A Measure of Student Success:

Assessing Information Problem-Solving Skills

(first published in FNO, September, 1996)

by Jamie McKenzie, Ed.D. and the Library Media staff
of the Oak Harbor (WA) Schools

Information Power (1989) suggested a bold research agenda for classroom teachers and library media specialists working in partnership to engage students in serious investigation and inquiry, but those in the field who wish to measure the success of students as they pursue this agenda find few assessment models available.

Working with the Oak Harbor library media specialists, we examined several models such as the standards and rubrics emanating out of MCREL, and then we decided to draft our own rubrics to match a seven step research cycle (McKenzie, 1995) which we expected students to employ. We agreed that the rubrics should be user-friendly in order to invite the broadest possible coalition of teachers and librarians to employ the research cycle.

The RESEARCH CYCLE (McKenzie, 1995)

As outlined in considerable detail in the May/June issue of Multimedia Schools, the student passes through several repetitions of the first six stages until sufficient information is gathered to form insights worthy of reporting. Such research is based upon a decision to be made or a solution to be proposed - research devoted to the exploration of essential questions.

How is the assessment conducted? A team of classroom teachers gathers with the library media specialist in May or June to review a sample of research projects from students at "exit" grades (5, 8 and 12).

During the research, each student maintains a "research log" which tracks the reasoning used as well as the research actions taken while cycling through the process. The log may be fashioned much like a writing portfolio. At the same time, the classroom teacher maintains written anecdotal observations of the student's activity.

It is these documents which provide the data for the assessment team to consider as they weigh the success of the program and ask how it might be modified in the following year.


It is one thing to publish lofty goals in a report like Information Power - quite another to translate them into daily school-house realities. It is our hope that the tool provided below will prove invaluable to colleagues working to blend thoughtful research on essential questions into the life of their schools.



American Library Association and AECT (1988). Information power: guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago.

McKenzie, J. "Beforenet and Afternet." Multimedia Schools, May/June, 1995.

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