Using data and comparing yourself to yourself

My school is working through the professional learning modules prepared by the NSW Department of Education to accompany the What works best: 2020 update published this year by the Centre for Eduaction Statistics and Evaluation (CESE)(2020). I found my reflections on certain areas – especially assessment and effective feedback to be tricky to complete because my library lessons are release from face-to-face teaching (RFF) and cover transitions to and from classes, borrowing/returning of library books and whatever lesson and learning activity I offer all within an hour. In my current model, the response activity to the lesson is not always done by all students (and certainly very rarely completed by all students) because browsing the shelves and borrowing is done at the same time as the response activity (to control traffic in our current small space).

I was especially thrown when asked what evidence I have for my impact on student learning outcomes. My initial answer was that I don’t really have any, but today I was thinking that I may have some data to show after all (offering somewhat indirect evidence).

This reminded me of my post from a similar time last year when I finally got the courage to check on comparative borrowing statistics between the year prior to my hiring and my first year on the job. My thoughts on evidence this year came from finding the courage to look at the records for previous years’ Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) completion to assess whether my efforts, which I deemed underwhelming, had made any difference to participation in Years 3 – 6. To my utter shock and surprise, I found that more Year 3-6 students had completed the challenge this year, compared to last year. Also, in both of my years of overseeing the challenge there were more Year 3-6 completers than in the three years prior to my arrival. I was feeling like a failure because I was comparing my efforts to promote the PRC with that of other teacher librarians at other schools on social media – when I compared myself with my own school context, however, I could see evidence of growth.

When I saw that data, I realised that data regarding borrowing patterns and participation in PRC and other literacy-based activities could be used as evidence of my impact on student outcomes. While not as direct as reading or writing test scores, data regarding students accessing and reading a variety of quality texts shows evidence of my impact on their literacy outcomes, especially if taken in combination with improvements in test scores.

So my main takeaways from this experience:

  1. Don’t sell myself short – think creatively about how what I do contributes to learning outcomes.
  2. Realise that the data and evidence I can show will be different to that of a classroom teacher – and that is okay.
  3. Don’t compare myself and my school context to other school contexts, and don’t let myself feel like a failure by comparing my efforts to the successes of others.


Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2020). What works best: 2020 update. NSW Department of Education:

Simon, M. (2019, November 24). Confidence and bravery [Blog post]. Mrs Simon says. Retrieved 10 September, 2020 from

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