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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"

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.

Today our guest is Caroline Reed, Director of Research, Instruction and Outreach Services in the Jane Bancroft Cook Library at New College of Florida in Sarasota. I met Caroline at ACRL 2015 and when she told me about her innovative use of the Project SAILS test, I asked her to tell the story here.

Question: Would you briefly describe the information literacy program at New College of Florida?

Caroline: We are in the early stages of developing our information literacy program. Currently we do the traditional one-shots requested by faculty. We also encourage students to make consultation appointments with librarians. We have recently developed a liaison program with faculty where each of our instruction librarians is responsible to one of our three divisions--Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.

Library instruction is a part of all Seminars in Critical Thinking, which are research and writing intensive classes originally set up as part of our QEP, as well as our WEC (Writing Enhanced Classes).

We have a librarian who is a Wikipedia Ambassador. She has been able to work with faculty and students to edit and create Wikipedia entries as replacements for the traditional research paper assignments.

Librarians work with students on annotated bibliography projects as part of the January Independent Study Project (ISP) that 1st - 3rd years have to complete. This year one of our librarians actually sponsored the ISP so that she was the faculty member of record on those projects.

Read more

In light of the new framework for information literacy being developed by ACRL, the Project SAILS team is working toward a new assessment. The current SAILS assessments, including both the cohort and individual scores measures, will continue to be available to any institution that would like to utilize them for the foreseeable future. In fact, we are rolling out a number of improvements to SAILS.

We have been working hard to improve the SAILS tests and the results of all of that work will become available beginning in June. Here are the changes you can look forward to for the next academic year.

Informed Consent

Because of the requirements of Kent State University, your students had to be given the choice to opt-out of allowing their responses to be used.  That requirement ends this June. We've updated the SAILS tools to allow you to include the informed consent agreement if your institution requires it. If you turn on the informed consent option, your students will be presented with the following question before beginning the test:

May we use your responses for our research project?

Only students who agree to allow their response to be used will be included in your report. This option is available for both the Cohort and Individual Scores versions of the SAILS tests.

Custom Demographics

Currently you have only been able to include up to nine responses for each of your custom demographic questions. Beginning in June you will be able to include up to 50 responses per question. This will allow you to ask more complex questions and report out in more detail. This change is available for both the Cohort and Individual Scores versions of the SAILS tests.

Benchmarks for Individual Scores

Beginning in June, when you complete an administration of the Individual Scores version of the SAILS tests, you will be able to download an additional spreadsheet with benchmark data. The benchmark will include data for the previous three years. The spreadsheet will include benchmarks for similar-type institutions, institutions in the same country, all institutions, and, optionally, your pre-defined consortium. There will be an overall table for these benchmarks by demographic variable as well as a table with details for each item in the version of the test you administered.

SPSS Instructions for Individual Scores Results

When you complete the administration of an Individual Scores test, your report of student performance comes in the form of a spreadsheet. We realize that conducting extensive analyses of the data is not an easy task so we have created a guide for this purpose. The guide offers advice and step-by-step instructions for working with the data in SPSS to answer questions about how performance varies across various factors, such as majors and class standing. The guide will be available in June.

Price Change

With these enhancements comes a price change, although we will continue to keep our pricing affordable and easy to understand. The new price for the Cohort version of the SAILS test will be $5.00 per student up to 1,000 students and then $5,000 up to 5,000 students. There is still a minimum of 50 students required.

The Individual Scores version of the SAILS test will be $6.00 per student up to 1,000 students and then $6,000 up to 5,000 students with no minimum number of students required.

The price changes will go into effect on June 15, 2014. The SAILS tests remain the most economical way to assess your students' information literacy skills.