Research Instruments for Measuring the Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement and Motivation

By Small, Ruth V.; Snyder, Jaime | School Libraries Worldwide, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Research Instruments for Measuring the Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement and Motivation


Small, Ruth V., Snyder, Jaime, School Libraries Worldwide


A two-year study of public school library programs was conducted in one of the largest and most diverse states in the USA-New York. This three-phase study extends previous statewide library impact studies by using multiple research methods with multiple stakeholders to investigate the school library's impact on: (1) student achievement, (2) motivation for learning, and (3) technology use, as well as a range of other variables (e.g., principal-librarian relationship, librarian-teacher collaboration, library services and resources for students with disabilities). This article describes the design, development, testing and validation of online survey instruments used in the first two phases of this research. The article concludes with a number of recommendations for ways in which these instruments might be used by school library professionals to assess the impact of their programs and services on students in their schools and districts.

Introduction

Over the past 15 years in the USA, a number of statewide research studies have been conducted to determine the impact of school libraries and their school librarians on student achievement (see, for example, Lance, Wellborn, & Hamilton-Pennell, 1993). Researchers have identified some best practices that correlate positively with and contribute to student achievement across studies. Significant research findings have clearly established the relationship between well-staffed, well-funded school libraries with active information literacy instructional programs, and state-wide standardized test scores (Tepe & Geitgey, 2002).

Building on this research, a two-year study by a research team from Syracuse University's Center for Digital Literacy was recently conducted in one of the largest and most diverse states in the nation-New York, a state that mandates certified school library professionals at the secondary level only and does not require its certified school librarians to have teaching credentials. This three-phase research study, funded by a National Leadership Grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services, extended previous statewide library impact studies, using multiple research methods to investigate the impact of school library programs, services, and resources on New York State students' (1) achievement, (2) motivation for learning, and (3) technology use. It also explored the principal-librarian relationship and the extent of library services and resources for students with disabilities. The study included three phases; only the first two phases of the study are addressed in this article.

* Phase I: An online general survey for librarians and principals in New York State;

* Phase II: An online in-depth survey for librarians, classroom teachers, students, and principals in 47 selected schools; and

* Phase III: In-person and electronic focus groups and interviews with principals, librarians, classroom teachers, students, and parents in 10 selected schools and in-depth observations and interviews in two schools with exemplary library programs.

While there have been close to 20 state studies of school library impact, few have provided the opportunity for building-level and district-level library professionals to understand how the instruments were developed for those studies, or provided access to the instruments for use or adaption in evaluating their own library programs and services.

The purpose of this article is to provide a detailed description of the design, development, testing, and validation of the online surveys used in the first two phases of the New York State study, offering these validated measuring tools to the community at large in order to spread the impact of this research throughout and beyond our state (and national) borders. Sections of this article include prior research, theoretical foundations, research questions, and methods, followed by detailed descriptions of the instruments. …

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