The West Virginia University Libraries system is one of five academic libraries from across the nation selected this academic year to participate in a project focused on better assessment of the impact of information literacy programs on student performance.

Carroll Wilkinson, director of Instruction and Information Literacy for the WVU Libraries, expects a closer examination of what the Libraries’ students are learning about finding and using information following participation in the program. This will in turn help to enhance the academic experience throughout the University.

Information literacy is the ability to effectively and critically locate, identify and use needed information.

“Campuses that establish a good assessment plan, including learning outcomes that focus on information literacy, are able to measure learning and prepare for upcoming accreditation reviews,” Wilkinson said. “Assessment is a strategic leveraging tool.”

This month, Wilkinson attended a training session titled Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (RAILS), funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is an offshoot of the larger Association of College and Research Libraries Assessment Immersion program, which Wilkinson also attended.

The RAILS program is based at Syracuse University School of Information Studies and led by Assistant Professor Megan Oakleaf. The three-year project seeks to measure information literacy skills of college students. It is designed to help librarians and academic faculty develop and test rubrics that evaluate student learning and information literacy.

“Previously, librarians have been relying on tests to assess student work and skills and not looking at their research papers and projects,” Oakleaf said. “There are limitations on what we can test, and students aren’t always motivated to really work hard on a test that doesn’t impact their grade.”

Wilkinson will use what she learned as she reviews work samples by about 100 students from introductory, discipline-specific, and graduate level courses. Part of the study’s overall goal is to normalize evaluation of student information literacy and establish rubrics to measure teaching effectiveness in libraries.

Her goal is to determine if students are valuing and using what they learn from librarians in library science classes and if what they learned is linked to the University’s mission to provide a challenging academic environment. To assist in the process, Oakleaf will visit the WVU campus in the spring.

“What it will all boil down to is that this learning will help me identify best practices in information literacy education,” Wilkinson said. “Then we can link the Libraries’ educational program to the new strategic plan’s objective of insuring a more challenging academic environment at WVU. I definitely want to contribute to that and so do my colleagues.”


CONTACT: Monte Maxwell, WVU Libraries development representative

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