Pilot Testing Program Assesses Information Literacy Skills
Thanks to a cooperative grant received in conjunction with Marywood University, a select number of University of Scranton freshmen were part of a pilot testing program to assess information literacy skills in incoming college freshmen at both local universities. The Information and Communication Technology Assessment (ICT), developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), was designed to help colleges determine what skills and concepts classroom faculty and librarians need to address in entering students as they begin their college careers in technology-rich academic environment. Additionally, it also hopes to determine what the students already know in these areas, in order to prevent redundancy in technology instruction.
During the fall 2006 semester approximately 100 freshmen, from CAS, KSOM, and PCPS participated in an online test measuring a variety of critical thinking and technical skills. A similar number took the test at Marywood. Professors Barbara Griguts, Charles Kratz, Bernie Krzan, and Clara Hudson graciously agreed to lend their Freshman Seminar classes to the sixty minute hands on examination, which presented the students with a series of challenging exercises. The tests were administered in Room 306 of the Weinberg Library during the regular Freshman Seminar time slot. Students filled out a brief survey relating to their major, high school GPA, SAT scores, and extracurricular activities prior to beginning the actual test. A number of challenging exercises requiring evaluation of sample Web sites, creating PowerPoint slides for a presentation, developing a search strategy for a database search, and designing an organization chart were part of the test. The students were emailed the results of their examination within two weeks of the test-taking and no individual results went to the administrator or Freshman Seminar instructors. Since this was explained to the students beforehand, they could feel free to take the test without penalty. Results were then sent to our institutions in aggregate form only.
Overall, the University of Scranton scored well in comparison to other institutions that were part of the national test. Preliminary results were sent to all schools that participated. Some of the initial findings, culled from survey results of the students who piloted the assessment, said that they found the test to be challenging and that it required both thinking and technical skills. The students enjoyed the real-world storylines and felt that the tasks reflected activities they had encountered at school, work, or home.
Looking at individual questions from the test and examining aggregate results should help the librarians at both schools see what weakness and strengths need to be addressed in information literacy instruction as the students progress though their college careers.
Scranton and Marywood were two of the 63 colleges and universities who took the ICT Literacy Assessment in 2006. Final results, from over 6,300+ test takers will be forthcoming in 2007.
Faculty from Marywood and Scranton presented the results of their test administration in a program at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Library Association held in Pittsburgh this past November. Betsey Moylan and Cathy Schappert, recipients of the grant from their respective institutions, Katie Duke, also from the Weinberg Memorial Library, and Terry Mech from Kings College Library served on a panel discussing the use of assessment in information literacy at their colleges.