Workshop: Information Literacy in Institutional Assessment

The presenters from LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, NY did a wonderful job with this workshop. They were invited to present at WILU after one of the organizers heard them speak at a library assessment conference. The presenters were Francine Egger-Sider, Charles Keyes, Cecilia Macheski, and Alexandra Rojas.

LaGuardia is a two-year college with 13,500 degree students; over 50% are foreign-born, 25% are in ESL classes, and 40% are in need of basic skill remediation.  The library offers one 3-credit course and one 1-credit course on information literacy; both qualify as liberal arts electives. This gives them a good hook into the curriculum, which they highly recommended to others. The library also has a good presence on the university curriculum committee.

They also offer one-shot classes which are mandatory of ENG 101 students. There are also drop-in or sign-up workshops. Some of their workshop topics include database searching, MySpace, and RefWorks citation workshops.

All new course proposals have a mandatory sign-off on the information literacy component. Course proposals are vetted through the department liaison to find out what the information literacy component is.

The library also hosts an annual research competition for students, which offers a cash award for students with the best research papers. This is a great idea for advancing knowledge of information literacy skills, as well as promoting the role of the library.

LaGuardia got into assessment as a result of an accreditation mandate. Outcomes assessment is a necessary part of accreditation and information literacy is a necessary part of outcomes assessment. The entire institution is responsible for information literacy and its assessment. In 2001, they were faulted by the Middle States regional accreditation association for not having an outcomes assessment plan. They tried to write up such a plan by bringing in experts for advice, but the result just didn’t fit their institution and its needs. So they revised the plan, and then took it to department meetings for feedback. Their plan was created in 2002 and includes seven general education core competencies that reflect the mission, which are:

1.       Written communication

2.       Critical thinking

3.       Critical reading

4.       Quantitative reasoning

5.       Oral communication

6.       Research and information literacy

7.       Technological literacy

To demonstrate achievement, LaGuardia is using electronic portfolios to collect work for true outcomes assessment. Portfolios can be seen at http://eportfolio.lagcc.cuny.edu . Students learn how to create their e-folios in a workshop, and then student technicians are available to help them. Students collect document and self-assess/reflect on their experience and what they learned. There is also a confidential/private space on a secure server where students deposit work which is then anonymously reviewed against rubrics and used for program assessment. The e-folio work starts in the first year, and students need to deposit work into the secure site during the first year and in two other courses—urban study and the capstone. All of these courses have a mandatory research component. It reinforces written communication, critical reading and thinking. The librarians use this repository to measure growth in student research skills from first year through graduation.

The presenters shared the information literacy rubric that they use to evaluate assignments across the disciplines.  They discussed “range finders,” which are used to identify what is a “1,” or a “2,” etc. It is generally easy to get agreement on what constitutes a top or bottom score, while the middle range is difficult. They included adjectives describing types of research results to help raters decide.  It is important to know what the assignment was when rating student papers; for example, if the professor only required three sources, then the rater should not be expecting more. Their rubric included six levels.

The information literacy outcomes at LaGuardia included:

1)      Determining information needs and searching effectively.  The student is able to:

a)      Identify keywords

b)      Identify appropriate sources of information

c)       Apply effective methods of accessing the information

2)      Evaluating sources effectively. The student is able to:

a)      Evaluate sources of information critically

3)      Using information ethically. The student is able to:

a)      Cite sources appropriately and accurately

b)      Use an appropriate citation style consistently

To measure learning outcome 1, they look at a narrative of research where students describe how they chose their sources. The librarians are working to convince faculty outside the library to include this narrative in assignments too. They also run a professional development seminar on information literacy for faculty.

To measure learning outcome 2, they look at the text of the paper.

To measure learning outcome 3, they look at the in-text citations and the bibliography.

To develop their information literacy rubric, they worked with English faculty. They tested and assessed the rubric with actual student work from their institution to establish range finders. When they are assessing student work with their rubric, they do not know the student or professor’s name or the grade that was assigned by the professor. Some faculty members hand out the rubric to students while they are writing to help them write a better paper. They stressed that other institutions could not simply borrow their rubric and apply it to work at their institutions; a rubric should be developed based on the institution’s student work and demographics.

The presenters discussed their BILD program.  BILD stands for Building Information Literacy in the Disciplines. This program is a part of their teaching and learning center, which is also responsible for the e-folios. Through this program, they run a professional development seminar, and focus on developing specific information literacy rich assignments. The faculty get a stipend for attending and there is a culture of professional development on campus.

At present, they do not have a minimum score on the e-folios in order for students to graduate, but they hope that the BILD program helps to increase information literacy components.

After a short break, the session resumed with a review of sample student papers provided by the presenters.  Workshop participants worked in small groups to apply the rubric to the papers. A vote was then taken to see how everyone had rated the papers, and then the presenters discussed how they had rated each paper and why. This was a very practical and useful exercise.

The library’s Web site is http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/library . The slides from the presentation can be found at http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/library/libraryfaculty/libfacpresentations.htm .

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