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Science and Technology Section (STS): Information Literacy

Assessment techniques

Teaching class

Knight Foundation. (2011, Oct. 12). Knight-Crane Convergence Lab. Retrieved from Used under the Creative Commons License.

Time, money, level of assessment, level of faculty collaboration, outside expertise, and other factors all play into assessment. For more on assessment, see the bibliography below.

  1. One Minute Paper/Muddiest Point - At the end of the class period or one-shot session, give students 2-3 minutes to write down the most important thing they learned that day and anything that is still unclear. This quick, easy technique gives the instructor an idea of the students' perceptions of their own learning. See an example of a One Minute Paper/Notecard Worksheet from Dartmouth here. For more information see:
  2. Topic & Sources with Positive & Negative Feedback - As a closing assignment, have the class divide into groups of 3 or 4 people. Each group will need to decide on a topic to search and select two sources of information to search. They can be databases, Google or Google Scholar, but should be sources previously discussed in class. Ask each group to report to the whole class their topic, which sources they searched, and one positive and one negative thing about their search experience. This technique takes about 10-12 minutes and gives students an opportunity to work in small groups then provide information aloud about their positive and negative experiences with information sources.
  3. Voting - Have students respond to yes/no or multiple-choice questions through a classroom response system, online poll (using cell phones or computers), or by show of hands. This technique can give the instructor immediate feedback about whether students understand the material before moving on to a new topic and can make the class more interactive and engaging for students.
  4. Group Database Evaluation - When introducing databases, have the students work in groups of two or more to dissect each database. After an introduction to the databases, ask the groups to show the access point to the resource (from the library's home page) and find all or some of the following information: the subject scope, formats (articles, book reviews, abstracts, etc.), full-text availability, and print and email capabilities. Have the group present on their findings to the class. The activity will take about 15-20 minutes but the active learning component allows the librarian to jump in with additional information on the databases and clear up any confusion or questions from the class.

Teaching class

Knight Foundation. (2011, Oct. 12). Knight-Crane Convergence Lab. Retrieved from Used under the Creative Commons License.

  1. Research Portfolio - This assignment can be used to demonstrate student learning over time and to document steps in the research process, providing students with an opportunity for reflection. Items that could be included in a portfolio include reflection on the selection of a topic, initial and revised search strategies, and the final product. This activity is good for a bibliography project or paper when teaching an information literacy or library skills class, or working with a faculty member's class over the course of a semester.
  2. Rubrics - Rubrics can be used to assess the students' level of mastery of a specific skill or overall information literacy through the completion of an assignment such as a bibliography project. It can be used to rate student performance according to specific criteria. This provides a consistent way to grade assignments that otherwise might be graded subjectively and it gives concrete feedback to students. The rubric consists of three parts: the objectives for the assignment, criteria for rating levels of quality, and a means for scoring the student's work.
  3. Post-assignment survey/questionnaire - A survey or questionnaire can be developed to be turned in with the course assignment. The students can provide feedback on the usefulness of the information and skills discussed during the library instruction session as they did their assignment. This assessment will require coordination with the course instructor.

Best practices

  • Leave enough time at the end for a post-session survey so participants can provide thoughtful and constructive feedback. If they are rushed, they may not answer or provide incomplete answers.
  • Provide your participants context when asking them to complete a post-session survey. Explain the reasoning behind the questions and how the evaluation will be used to enhance future library sessions. Share how past surveys have helped with the improvement of the current sessions. Encourage participants to be honest in their feedback.
  • Reuse assessment tools where appropriate. This allows for comparisons across time and between classes.
  • Think of assessment as an opportunity to improve your skills and services, not as criticism.
  • Act on the information you gain from assessment. Assessment is pointless if changes are not made based on assessment results.
  • Create new assessment tools for each class; some tools may apply to several classes. Maximize your efforts and re-use tools where appropriate.
  • Throw out an assessment piece that did not go well the first time around. Maybe a tweak or two will help and make the assessment successful.
  • Assess once and then stop. Assessment should be a continuous process so keep assessing assignments, classes, and/or programs to build up a history of assessment and develop a broad sense of how your students learn.
  • Assume any one tool will tell you everything. A simple tool that answers one or two questions clearly and accurately is better than a "kitchen sink" tool that does nothing well.
  • Go it alone! Share tips with other librarians in your library or in your discipline.

Assessment bibliography

  1. ILI-L: Information Literacy Instruction List - This listserv is sponsored by ACRL's Instruction Section and covers all aspects of library instruction, including assessment. Includes a searchable archive.
  2. Information Literacy Weblog -  This blog covers all aspects of information literacy, including assessment, from a global perspective.
  3. - While this blog covers all aspects of library service assessment, it does include some discussion of information literacy assessment.
  1. Ackermann, E. (2015). Putting assessment into action: Selected projects from the first cohort of the Assessment in Action grant. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
  2. Benjes-Small, C. M., & Miller, R. K. (2017). The new instruction librarian: A workbook for trainers and learners. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.
  3. Bowles-Terry, M., & Kvenild, C. (2015). Classroom assessment techniques for librarians. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
  4. Buchanan, H. E., & McDonough, B. A. (2017). The one-shot library instruction survival guide (Second edition.). Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.
  5. Maddison, T., & Kumaran, M. (2016). Distributed learning: pedagogy and technology in online information literacy instruction. Kent: Elsevier Science.
  6. McClure, R., & Kramer, M. (2016). Rewired: Research-writing partnerships within the frameworks. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
  7. McGuinness, C. (2011). Becoming confident teachers: A guide for academic librarians. Witney: Chandos Publishing (Oxford) Ltd.
  8. Radcliff, C. J. (2007). A practical guide to information literacy assessment for academic librarians. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
  9. Ragains, P., & Wood, M. S. (2016). The new information literacy instruction: Best practices. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  10. Swanson, T. A., & Jagman, H. (2015). Not just where to click: Teaching students how to think about information. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
  1. Anderson, D., & Burns, S. (2013). One-minute paper: Student perception of learning gains. College Student Journal47(1), 219-227.
  2. Blake, L., & Warner, T. (2011). Seeing the forest of information for the trees of papers: an information literacy case study in a geography/geology class. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (64). DOI:10.5062/F4W66HPP
  3. Choinski, E., & Emanuel, M. (2006). The one-minute paper and the one-hour class. Reference Services Review, 34(1), 148-155. DOI:10.1108/00907320610648824
  4. Ferrer-Vinent, I. J. (2016). Programmatic and scaffolded information literacy embedded in the science curriculum. Science & Technology Libraries35(4), 295-303. DOI:10.1080/0194262X.2016.1214096
  5. Fong, B.L. (2014). Searching for the formula: How librarians teach chemistry graduate students research skills. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (75). DOI:10.5062/F4J1014M
  6. Fong, B.L. (2016). Assessing graduate and undergraduate student needs to redesign a chemistry seminar course. Science & Technology Libraries35(1), 70-90. DOI:10.1080/0194262X.2015.1127794
  7. Hartman P., Newhouse R., & Perry V. (2014). Building a sustainable life science information literacy program using the train-the-trainer model. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (77). DOI:10.5062/F4G15XTM
  8. Holtzman, R. G. (2007). Adapting the one-minute paper for active learning. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 11(2), 97-101.
  9. Knight, Lorrie A. (2006). Using rubrics to assess information literacy. Reference Services Review 34(1), 43-55. DOI:10.1108/00907320610640752
  10. Mandernach M.A., Shorish Y., & Reisner B.A. (2014). The evolution of library instruction delivery in the chemistry curriculum informed by mixed assessment methods. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (77). DOI:10.5062/F46H4FDD
  11. Salisbury, L., & Mattice, G. (2016). Early exposure to the scientific research process through collaboration with chemistry faculty and the science librarian. Science & Technology Libraries35(2), 119-135. DOI:10.1080/0194262X.2016.1162118
  12. Scharf, D., Elliot, N., Huey, H., Briller, V., & Joshi, K. (2007). Direct assessment of information literacy using writing portfolios. Journal of Academic Librarianship 33, 462-477. DOI:10.1016/j.acalib.2007.03.005
  13. Vella, L. (2015). Using minute papers to determine student cognitive development levels. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (82). DOI:10.5062/F4VM499B
  14. Winterman, B. (2009). Building better biology undergraduates through information literacy integration. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (58). DOI:10.5062/F4736NT6
  15. Zhao, J. C. (2015). Making information literacy instruction relevant: A needs assessment approach at McGill University. Science & Technology Libraries34(3), 241-256. DOI:10.1080/0194262X.2015.1089815


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