Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Evaluating the Impact of the School Library Resource Center on Learning

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Evaluating the Impact of the School Library Resource Center on Learning

Article excerpt

Of Special Interest

This research project, funded by Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries in the United Kingdom, investigated the impact of the school library resource center (SLRC) on learning, first, by looking at what teachers, students and librarians perceived to be the learning experiences taking place in this environment and, second, by examining specific examples of SLRC activity to identify whether this learning was indeed happening and how it might be monitored. The evidence of this research is that the potential to impact on learning goes well beyond impact on information handling skills. The article explores the challenges of the SLRC and offers some recommendations for those seeking to evaluate the impact of their own SLRC on learning.

Introduction

The school library resource center (SLRC) has been recognized as having a key role in supporting information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives and the development of the skills required to extract and to use information effectively. Recent government initiatives in the United Kingdom to raise educational standards, encourage social inclusion, and introduce information technology throughout the curriculum have led to a shift in emphasis toward the development of core skills to enable students to learn independently, both in the school environment and beyond. Similar developments have been taking place in other countries, and the research project discussed in this article has widespread implications.

Alongside these educational developments, local authorities in the UK, including educational establishments and public libraries, are required to demonstrate public accountability in terms of service to clients and value for money. The increased expenditure on technology, as well as the traditional hard copy resources in the SLRC, has prompted a need for improved quality assurance. The school library profession has embraced this and, in Scotland, performance measurement has been integrated into the system used by the school as a whole. Traditional evaluation of a library service has looked at outputs in terms of statistical information relating to expenditure, resources, and use. However, the emphasis in recent guidelines on evaluation of the SLRC is on service outcomes and the qualitative approach to evaluation that this entails. For example, one of the performance indicators in the Scottish schools' quality assurance document (HMI Audit Unit, 1996) and the SLRC equivalent (SOEID/SCCC/SLA/SLIC, 1999) is the "quality of pupils' learning." This is an area that librarians have found difficult to tackle, especially as the literature hints at the need for a critical look at the learning without giving clear guidelines on how to achieve this on a practical level. (Librarians in Scottish schools are professionally qualified as librarians, rather than holding a dual qualification in teaching and librarianship.) Teachers understand the need to encourage use of the SLRC and its resources through the curriculum and to develop independence beyond the classroom, but do not necessarily place sufficient emphasis on the skills required to ensure the SLRC can contribute most effectively to student learning.

These issues form a backdrop for research that has recently been completed at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. The research examined the impact of the SLRC on learning. The study complements the work already undertaken in the United States where Lance, Welborn, and HamiltonPennellet (1993, 1999, 2000a, 2000b) have linked the provision of a SLRC to academic achievement. The study also complements work reported in the theme issue of School Libraries Worldwide (Hopkins & Zweizig, 1999) in which the evaluation team of the Library Power initiative connect improvements in the quality of provision of service with greater opportunities for students to develop information handling skills through an integrated approach to inquiry. …

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