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SAILS and TATIL: Why Are There So Many Test Options?

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It can be a challenge to decide which SAILS or TATIL test is the best one for your needs. Here I will take a few minutes to explain why we offer so many test options and how to determine which one is right for you.

The construct of information literacy is very broad. If you think about it as a light spectrum, it includes everything from infrared to ultraviolet. Many important concepts such as authority, intellectual property, search strategies, scholarship, and research are included. There is a lot to cover if you are going to assess your students’ information literacy capabilities. In order to make testing of these concepts manageable, we have grouped them in various ways.

Project SAILS has eight skill sets that we developed using the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as a source for our
learning objectives. There are 162 test questions across the eight skill sets. The skill sets allow for in-depth scoring.

Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy (TATIL) has four modules. Using the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as a guide, our advisory board created performance indicators for the entire IL construct that we then combined into modules. There are a total of 101 test questions across the four modules. These modules allow for in-depth scoring.

We think it's important to make tests that can be administered in a standard class hour. This means we cannot ask a student to answer every SAILS question or every TATIL question. Instead students answer a subset of the full test question bank.

We would also like to be able to give each student an individual score when possible. For many institutions receiving individual student scores is necessary in order to achieve their goals. Having individual scores also means we can generate a custom report for each student highlighting their strengths and making recommendations.

I have covered the three aspects of information literacy testing. We call these Breadth, Depth, and Individualization. Breadth indicates how much of the IL construct is covered, from partial to complete. Depth indicates how granular the reporting is, from shallow to deep. And Individualization indicates whether an individual student receives a score.

When having someone do a job for you, the old saying goes: Good, cheap, fast -- pick two. When deciding on a testing option you have a similar choice: Breadth, Depth, Individualization -- pick two. Here’s why:

The SAILS Cohort test covers the information literacy construct. Each student receives a selection of 45 test questions out of the possible 162. Across your entire cohort of students all 162 questions are covered allowing for deep scoring at the skill set level. But no individualized scores are possible.

The SAILS Individual Scores test spans the information literacy construct. Each student answers a fixed set of 55 questions selected to provide this breadth of coverage. Each student receives an individualized score and, beginning this summer, a custom report based on their answers. But, we have not covered all 162 test questions needed to provide deep scoring at the skill set level.

The TATIL test option allows you to choose a module that partially covers the IL construct. Depending on which module you use, students answer between 21 and 30 questions. Each student gets an individualized score as well as a custom report based on their answers. Because all questions in the module you selected are answered by all students, this option also provides deep scoring. But a module covers only a portion of the IL construct and therefore we are missing the attribute of breadth.

To summarize:

If you need: Use this option:
Breadth and Depth SAILS Cohort Test
Breadth and Individualization SAILS Individual Scores Test
Depth and Individualization One or more of the TATIL Modules