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"

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"

I was fortunate to get to attend ALA in Orlando.  When I’m at ALA, I make sure to always attend the ACRL Instruction Section panel.  This year, I was especially interested because the panel took on Authority is Constructed and Contextual, a very rich concept in the Framework that we’ve had many conversations about as we’ve worked on the first module of the test: Evaluating Process and Authority.

The panelists described how they have engaged with the concept of authority in their own teaching and how the Framework has inspired them to think about this concept in new ways.  Though the panel itself raised many interesting questions, a comment from the audience particularly piqued my interest.  Jessica Critten, from West Georgia University, highlighted the gap in librarians’ discourse about what constitutes evidence and how students are taught to understand what they’re doing with the information sources we’re asking them to evaluate.  She clearly identified the implication of the Authority is Constructed and Contextual Frame, which is that we evaluate authority for a purpose and librarians need to engage in more meaningful discussion about those purposes if we are going to do more than leave students with the sense that everything is relative. Jessica has been thinking about these issues for a while.  She co-authored a chapter called “Logical Fallacies and Sleight of Mind: Rhetorical Analysis as a Tool for Teaching Critical Thinking” in Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think about Information.

Jessica’s remarks showed me a connection that we need to continue to strengthen between our work in libraries and our colleagues’ work in composition studies and rhetoric.  Especially at a time of increasing polarization in public discourse, the meaning of concepts like authority, facts, and evidence cannot be taken for granted as neutral constructions that we all define the same way.  When I got back from Orlando, I sat down with our Rhetoric and Composition consultant, Richard Hannon, to ask him to elaborate on the connection between the Framework and how he gets students to think critically about facts, evidence, and information sources.
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We're gearing up for big things this summer.  By the end of July we expect to have performance standards set for the first two modules.  We'll use the results of the field tests to establish criteria (i.e. cut scores) for how well we expect students to do on the test when they are entering college, when they've completed the bulk of their GE, and when they're ready to graduate with a bachelor's degree.  This is a major step forward for making the test ready to be used for course-level, program-level, and institutional assessment.

Over the past few months, we've also been thinking more about the role of dispositions in students' IL outcomes.  We know from the research on learning mindsets by Andrea Dweck and her colleagues that it’s vitally important for educators to instill in students the belief that they can develop their aptitudes through consistent effort.  Students who believe that their intelligence or skills are already fixed and cannot improve over time are more likely to struggle in their courses and may not persist to achieve their academic goals.
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The California Academic & Research Libraries, the state chapter of ACRL, held its biennial conference in Costa Mesa March 31-April 2.  I was there to present a poster describing our approach to analyzing the Framework.  I outlined our process for developing student outcomes and performance indicators.  And I explained the rhetorical analysis that resulted in our four Dispositions: Toleration for Ambiguity, Feeling Responsible to the Community, Productive Persistence, and Mindful Self-Reflection.  (You can read more about Richard Hannon’s work with the Dispositions here.)

CARL-Full

Earlier that day, per-conference workshop participants had met with Allison Carr and Talitha Matlin from Cal State University, San Marcos, to grapple with the Framework and apply constructivist teaching approaches to develop new lesson plans and activities.  Discussions like these are helping librarians to bridge the divide between their practices and the Framework’s aspirations.  It was a wonderful opportunity for librarians to spend some focused time making the Framework practical.

Throughout the conference, what I heard from my colleagues working at colleges and universities from across the state is that the Framework remains an inspiring but daunting document.  We discussed its value as a renewed vision for IL and encouraged one another to keep up the challenging but rewarding work of adapting the Framework to our needs.  I heard this message from my community college colleagues who were trying to determine how much of the Framework to bite off in any given research session and in their program, overall.  And I heard it from my research university colleague who is trying to incorporate the Framework’s knowledge practices as well as its dispositions into their campus-wide discussions about assessing institutional student learning outcomes.

The efforts of our advisory board and consultants to distill the Framework in order to create TATIL offer one piece of the foundation on which we will continue to build the future of information literacy.