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UST Assessment Studies

The following post is submitted by guest blogger Marianne Hageman, University of St. Thomas (UST) Libraries, and summarizes one of UST’s presentations at CLIC’s Kick-off Program on October 26.


Have you ever wondered about the information literacy skill levels of your incoming freshmen?  At UST, we’ve asked that question several times over the years. 


We began the process to find an answer when my colleague, Donna Nix, came back very excited from ALA in 2008. She’d attended a session by Kate Zoellner and Charlie Potter from the University of Montana, reporting on their study of high school media specialists’ perceptions of high school student preparedness for university-level research, looking particularly at information literacy skills.  They’d based their research on the methodology of Islam and Murno. [Islam, R.L. and Murno, L.A. (2006). From perceptions to connections: Informing information literacy program planning in academic libraries through examination of high school library media center curricula. College and Research Libraries, 67, 496-514.  http://crl.acrl.org/content/67/6/491.full.pdf+html ]

Donna wanted to replicate this research. It sounded cool to me, so I said, “Can I play, too?” That led to our first research project, in 2009-2010, where we interviewed Catholic high school media specialists at 15 schools in the Midwest (ask us sometime about the January ice storm in Iowa.)  The next year, we surveyed St. Thomas faculty who teach introductory research classes in their discipline, to get their take on the IL skills of their students.


Here are some things we learned:

  • Few of our faculty think our students do even “fairly well” on any of the skills.
  • By comparison, the Catholic high school librarians that we surveyed think students are doing pretty well on IL skills.
  • Three of the skills that our faculty think are the MOST important for students to have before taking their introductory research class, they expect them to have already, before they hit that first research class. These skills are plagiarism/citation style, developing a thesis statement, and brainstorming questions.
  • Two of the skills our faculty think are most important to have, they expect them to develop in that first research class. These skills are determining authority, accuracy, timeliness, and bias of sources, and selecting appropriate resources.
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