Impact Studies
Impact Studies - NJ IMLS

New Jersey Impact of School Libraries on Student Learning
During 2003-2005, CISSL undertook a research and development project "The Impact of School Libraries on Student Learning," funded by the Institute for Museums and Library Services to provide sustained empirical evidence of the impact of school libraries on student learning, and in doing so, provide an easy-to-use and reliable measurement toolkit to enable school librarian and teacher teams to show the growth of student learning through Guided Inquiry. The research involved 574 students from 10 diverse public schools in New Jersey undertaking inquiry-based projects. The students were from grades 6 to 12, and were learning a range of curriculum topics, such as Middle Ages, Westward expansion and chemical compounds .The study involved 10 teacher-school librarian teams, consisting of 10 school librarians working on 17 different curriculum projects with 17 classroom teachers.

The research sought to measure student learning in multidimensional ways including growth of knowledge of their curriculum topic, interest, feelings, and experiences during the inquiry process, and their reflections on their learning. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to examine and measure the students' learning. The data were collected at three stages of the students' inquiry process : at the initiation of the research task, midway during the task, and at the completion of the task. Data were collected through three short survey instruments which captured responses to open-ended questions as well as categorical responses. At the completion of their research task, the students were asked the same questions as in the previous questionnaires, and additionally asked to reflect on what they had learnt through their projects.

The Student Learning through Inquiry Measure (SLIM) toolkit was further developed and refined from this process, including feedback from participating school teams, critical feedback from the school library research community and further verification from school librarian-teacher teams not involved in the initial research. This testing and refining has shown that this toolkit is workable in a school setting and capable of documenting learning outcomes of Guided Inquiry units lead by school librarian-teacher teams. The SLIM toolkit can be used in various settings, involving a diversity of curriculum topics and grades.
Through using the toolkit in the New Jersey schools, the school librarian-teacher teams were able to show several key learning outcomes that could be documented through applying the SLIM toolkit:
they learned topical content in two predominant ways: fact finding as an additive approach to knowledge building, and integrative / transformative approach which went well beyond describing the topic, to showing understanding of complex concepts and explanatory and predictive relationships of topical content and reflecting on this:
they became more skillful and confident as information seekers;
they became increasingly engaged, interested and reflective during their learning process, and saw information seeking as a constructive process of building both deep knowledge and deep understanding
they became more critically aware of the broad variety of sources and their different purposes;
they gained practical skills in independent information seeking;
they underwent a significant conceptual change regarding information. They showed increasing awareness of the varied quality of information, as well as information as a problematic and often contradictory, construct that needed to be scrutinized in the process of building new understandings. This altered their conception of information seeking as fact-finding into a broader reflective notion.

Impact Studies - SLIM

The School Library Impact Measure (SLIM) is a toolkit that enables you to
assess student learning through guided inquiry in the school library. It consists of
four instruments that elicit students’ reflections on their learning at three points in
their inquiry process. The toolkit will enable collaborating school librarian –
teacher teams to chart changes in students’ knowledge and experiences
throughout the process.

Inquiry Learning
The school context for using the SLIM toolkit is an inquiry unit. An inquiry
approach to learning is one in which students actively engage with diverse and
often conflicting sources of information and ideas to discover new ideas, to build
new understandings, and to develop personal viewpoints and perspectives.

SLIM Handbook

SLIM Reflection Instruments and Scoring Guidelines

SLIM Scoring Sheet

Kuhlthau, C., Heinstrom, J, & Todd, R. J. (2008). The "Information search process' revisited: is the model still useful? IR Information Research 13(4). Available at .
This paper examines the continued usefulness of Kuhlthau's Information Search Process as a model of information behavior in new, technologically rich information environments. It presents a comprehensive review of research that has explored the model in various settings, and documents a study employing qualitative and quantitative methods undertaken in the context of an inquiry project among school students (n=574). Students were surveyed at three stages of the information search process, during which nine feelings were identified and tracked. Findings show individual patterns, but confirm the Information Search Process as a valid model in the changing information environment for describing information behavior in tasks that require knowledge construction. The findings support the progression of feelings, thoughts and actions as suggested by the search process model. The paper concludes that the information search process model remains useful for explaining students' information behavior. The model is found to have value as a research tool as well as for practical application.

Todd, R. J. (2006). From information to knowledge: Charting and Measuring Changes in Students' Knowledge of a Curriculum Topic. IR Information Research, 11 (4). Available at:
This research sought to investigate how school students build on their existing knowledge of a curriculum topic and transform found information into personal knowledge, and how their knowledge of this topic changes. The qualitative study involved 574 students from Grades 6 to 12 in ten New Jersey schools. The context for data collection was an instructional program framed by Kuhlthau's information search process. Data were collected through surveys at the initiation, midpoint and conclusion of the instructional program. The instruments sought to measure changes in knowledge, specifically in relation to substance of knowledge, structure of knowledge, amount of knowledge, estimate of extent of knowledge, and label of knowledge. It was possible to operationalize knowledge change in terms of substance, amount and structure of knowledge, and user-centered perceptions of knowledge growth. Additive and integrative approaches to knowledge development were identified. Students came to know more about their topics, and perceived that they knew more as they progressed through the task. However, students seemed more oriented to gathering facts and knowing a set of facts, and accumulating these in an additive manner, rather than building complex, integrated and abstract knowledge representations.

Todd. R. J. & Heinstrom, J. (August 2006). "Uncertainty & Guidance: School Students' Feelings, Study Approaches, and Need for Help in Inquiring Projects". Scan, 25 (3) 29-35.
Building on the frameworks of the NSW Department of Education and Training's approach to Quality Teaching, and guided inquiry (Kuhlthau & Todd, 2005), this article discusses how students' need for information literacy instruction can be related to individual differences. The findings are based on the NJ study of 574 students from middle and high schools, who described their feelings, study approaches, difficulties and their need for help while undertaking inquiry projects. It concludes that the students' tendencies to experience different feelings and difficulties while searching and processing information are dependent on their study approaches. This interaction has important implications for the design and implementation of instructional interventions by teacher librarians and classroom teachers.

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