Updating Your Tool Belt

Karen Sobel, Kenneth Wolf


Most librarians and staff who perform library instruction in academic settings place a high value on assessment. They understand that determining what our students bring with them to the instruction lab and what they learn during the hour we teach them helps improve teaching. Some study the latest in assessment techniques and educational theory and form high ideals for themselves and for their libraries’ instruction programs.

However, when faced with realities of our programs, successful though they may be, improving assessment that is performed across instructional programs can be a daunting task. Academic libraries’ efforts to institute or improve library instruction assessment can lead to anxiety as librarians are pulled between using old favorite assessment tools and making major overhauls.

The authors of this article have developed an approach to assessment wherein librarians study the components of learning and use these to enhance familiar tools they already use for library assessment during instruction. This allows librarians to greatly improve the quality of their tools while feeling a sense of ownership without losing particular features of importance.

This study discusses three popular assessment tools (pretest/posttest sets, posttests, and activities) that were enhanced using this technique and the evidence of learning that each gathers. The authors use data collected with each tool to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each tool and suggests strategies for tool selection.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5860/rusq.50n3.245


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