Our Instruction Does Matter! Data Collected from Students' Works Cited Speaks Volumes
Poinier, Sara, Alevy, Jennifer, Teacher Librarian
Each year we set goals for our library program, striving to reflect on and steadily improve student achievement. Last year one of our program goals was to complete a common assessment for one class. After learning about the idea of using students' works cited as a way to reflect on the value of our involvement with classes at the summer 2008 IASL (International Association of School Librarians) Conference, we attempted this data collection method in our high school.
In this endeavor we learned not only about our students' learning but also what an effect our instructional role has on student achievement.
In fall 2008, we arranged with our health teachers to provide instruction on both library resources and the works cited page document for a class project the students undertake each semester.
Over the course of several semesters we had been steadily increasing our collaboration with the health department in our school after teachers expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and integrity of their students' work. Given librarian instruction about reliable resources, ethical use of resources, and plagiarism teachers had reported improvement in student project quality. To further quantify this success, we planned to collect the students' works cited pages in order to discern their use of reliable information and the accuracy of the works cited format.
Because we wanted to collect comparative data from a group of students who received no librarian instruction, we also enlisted the help of one of our science teachers whose class happened to be conducting library research at the same time. She planned to collect works cited pages from her students, but made no plans for librarian instruction about resources or works cited.
After providing each health class with a short introduction to reliable resources and instruction on how to create citations and the works cited page, the students got to work. Several days later, students were expected to turn in a works cited page to both their teacher and to us the teacher-librarians. Using Google Apps (our school district has a subscription) we tabulated our results. We literally counted the number of reliable and unreliable resources on each works cited page. We deemed reliable the following: books from the library, online database articles, and web sites we had recommended to students. Additionally, we rated the works cited on a 0/1/2 scale for the following formatting issues: title, alphabetizing, double spacing, and hanging indentation. Student work received a 0 if they did not complete this aspect correctly, a 1 if they inconsistently demonstrated mastery, and a 2 if they consistently applied this criteria.
The Result: A Tale of Two Classes
The results of this study were telling. The Astronomy class, which came into the library and worked without instruction, used mostly what we would consider unreliable web resources--mainly web sites not affiliated with any reputable expert group on the topic. Only one library-provided resource, online or in print, was used by any of these students. The works cited pages turned in by this class were more of a collection of URLs than documentation of sources (see all results in Table 1).
Conversely, the health students submitted works cited pages that used 81% of the library recommended resources--a dramatic difference. In addition, the health students turned in works cited pages that showed a decent effort at being correctly formatted (see Table 2 for complete information). …