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Information Literacy: Assessment: Assessment

Thoughts on Assessment

Rachel M. McMullin, Humanities and Information Literacy Librarian at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, recently completed a sabbatical project where she worked on information literacy assessment under the Framework and constructed some rubrics which we employ in this guide.  These rubrics were not created for a particular assignment.  Instead, she brainstormed general outcomes than can be assessed and is hoping that other librarians will be able to take them and modify them to suit their particular needs.

Here are some of her thoughts on assessment:

Assessing student learning based on the framework

Assessment can be very intimidating for the novice.  Basing one's own assessment on someone else's example saves so much time and energy.  So, for each frame, I've developed a number of sample learning outcomes and accompanying sample assessment tools.  It's my hope that librarians and faculty will take them and modify them to suit their own needs, or use them as a starting point for developing completely new ones.

Type of assessment

I've focused on summative assessment (formal assessment done at the end of instruction to evaluate what students have learned).  If you are doing more informal formative assessment during instruction, I highly recommend Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians by Bowles-Terry and Kvenlid for more assessment ideas. 

Assessment tools and student learning outcomes

My focus on summative assessment has affected the outcomes I've made and the types of assessment tools I've developed.  I've grouped these tools into three categories:

  • multiple choice and true/false questions (great for one-shots or when you want to test a large group)
  • short assignments or quizzes where students might write anywhere from few words to multiple paragraphs (for librarians who have a bit more class time or for faculty teaching credit-bearing courses)
  • rubrics (for use on evaluation more substantial assignments, like traditional research papers)

With those groups in mind, I organized sample learning outcomes in the same three categories, trying to word each so that it would be suitable for assessment by one of the types of tools above.  A lot of this has to do with the verbs used in the outcomes.  While I mostly used verbs from Bloom's Taxonomy, I made my own division of them based on what seems suitable to each type of assessment. 

I based my outcomes primarily on the knowledge practices and dispositions provided for each frame, though I've sometimes taken inspiration from the frame descriptions as well.  If you have worked with the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, you may notice that many of my outcomes would fit quite well into that document as well as the Framework, but I've also tried to write outcomes for material that wasn't included (at least explicitly) in the Standards.

Assessment benchmarks

While you are developing outcomes and assessment tools, you should also be thinking about setting your assessment benchmark levels.  A benchmark is how you decide if you have been successful in achieving your outcomes.  They usually indicate a certain percentage of students whom you want to achieve a certain score on an assessment.  I've included a few examples in this document:

Can everything in the Framework be assessed?

That depends on what type of assessment you are able to use.  The Framework focuses more on concepts and less on skills and many of those concepts can't be assessed through a multiple choice question or even a worksheet.  So, some outcomes will only be assessable in the context of a credit-bearing course with one or more longer assignments.


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