Putting Evidence to Work in Your Library • Objective Data Collection

In this lesson, we're going to focus on the collection of objective evidence to better understand the outcomes of changes you've made in your library.

When collecting objective evidence, you're making all efforts to A, provide evidence on just one thing and B, try and do that with as little interference from other influences as is possible. If this sounds familiar, that's because it's basically the scientific method. The scientific method at its purest is as objective as possible.

When collecting objective evidence, you're more likely to end up with stats of some kind that describe and compare the changes that you made in your program. These don't need to be overly complicated statistics, just descriptive ones.

Let's take a look at an example of objective evidence. Say you wanted to look at graphic novel use in your library. Maybe your English language learner teacher would like to take a look at how graphic novels and reading comprehension would work with her ELL students. When the ELL teacher in your building came to you with this idea, you were thrilled because you would love to see if there is evidence that would allow you to get some additional funding for graphic novels in the library.

There are multiple ELL classes in your building, but you don't have a lot of graphic novels to go around. Thankfully, in the collection of objective evidence, this can actually be used to your advantage. Remember how we mentioned the scientific method? This is where we are going to put it to use.

If you have a teacher that's teaching multiple ELL classes and you decide to incorporate graphic novels into just one of those classes, you've created a quasi-experimental study with a bunch of control groups and one variable group. Nice work, citizen scientist. Your goal in setting up this small data collection is to change as little as possible except for the use of graphic novels.

You and the teacher will teach the same collaborative lessons, focus on the same learning outcomes, and assess the students in the same way, but one of those groups of students will be using a different material. At the end, you have objective data from whatever assessments you were using for reading comprehension, whether it be on a specific aspect or comprehension overall.

What you do next depends on what the data says at the end. Does the evidence show that the ELL students using graphic novels did better on their given assessment? Then run to your principal with some charts and graphs and begin the process of advocating for more funding, more resources, and more graphic novels. Now, if the evidence shows no difference, then A, share that information with the rest of us so we can verify it and B, take a close look at how things might be done differently if you aim to try again. Lastly, if the evidence shows that those ELL students actually did worse, then it might be time to take a closer look at how you provided instruction with graphic novels and make sure that you don't abandon those traditional texts in the meantime.

In aiming for a better understanding of objective evidence, let me walk through just a few more ideas. You could collect evidence on the outcomes of providing instruction on information literacy skills in an isolated experience versus in conjunction with a project with a social studies teacher. You could collect evidence of how students use makerspaces when they have been given some type of instruction or when they've been given no type of instruction. Or possibly, you've conducted some type of modeling or maybe there's been no modeling or any number of those combinations. You could also collect evidence on the outcomes of students' use of databases after in-person tutorials versus generic online tutorials versus tailored online tutorials.

You'll notice that in all of the examples mentioned, the collection of evidence was based on what the outcomes might be. That idea goes back to making your evidence-based practice purposeful. There's not much point in collecting data just to have it. We collect evidence with a purpose so that we can adjust and improve our practice.

MLA Citation DiScala, Jeffrey. "Putting Evidence to Work in Your Library: Objective Data Collection." School Library Connection, January 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2186029?learningModuleId=2186016&childId=2186030&tab=1&topicCenterId=1955261.

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Entry ID: 2186030

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