Talking about the ACRL draft framework

A number of U of T librarians gathered over a series of three meetings recently to engage in a lively discussion of the ACRL’s draft framework for Higher Education IL. The ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force (#Isn’tThereSomeFancyAcronymForThis) invited comments on the first part of their draft framework, and the discussions, held at Robarts, OSIE and the ILU’s March monthly meeting and facilitated by Mindy Thuna, provided librarians with a chance to gather to consider the framework and its implications for our teaching, laying the groundwork for feedback to the ACRL.  The sessions, which included wide-ranging discussions and animated active learning exercises, also proved to be a very useful prism for reflecting on teaching practices and pedagogy.


Feb 21 Practice Exchange on Assessment notes

Notes and resources from the February 21 Practice Exchange on assessment.

 Resources mentioned in the session

 Some of the resources mentioned in the session are posted:


These were mentioned as useful resources for designing information literacy instruction (although they are ostensibly aimed at students) :

Badke, William. Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog, 3d ed (New York: iUniverse,  2008)

Booth, Wayne C,  Gregory G. Colomb & Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research, 3d ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008)   (ebook)

  Notes from the discussion

Assessments can have different purposes, eg learning outcomes vs accountability.

Things that have worked

ADVANCE SURVEYS: In preparation for a series of sessions, sending an advance survey asking students about things like their level of study, area of research, and what they hope to get out of the session.

ON THE SPOT TOPIC SELECTION: A multiple choice poll-everywhere type survey at the beginning of class to let students identify areas they most want/need instruction on from among a list of topics you’ve prepared for. This lets you target your instruction and helps with the problem of trying to cram too much into a session. It assumes students will be good judges of what they need to know, so it’s usefulness probably varies by group.

3-2-1 AT THE BEGINNING OF A CLASS: using these at the beginning of a session is a great icebreaker that allows you to take the temperature of a class while getting everyone involved right off the bat.

Pre-tests can be enormously useful, but some care is needed when using them lest they have unintended consequences or ‘backwash’. One participant noted that a multiple choice pretest targeting at-risk students may have had a demoralizing effect on the very group it was intended to help.

More on 3-2-1s & other forms of assessment

3-2-1 FOR POST ASSESSMENT: example : 3 things I learned, 2 things I can use right away, 1 thing I have a question on (muddiest). Engages students in reflection on what  they’ve just been taught and provides us with feedback. TIP: Make the last section a ‘tear off’ so you can collect and review the muddiest points and students can take home their recollections of ‘things I learned’  and ‘things I can use right away’. You can do this type of assessment with online tools like Survey Monkey and Google Docs as well.

Online polls are probably not as useful for small groups.  A simple show of hands might be used instead, for example.

ACTIVE LEARNING ON EVALUATING GOOGLE RESULTS: students were asked to search on topics like the Chernobyl disaster, post-modern art, consumer trends in the use of tablets. The topics were tailored to produce search results and generate strong, sometimes opposing viewpoints.  Students quickly got very animated and involved. They were asked to assess things like: are any results scholarly, who are authors, what are their affiliations, what do you think is the best result, when was information last updated, do the authors cite any evidence, would you use this in an assignment. The exercise takes about 35 minutes plus 5-10 minutes of discussion, so it is time consuming and probably most feasible within a multi-class series or a course, but it quickly engages students with the practice and norms of information literacy.

USING ASSESSMENT RESULTS TO UPDATE LIBGUIDES/FAQS . Tell students in your session that filling out the assessment form is important because you will update the Libguide or other resource with their questions and your answers. Students really like this and it works very well, however it involves a significant amount of after-class work for you.

FIND OUT WHAT THEY ‘REALLY’ DON’T KNOW: Newer students in particular often simply don’t know what they don’t know. Early assessment can help determine the right jumping off point for a session.

Given the limited impact of 1 shot sessions, should we be doing 321 type assessments more and other types of assessments less?

Faculty feedback

Short surveys sent to faculty are useful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that faculty are often reluctant to give critical feedback face to face right after a session. A pdf containing some examples of short surveys for faculty compiled by Rita Vine is attached. These types of surveys try to obtain data  on whether a session impacted the quality of the student assignments.

Faculty assessment addresses some of the limitations of student self- assessment as well as timing issues (ie allows post-assignment assessment).

At one university performance assessment for librarians includes a demonstration of the impact of teaching sessions, for which faculty input is often sought.


Notes from the first Practice Exchange – examples of successful teaching practices

Tuesday January 15 2013 brought with it the inaugural Practice Exchange, a meeting of U of T librarians interested in exchanging ideas and information about their teaching. The first session focused on examples of successful teaching experiences.   Below are a few of the things participants mentioned and chatted about as things that have worked for them:

Grading and/or assigning a weight to library/research assignments

Quite a few participants have found that that grading library/research assignments boosts student engagement and aids learning.  Some mentioned that even a weight of 1% can guarantee attendance at instruction sessions, and a weight of 2-5 % of final grade worked well for one library.

UTSC reports very positive results using a sort of ‘pre-assignment’  assignment. In this scenario, a smaller research assignment precedes a larger one, and serves as an introduction to the research task and gets students to think about and get some feedback on their research before the deadline for their larger assignment. The instructor(s) devised a short assignment requiring some article searching and an assessment of students’ own research. Instructor feedback reports much higher levels of student engagement with their research using this structure.  Anyone interested in finding out more about this can contact Sarah Fedko,

One method of grading that has worked well is to grade on a completed/not completed score, rather than pass/fail.

Medicine has found that a shared rubric/marking template for the markers helps ensure consistency when a number of people are grading. They have had success with a fairly a detailed template.

Timing assignments for early identification/self-identification of students who need some research instruction to  allow them time to get ‘non-last-minute help’  works well.

Leveraging the authority and social connections of students :

Making and displaying videos of upper year students speaking about ‘what I wish I had known about the library when I started’. Rewards like a Tim Hortons card for the interviewees helps with participation.

Using student ambassadors to provide peer to peer library instruction. Students first receive training and are expected to produce reports on their experience/learning.

Student societies have proved to be productive resources for marketing library messages.

Talking to student reps from course committees and attending course committee meetings provided great information for sessions that might be useful and interesting to students

Assigning subject areas to residence dons and encouraging other students to approach them for help has worked for UTSC, the idea being that students are more willing to approach other students for help.


Video and photo contests to promote engagement with the library have worked well for UTM and others. Contests also produce a lot of corollary benefits like providing library website content, supplying the winners (and perhaps all participants) with something for their resume, and just generally promoting library good will.

One contest for undergrads on St. George required students to obtain faculty support for their proposal. The library ran related sessions to like “how to write an abstract” and “how to do a conference presentation”.  Benefits include skills training, promotion of library-faculty contact, library-student engagement, and faculty–student contact.  Structuring the contest to let students use work they had already completed lowered the entry barriers and helped encourage participation.

Involving faculty in contests by asking them to judge or vote has been successful.

Possibility: bring others schools into the competition.

One contest required the top 3 contestants to present ‘dragons den’ style to determine winner.

Student societies may be a source for prize money for contests.

Collaboration/moving into non-traditional areas of instruction

Observed: Career advancement and job skills may not be areas we think we have expertise in, but nevertheless we have things to offer and things we can do that our users want in these realms.

Collaboration with other departments is often the linchpin of such sessions and it may be that much of the library effort for such sessions consists of outreach and organization more than instruction per-se. For instance a round robin resume workshop where participants broke up into groups and passed around their resumes to one another then had a group conversation about things they liked or thought worked well. The library’s input during the actual session was fairly light, most of the library’s work for the event was around organizing the event.

A class on “How to read a scholarly article” that proved very successful was another good example. A writing instructor was key to the session, and the library-writing center collaboration premised the session. Students read articles in class, and the library came up with questions for them to work on in groups of two or three. Most of the library input was on the organizing and preparation side as the session was led by a writing instructor.

Potential partners abound. Some examples include the career center, the writing centers, and student societies.