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ALI Assessment Committee: ALI Information Literacy

Materials archive from ALI Assessment Committee Events. This is intended to be the sharing location for materials hosted on other sites, like YouTube, institutional repositories, and their like.

Why Assess Students' Information Literacy Skills

There are many reasons to implement a thoughtful assessment of student learning in library instruction sessions.

Some reasons for implementing outcome assessment may be external to the library.  For example, some accrediting bodies require libraries to provide data about student learning in information literacy sessions. Administrators too may want justification for the programs that libraries offer and libraries may want to communicate to administrators about the value of information literacy programs to students. It is often no longer acceptable to simply state, “the library offered 8 information literacy sessions”, instead libraries are increasingly asked to prove why it is that they offered those 8 information literacy sessions.

Other reasons for implementing outcomes assessment are internal to the library. Understanding what students are learning in information literacy instruction sessions provides a comprehensive look into program offerings and helps libraries evolve and make changes in ways that best support student learning and contribute to the relevancy of the library.

As the world evolves quickly, it is well-advised that all academic libraries begin considering, if they have not already, how they can begin to understand the impact of their programming on student learning.

Information Rapids

Additional Resources

This chapter in Instruction in Libraries and Information Centers by Laura Saunders and Melissa A. Wong is an excellent reference.

This guide from the University of Texas and this guide from Utah State University are also excellent resources.

ALA also provides a good overview of assessment of information literacy skills.   

PALNI provides an Information Literacy Assessment Toolkit that covers assessment for program, course, and class levels as well as a list of tools that could be used as part of assessment work.

Snapshots of Reality: A practical guide to Formative Assessment in Library Instruction by Mary Snyder Broussard, Rachel Hickoff-Cresko, and Jessica Urick Oberlin is another good resource.

Steps to Assessing Student Learning in Information Literacy Sessions

  1. Identify what information literacy outcomes you expect students to gain through instruction at your library.
    1. Refer to the ACRL Frame Work for Information Literacy
    2. What is the scope of instruction sessions you tend to offer and which of the ACRL outcomes do students encounter?
  2. Identify which assessment tool(s) is appropriate for the data you need or want to obtain. Here are some considerations when making your choice.
    1. How much time will your librarians have to implement?
    2. Are there budget constraints?
    3. What will be easiest/best for the students and faculty you work with?
    4. Which tool will help you best assess the learning outcomes you identified?
    5. For what purposes do you need the data (is a specific type of data needed?)
  3. Trial implementation of your assessment approach and gather feedback.
  4. Solidify your assessment strategy
  5. Use your assessment data 
  6. Make modifications to assessment plan based on the data

Assessment Tools

  1. Pre-post tests
    1. Develop a test to assesses students’ skills prior to and after library instruction. You can create these your own or use already created tools that do have a cost investment.
      1. Project Sails
      2. Threshold Achievement 
    2. Pro—able to assess actual growth as a result of the session
    3. Con-if using a consumer product, there is a cost and there is also a big time-commitment that make take away from instruction time.
  2. Embedded/authentic assessments
    1. Assess what students are capable of doing as a result of the instruction session. Perhaps you evaluate an assignment they complete or a task that they are able to do.
    2. Pro-actually able to assess what a student can do after an instruction session.
    3. Con-can be time consuming and hard to have the right set up (e.g., access to student work in courses) and time to achieve.
  3. Outcome driven surveys
    1. Asks students to answer a question that demonstrates what they have learned after the instruction session.
    2. Pro-surveys are often easy and not time consuming
    3. Con-wouldn’t know if they already knew skill or learned in instruction session
  4. Attitude based surveys
    1. Ask students to describe how much they feel they learned in relation to key learning outcomes
    2. Pro-surveys are often easy and not time consuming
    3. Con-just assess their thoughts on how much they have learned not any observable learning
  5. Natural Experiments
    1. Identify a subset of students or course that can be directly compared to another (one that has had instruction and one that has not) and compare student work in relation to key learning outcomes
    2. Pro-effective way of demonstrating outcomes
    3.  Con-have to find situation where this exists and often requires collaboration with faculty willing to participate
  6. Use Data that Exists
    1. Identify datasets that institutional researchers at your university may already have where you could compare courses or students that have had instruction with those who have not. For example, NSSE asks questions about libraries.
    2. Pro-enables you to use data already available without resurveying students. Does not impede on instruction time.
    3. Con-requires usage of data about courses and individuals that have received instruction. It also requires that you utilize data that already exists and may not be exactly what you would have designed yourself.