What is evidence-based practice?
Evidence-based practice in school libraries takes a learner-centered approach to library development. You'll gather and analyse evidence that will help you:
- understand your learners' needs
- reflect on how and why you do things in a particular way
- consider other ways that might lead to better outcomes for students.
You can gather evidence from:
- research about education and library best practices
- your existing library practice, professional knowledge and experience
- your own library setting, especially your library users’ points of view.
Why is evidence-based practice important?
Finding evidence of measured outcomes is essential to understanding how your library supports teaching and learning. It's not enough to simply say that school libraries make a difference. You need evidence to show how your library makes a difference for the learners in your school.
Focusing on learners
Evidence-based practice moves the focus from what school librarians do, to what students achieve. The emphasis is on finding the most effective ways to help students learn. Your library's goals and initiatives need to be based on sound research evidence and a clear understanding of learners’ needs.
Library guiding documents
Involving library staff in teaching and learning
Using evidence-based practice requires that library staff are actively involved in teaching and learning activities.
Collaboration and partnerships
Building evidence for change and evaluating impact
The evidence you gather will highlight areas and opportunities for change and improvement. It can help you know the extent of problems and prioritise actions to address them.
After you've taken action, fresh evidence can show the impact of any changes you've made.
Dr Ross Todd, of Rutgers University Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL), describes 3 dimensions of evidence-based practice in school libraries:
- evidence for practice
- evidence in practice, and
- evidence of practice.
Evidence for practice — existing research
Evidence for practice involves examining and using existing research to identify best practices and inform changes in practice. It provides compelling evidence that school libraries and library staff have a positive impact on student achievement.
Evidence in practice — professional knowledge and experience
Evidence in practice draws on the knowledge and professional experience of your library staff. It includes information about your own school library setting. The evidence comes from your observations and understanding of how and why things happen in a particular way, in your library.
Evidence of practice
Evidence of practice focuses on finding the real results of what school libraries do. Its purpose is to find out what has changed for learners as a result of changes in practice.
This evidence will come from information collected in your school. Student achievement data can be useful, along with evidence you’ve gathered, particularly from your library users.
Find out more
Evidence-based practice: A key to building the future of New Zealand school libraries (pdf, 3.4MB) — this 2012 issue of SLANZA's 'Collected' magazine focuses on evidence-based practice, and includes Ross Todd's article.
School Evaluation Indicators (2016) — this new version of Education Review Office's evaluation indicators reflects a deepening understanding of how schools improve and the role that evaluation plays in that process.
School librarian as inquisitor of practice: Reimagine, reflect, and react with the new standards — this article discusses librarians' reflections on their practice (following the update to American Association of School Librarian's school library standards) as a vehicle for professional growth.