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Using Creative Narratives in Assessing Information Literacy Skills

This past April we had the opportunity to attend ACRL 2013 and speak with librarians who led workshops and sessions. We wanted to learn more about the topics they covered.

One librarian we met, Melanie Sellar, spoke about using creative narratives to teach information literacy. Melanie is the Education Services Librarian at Marymount College in Los Angeles and shared with us an in-depth look at using creative narratives, also called research narratives, within IL instruction programs.

Why Research Narratives?

Research narratives offer a unique set of benefits, including providing “a window into student thinking, giving faculty and librarians insight into the critical thinking skills of students.” This unique perspective is possible when students detail their research process, including their struggles, their reasoning behind decisions, and other important perspectives of their research journey. Though these insights are not available through a standardized information literacy assessment like Project SAILS, we still see much value in using the two in collaboration.

The Power of Two

Research narratives and the SAILS information literacy assessment can be used together in a number of ways, including:

  • Using the SAILS cohort assessment to test a large number of students, then using research narratives with a small sample to gain a better understanding of trends related to questions answered incorrectly.
  • Giving students both an individual skills test and an assignment tied to a research narrative to understand where students are getting lost in the research process, even though they know the correct answer or where they need to end up.
  • Instead of applying a research narrative to a research paper, librarians could utilize research narratives while students are taking a SAILS assessment in order to understand how each student arrived at the answer they selected. This would highlight which experiences students are pulling from and misconceptions they may have related to elements of the research process.
  • Utilizing the individual skills test to compare scores of graduating seniors that have had a class that used research narratives versus those students that did not have a course that utilized research narratives. This provides direction into the overall value of this instruction practice, allowing librarians to have data to back their suggestion of research narratives to instructors.

Both information literacy tools have been designed to “better understand where the students are on the information literacy skill development continuum” but using both together will provide further insight into the skills and thinking of each student.

We hope you consider using research narratives at your institution and be sure to read our full post from our interview with Melanie Sellar