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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.

We invite you to read the outcomes, performance indicators, and dispositions that we created. They are available on the Threshold Achievement web site and as a PDF document. The work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Module 4, The Value of Information, is presented below as an example.

Many other librarians and other educators have developed learning outcomes related to the Framework. One excellent site that brings together the work of many librarians is the ACRL Framework sandbox. As of this writing there are 10 listings in the Framework sandbox for learning outcomes. Another worthwhile source is the collection of information literacy learning outcomes from members of Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) .

Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy Module 4: Value of Information

This module focuses on the norms of academic information creation and the factors that affect access to information. There are two knowledge outcomes and two dispositions that make up this module.

Outcome 4.1: Recognize the rights and responsibilities of information creation.

Performance Indicators:

1.1:  Identify reasons why plagiarism is prohibited.

1.2:  Determine whether or not a passage is plagiarized.

1.3:  Identify appropriate citation options when using material from a source that is cited within the source at hand.

1.4:  Identify the type of plagiarism when presented with a plagiarized passage.

1.5:  Recognize the benefits of copyright protections.

1.6:  Given a list, select the purposes of citation.

1.7:  Recognize the rights or interests of an author's sources.

1.8:  Recognize that where a source is found has no bearing on whether or not the source should be cited.

Outcome 4.2: Recognize social, legal, and economic factors affecting access to information.

Performance Indicators:

2.1:  Recognize how reporting on the same event offers disparate levels of coverage when the sources are written to be disseminated in different venues.

2.2:  Identify the relationship between individuals' organizational affiliations and their access to information.

2.3:  Identify reasons that some people's views are not disseminated to the larger community.

2.5:  Identify the meaning and scope of the concept of intellectual property.

2.6:  Identify the circumstances in which one's personal information may be used by other individuals, groups, and organizations.

2.7:  Identify reasons that access to information may be restricted, including copyright, licensing, and other practices.

2.8:  Distinguish among the common reasons that information may be freely available, including open access, public domain, and other practices.

Disposition 4.1: Mindful self-reflection

Learners who are disposed to demonstrate self-reflection in the context of the information ecosystem recognize and challenge information privilege.

Example behaviors:

  • Considering how to use existing intellectual property to spur creative work without violating the creators' rights.
  • Participating in informal networks to reduce disparities caused by the commodification of information.
  • Recognizing and suggesting ways to reduce the negative effects of the unequal distribution of information.

Disposition 4.2: Responsibility to community

Learners who are disposed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility to the scholarly community recognize and conform to academic norms of knowledge building.

Example behaviors:

  • Accessing scholarly sources through formal channels.
  • Avoiding plagiarism in their own work and discouraging plagiarism by others.
  • Recognizing the value of their own original contributions to the scholarly conversation.


After three years of development, two years of field testing, and countless hours of creative innovation and hard work, Carrick Enterprises is proud to announce the availability of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy!

We are fortunate to work with many librarians, professors, measurement and evaluation experts, and other professionals on the development of this test. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with these creative people and to benefit from their insights and wisdom.

Test Item Developers
Jennifer Fabbi – Cal State San Marcos
Hal Hannon – Palomar and Saddleback Colleges
Angela Henshilwood – University of Toronto
Lettycia Terrones – Los Angeles Public Library
Dominique Turnbow – UC San Diego
Silvia Vong – University of Toronto
Kelley Wantuch – Los Angeles Public Library

Test Item Reviewers
Joseph Aubele – CSU Long Beach
Liz Berilla – Misericordia University
Michelle Dunaway – Wayne State University
Nancy Jones – Encinitas Unified School District

Cognitive Interviewers
Joseph Aubele – CSU Long Beach
Sophie Bury – York University, Toronto
Carolyn Gardner – CSU Dominguez Hills
Jamie Johnson – CSU Northridge
Pearl Ly – Skyline College
Isabelle Ramos – CSU Northridge
Silvia Vong – University of Toronto

Field Test Participants
Andrew Asher – Indiana University
Joseph Aubele – California State University, Long Beach
Sofia Birden – University of Maine Fort Kent
Rebecca Brothers – Oakwood University
Sarah Burns Feyl – Pace University
Kathy Clarke – James Madison University
Jolene Cole – Georgia College
Gloria Creed-Dikeogu – Ottawa University
David Cruse – Adrian College
April Cunningham – Palomar College
Diane Dalrymple – Valencia College
Christopher Garcia – University of Guam
Rumi Graham – University of Lethbridge
Adrienne Harmer – Georgia Gwinnett College
Rosita Hopper – Johnson & Wales University
Suzanne Julian – Brigham Young University
Cynthia Kane – Emporia State University
Martha Kruy – Central Connecticut State University
Jane Liu – Pomona College
Talitha Matlin – California State University at San Marcos
Courtney Moore – Valencia College
Colleen Mullally – Pepperdine University
Dena Pastor – James Madison University
Benjamin Peck – Pace University
Carolyn Radcliff – Chapman University
Michelle Reed – University of Kansas
Stephanie Rosenblatt – Cerritos College
Heidi Senior – University of Portland
Chelsea Stripling – Florida Institute of Technology
Kathryn Sullivan – University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Rosalind Tedford – Wake Forest University
Sherry Tinerella – Arkansas Tech
Kim Whalen – Valparaiso University

Standard Setters
Joseph Aubele – California State University, Long Beach
Stephanie Brasley – California State University Dominguez Hills
Jennifer Fabbi – California State University San Marcos
Hal Hannon – Palomar and Saddleback Colleges
Elizabeth Horan – Coastline Community College
Monica Lopez – Cerritos College
Natalie Lopez – Palomar College
Talitha Matlin – California State University San Marcos
Cynthia Orozco – East Los Angeles College
Stephanie Rosenblatt – Cerritos College

The Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy (TATIL) measures student knowledge and dispositions regarding information literacy. The test is inspired by the Association of College and Research Libraries' Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and by expectations set by the nation's accrediting agencies. TATIL offers librarians and other educators a better understanding of the information literacy capabilities of their students. These insights inform instructors of improvement areas, guide course instruction, affirm growth following instruction, and prepare students to be successful in learning and life. Each test is made up of a combination of knowledge items and disposition items.

About the Test

The Threshold Achievement Test assesses students' ability to recall and apply their knowledge and their metacognition about core information literacy dispositions that underlies their behaviors. Through this combination of knowledge and dispositional assessment TATIL offers a unique and valuable measure of the complexities of information literacy.

The knowledge items in TATIL are based on information literacy outcomes and performance indicators created by the test developers and advisory board of librarians and other educators. Knowledge items assess an array of cognitive processes that college students develop as they transition from pre-college to college ready to research ready. Mental behaviors tested include understanding (facts, concepts, principles, procedures), problem solving (problem identification, problem definition, analysis, solution proposal), and critical thinking (evaluating, predicting, deductive and inductive thinking). The items are presented in a variety of structured response formats to assess students' information literacy knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Dispositions are at the heart of a student's temperament and play an important role in learning transfer. Dispositions constitute affective facets of information literacy and are essential to students' information literacy outcomes. They indicate students' willingness to consistently apply the skills they have learned in one setting to novel problems in new settings. While some dispositions can be seen as natural tendencies, they may also be cultivated over time through intentionally-designed instruction and through exposure to tacit expectations for student behavior.

To address dispositions in the test, we use scenario-based problem solving items. Students are presented with a scenario describing an ill-defined information literacy challenge related to the content of the module. Following the scenario, students are presented with strategies for addressing the challenge. Students evaluate the usefulness of each strategy.

About the Reports

Threshold Achievement Test reports provide test managers with detailed and robust analyses of student performance. Sections include:

  • Summary results for knowledge and disposition dimensions
  • Detailed results for each knowledge outcome
  • Performance indicator rankings that identify students' relative strengths and weaknesses
  • Performance levels indicators ranging from conditionally ready to college ready to research ready
  • Disposition results with descriptions that align with students' scores
  • Breakouts for subgroups such as first year students or transfer students
  • Cross-institutional comparisons with peer institutions and other institutional groupings
  • Suggestions for targeted readings that can assist in following up on the results

Test managers also receive a set of supporting files:

  • Test Item document. A PDF document with a description of each test item.
  • Raw data file. Contains all of the scores presented in the report.
  • Student data file. Contains scores for every student.
  • Student data codebook. Describes the demographic options that were configured for the test.
  • Student Report zip file. Contains a directory of PDF documents with an analysis of each student's performance.

Test managers have the option to present students with personalized reports upon completing the test. As soon as the student finishes the test a dynamically generated reports is displayed describing the student’s performance and offering recommendations for improvement. The report content is connected directly with the knowledge outcomes, performance indicators, and dispositions of the module being tested.

About the Modules

Two TATIL modules are available now! Two more will come online in 2018. Read brief descriptions below and click on the module titles to see the outcomes, performance indicators, and dispositions. You may also download a PDF document with descriptions for all four modules.

Evaluating Process & Authority (the first module, available now!) focuses on the process of information creation and the constructed and contextual nature of source authority. It assesses how students understand and value authority, how they define their role in evaluating sources, and how they perceive the relative value of different types of sources for common academic needs.

Strategic Searching (the second module, also available now!) focuses on the process of planning, evaluating, and revising searches during strategic exploration. It tests students' ability to recall and apply their knowledge of searching and it tests their metacognition about a core information literacy disposition that underlies their searching behaviors.

Research & Scholarship is the third module and will be available in 2018. The test addresses students' ability to apply the research process to their college work in order to participate in the scholarly conversation and assesses how students understand and value their role within the scholarly community.

The Value of Information (fourth module, coming in 2018) assesses how students understand and value their role within the information ecosystem. It focuses on the norms of academic information creation and the factors that affect access to information. It tests students' ability to recall and apply their knowledge of information rights and responsibilities and it tests their metacognition about core information literacy dispositions that underlie their behaviors.

Learn More

The Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy (TATIL) is a unique and valuable tool to add to your assessment program. Explore the Threshold Achievement Test website to learn more about the test, cost and requirements for administering the finished modules, and participating in field testing for the remaining two modules.

Investigating Information Literacy Among Occupational Therapy Students at Misericordia University Using SAILS Build-Your-Own-Test

BY: Elaina DaLomba, PhD, OTR/L, MSW
Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy Department
Misericordia University

Information literacy (IL) skills, as a component of evidence-based practice (EBP), are critical for healthcare practitioners. Most Occupational Therapy programs and the American Occupational Therapy Association require that curricula address IL/EBP skills development. However, evidence shows that occupational therapists don’t utilize IL/EBP once they graduate. Therapists don’t feel they possess the resources or skills to find current and applicable evidence in the literature. At Misericordia University’s Occupational Therapy program we decided to look at our student’s IL/EBP skills and trial a different method to enhance students’ skills. Measuring these constructs in a way that has clinical meaning is difficult. Misericordia uses SAILS for pre and post testing of all students’ IL skills development (during freshman and senior year) so it seemed a natural fit to use this within a research project. We didn’t want to collect unnecessary data due to time constraints so we chose the Build Your Own Test (BYOT), with three questions from each of the first six skill sets of SAILS. These 18 questions could be answered quickly and the data would be analyzed for us. This freed us up to focus on the qualitative portions of our research. Although the SAILS BYOTs don’t have reliability and validity measures particular to them (because they are individually constructed), the overall metrics of the SAILS are very good.

We designed an intensive embedded librarian model to explore what impact this would have on students' skill development in IL standards one, two, and three as per the objectives of our Conceptual Foundations of Occupational Therapy course. The librarian handled all of the pre and post-testing having the students simply enter their SAILS unique identifier codes (UIC) on computers in the library’s lab. Students then used their SAILS UIC for all study related protocols. The intervention started with an interactive lecture in the computer lab with simple, but thorough instructional sheets for the students to use throughout the semester. For each clinical topic introduced the instructor used the librarian’s model to create and complete searches in vivo, allowing the students to add, modify, or eliminate words, Boolean operators, MESH terms etc. The librarian was an active presence on our Blackboard site and maintained office hours within the College of Health Sciences and Education. Students were also instructed to bring their database search strategies and results for approval from the librarian prior to writing their research papers, exposing them to her knowledge, even if they had chosen not to access her assistance initially. The data will be analyzed in spring 2017, but data collection was a breeze!

The SAILS BYOT gave us meaningful, quantitative data in a quickly delivered format. While we might not conduct this same study again, we will continue to use SAILS BYOT for program development and course assessment due its ease of use and practical data.

The Project SAILS tests were developed soon after the Association of College and Research Libraries adopted the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” in 2000. The Standards received wide attention and many academic libraries and their parent organizations embraced all or part of the Standards as guideposts for their information literacy programs.

The Standards were structured so that each of the five standards had performance indicators, and each performance indicator had outcomes. Subsequent to the publication of the Standards, a task force created the objectives for many of the outcomes. (See “Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction: A Model Statement for Academic Librarians.”) The resulting combination of standards, performance indicators, outcomes, and objectives served as the foundation of the SAILS tests, with test items based on most of the objectives (or for cases in which no objective was written, on outcomes).

Since 2006, hundreds of colleges and universities have used the SAILS tests to measure the information literacy knowledge of their students. The Cohort version of the SAILS test was released in 2006 with the Individual Scores version becoming available in 2010. More recently, the Build Your Own Test (BYOT) option went live in 2016.

Carrick Enterprises assumed responsibility for the continued operation of Project SAILS in 2012. Since that time, we have repeatedly stated our intention to continue offering the SAILS tests as long as they prove useful to the higher education community. That promise continues to this day. The Association of College and Research Libraries rescinded the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” earlier this year, but we stand by our commitment to offer the SAILS tests well into the future. We know that many institutions want a long-term solution to information literacy assessment and SAILS is one such solution.

The SAILS tests will be available as long as they are needed. We continue to monitor how well the test items perform, to make updates to test items, and to improve the underlying systems. If you would like to discuss how the SAILS tests can help you and your institution, please contact us.

Lots of great conferences coming up! Most of the events listed below have an emphasis on information literacy. Conference date and location are provided along with a link to the conference home page and deadline for submitting proposals, if available.

Please let us know if you're thinking about presenting on your experience with the SAILS assessments or with the Threshold Achievement Test of Information Literacy. We'll be glad to help!
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