Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ask the Masses: Assessing One-Shots

Dan asks:

How do you accurately assess student learning for one-shot session (or if you only see the class a couple of times per semester)? It is easy to assess student attitudes (which is also important to keep in mind), but how do you assess their content knowledge and application?

Share your answers/observations/experiences in the comments section below!


  1. Great question, Dan! Authentic summative assessment can be very tricky, particularly when you only see the students once or twice per semester. I don’t know if I have the perfect solution, but I can throw some ideas out there. We all do formative assessment with our students; asking open questions during class, noticing “confused eyebrows” (as I like to call them), wandering during work time to conference with individuals on their work, using think-pair-share activities, or having groups learn skills and then teach their colleagues about something they found or a search strategy (or evaluation strategy) they employed.

    It is particularly important that what we teach in our library sessions is supported and reinforced by the course professor. If there is any way to meet with the professor prior to the instruction session to examine how the created the assignment and what their goals are for the students, we can perhaps influence how they utilize the things we teach in the library sessions, maybe even modifying assignments. Sometimes we can get copies of annotated bibliographies or look at paper drafts, but what if this isn’t an option or what if the assignment or activity isn’t a traditional paper? What can we do to assess?

    There is the basic self-reported assessment survey students can complete (but this only measures what students perceive they learn; it measures attitudes as opposed to the skills they actually learn). This is what I’ve seen the most.

    We can fall back on the pre- and post-test options, but I’m more of a fan of authentic application of skills as a measure of student learning. You could have students complete the post test at the end of the session or wait to see what they retained from the session by administering the post-test later in the term (but there’s always the issue of time…when will they take the tests and who will deliver them?).

    If possible, I try to gain access to the course blackboard page (especially if I’m going to be working with the class more than once) and create a library resources page, write a discussion post prompt and have the students respond s in class by applying the skills in a new context (the research for their topics/projects rather than the ones we might demonstrate and do as an entire class), and then be able to evaluate the posts after class. These “posts” don’t necessarily have to be done through Blackboard, however; they can be prompts you distribute (slips of paper) or display during class and students can hand in printouts or handwritten versions of their work for you to assess.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between the concepts we introduce and the outcomes for the session. We don’t always have to assess every concept we introduce (in fact, it’s highly unlikely that anyone has ever been able to assess all introduced concepts from one session). That’s why we articulate outcomes for sessions and those are the things we measure. There is no one perfect assessment tool—unless you’ve figured out how to tap into students’ brains to observe the thought process from the inside out (and I haven’t seen that conference presentation at LOEX or ILA/ACRL yet…). I haven’t looked into it lately, but we might also gain ideas from visiting with our K-12 colleagues (who have to hit worry about assessment and reporting out even more than we do).

    These are just a few of the things I use—I’m sure I’m forgetting many others—and I know there are many other options out there for assessment. It’s at this point in the comments when I hear Levar Burton saying the “Reading Rainbow” phrase “You don’t have to take my word for it” and then the little transition music afterward. Does anyone else have something they’ve used that’s worked well?

  2. I often struggle with this too. I'm fortunate enough to work some place that does pre- and post-testing of our students'IL skills in the core. That helps with the overall picture. Most of my suggestions were similar to Cara's. However another way I like to collect that type of assessment is have an activity built into the lesson that actually has the student practicing the skill. For example when teaching web evaluation I have students submit a website they think is reliable and 2 reasons why to a Google form. In class we talk about what we found and address issues we see, but after class I can go back to the database where the Google form dumps the answers and see how well they did overall. We do something similar during our new student orientation asking students to locate basic info on our website.

  3. Excellent comments, Cara and Becky. Thank you very much. This is good food for thought.