Friday, May 13, 2011

Assessment: It's About Keeping Your Job

I blogged a few weeks back about the need for librarians to be an integral part of assessment.  In my usual blunt and tactless manner, I wrote:  

Let's be brutally honest here:  in the educational world, s/he who gives the grades gets the respect.  From kids, from parents, even from admin.  All else gets relegated to "support staff."    

Well, here's the proof.   Buffy Hamilton just posted this article on Facebook.  Note the question asked by the attorney:

"Do you take attendance?" the attorney insisted. "Do you issue grades?"

I rest my case.  Like it or not, if you want to keep your job, you better start taking part in assessment.  I'll be blogging more about this in the next week or two,


  1. Thanks for alerting me to this article. Cringeworthy conclusion aside, I thought the author touched upon some interesting points that are too complex to fully address in a blog comment.

    I wholeheartedly agree that librarians should be part of the assessment process. In my previous post as a school librarian, I was the first professional librarian the school had hired in nearly a decade. So, as you can imagine, many of the staff were unfamiliar with the role of the librarian, and the physical library itself had unfortunately been used as a book warehouse/crèche in the absence of a librarian.

    In fact, when the school held a professional development session on assessment for teachers, my line manager couldn't understand why I wanted to attend. I explained that although I was not required to give formal grades, I said that my evaluations could inform part of the assessment process. I attended the CPD event, actively participated, and made sure I spoke up during the Q&A part of the session. All of the teachers could then see that I was familiar with different types of assessment and that I was willing to contribute. I was never excluded from a CPD event again.

    I do, however, have some reservations when people automatically assume assessment is synonymous with grading. Although the article illustrated the consequences of not grading, I fear too great an emphasis on grades would detract from the role of the librarian as information "coordinator." For example, some people may revert to simplistic exercises like worksheets or Dewey Decimal quizzes in an attempt to give grades for library lesson. If librarians are to become more actively involved in assessment, they need to make sure it is done properly and authentically.

    Unfortunately, the questions posed by the attorneys as quoted in the article appeared to demonstrate a lack of understanding of current pedagogical principles. They couldn't seem to get their heads around collaboration and the fact that librarians do not give lessons in isolation, but rather as part of other disciplines. That's a rant for another day, but thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  2. Hi, Erin:

    Excellent point--there is a huge difference between "grading" and "assessing," and I need to stress that. Do you mind if I quote you?

    And you're, right; despite years of advocacy, people really don't get what we do, and how it fits into the general educational schema. I don't know why that is--whether we're dropping the ball, or whether there is just such a huge librarian stereotype out there, that we're fighting a losing battle.