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ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Toolkit

The purpose of this module is to become acquainted with the backward design process in order to get started developing learning outcomes and assessment practices related to the Framework, for both information literacy sessions and programs.

Essential Questions

  • How can we use backward design to integrate the Framework into our teaching?

  • What strategies can we use to begin assessing our teaching and information literacy programs in relation to the Framework?

Learning Outcomes 

By engaging with this module and its content, you will:

  1. Draw upon the backward design process by using the frames to generate essential questions or 'big ideas' as a bridge to creating learning outcomes, assessment, and instructional strategies.

  2. Explore creating learning outcomes related to the Framework in order to assess your own teaching or instruction program.

  3. Become aware of various types of assessment techniques in order to match lesson plans related to the Framework with assessment.

This module will help you identify strategies for integrating the Framework into your institution's instructional program. Use these questions to guide your close reading of Megan Oakleaf’s article, "A Roadmap for Assessing Student Learning Using the New Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education" (available here as a preprint and the book Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding (McTighe and Wiggins, 2013).

  • What are the essential questions or ‘big ideas’ that you wish to teach?

  • Does your program prioritize any essential questions or ‘big ideas’?

  • How does the backward design process work?

  • How would backward design influence your pedagogy?

The questions below can help you reflect on your own teaching and begin conversations with your librarian colleagues. You can use them either for individual reflection or for group discussion.

  • How are learning outcomes defined at your institution?

  • What types of assessment are already being used in the classroom?

  • Brainstorm ways to assess activities and lessons in one-shot sessions.

Here are some ideas for activities that will help you identify strategies to incorporate the Framework into your instruction.

  • Begin to develop curriculum maps. What are your students’ needs? What do they already know? What concepts are currently being taught?

  • Design criteria to assess student learning in information literacy sessions.

  • Provide scenarios that relate to your local instruction context in order to write learning outcomes. Have participants write learning outcomes individually or in pairs, then share.

  • Practice the first step of the backward design process by identifying desired results. Here are steps in the backward design process, and a handout to use as a template for the exercise. 

  1. Start with an existing student learning outcome for an identified course for which you provide information literacy instruction.

  2. Choose a frame that is relevant for the course and the outcome.

  3. Reframe the outcome by turning it into an essential question that represents what you want the student to learn (the ‘big idea’), keeping in mind that optimally you and your teaching faculty colleague will discuss and determine a mutual understanding of student learning goals. If working in a group, pause here to share the essential questions and offer feedback.

  4. Based on the essential question, develop a revised and re-imagined student learning outcome that represents what the student will need to know and do to demonstrate understanding.


Assessment of learning

Assessment of learning is the measuring of student learning; it can be formative (on an ongoing basis) or summative (evaluation at the end of an instructional unit).

Backward design

Backward design, which is at the heart of Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design, is a planning sequence for designing a lesson or course that has us begin with the end (the desired results) in mind and design toward that end. We start with what we want the students to learn--the enduring understandings or big ideas--rather than first outlining what we will do in the classroom. There are three stages: 1. Identify desired results; 2. Determine acceptable evidence to demonstrate results (assessment); and finally, 3. Plan learning experiences and instructional strategies.

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes provide a guide to what we want to teach and set the stage for assessing that outcome. The foundational question when drafting an outcome is “What do you want the student to be able to do?”

The Information Literacy Instruction Assessment Cycle (ILIAC)

The Information Literacy Instruction Assessment Cycle (ILIAC) is a way of assessing student learning that includes reviewing learning goals, identifying learning outcomes, creating learning activities, enacting learning activities, gathering data to check learning, interpreting data, and enacting decisions based on that data.

Angelo, A. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bowles-Terry, M., & Kvenild, C. (2015). Classroom assessment techniques for librarians. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2013). Essential questions: Opening doors to student understanding. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Oakleaf, M. (2009). The information literacy instruction assessment cycle: A guide for increasing student learning and improving librarian instructional skills. Journal of Documentation, 65(4), 539-560.

Oakleaf, M. (2014). A roadmap for assessing student learning using the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(5): 510-514. Preprint available at

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.