Guest post by Debbie Krahmer, Learning Commons Librarian, Colgate University
[A version of this post was originally printed in the Fall 2012 Colgate University Libraries newsletter.]
The Core Curriculum is a key part of Colgate University’s liberal arts education. Only one category, Core Communities & Identities, explicitly states information literacy in their top 3 learning goals. Every Core CI class involves a research project of some kind, in the form of posters, videos, or research papers. The variety of research projects has been an obstacle to designing a suitable assessment instrument. How can you assess the impact of information literacy instruction across a diverse set of projects, geographical areas, and disciplines?
Grounded in ACRL’s Information Literacy guidelines, we based our assessment on “Project Information Literacy,” the national survey conducted by Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg. I worked with three teaching faculty from Core CI to survey over 500 students to determine how they were using and evaluating resources, and if attending a library session had any influence on the outcomes at the end of the semester.
The survey was administered at the beginning and end of the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters, and is being repeated for the 2012-2013 academic year. It consisted of 7-8 select PIL 2010 questions, administered through Google Forms. Using Google Forms helped to cut down on the time it took to collect the data, and the shortness of the survey allowed students to finish it in about 15 minutes. The majority of the 574 respondents were first year or sophomore-level students.
The broad reach of the PIL survey made it the perfect model for developing a simple assessment tool that could be used for any course. Colgate was one of the participants in the 2010 survey, so we had not only national data but also Colgate-specific benchmarks to measure against.
Perhaps the most exciting result of the survey was that attending a library information literacy session showed a far more positive change in using and evaluating research materials from the start of the semester. While all students tended to move from non-scholarly to scholarly sources over the semester, the students who had a library session reported using scholarly materials more than students who didn’t have a session. These students consulted online journal databases much more often, and generic Internet search engines much less often. Nearly 50% of the students who had a library session reported that they consulted a librarian in the course of the research project, while only 13% of the students without a library session reported consulting librarians.
Overall, the survey supported the faculty’s perception that Core CI has a positive effect on students’ information literacy skill development. It also serves to support the need for hands-on, face-to-face interactions within the classroom between students and librarians. The simplicity of the survey doesn’t allow us to determine why the library sessions had such a positive influence, but it does give us a very simple way to show that there is value in inviting librarians into the classroom.
We’ve used the results, as well as the growing research around the PIL study, to determine areas where instruction should be improved. Perhaps more importantly than that, the conversation around information literacy standards and expectations has improved since the survey. There are more frank, open discussions of what faculty and librarians expect from students, a key component for continuing to improve our support of student learning.
You can view a poster demonstrating the results of the 2011-2012 Core CI Information Literacy Assessment at the Colgate University Digital Commons.
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