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Assessing to Empower Learners: How Can We Use Assessment Data?

We have a big responsibility as librarians to assess individual student skill development throughout the process of learning. We're assessing information fluency, but we define it broadly to include literacy, technology, critical and creative thinking, and evaluation and use of information. We have some guidelines that we can follow that will help us when we're developing these assessments.

First of all, we need to pay attention to the continuum of the development of skills. In my high school, we developed a matrix of exactly what we wanted to spend our energy on with all the students at ninth grade, tenth grade, eleventh grade, twelfth grade. We were sure what the continuum was.

The second thing is to know what it looks like when our students do a good job. If you're asking them to do an on-the-spot report, be sure that you're in sync with the classroom teacher about what you expect to see in a high quality on-the-spot report.

Then I would recommend that you move to student self-assessment. Now, we've talked a lot about assessing individual student performance, so let's turn to our other role as librarians and that's using assessment as instructional leaders for the whole school. We, unlike if you're in an individual classroom, have the opportunity to develop that whole school perspective. But that also comes with responsibility. We have to align the library program, the teaching of the skills, and the assessment with the school mission and priorities.

You need to analyze student performance in the aggregate. At some point, you have to rise above the individual student performance and make sure that you're having an impact on the whole second grade or the whole school. If you're not, then change the continuum or change the collaboration with classroom teachers to be sure you start having that impact. We can use assessment at that meta-level to enable teachers to re-envision their teaching and actually integrate more of the information skills into their classrooms.

And, finally, we need to use assessment with the whole school perspective as an advocacy tool. We need to tell the story of learning through the library.

One of my most glorious moments was working with a young second grader, I think, or maybe first grader, who was proclaiming how much he knew about presidents because he had read every book in the library. He said, "You can ask me anything about American presidents. I'm an expert."

Well, that's what we want for all of our students, and we can use assessment to make sure that all of our students are experts, have the confidence in themselves, and that others understand the story of learning through the library.

About the Author

Barbara K. Stripling, PhD, is Senior Associate Dean and associate professor emerita at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University. She earned her doctorate in information management from Syracuse University. Stripling is the author of numerous books and articles on school libraries, advocacy, inquiry, assessment, learning, and primary sources.

Stripling was the 2013–2014 president of the American Library Association. Previously, in her 40-year library career, Stripling has been Director of Library Services for the New York City schools, a school library media specialist and school district director of libraries in Arkansas, a library grant program director in Tennessee, and director of library programs at a local education fund in New York City. Stripling is a former president of the American Association of School Librarians.

Select Citation Style:
Stripling, Barbara K. "Assessing to Empower Learners: How Can We Use Assessment Data?" School Library Connection, November 2019,
Stripling, Barbara K. "Assessing to Empower Learners: How Can We Use Assessment Data?" School Library Connection, November 2019.
Stripling, B. K. (2019, November). Assessing to empower learners: How can we use assessment data? School Library Connection. Retrieved from

Entry ID: 2228085

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