"...The very best teaching, like the very best writing, is often transparent..."
Library workshop evaluation (also assessment of information literacy) is an activity that has received increased attention in the library profession in recent years. (The Association of Research Libraries has an extensive bibliography of papers, presentations, and articles that review the use of LibQual+™ for library workshop evaluation.) Often, evaluation and/or assessment will focus on the librarian's teaching or simply how well students (or participants) respond to the teaching session in question (i.e., whether they found it to be of value). Some academic librarians regularly evaluate their workshops as part of their quality improvement (QI) practices, but others have begun to select formal, increasingly sophisticated assessment methods to do so. In 2013, both information literacy programming and library assessment trends place a renewed emphasis on academic librarians' roles within the academy.
Entire information literacy programs (or even one-off workshops or library "in-services") can be incrementally improved simply by engaging other librarians in a peer review process, and building feedback into teaching for the instructor-librarian. This is very important for the novice or junior members of the library profession. The problem for many academic librarians is knowing where and how to begin, and which evaluation methods and tools are most effective and suitable. The aim in library workshop evaluation is to begin the process of evaluating our delivery but also to incorporate new knowledge, skills and approaches into future delivery of workshops. By adopting the most current best practices, it may be necessary to read the case literature especially as revealed by other librarians in the field (and even the many blogs available on the topic).
Before undertaking an assessment of your teaching, it may be worth considering why you want to evaluate yourself, your process or pedagogical methods - or whether it's simply about the content of your workshops. Further, what are the reasons for evaluating your pedagogical methods? Is it to individualize learning for your students and differentiate how you deliver instruction to improve learning? By acquainting yourself with current teaching practices, and building library assessment into your development of courses, the process may also be easier. In the final analysis, assessment/evaluation is recursive and should entail periods of practice, adopting new techniques and conducting empirical evaluation in continual loops of refinement.
An evaluation of a workshop, its value, usefulness ...based on a Likert scale of 1-5
Instructional librarians need to evaluate their goals and objectives as one part of their assessment cycle. Assessment can be a useful tool for aligning librarian priorities and pre-existing student skills. Formative and summative assessment methods can be deployed to gather empirical evidence about librarian-led workshops.
Are your goals in assessment to...?
Determine whether your teaching program, and its components, makes a difference in student learning
Assess library performance individually (e.g., each librarian) and collectively (i.e., entire program, staff)
Assess whether teaching students is a good use of precious professional resources
Demonstrate a need for funding or redistributed funding in the university
Improve teaching and reference services to make them more responsive to student needs
Redesign teaching materials and methods, and use them more effectively
Practice evidence-based librarianship throughout the process, and ground activities in pedagogies
What do you hope to gain from assessment? Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger set of conditions that promote change.
Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, lifelong and often social.
Theory: assessment for learning, assessment as learning, and assessment as learning to teach are the three assessment theories underpinning assessment practices at most libraries. What theory will be most useful for you and your library programs?
Links to strategic documents: connect assessment to the institution’s mission, vision and general learning outcomes.
Structures: Are there assessment committees or a coordinator who might shape the assessment practices? What organizational structures will facilitate assessment?
Resources: Assessment requires staff time and materials at the very least. You may also wish to hire a consultant or provide professional development opportunities for staff involved in assessment efforts. The resource section of an assessment plan will describe these needs.
Data Policies: Include policies for data gathering, storage, access and reporting that will protect the rights and privacy of students and librarians.
Goals & Outcomes: A list of agreed-upon overarching goals and specific, measurable learning outcomes is a necessary element of any assessment plan.
Timeline for Continuous Assessment: Describe the schedule for assessing and reassessing individual outcomes. This should articulate realistic plans and recognize that a “one at a time” approach to outcome assessment is best.
There are as many methods of assessing a library workshop or class as there are learning theories. A variety of assessment tools can be used to gather information about student learning and information literacy instruction: pre- and post-surveys, student feedback surveys, faculty feedback to librarians, librarian self-reflection, library worksheets, student research journals, and citation analysis of students' final research paper bibliographies. The quality, amount and level of instruction (including shared instruction) drives the assessment process. Is the class a one-off workshop and unlikely to be offered again? Or is the workshop embedded within a course? Faculty assessment of a librarian is common, although specific suggestions about how improve teaching can sometimes be lacking from a faculty member. Peer assessment is important for librarians at all levels, competencies and years of experience.
A common method of evaluation is to administer a simple questionnaire after a class. A questionnaire invites participant feedback and assesses satisfaction with the session, and "how effective" a librarian was at teaching. Academic librarians can use pre- and post-test measures for ongoing, quality improvement of teaching. Questionnaires provide some view of how much users learn or retain after our sessions. In the literature, studies suggest that participants view their abilities after library workshops differently from their actual skill levels. By measuring skills post-hoc, some librarians use search quizzes to test comprehension of what the librarian taught. This approach is suitable for academic institutions where librarians liaise with faculty.