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Last week I was fortunate to get to attend and present at LOEX 2017, in Lexington, KY.  I’m excited to have joined the LOEX Board of Trustees this year and it was great to see familiar faces and meet new, energized librarians, too.

I presented a one-hour workshop where I walked participants through a comparison of two common types of results reports from large-scale assessments.  We looked at an example of a rubric-based assessment report and a report from the Evaluating Process and Authority module of the Threshold Achievement Test.  We compared them on the criteria of timeliness, specificity, and actionability, and found that rubric results reports from large-scale assessments often lack the specificity that makes it possible to use assessment results to make plans for instructional improvement.  The TATIL results report, on the other hand, offered many ways to identify areas for improvement and to inform conversations about next steps.  Several librarians from institutions that are committed to using rubrics for large-scale assessment said at the end of the session that the decision between rubrics and tests now seemed more complicated than it had before.  Another librarian commented that rubrics seem like a good fit for assessing outcomes in a course, but perhaps are less useful for assessing outcomes across a program or a whole institution.  It was a rich conversation that also highlighted some confusing elements in the TATIL results report that we are looking forward to addressing in the next revision.

Overall, I came away from LOEX feeling excited about the future of instruction in the IL Framework era.  While the Framework remains an enigma for some of us, presenters at LOEX this year found many ways to make practical, useful connections between their work and the five frames. ...continue reading "May Update: Report from LOEX"

Dominique Turnbow is the Instructional Design Coordinator at University of California, San Diego Library, and she’s been a TATIL Board member since the beginning of the project in 2014. Dominique has been instrumental in drafting and revising outcomes and performance indicators as well as writing test items. Recently Dominique and her colleague at the University of Oregon, Annie Zeidman-Karpinski, published an article titled “Don’t Use a Hammer When You Need a Screwdriver: How to Use the Right Tools to Create Assessment that Matters” in Communications in Information Literacy. The article introduces Kirkpatrick’s Model of the four levels of assessment, a foundational model in the field of instructional design that has not yet been widely used by librarians.  

The article opens with advice about writing learning outcomes using the ABCD Model. Through our collaboration with Dominique, the ABCD Model provided us with a useful structure when we were developing the performance indicators for the TATIL modules. It is a set of elements to consider when writing outcomes and indicators and the acronym stands for Audience (of learners), Behavior (expected after the intervention), Condition (under which the learners will demonstrate the behavior), and Degree (to which the learners will perform the behavior). This structure helped us to write clear and unambiguous indicators that we used to create effective test questions.

Kirkpatrick’s Model of the four levels of assessment is another useful tool for ensuring that we are operating with a shared understanding of the goals and purpose of our assessments. Dominique and Annie make a strong case for focusing classroom assessments of students’ learning during library instruction on the first two levels: Reaction and Learning. The question to ask at the first level is “How satisfied are learners with the lesson?” The question to ask at the second level is “What have learners learned?” Dominique and Annie offer examples of outcomes statements and assessment instruments at both of these levels, making their article of great practical use to all librarians who teach.

They go on to explain that the third and fourth levels of assessment, according to Kirkpatrick’s Model, are Behavior and Results. Behavior includes what learners can apply in practice. The Results level poses the question “Are learners information literate as a result of their learning and behavior?” As Dominique and Annie point out in their article, this is what “most instructors want to know” because the evidence would support our argument that “an instruction program and our teaching efforts are producing a solid return on investment of time, energy, and resources” (2016, 155). Unfortunately, as Dominique and Annie go on to explain, this level of insight into students’ learning is not possible after one or two instruction sessions.  

To determine if students are information literate requires a comprehensive assessment following years of students’ experiences learning and applying information literacy skills and concepts. In addition to the projects at Carleton College and the University of Washington that Dominique and Annie highlight in their article, Dominique also sees information literacy tests like TATIL and SAILS as key tools for assessing the results of students’ exposure to information literacy throughout college. Having the right tools to achieve your assessment goals increases the power of your claims about the impact and value of your instruction at the same time that it reduces your workload by ensuring you’re focused on the right level of assessment.

If you’re attending ACRL, don’t miss Dominique’s contributed paper on the benefits of creating an instructional design team to meet the needs of a large academic library. She’s presenting with Amanda Roth at 4pm on Thursday, March 24.

We’re excited that this semester all four modules are available for field testing.  Modules 1 and 2 now offer students feedback when they finish the tests.  Modules 3 and 4, still in the first phase of field testing, do not yet provide immediate feedback to students.  But that doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t reflect on their experience taking the test.  When I have students take Module 3: Research & Scholarship and Module 4: The Value of Information, I create an online survey they can complete as soon as they’ve finished the last question.  Setting up the test through www.thresholdachievement.com makes that easy by providing an option for directing students to a URL at the end of the test.  You can view the brief survey that I give students.

When asking for students’ reflections on their experiences, whether for the TATIL modules or for any instructional interaction, I always rely on critical incident questionnaires as my starting point.  Stephen Brookfield, a transformative educator who is an expert in adult learning, has been promoting critical incident questionnaires since the 1990s.  Building upon Dr. Brookfield’s work, faculty have used the instrument to survey students about their experiences in face-to-face classes as well as online.  Read more about his work and the work of his colleagues here: http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/ciq/

If you would prefer to collect information about students’ perceptions of the test content rather than or in addition to their experience taking the test, consider survey questions like:

  • Where did you learn the skills and knowledge that you used on this test?
  • What do you think you should practice doing in order to improve your performance on this test in the future?
  • What were you asked about on this test that surprised you?

By surveying students at the end of the test, you lay the groundwork for class discussions about the challenges the test presented, areas of consensus among your students, and misconceptions that you may want to address.  The test gives students a chance to focus on their information literacy knowledge and beliefs, which they do not always have the time or structure to do.  Writing briefly about their experience taking the test while it is still fresh in their mind will help students to identify the insights they have gained about their information literacy through the process of engaging with the test.

Download sample student reportThis semester Carolyn Radcliff and I had the opportunity to discuss the test and the students’ results reports with our own classes or with students in our colleagues’ classes.  You can see an example of students’ personalized results reports by clicking the thumbnail to the right.  These reports are currently available for the field testing versions of modules 1 and 2 and will be available for field testing versions of modules 3 and 4 in 2017.

Students’ Responses to their Personalized Results

Our conversations with students gave us a new perspective on the test.   As with any test results, some students were disappointed by their results and others disagreed with the evaluation of their performance, but overall students found value in the reports.  Here are some samples of reflective responses from students:

  • I felt most engaged when the results said that I ‘have the habit of challenging (my) own assumptions.’ That’s something I definitely do and I was surprised that the test was able to detect that.
  • I was most surprised that the report said that I defer to particular kinds of authority a bit more than others; I will be sure to keep the recommendations in mind.
  • It was surprising that I wasn’t as proficient as I thought but I felt most engaged by the results when I learned that most college students are also at my level.
  • It was surprising that the results reminded me to seek out additional perspectives and not only ones that support my claim or topic.
  • The chart of my score was interesting.
  • I felt most engaged at the beginning [of the results report] when they analyzed my results directly by using [the pronoun] ‘you.’
  • The test was beneficial by making me think about the use of different sources.
  • Nothing was surprising, but I did agree with the recommendations to strengthen my writing/reading abilities, which I found very helpful.

Students appreciate having results immediately, and in one class where we promised them results but an error on my part during the test set-up delayed their reports, students expressed disappointment and were relieved when they understood that they would still get their personalized reports later.  Nevertheless we know that not every testing situation is intended to result in direct feedback to students, so the student reports are an optional feature that you can turn on or off when you set up the test each time.

...continue reading "December Update: How Students Experience the Test"

April Cunningham and Carolyn Radcliff at Library Assessment Conference 2016
April Cunningham and Carolyn Radcliff at Library Assessment Conference 2016

We were honored to sponsor the 2016 Library Assessment Conference (LAC), October 31-November 2. As sponsors we gave a lunch-time talk about the test and we also attended the conference. Although Carolyn has been to this conference several times, most often presenting about the Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (SAILS), this was April’s first time attending LAC. The conference is a wonderful opportunity to gather with librarians from around the country and, increasingly, from around the world to learn about assessment methods and results that we can apply in our own settings. It was also a rich environment for engaging in conversations about the value of assessment data and what makes assessments meaningful.

Here are a few of the findings that stuck with us:

  • Representatives from ACRL’s Assessment in Action program shared the results of their interviews with leaders from throughout higher education including the Lumina Foundation, Achieving the Dream, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. They learned from those conversations that as a profession, academic librarians already have strong data about how we affect students’ learning and which models have the most impact. The higher education leaders advised ACRL to encourage deans, directors, and front line librarians to make better use of the data we already have by telling our stories more effectively. You can read about the assessment results and instructional models they were referring to by visiting the Assessment in Action site.
  • Alan Carbery, founding advisory board member for the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy (TATIL) and incoming chair of the Value of Academic Libraries committee for ACRL, co-presented with Lynn Connaway from OCLC. They announced the results of a study to identify an updated research agenda for librarians interested in demonstrating library value. Connaway and her research assistants analyzed nearly two hundred research articles from the past five years about effects on students’ success and the role of libraries. Her key takeaway was that future research in our field should make more use of mixed methods as a way of deepening our understanding and triangulating our results to strengthen their reliability and add to their validity. The report is available on the project site.

...continue reading "November Update: Library Assessment Conference Debrief"