Staff Development Council, 23 (3), 39-41.

Solomon, Paul (1994). Children, Technology, and Instruction: A Case Study of Elementary School Children Using an Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). SLMR, 23(1). This study explored how children seek out information.

Todd, Ross (April 2003). Irrefutable Evidence. (From EBSCOhost, requires IUPUI login) School Library Journal.

Viadero, D. (4 September 2002). Education department picks groups to develop database of effective practices. Education Week.

Ziegler, M. (2001). Improving practice through action research. Adult Learning, 12 (1), 3-4.

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