Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 290 2017
Input measures are the easiest to collect and compare, of course:
e.g., number of sessions and number of participants over time,
possibly benchmarked against other institutions. Although input
measures are relationally useful (how are we doing compared to
past periods or to our peers?), there has been a lot of interest in
developing outcome measures for more meaningful evaluation.
Reaccreditation guidelines in higher education have advanced
practices of learning outcomes assessment, so measuring student
skills against learning goals has become more widespread. It is
relatively easy to develop outcomes-based assessment for the ACRL
standards for information literacy competency by measuring the
degree to which the students are able to meet the learning goals
of locating, evaluating, and effectively using information pre- and
post- library instruction. This kind of outcomes-based assessment of
library instruction is universally accepted theoretically, even if not
yet practiced everywhere. Creating an outcomes-based assessment
methodology and constructing relevant instruments to measure
whether students have mastered and can transfer knowledge related
to the six information literacy frames will probably take longer and
may very well reach the impasse that seems to define the current
debate around correlating library instruction (or use of the library
in general) to student learning outcomes.5 All of the frames are
going well beyond library instruction and, in that sense, it would be
difficult to argue for any correlation, much less causation, between
library instruction and critical thinking development, for instance.
While useful learning outcomes–based assessment measures
that are grounded in the Framework for Information Literacy are
the aspirational goal, critical thinking, and especially growth in
critical thinking over time, is notoriously difficult to assess. In
the meantime, as an active participant in the process of higher
education, the academic library is required to evaluate the success
of library instruction, both for service improvement and resource
allocation, or as a performance indicator for library instructors.
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