Research Services Librarians Conduct and Use Information Literacy Assessment

Information Literacy, one of WSU’s Undergraduate Learning Goals, refers to effectively identifying, locating, evaluating, using responsibly and sharing information for the problem at hand. The nearly thirty WSU research/public services librarians, across all campuses (including fully online WSU Global), provide library instruction to faculty, students, and staff. Subject specialist librarians and departmental liaisons offer information literacy instruction in their respective disciplines and subject areas. Many of the public services librarians are part of the Library Instruction Team which focuses on collaborative instructional work with academic and co-curricular programs. 

  • Central academic units receiving structured and consistent library instruction are English Composition (with a special emphasis on reaching all sections of English 101, a foundational UCORE Written Communication [WRTG] course), Roots of Contemporary Issues (the foundational first-year experience [ROOT] course for UCORE), Pathways to Academic Success Seminar (UNIV 104), and the Honors College.
  • Information literacy instruction in a variety of formats characterize the Libraries’ educational endeavors with a number of co-curricular groups including First Year Focus (a learning communities program), Multicultural Student Services, New Student Programs, Residence Life, and the Academic Success and Career Center. Some librarians also teach the Libraries’ Accessing Information for Research (UNIV 300) course.

Use of Assessment. On a continual cycle, public services librarians develop and refine information literacy curriculum including active learning lessons and research assignments, work with students and instructors to hone their research skills, and use the results of student learning assessments to continually improve information literacy and library instruction partnerships and services. The following are two examples where results from programmatic assessment of student learning led to changes in the curriculum which then served as a catalyst for greater student achievement of central undergraduate learning outcomes.

Roots of Contemporary Issues (History 105). Thousands of Roots of Contemporary Issues students engage annually with a set of scaffolded research assignments, leading to completion of a final research paper. For many years, Roots of Contemporary Issues faculty have used a rubric including information literacy skills to evaluate a random sample of student papers.

  • Among the information literacy skills, students had issues with quality thesis development. Adjustments in assignment component sequence and instruction session content were implemented in order to create improvement in this area.

English 101. Each year, thousands of English 101 students complete information literacy infused online activities as part of their library instruction experience. One set of questions asks them about identifying information types (e.g., books, scholarly journal articles) as a way to assess credibility and applicability of information sources.

  • In the first few years of assessing student work concerning this goal, librarians discovered students were quite proficient, but largely because so many databases label sources with information type icons.
  • Librarians have since adjusted the assessment instrument and learned that beyond the icons, students struggle mightily with identifying many nuanced kinds of scholarly books and articles. Librarians are now adjusting their pre-activity instruction in order to address this gap in student information literacy.

Librarians routinely report programmatic assessment results to administrators and instructors of the programs, and in the case of Roots of Contemporary Issues, librarians work closely with these constituencies throughout the entire assessment cycle. For more information about WSU Library Instruction and its role in information literacy assessment, see the Library Instruction website or contact Corey Johnson.

For additional information about how student learning evidence contributes to decision making intended to support student learning and quality educational programs, including general education, see Use of Student Learning Evidence.