Food for Thought: Data Collection and Analysis

Last month in an effort to improve my own practice, I studied monthly reports from several high school libraries around the country.  I found many outstanding examples which assisted me in creating a new format for my monthly reports.  (I reported on this process here and here.)

I am still pleased with the transformation of my monthly report, but….

New and Improved?

This wonderfully relaxing five day holiday has provided time to further reflect on the data I collect to share with the school community.  School librarians understand the value of statistics and measure such things as student and class visits to the library as well as items circulated. These numbers are the backbone of many school library monthly (and yearly) reports.  In the past, library resource and facility usage = proof of the necessity of a school library.

However, the more I contemplate this, the more I am convinced that these statistics are not enough to prove the need for a school library program.

In my annual report, I include statistics on the number of pages read by those participating in our voluntary reading program.  But even that does not provide proof positive that my program is impacting student achievement.

Using Collaboration Data

Pam Harland of Plymouth Regional High School includes a Monthly Collaboration Highlight table in her report. She indicates five levels of collaboration in her table that range from merely scheduling classes to teaching an information literacy skill concept and planning a unit with teachers.

Armed with her monthly reports and test data from the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), Pam could correlate data that indicates her program’s impact on student achievement.  Having taught only in South Carolina, I do not have specific knowledge of the NECAP, but if it is similar to our High School Assessment Program (HSAP), then New Hampshire’s students’ research skills are tested.

Extracting the research skills data from test reports of students who benefited from an information literacy skill library lesson would be time consuming and tedious, but it could be done. However, school librarians do not have to await state test results to obtain proof of their program’s impact.

“Our Instruction DOES Matter!”

Sara Poinier and Jennifer Alevy**, teacher librarians at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado, successfully proved their program impacts student achievement.  In “Our Instruction DOES Matter! Data Collected from Students’ Works Cited Speaks Volumes” (Teacher Librarian, February 2010, p. 38-39)* they share that success.  Partnering with health classes, they spoke with the students about available reliable resources and demonstrated how to create citations and Works Cited pages. When the students had finished their reports, the teachers shared the Works Cited pages with the teacher librarians.

Sara and Jennifer also collected a class set of Works Cited pages from a science class that did not receive library instruction.  Then they began to analyze the papers and gathered data concerning the types of resources students had used as well as the format of the Works Cited pages.  When the dust settled, these ladies proved their instruction made a difference in student achievement.

How Can You Measure Your Impact on Student Achievement?

We know that our programs increase student achievement, but being able to provide data that demonstrates it can be powerful.  What suggestions do you have for measuring your program’s impact?

I’m starting small.  Tomorrow, two English classes are coming in for brief instruction before they begin researching aspects of the Roaring Twenties.  I’ll ask them to complete a Google form and use the feedback to help us as we plan library instruction for next semester.

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*You’ll want to read this excellent article for more details on their accomplishment.  I do not subscribe to Teacher Librarian but was able to locate the article through SC DISCUS, the databases our state library helps provide.  You might be able to locate it through databases in your own school or public library.

**Jennifer Alevy is now a teacher librarian at Northglen High School.

Image attribution: “Clementine” by ilmungo   http://www.flickr.com/photos/48094050@N00/392088926

Gearing Up for the New Year: Terrific Finds to Share with Teachers

Mining for Gold

Summer time….time to mine for those golden curriculum resources!  But, where to begin?

Of course, you can enter your own search terms and visit sites hoping to find a gem.

But why not use the collective brain of your PLN?  Each week, I get an email digest from several Diigo groups.  Members of these groups share links to resources  they found “bookmark worthy.”  To determine which resources will fit my needs and the needs of my school, I check many of these links.  The following  are a few I will share with our faculty:

Authentic Assessment Toolbox Jan Mueller shares the hows and whys of authentic assessment.  Follow the step-by-step process to ensure success in creating assessments based on standards.

The Learning Network The N.Y. Times‘ collection of links on often taught subjects.

DocsTeach Resources from The National Archives to bring history to life for students.  Create your own interactive learning activity.

EduHound Provides collections of topic- based links for education.  Some topics included in their sets:  Global Warming, Cyberbullying, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Research paper strategies, Measurement, Visual Arts, Oceanography, and Forsenic Science.

Villainy, Inc. Great interactive game for teaching middle school mathematics.  Dr. Eugene Wick and his sidekick Platypus have plans for taking over the world – but the plans just don’t add up.  Your students become Dr. Wick’s advisor in an effort to stop his evil plans.

Viper This free plagiarism checker is designed to assist students find possible problems in their papers.

Ready to Pick Up Your Mining Pan?

You, too, can be a miner of information resources!  Use the collective work of your fellow educators to uncover those information and curriculum treasures.

Two social bookmarking sites to try are Diigo and Delicious.  Not only is your life simplified by keeping your bookmarks in the cloud, but enriched if you join groups at these sites to help you uncover fantastic resources you may not have found on your own.

You’ll discover a plethora of groups on these sites to assist you.  I am a member of the following (among others):

http://groups.diigo.com/group/teacher_librarians (312 members as of this post’s writing)

http://groups.diigo.com/group/classroom20 (1340 members as of this post’s writing)

http://groups.diigo.com/group/diigoineducation (4668 members as of this post’s writing)

Taking It One Step Further

After you have created your own social bookmarking account, why not create one for your classroom or library?  Visit Creekview High School’s Delicious site to see how their media specialist, Buffy Hamilton harnesses the power of social bookmarking.

Readers, how do you use social bookmarking in your personal and/or professional lives?

Image Attribution:  This image is a work of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.