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Guest Post: Caroline Reed on Using SAILS Results

Today our guest is Caroline Reed, Director of Research, Instruction and Outreach Services in the Jane Bancroft Cook Library at New College of Florida in Sarasota. I met Caroline at ACRL 2015 and when she told me about her innovative use of the Project SAILS test, I asked her to tell the story here.

Question: Would you briefly describe the information literacy program at New College of Florida?

Caroline: We are in the early stages of developing our information literacy program. Currently we do the traditional one-shots requested by faculty. We also encourage students to make consultation appointments with librarians. We have recently developed a liaison program with faculty where each of our instruction librarians is responsible to one of our three divisions--Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.

Library instruction is a part of all Seminars in Critical Thinking, which are research and writing intensive classes originally set up as part of our QEP, as well as our WEC (Writing Enhanced Classes).

We have a librarian who is a Wikipedia Ambassador. She has been able to work with faculty and students to edit and create Wikipedia entries as replacements for the traditional research paper assignments.

Librarians work with students on annotated bibliography projects as part of the January Independent Study Project (ISP) that 1st - 3rd years have to complete. This year one of our librarians actually sponsored the ISP so that she was the faculty member of record on those projects.

Question: You have used the Project SAILS test several times over the past two years, with your largest administration taking place between June and December of 2014. Why did you choose the individual scores version of the SAILS assessment over the cohort version?

Caroline: We wanted to be able to see the level of skill that each student was bringing to college. We also wanted to be able to share these scores with the individual student and their faculty adviser.

Question: How does the sharing work? Does each student find out her or his own score? If so, how do they react?

Caroline: We were able to share the individual score with each student who took the assessment. We were also able to share how they compared with other students in the incoming class. We used this communication with students as another outreach activity to connect with new students. We invited the students to make an appointment with a librarian so that we could show them how to better utilize our resources for their research projects.

We also shared the scores with faculty advisers. A number of the advisers recommended that students make an appointment with a librarian so that they could improve their research skills.

Question: What is the purpose of sharing results with students? What are the benefits of doing so? Have there been any negative consequences?

Caroline: We really wanted students to know how they did after taking Project SAILS. We felt that there needed to be some sort of follow up with the students and sharing the scores with the students felt like a good way to do this. As mentioned earlier, we hoped to connect more incoming students with librarians early on in their academic careers.

We did not see any negative consequences. Many of our faculty were delighted that we shared the scores with the students and the faculty advisers. Since our students did relatively well on this assessment it helped to emphasize that they were coming to us with basic skills and that librarians were there to help them refine those skills to become even better researchers in the future.

Question: How exactly did you share the results?

Caroline: We shared the results with students and faculty via e-mail. This gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the students when they first arrived on campus.

Question: What do you want to do differently next time, if anything?

Caroline: It is our hope that in the future we will have the scores before students arrive on campus and that we can get the results out to students soon after taking the assessment. There were a number of months that went by between when the students took the assessment and our communication. We are hoping to improve on that in the future with a quicker turnaround time. We might even be able to create workshops at the beginning of the school year to address issues and we could send personal invitations to those students who would benefit by attending.

Our hope is to get the scores into our Student Evaluation System so that faculty will have scores prior to the first time that they meet with the student during orientation. We would also keep the faculty member in the loop in terms of upcoming workshops so that the faculty member could encourage their advisees to attend. Also, since we have the liaison program in place faculty would be able to refer students who needed skill building to the librarian who is responsible for that division.

Question: Have you made any changes to your instructional program based on SAILS results?

Caroline: At this point we are still designing the instructional program but the librarians reviewed the questions that students tend to struggle with and we try to emphasize these areas in our instruction sessions. It does not matter if the session is for 1st year or for thesis students, we better understand what students are struggling with so that we can go over this information in our sessions.

After seeing the results of SAILS for a few years we realize that sometimes students still have questions after an instruction session. We have changed our evaluation forms to now ask students to list things that are still confusing or that they would like more information on. This gives us the ability to make individual contact with the students. Many times that individual contact leads to more questions from the student.

Question: How do you think the new ACRL Framework will affect your instructional program and assessment efforts?

Caroline: We have looked at the Framework and are beginning to set up some online modules to address the areas that are emphasized in the new Framework. It is still so new that we are just beginning to wrap our heads around the concepts.

Many thanks to Caroline for sharing her experience!