Assess It! | November 10, 2016

Assessment is collaborative: Librarians and compositions work together to assess student’s research projects


The following post was written by Stephanie Margolin from the Library, who was a 2015-2016 Assessment Fellow.

Library instruction can be different from other college teaching.  For example, we often meet a group of students for a single class session, roughly 50-75 minutes.  Our lessons are linked to the work of the classroom teacher who requests the instruction; his or her research assignment often dictates (or at least suggests) what we will teach. At the same time, librarians are urged to prove our impact. But how, in this model, do we measure our impact?  What does successful library instruction look like?

In my opinion, students don’t develop information literacy skills in a single hour, or even in a single semester; these skills build over time.  My job as an instruction librarian is to work closely with both students and faculty to determine how best to extend the lessons of information literacy beyond the single instruction session in the library. Again, we return to the question of how we (in the library and in the classroom) best measure our students’ information literacy?

For the past two years, here at Hunter, a group of librarians have joined the ENGL 120 program in their annual assessment of student papers. As we began the initial collaboration, the librarians were invited to review and advise on the rubric (our biggest influence was in the “Critical Use of Sources” section). For each annual assessment, we begin our in-person session (after pizza) with norming.  Then, we work in pairs (one librarian and one composition instructor), with each pair scoring 10 anonymous student essays. We are able to discuss our findings within our pair.  Score sheets are color-coded (to separate the librarians’ scores from the compositionists’ scores) and we also report on overall impressions of the student work.

The collaboration is the best part of the process, and compositionists and librarians learn from each other.  With a greater awareness of how librarians look at source use, for example, ENGL 120 instructors can fine-tune their focus throughout the semester and, perhaps, get tips from librarians about improving the design of their research assignment, or optimizing their students’ time in library instruction sessions.  For our part, librarians get great insights by seeing students’ final projects (which we otherwise rarely see).  We begin to see the students’ (and the faculty’s) larger goals for the research project, and often come away with new ideas to improve our teaching effectiveness — and our communication with our ENGL 120 instructors.

Both librarians and the co-directors of the ENGL 120 program would love to see our model expanded.  To that end, our rubric is available: consider how you might adapt it to grade your students’ research projects.  Also consider inviting librarians to act as second-readers for large-scale assessments like this one — we’re happy to join!

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