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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.

Updated December 11, 2017

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 (TATIL). We'll be glad to help!
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