Every day in the last week a new student, who recently moved from an intensive english centre to our school, quite passionately has told me that I shouldn’t have to go to university to become a teacher librarian because all librarians do is put away books. His comments made me think about my role and about the elements of it that are not always publicised to the rest of the school community. My thoughts were that one of these hidden elements may be the teaching and assessing of information literacy and inquiry learning. After doing some reading however, I have found that assessing these areas may actually enhance the views of the school community in relation to what teacher librarians contribute to the school.
According to Herring (2007), “developing information literate students is the key role of the teacher librarian in today’s schools”. The question that teacher librarian’s face is, how do we know that students are information literate? The answer here is obviously through assessment, however according to Mueller (2005) it is not done through traditional assessments but instead through ‘authentic assessment’. Mueller (2005) describes authentic assessment as “a form of assessment in which students perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills”. This description highlights that the assessment needs to be intertwined while the students are taking part in an inquiry task.
The Guided inquiry model is structured in a way in which continual assessment is necessary for students to become successful and is an integral part of teaching and learning (Kuhlthau, Caspari & Maniotes, 2007). It also allows for teacher librarians to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their students which will make it easier to provide assistance to them (Kuhlthau et. al, 2007). According to Kuhlthau et. al (2007), there are five kinds of learning in an inquiry process(curriculum content, information literacy, learning literacy, learning how to learn, literacy competence and social skills) and all of them require assessment.
Kuhlthau et. al (2007), articulates ways of documenting evidence of student learning through observation, performance and end product and tests. Observation is completed by the teacher librarian documenting the student achievements and areas that may need improvement. Student performance is also documented when students “show independence in applying skills, help others students, share ideas with others, ask questions, make connections and recall at a later time” (Kuhlthau et. al., 2007). Products and tests are used as a final evaluation of what the student has learnt.
Stripling (2007) also informs us that teacher librarians can use a variety of assessments when an inquiry task is set, to identify if information literacy skills and knowledge have been achieved. Diagnostic assessment (occurring prior to the learning process) reveals students prior knowledge and establishes a starting point. Teacher librarians also use formative assessment (occurring during the learning process) so feedback can be provided to students so they can think about how to adjust their tasks. Summative assessment (occurring after the learning process) is also used to assist teacher librarians to reveal the amount and quality of learning that has occurred in a student (Stripling, 2007).
Teacher librarians know the benefits of teaching information literacy using an inquiry based process. It is important for teacher librarians to also be able to assess students to highlight student achievement and more importantly highlight where students need assistance.
Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (p. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.
Kuhlthau, C.C., Caspari, A.K., & Manitoes, L.K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century (pp.111-131).
Mueller, J. (2005) Authentic assessment in the classroom… and the media center. Library Media Connection, 23(7), 14-18.