Cynthia Kane joined the Advisory Board of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy in 2017. Here she answers questions about her work and her passion for assessment.
Question: Please tell us about your current job.
Cynthia: I am currently the Director of Assessment at the Emporia State University Libraries and Archives. I oversee all aspects of assessment initiatives in our program, including information literacy assessments. I also represent the Libraries and Archives on two university-wide committees: the Student Learning Assessment Council and the Higher Learning Commission Leadership Team. I really enjoy these last two opportunities because it’s given me a wider audience to highlight the impact of the academic library in student learning and success throughout their undergraduate and graduate careers.
Q: Do you teach? How has your approach to teaching changed since you started?
Cynthia: I have taught library instruction sessions in undergraduate and graduate courses for over 25 years. In addition, I served for years as an adjunct faculty member for ESU’s School of Library and Information Management. I presently coordinate the scheduling and teach sections of UL100, Research Skills, Information and Technology. This course counts for the “Information Technology” General Education requirement at ESU. My approach to teaching hasn’t really changed over the years – mainly, just being aware that technology tools will change, but the need to know how to find and use information effectively will never change!
This semester I provided two workshops for the part-time librarians I work with who do most of the teaching in our one-shot library/research instruction program. Although I see them every day, it’s rare that we carve out time to meet as a group and getting together even depends on some librarians coming in on their time off. But we get so much out of sharing our experiences with each other that we’re all willing to give a little extra to make it work. At these meetings I had a chance to facilitate discussion about the Framework, which might seem a little late since it was first adopted nearly three years ago, but it was good timing for us because we recently got support from our college administrators to purchase the Credo InfoLit Modules and it’s helping us to think about the scope of our instruction in new ways.
In particular, we’ve been thinking about how to reach beyond our one-shots in new ways. The information literacy lessons from Credo are one way to reach students before or after we see them in the library. With a little coordination between the librarian and the professor who’s requesting instruction, students can be introduced to concepts like the value of information or the role of iteration in planning a search strategy before coming to the library. Or they can get step-by-step, self-paced practice with MLA citations to follow up on our in-class discussions about how they should expect to use various types of sources in their analysis or argument.
Suppose that you think students should be knowledgeable about the rights and responsibilities of information creation. Furthermore, they should be able to recognize social, legal, and economic factors affecting access to information. These two statements form the basis of the Module 4 – The Value of Information – of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy (TATIL). In this post, I will describe the development of TATIL test knowledge questions. How do we go from a concept to a set of fully formed, sound test questions?
It begins with outcomes and performance indicators written by members of the TATIL advisory board and inspired by the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. An iterative process of review and revision guided by the TATIL project leader Dr. April Cunningham results in the foundation for writing test questions.
Sometime around 1996 I attended a conference on communication studies. I was working on a master’s degree in Comm Studies and this was my first conference in an area outside of librarianship. I was happy to discover a presentation on research related to libraries, specifically nonverbal behaviors of reference librarians. As the researcher described her findings and quoted from student statements about their interactions with librarians, I experienced a range emotions. Interest and pride soon gave way to embarrassment and frustration. The way I remember it now, there were a host of examples of poor interactions. “The librarian looked at me like I was from Mars,” that sort of thing. Most memorable to me was one of the comment/questions from an audience member. “Librarians need to fix this. What are they going to do about it?,” as though this study had uncovered a heretofore invisible problem that we should urgently address. (Did I mention feeling defensive, too?) I didn’t dispute the findings. What I struggled with was the sense that the people in the room thought that we librarians didn’t already know about the importance of effective communication and that we weren’t working on it. Was there room for improvement? For sure! But it wasn’t news to us.
I thought about that presentation again recently after viewing a webinar by Lisa Hinchliffe about her research project, Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions To Improve Instruction. Using data from a survey of librarians who provide information literacy instruction to first year students, Lisa and her team provisionally identified nine misconceptions that lead to errors in information literacy practice. For example, first year students “believe ...continue reading "We’re Working On It: Taking Pride in Continuous Instructional Improvement"
The cornerstone of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy are the outcomes and performance indicators we wrote that were inspired by the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.
Working with members of our Advisory Board, we first defined the information literacy skills, knowledge, dispositions, and misconceptions that students commonly demonstrate at key points in their education: entering college, completing their lower division or general education requirements, and preparing for graduation. These definitions laid the groundwork for analyzing the knowledge practices and dispositions in the Framework in order to define the core components that would become the focus of the test. Once we determined to combine frames into four test modules, the performance indicators were then used to guide item writing for each of the four modules. Further investigation of the Framework dispositions through a structural analysis led to identifying and defining information literacy dispositions for each module.