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Assessment Brief #86 - Information Literacy Skills of Entering Students: A 4-year Synopsis

Assessment Logo: assessment-revision-outcomes

December 2014

The information literacy skills of students when they enter Miami can vary considerably depending on their high school curriculum and coursework. These skills can erode as time elapses, so it is hard to assume that a student entering Miami has a certain level of information literacy.

To address this, the Libraries utilize a short questionnaire that is administered to a selection of students at library outreach events the week before they begin classes (approximately 300 students each year). The questions are based on information literacy outcomes established by the libraries.

Here is a question and answer set as an example.

  • Which of the following searches is likely to return the highest number of results?
    • A. fiber and diet and cancer and prevention
    • B. fiber or diet or cancer or prevention
    • C. fiber or diet and cancer or prevention
    • D. fiber and diet or cancer and prevention

This assessment brief looks at trends since 2011, the first year of implementation. More analyses are also available at http://libguides.lib.miamioh.edu/instruction.

From year to year, students consistently perform well in the following outcomes (percentage is amount answered correctly):

  • Examines and compares information from various sources.
    • 2015 - 89%
    • 2016 - 87%
    • 2017 - 86%
    • 2018 - 90%
  • Considers whether or not the amount of information retrieved is sufficient to address the research issue.
    • 2015 - 94%
    • 2016 - 96%
    • 2017 - 85%
    • 2018 - 84%
  • Recognizes the need to find information to fill gaps in knowledge.
    • 2015 - 80%
    • 2016 - 82%
    • 2017 - 87%
    • 2018 - 87%

The results also indicate that for several research skills, there is a dichotomy between understanding the concept and putting it into practice. For example, a student may be able to describe the nature of bias, yet struggles to determine if a certain passage actually contains biased material. This is especially evident regarding proper source utilization (paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting).

The dichotomy can be looked at in three ways; source utilization, structured searching, and bias/perspective. (percentage is amount answered correctly)

  • Understands the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
    • 2015 - no data
    • 2016 - 57%
    • 2017 - 62%
    • 2018 - 69%
  • Develops the ability to quote, paraphrase, and summarize.
    • 2015 - no data
    • 2016 - 20%
    • 2017 - 30%
    • 2018 - 38%
  • Identifies keywords, synonyms, and related terms to describe information need effectively.
    • 2015 - no data
    • 2016 - 65%
    • 2017 - 68%
    • 2018 - 66%
  • Utilizes more advanced structured search methods including Boolean Logic, truncation, and thesaurus searching.
    • 2015 - no data
    • 2016 - 39%
    • 2017 - 36%
    • 2018 - 41%
  • Understands bias/perspective on a basic level
    • 2015 - 84%
    • 2016 - 83%
    • 2017 - 80%
    • 2018 - 82%
  • Explores the bias/perspective of sources.
    • 2015 - no data
    • 2016 - 71%
    • 2017 - 70%
    • 2018 - 56%

The results suggest that most students may have a basic understanding of concepts such as quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, bias, and keywords, but that knowledge does not necessarily translate to successful utilization of those skills.

It is important not to assume the information literacy achievement of any student, especially first-year students. You can easily structure assignments to help determine the information literacy of your students at the beginning of the semester, and then structure your assignments to help them achieve course outcomes, while strengthening and closing gaps in their research skills. Librarians and Howe Writing Center staff can assist in assignment creation and editing, and provide skill-based instruction, either in-class or out. For more information, contact Eric Resnis, Assessment Coordinator, eric.resnis@miamioh.edu.