The Teaching & Learning Programs provide leadership for efforts to assess students’ information literacy skills at the classroom, course, program, and campus levels.
The UW System is a participant in the Association of American Colleges and Universities Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) project. From this project, the UW-Madison campus adapted a set of Essential Learning Outcomes. These learning outcomes are used as an assessment framework for departments and programs across campus. Information literacy is included among the “intellectual and practical skills” that students should develop.
Current Initiatives: Assessment
To improve student learning, Teaching & Learning Programs librarians across campus are continuously engaged in systematic assessment of their teaching. Examples of current initiatives are listed below.
Assessment Plan for General Education at the UW-Madison
The Assessment Plan for General Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a framework for measuring the efficacy of the General Education Requirements (GER) in the courses where such requirements are taught. The “Essential Learning Outcomes,” which include information literacy in the area of “Intellectual and Practical Skills,” provide a framework for student learning in the context of the requirements. Information literacy skills are initially taught in Communication “A” and “B” courses.
According to the Plan, the primary tool used for measuring information literacy skills on campus has been standardized testing. While these efforts have shown that students have achieved an “acceptable level of performance,” it is indicated that “[a] more authentic assessment of student learning will provide better information which can be used for program administration and improvement.” Therefore, a direct assessment of information literacy skills is included in the Plan’s Cycle of Assessment, a calendar for assessment projects scheduled over the next several years (slated for the 2010-11 school year).
Report of CUWL IL Assessment Working Group
The CUWL User Services Coordinating Committee’s Information Literacy Assessment Working Group recently produced a report (October 2008) investigating a variety of commercially available information literacy assessment tools being considered for use in the UW System. They identified three major available tests—iSkills, Project SAILS, and the Information Literacy Test- and studied the merits and drawbacks of each. The group considered several factors, such as suitability for use at a system level; relevance to the information literacy skills being taught at each institution; presence and quality of feedback to test-takers; usability at a variety of levels (classroom level to institution level); practicality of providing the test, given campus schedules; and cost to use the test. Though the group did not ultimately recommend one of these three instruments over the others for use in the UW System, they did find that iSkills would be best used only at an individual-school level. Also, they recommended further investigation, to find out how other schools are using these tools.