AN ASSESSMENT PLAN FOR INFORMATION LITERACY

Assessment Planning Committee *
Indiana University Bloomington Libraries
May 1, 1996 (Final)


TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS DOCUMENT
Introduction  |  Assumptions  |  Definition, Goals, and Objectives  |  Basic Information Literacy  |  Advanced Information Literacy  |  Learning Strategies (basic)  |  Learning Strategies (advanced/research)  |  References  |  Measurement Techniques


     At Indiana University Bloomington, assessment refers to research and inquiry into the improvement of teaching and learning. Assessment is a process in which goals and learning objectives of a program or course are identified and data are collected from multiple sources to document student, teacher, or program achievement of those goals and objectives. Multiple variations are possible: pre-test, post-test of students in a course or major; focus on faculty teaching styles; assessment of subject matter, learning or critical thinking skills; review of departmental goals and objectives, or other creative efforts generated by faculty or departments. (Handbook of Assessment Strategies: Measure of Student Learning and Program Quality, 1993, p. 4)

INTRODUCTION

     In the Indiana University Handbook of Assessment Strategies: Measure of Student Learning and Program Quality, information literacy is most closely associated with "Student knowledge base and thinking skills: Applied practical experience," listed under both general knowledge and major program. The Indiana University Libraries Assessment Planning Committee has been working since summer 1995 to write a plan outlining how instructors can assess their students' level of information literacy. Members of the committee regard information literacy as the application of critical thinking to an information problem.

     The Assessment Planning Committee of the Indiana University Libraries has developed a plan to help departments and their faculty incorporate the assessment of information literacy into their academic programs, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels. This plan suggests ways in which departments might work in collaboration with librarians to assess information literacy.

     We understand 'assessment' to include these essential components: stated goals and objectives and measurable results, with techniques for measuring learning outcomes. Our plan meets these criteria. The Libraries' assessment plan is based upon assumptions drawn from our experience in training library users and the literature of information literacy.

ASSUMPTIONS

     Assumption 1. The information environment is too complex and changing too rapidly to expect students to acquire information literacy without a planned, systematic, cumulative instructional program. The hit-or-miss process that worked for students and scholars in the past is not efficient or effective today. Disciplines are changing. Students are expected to employ sophisticated information-gathering techniques for their coursework.

     Assumption 2. The most effective learning about library and information use is tied to a specific information need and is often discipline-specific. Examples: preparation of a research paper for a credit class, gathering documentation for a persuasive speech, surveying the literature for a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation, choosing a graduate school, finding a summer internship.

     Assumption 3. Students must learn critical thinking and research skills in their disciplines as preparation for a lifetime of changing information needs.

     Assumption 4. Students have different learning styles and acquire information in different ways. Any information literacy program must accommodate these differences by using a variety of approaches that provide practice in these skills.

     Assumption 5. The IU Libraries cannot reach all students, nor can we meet all their training needs. The most effective way to reach all students and meet their information literacy needs is through a collaboration between the Libraries and the departments and schools and their faculty.

DEFINITION, GOALS, AND OBJECTIVES

     'Information literacy' is the ability of an individual to identify when information is needed, locate and evaluate relevant information, and use it effectively. We believe there are two levels of information literacy: basic and advanced/research level.

Basic Information Literacy

     The following goals for basic information literacy form the foundation for advanced/research level literacy. Any effective instructional program must begin with the skills related to these basic goals. However, in order to measure achievement of the goals, we need objectives, "a description of a performance you want learners to be able to exhibit before you consider them competent" (Mager, 1984, p. 3). Each objective will specify the performance, the conditions, and the criterion of acceptable performance (Mager, 1984, p. 3). Basic information literacy should be acquired by the end of the sophomore year. It is expected that by the end of the first two years of an academic program, the student has completed general requirements for a bachelor's degree and is about to enter the major study. Academic departments should incorporate the goals and objectives associated with basic information literacy into core courses at the 100 and 200 level, both for majors and non-majors, in collaboration with the Undergraduate Library librarians and library subject specialists, as appropriate.

     Under each objective we have suggested measurement techniques. These are not meant to be exhaustive lists. At the end of this document we have included a glossary describing some of the less well-known measurement techniques. A technique defined in the glossary has been denoted with two asterisks (**) the first time it is listed.

Advanced Information Literacy

     As individuals move forward in their fields of study and specialization, their information needs change and the level of information literacy they need changes as well. It is appropriate that academic departments take responsibility for advanced/research level information literacy in collaboration with library subject specialists and other librarians with specialized knowledge. The discipline-specific nature of these skills dictate that departments develop specific goals and objectives customized to the unique culture of their approach to teaching a specific discipline and preparing scholars in these fields.

     In addition to the skills defined as basic information literacy, an individual who operates at the advanced level of information literacy:

LEARNING STRATEGIES -- Basic Level

     Basic information literacy can be achieved through a combination of learning strategies. There is no one mix that works for all students in all situations. Below we offer some possibilities:      The IU Libraries have experience in all of these activities and will assist any department or faculty member who wants to incorporate one or more of these strategies. The Libraries will be developing a package of resources that will be available to all departments. This package will address basic information literacy but could be the foundation for developing an advanced/research level program.

LEARNING STRATEGIES -- Advanced/Research Level

     A similar combination of learning strategies, building upon basic information literacy, can be developed to teach advanced information literacy. Additional learning strategies appropriate for advanced information literacy might include:      Library subject specialists and other experts will assist departments in developing these strategies and offering them. By working in collaboration, the Assessment Planning Committee believes the teaching faculty and librarians at IU Bloomington can assure that each student achieves competency in information literacy.


* Members of the Assessment Planning Committee:

Kristine Brancolini, Chair
Nancy Boerner
Emily Okada
Mary Popp

REFERENCES

Handbook of Assessment Strategies: Measure of Student Learning and Program Quality Bloomington: Indiana University, 1993.

Mager, Robert F. Preparing Instructional Objectives. Revised second edition. Belmont, CA: Lake Publishing, 1984.


MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES -- A BRIEF GLOSSARY

Pathfinder Assignment. An assignment to create a guide to searching the literature of a particular discipline or the literature about a particular topic. The pathfinder is usually organized into such categories as: general overview of the topic, the types of information available about the topic (e.g., statistics, critical works, government publications), appropriate subject headings and keywords for searching in the catalog, appropriate journal and full-text indexes with keywords to use for searching, important reference resources, Internet resources, and the like. Other students can use the pathfinder to guide their research and reading about the topic.

Practicum in the Library. Students go to the library during the class session to do their own research. The instructor and appropriate staff serve as guides to assist students as they pursue their topics. Students hand in research results at the end of the class session (e.g., copies of articles, printouts, worksheets).

Practicum Examination. Students are assigned to research a particular topic in the library. Their work is graded based on criteria set by the instructor for accuracy, completeness, choice of appropriate sources, variety of resources used, and so on. Each student may be assigned a different topic or all students use the same topic. Usually, only the instructor provides guidance to the student.

Research Journal. Students maintain a journal or diary of their research process. They record their thinking about the topic, questions they wish to answer, keywords, and the progress of their research. For each resource consulted, the student discusses how it was searched, keywords used and how well they worked, what was found, and any changes to the research topic.

Research Paper Proposal. Students write a proposal describing a research paper. They do research for the paper but do not actually write the paper. A proposal usually includes: thesis statement, questions to be answered by the research, sources consulted, and a bibliography of resources.

Research Portfolio. Similar to the research paper proposal. The portfolio includes copies of articles or chapters or other resources the student found most useful and a brief description of why the student felt the item was useful.

Research Worksheet. A printed assignment that guides the student through research in one or more resources, such as catalogs, journal indexes, or reference books. The worksheet provides instructions for using the source or sources, and includes space for writing about what was found in that source. Students may choose their own topics or the topics may have been assigned. When the worksheet is completed, it will include such information as the keywords and subject headings that led to useful information in the source, citations found, location of the materials used, evaluation of the source's usefulness for the project, and one or more bibliographic citations.