Assessment has become an increasingly important aspect of information literacy instruction. More and more, academic libraries are being asked to go beyond simple metrics, such as number of sessions taught, and instead find ways to demonstrate that their students are actually learning something as a result of library instruction.
In a semester-long class environment, assessment can take the form of comprehensive exams and capstone projects, but for instruction librarians who primarily teach “one-shot” sessions, these activities are not feasible. In addition, when there is already so much to cover in a short period it can be hard to commit precious class time to anything not directly related to the lesson.
But, fortunately, there are a number of strategies for bringing assessment into library one-shots, which can help gather valuable information about your students and also measure whether your instruction efforts are succeeding.
First Things First: Identify Learning Outcomes
The most important part of one-shot assessment comes not during the session but before it: making sure you have clearly-defined learning outcomes. It is natural to try to do too much in one-shots, so try to focus on just 2-3 core outcomes you expect your students to achieve after completion of your learning activities. An example might be “Students will be able to refine a broad area of interest into a narrowed research question.” Once your learning outcomes are in place, you can start to track how effectively you are reaching them.
The Minute Paper is one of the most basic assessment instruments, a simple two-question survey given at the end of an instruction session where students write down the most useful thing they learned and one remaining question or confusing concept.1 You can customize the wording of the questions as you see fit, and Minute Papers can be distributed and collected physically or online through a tool such as Google Forms.
Minute paper data can be used in several ways. For one, you can share the responses with the course instructor or whoever requested the session. And once you have collected minute papers for multiple sessions, you can analyze the responses to see if certain themes come up frequently. Even better, take your session’s learning outcomes and determine how many student responses corresponded to each outcome. The “most useful thing” question can show how well students are reaching your instructional goals, and the “remaining question/confusing thing” question can suggest areas for improvement. For larger-scale assessment of Minute Papers, it is best to administer them digitally so the data automatically goes into a spreadsheet. Just remember that this method measures student perceptions, not their actual performance.
Clicker Student Response Systems
Another good method for assessment during one-shot sessions is the use of clickers. Clickers are small devices similar to television remotes which allow students to anonymously answer multiple-choice or poll questions displayed by the instructor. Using companion software, you can then project the results in real-time, which helps students stay engaged and gives you instant feedback as to whether a particular point is sticking.2
This method is frequently used as more of an informal assessment but you can also save answers for longer-term analysis, as many clicker services such as i-Clicker allow for exporting of data and even integrate with popular Learning Management Systems.
Pre and Post Quiz
Although a lengthy test is usually out of the question for a one-shot, it is still possible to measure student performance in a somewhat formal way with a short quiz, which might range from 2 to 15 questions. If time permits, you can even have students complete the quiz at the beginning and the end of the class to see how much they learned during the session (This is especially effective if a class comes in for two sessions). One of the simplest tools for creating and administering quizzes is Google Forms, which will automatically send all responses to a spreadsheet.
Other useful dedicated quiz tools include Quia and ProProfs, and you could even work with the class instructor to use your quiz as a short class assignment and include it in your institution’s Learning Management System. Be sure to design the questions in alignment with the learning outcomes you identified for the session.
These are just a few ways you can start to tackle assessment in the one-shot environment. If you have tried these or other strategies, let us know in the comments below.
1. Angelo, Thomas A, and K P. Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.
2. Hollandsworth, Bobby, and Ed Rock, “Using iClickers in Library Instruction to Improve Student Engagement” (2009). Proceedings of the Charleston Library Conference. http://dx.doi.org/10.5703/1288284314755
Instruction and Assessment Librarian, Sinclair Community College