What is the role of the teacher librarian with regard to assessing information literacy and inquiry learning?

The Teacher Librarian (TL) can play a role in assessing information literacy and inquiry learning. To understand these concepts and the role the TL can play in assessing this paper will be divided into three parts: information literacy; inquiry learning; and the assessment of information literacy and inquiry learning.

Information Literacy

Research in the area of information literacy is plentiful, as are the number of definitions as to what information literacy is. Traditionally literacy was viewed as “the basic ability to read, write and comprehend”. (Langford, 1998, p. 4) The need to change to information literacy has come about because of the abundance of information available in all formats and improved literacy rates. One definition of information literacy concluded it is “the ability to access, evaluate, and use information from a variety of sources, to recognise when information is needed and to know how to learn”. (Doyle, as cited in Langford, 1998, p. 9).

TLs are in a favourable position to promote information literacy because it involves information rather than curriculum or content. It promotes higher order thinking and the ability to be critical about what information students use. It gives students a set of skills to get started in assignments. It is cross-curricular and gives an opportunity for teachers and TLs to collaborate, which is a vital role of the TL. (ALIA/ASLA, 2004) Information literacy can be taught by the TL through numerous information literacy models which guide students to complete a piece of work.

Inquiry Learning

Inquiry-based learning is a complex process where students formulate questions, investigate to find answers, build new understandings, meanings and knowledge, and then communicate their learnings to others. (Alberta Education, 2004) In order to complete inquiry learning students must have some level of information literacy so that they can find the information to answer their questions. This gives students the ability to be life-long learners and to seek answers to their own questions.

Assessment of information literacy and inquiry learning

The TL’s role is to work collaboratively with teachers to design, teach and assess information literacy and inquiry learning units of work. This is best done by the TL as students work through the process. Assessment can be classified as one of three types: diagnostic assessment, formative assessment and summative assessment.

Diagnostic assessment is a form of pre-assignment testing. It shows what students already know before they begin and can help to identify areas with a lack of understanding or any misgivings students have. TLs can use the brainstorming method with students before they begin an assignment.

Formative assessment is the measure of knowledge and skills during the process of learning in order to inform the next steps. (Stripling, 2007) The TL needs to be present with the students during the learning process and can make immediate adjustments. Formative assessment can provide students with prompt feedback and timely intervention during the inquiry unit from the TL. (Kuhlthau, Caspari & Maniotes, 2007).

Summative assessment is the measure of knowledge at the end of a unit to determine the quality of learning. When TLs can demonstrate information literacy has improved learning outcomes, teachers can see the benefits of collaboration and assessment with the TL. TLs can help to recommend a variety of summative assignment presentations that enable students to demonstrate their new understandings. (Stripling, 2007)


TLs can collaborate with classroom teachers to design assessment products that challenge students to think and demonstrate their learning in enjoyable ways. By assessing student projects that incorporate information literacy and inquiry learning TLs can strengthen student interest and outcomes.



Alberta Education. (2004). Focus on Inquiry: A Teacher’s Guide to Implementing Inquiry-based Learning, Retrieved 27/04/2013 from


Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards for professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved April 2, 2103 from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Kuhlthau, C.C., Caspari, A.K., & Maniotes, L.K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp.111-131). Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited

Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification. Retrieved 28/04/2013 from http://www.fno.org/sept98/clarify.html

Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing information fluency: Gathering evidence of student learning. School library media activities monthly, 23(8), 25-29



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