Impact Studies

This theme identifies the work of CISSL researchers in an ongoing series of macro and micro impact studies of school libraries and their relationship to student learning. They seek to provide both quantitative and qualitative evidence on how school libraries help students with their learning, and to understand some of the complex dynamics that shape these impacts.

Impact Studies – NJASL

NJASL Research Study
One Common Goal: Student Learning
This research on behalf of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, begun in April 2009, seeks to (a) construct a picture of the status of New Jersey’s school libraries in terms of their informational-transformational-formational dimensions, (b) to understand the contribution of quality school libraries to education in New Jersey; (c) to understand some of the contextual and professional dynamics that enable and inhibit school libraries to contribute significantly to education in New Jersey, and (d) to make recommendations to NJ stakeholders to develop a sustained and long term program of capacity building and evidence-based continuous improvement of school libraries in New Jersey. Progress to date: Phase 1 Infrastructure study, is completed.

Phase 1: Executive Summary

Powerpoint presentation at NJASL 2010 Conference

Impact Studies – Articles

Reynolds, R. (2011a). Possible contributors to evaluated student outcomes in a discovery-based program of game design learning. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association annual conference, April 2011, New Orleans, LA.

Reynolds, R. (2011b). Children’s game design learning in discovery-based contexts: Contribution of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations to student outcomes. Presented at the International Communication Association annual conference, May 2011, Boston, MA.

Reynolds, R. & Harel Caperton, I. (2011). Contrasts in student engagement, meaning-making, dislikes, and challenges in a discovery-based program of game design learning. Journal of Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), pp. 267-289.

Reynolds, R & Harel Caperton, I. (2009). Development of high school and communitycollege students’ contemporary learning abilities in the Globaloria game design program. Presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA, April, 2009.

Impact Studies – OELMA

Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries (OELMA)

The research study Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries was funded by the State Library of Ohio through aLibrary Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to theOhio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA), and was coordinated through Leadership for School Libraries (L4SL), a coalition of OELMA, INFOhio (the state K-12 network), the Ohio Department of Education and The State Library of Ohio. The study sought to understand how students benefit from school libraries through elaborating conceptions of help, and providing some measure of the extent of these helps, as perceived by students and faculty.The study, conducted from October, 2002 through December, 2003, looked at 39 effective school libraries across Ohio. It collected information through two web-based surveys with 48 questions & one open-ended critical incident. It surveyed 13,123 students in Grades 3 to 12 and 879 teaching faculty.



Full details, including survey instruments, are available at the Ohio Educational Library Media Association website:
Student Learning Through Ohio School Libraries: The Ohio Research Study Fact Sheet. Available at:


Todd, R. & Kuhlthau, C. (2005). Student learning through Ohio school libraries, Part 1: How effective school libraries help students. School Libraries Worldwide, 11(1), 63-88.
This paper provides an overview of the Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries research study, undertaken from October 2002 through December 2003. The study involved 39 effective school libraries across Ohio; the participants included 13,123 students in Grades 3 to 12 and 879 faculty. The focus question of the study was “How do school libraries help students with their learning in and away from school?” The findings, both quantitative and qualitative, showed that effective school libraries help students with their learning in many different ways across the different grade levels. Effective school libraries play an active rather than passive role in students’ learning. The concept of “help” was understood in two ways: helps-as-inputs, or help that engages students in the process of effective learning through the school library, and helps-as outcomes/impacts, or demonstrated outcomes of meaningful learning:academic achievement and personal agency. The study shows that an effective school library is not just informational, but transformational and formational, leading to knowledge creation, knowledge production, knowledge dissemination and knowledge use, as well as the development of information values.

Todd, R. & Kuhlthau, C. (2005). Student learning through Ohio school libraries, Part 2: Faculty perceptions of effective school libraries. School Libraries Worldwide, 11(1), 89-110.
This paper focuses on the perceptions of school principals and teaching faculty in relation to the school library and the helps it provides to students. Set against a review of current literature, it examines data provided by 879 faculty in 39 elementary, middle and high schools of Ohio as part of the Student Learning through Ohio School Library research study. In a parallel survey to the Impacts on Learning Survey for students participating in this research, the Perceptions of Learning survey for sought to gather faculty perceptions of the helps provided by the school library to their students. This paper presents a summary of the findings, provides a comparison with the student data, and addresses the concept of evidence of school library helps as observed by the teaching faculty.

Impact Studies – Delaware

Student Learning through Delaware School Libraries
This research, undertaken on behalf of the Governor’s Task force on School Libraries in Delaware from 2004-2006, comprised of two phases: Phase One of the research sought to document the infrastructure, resources, staffing and program activities of school libraries in Delaware, with a view to establishing base measures and benchmarks for ongoing improvement and development. Data were collected from 154 public school libraries in Delaware (91 elementary, 31 middle and 30 high schools, and 2 composite schools) during October 2004.

Phase Two sought to identify exemplary school libraries in Delaware and undertake more in-depth analyses of them in order to elucidate how quality school libraries contribute to learning in the school, and student outcomes and achievements. Specifically, this phase of the study sought to (1) provide evidence of how quality school libraries in Delaware help students with their learning in and away from school, and what are the outcomes enabled through this help; and (b) provide insight into professional practices of high quality school libraries which can serve as service models for developing continuous improvement plans for Delaware’s school libraries, with particular emphasis on developing the instructional role of school libraries in Delaware integrated with content standards (a gap identified in Phase One).

In this phase, the quantitative data set consisted of 5733 valid student responses, and 468 faculty responses from 13 selected school in Delaware that met a range of quality school library criteria. 1210 students and 156 teachers from elementary schools, 2239 students and 149 teachers from elementary schools, and 2277 students and 163 teachers from high schools participated in the study. Among the students, 2659 were boys (46.4% of sample) and 2742 girls (47.8% of sample) participated in the study. Of the faculty, 111 were males (23.7 % of the sample) and 297 females (63.5 % of the sample).

Reports for the Governor’s Task force on School Libraries are available at:

Executive summary Facts, Findings, and Recommendations (Phase 1) (2004)
Available at:

Summary Report of Phase 2 (2006) Delaware School Library Survey: “Student Learning Through Delaware School Libraries” Available at:

Paper Presentation

Todd, R. J. “Building capacity and continuous improvement of school libraries: The Delaware experience”. Paper presented at the Annual Conference and Research Forum of the International Association of School Librarianship, Berkeley, California August 2008.

This research paper is in two parts. “Part I: The Evidence” documents the background, purpose, methodology and findings of the Delaware School Library Infrastructure Study undertaken on behalf of the Delaware Governor’s Task Force, and highlights some key issues and concerns that have formed the basis for . “Part 2: From Evidence to Action” documents the processes and professional actions involved in developing a sustainable program of improvement for school libraries in Delaware through engaging with the research evidence. This research and development process, initiated in 2005, is an ongoing evidence-based practice program engaging multiple partnerships at school district and state department of education to focus on continuous improvement and capacity building of school libraries in the state of Delaware. At its center is a process of engaging school
librarians in a research-based, data-driven cycle of transforming school libraries so that they can play a central and identifiable role in curriculum implementation, student achievement, reading, and literacy development in Delaware’s schools, and to ensure that Delaware’s school libraries play a role in world class learning and literacy in the state.

Impact Studies – ILILE

School Librarian-Classroom Teacher Collaboration (ILILE Kent State University)
The purpose of this research was to understand more fully the dynamics of collaborative instructional partnerships between school librarians and classroom teachers through a systematic investigation of such partnerships established as part of the Kent State University (Ohio) Institute for Library and Information Literacy Education (ILILE) program over a three year period from 2002-2005. The ILILE program through Kent State University has the concept of collaboration between school librarians and classroom teachers as one of its foundational principles, and positions collaboration as an essential basis for the school library’s engagement in the learning goals of the school. Over the three year period of the ILILE program, 170 school librarian-classroom teacher instructional collaborations (340 participants) were established. These teams engaged in extensive professional development of integrating information literacy competences into Ohio academic content standards, developing collaborative instructional units and implementing planned instructional programs.

Powerpoint Presentation: ILILE-CISSL International Research Symposium: “The Multiple Faces of Collaboration” Kent State University, (2007). “The ABCDE of Teacher-School Librarian Collaboration: Advances, Barriers, Challenges, Directions, Enablers” Report of findings from the study.

Todd, R. J. & Heinstrom, J. (2008). Summary report: The Dynamics of Classroom Teacher : Library Media Specialists Instructional Collaborations.

Todd, R. J. (2008). “The dynamics of classroom teacher and school librarian instructional collaborations.” Scan, 27(2), 19-28.

This paper documents key findings from a research study which sought to understand more fully the dynamics of instructional collaborations between teacher-librarians and classroom teachers. It is based on a systematic investigation of collaborative partnerships established as part of the Kent State University (Ohio) Institute for Library and Information Literacy Education (ILILE) program over a three year period from 2002-2005. Through the ILILE training program, 170 school librarian-classroom teacher collaborations (340 respondents) across primary, middle and high schools were mutually established. These teams engaged in extensive professional development of integrating information literacy competences into Ohio academic content standards, developing collaborative instructional units and implementing planned instructional programs. The 170 teams constituted the population for gathering rich and detailed perceptions of school librarian:classroom teacher collaborations.

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.