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My work in library assessment has often included projects and conversations with campus assessment officers and personnel in institutional research/institutional effectiveness. We’ve talked about the library demonstrating its value for accreditation purposes and worked on engaging faculty in information literacy assessment. In my work with Project SAILS and the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy, I have seen a growing number of campus assessment professionals utilizing these tools to meet their campus assessment needs.

A few years ago I decided to learn more about the world of higher ed assessment and institutional research that exists outside the library. What are the priorities and perspectives of these professionals? Here are five of the most interesting and valuable sources that I have encountered.

All descriptions below come from the organizations’ web sites.

Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE)

The AALHE is an organization of practitioners interested in using effective assessment practice to document and improve student learning. As such, it serves the needs of those in higher education for whom assessment is a tool to help them understand learning and develop processes for improving it.

...continue reading "Resources for Assessment in Higher Education"

I recently attended an online open forum on ACRL’s revision of the Information Competency Standards for Higher Education. The presentation / discussion was ably led by Trudi Jacobson and Craig Gibson, who co-chair the revision task force.

Trudi and Craig gave background on the project, described where the current standards are falling short, and identified desired qualities of new standards. They discussed two new elements that will be incorporated, threshold concepts and metaliteracy, and they provided a look at the structure of the new standards:

Framework unit
Dispositions and knowledge practices
Related metaliteracy objective
Possible assessments or assignments

They concluded with the timeline, which is ambitious and clearly reflects a commitment to hard work. A draft is scheduled to be released December 1!

If you would like to know more, I suggest three resources:

Read about information literacy threshold concepts here:

  • Hofer, A., L. Townsend, and K. Brunetti. (2012). “Troublesome concepts and information literacy: Investigating threshold concepts for IL instruction.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 12(4), 387-405.

Learn about metaliteracy here, and look for the forthcoming book:

  • Mackey, T., and T. Jacobson. (forthcoming). Metaliteracy: Redefining Information Literacies to Empower Learners. ALA Editions/Neal-Schuman.

During the forum I attended, there were lots of great questions. People wanted to know if there would be mapping from the current standards to the new ones, and how the new standards would relate to the AAC&U VALUE rubrics and to accrediting agency expectations. There were questions about SAILS, too!

Project SAILS Response to the New IL Standards

It should come as no surprise that we are keeping a close eye on the revisions to the information literacy standards. Every question in our current testbank is based directly on a learning outcome or learning objective in the current standards. The revision will have repercussions not only for us as librarians, but also for our products. With that said, we have made two key decisions:

  1. We are committed to developing new tests that reflect the new standards.
  2. We are committed to maintaining our current tests as long as they are of use to our participants.

Stay tuned to progress on the new standards, and for developments on the next incarnation of Project SAILS information literacy assessment

When the SAILS tests went into production in 2006, the Project SAILS team made a deliberate choice to make customer support a priority. This was an extension of our original plan, which was to create an assessment tool that:

  • Is affordable (only $4/student)
  • Has low technology requirements (any current Web browser)
  • Is easy to set up (test administrations can be created in less than 30 minutes)
  • Is valid and reliable (tests have gone through a rigorous testing process to ensure validity)
  • Provides actionable data (see sample test reports)

Anyone who offers a service or a product should offer good support, too. As librarians, we know that relationships with vendors are important. As consumers, we value organizations that are responsive, helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. Those characteristics are the touchstone of our approach, which is reflected in our reputation for customer service.

Our team is committed to supporting your implementation of the SAILS tests. We will happily answer your questions, give advice, brainstorm with you, share ideas, send you documentation, or whatever you need.

Our goal is to answer all questions within a day, but we usually are able to respond faster than that. If you use the “Contact” form on our web site, our system will notify the appropriate member of our team (depending on whether it is a question related to the test itself, a programming question or issue, etc.) for a quick response.

This month, we dedicate ourselves to increasing information literacy awareness so that all citizens understand its vital importance. An informed and educated citizenry is essential to the functioning of our modern democratic society, and I encourage educational and community institutions across the country to help Americans find and evaluate the information they seek, in all its forms.

                                                                                    President Barack Obama, October 1, 2009

In two days, it will be Information Literacy Month – how will you celebrate? Some libraries use this as an opportunity to reinforce the message of information literacy via their communication channels. Others seek to engage their communities through activities and events. Wherever you are, the team at Project SAILS hopes you will find some time this month to take stock of your information literacy accomplishments. Have a party, or a conversation with colleagues, or simply reflect and smile. Be proud of your profession and your contributions to education and information literacy.

In my last post I highlighted studies about teachers and students by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Now I want to take a moment to talk about the Project in general. In their own words, "the Project produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life.

As a librarian, I find that nearly all the Project's reports on Internet use help me understand my community. What percentage of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone? How many adults have used a mobile device to access a library's web site? for what purposes? How do people use the Internet and mobile apps for information about health issues and caregiving? How do perceptions of online courses differ between college presidents and the general public?

Many Project reports are covered by the media, but if you want to stay informed in a more systematic fashion, you can sign up for email alerts. (As a side note, the  Pew Internet and American Life Project has the best email signup tool I've ever used. Lots of flexibility, super easy to use.)


What percentage of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone?  56%
Smartphone Ownership 2013

How many adults have used a mobile device to access a library's web site? 13%
Mobile Connections to Libraries

How do people use the Internet and apps for information about health issues and caregiving?
Health Reports

How do perceptions of online courses differ between college presidents and the general public?
"Just three-in-ten American adults (29%) say a course taken online provides an equal educational value to one taken in a classroom. By contrast, about half of college presidents (51%) say online courses provide the same value."
College Presidents