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Cynthia Kane, Emporia State University
Cynthia Kane, Emporia State University

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!

Q: How has your library approached the Framework?

Cynthia: We’re working through that right now!  Our UL100 course will be 3 credit hours in Fall 2018 and we are reworking our course curriculum not only to accommodate ...continue reading "Meet the TATIL Advisory Board: Cynthia Kane"

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.

...continue reading "Resources for One-Shots"

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"

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 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:

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.