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Assessing Information Literacy Instruction

Methods librarians can use to assess and improve their teaching.

About this Page

On this page you'll find examples of "learning assessment techniques" for you to integrate into your teaching and assess student learning. Some of the activities are informal, while others can be designed to have "learning artifacts" that can be used from more structured assessment. This is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of learning assessment techniques or in-class activities that can be assessed, nor does it provide in-depth instruction for each activity, but instead are some ideas to use in your own teaching. Since most information literacy is done through one-shot instructor, the activities do not include graded assignments, as that required multiple sessions and access to grading. 

Student Self-Assessment Techniques

These techniques can be used to check student knowledge before/at the start of a session, mid-way through, or afterwards. They all ask students to briefly reflect on and share their perspective on their learning (ie they are indirect assessment measures). 

  • Muddiest Point
  • One Thing You Learned
  • One Sentence Summary
  • One Minute Paper
  • Before & After Questions

Muddiest Point

A librarian wants a reflective ice-breaker that also serves as a way to check students' prior experience searching in academic databases, filtering results, and saving potential sources. In an on-ground instruction session they decide to use index cards and the following prompt:

Thinking about the sources you're going to need for the assignment in this course, what questions and/or frustrations do you anticipate having when it comes to searching and finding sources?

The librarian gives students 1-2 minutes to write down the first question that comes to mind, and then when students are working on another planned activity in the session, the librarian sorts the responses so that similar topics and questions are together, and ends the session by answering the "muddy" questions. 

One Thing You Learned

A librarian wants to know what students identify as the most important takeaway from an online session. They decide to end the session with a Padlet board and the following prompt:

What is one thing you learned and how might you use it?

The librarian provides the link in the chat and screenshares the Padlet so that students can see the responses come in live, and star/like the ones they agree with. This technique is a snapshot of how students think they will apply a skill or new piece of knowledge from the session. 

Collaborative Assessment Techniques

These techniques can be used during a session and all ask student to work together, in pairs, small groups or as a class to share what they've learned and build on each other's work in order to identify common knowledge, mistakes, and gaps.  

  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Gallery Walk
  • Close Read of a Detailed Record
  • Swap Articles & Evaluate


This activity can be used to structure small group discussions so that all students have time to reflect and articulate their own thoughts, discuss them with one peer, and then connect them to the ideas discussed by another pair of students. The scaffolded approach to discussing gives all students time and space to voice their ideas, topics, and questions and then connect them to other ideas and questions. 

Close Read of a Detailed Record 

In preparation for an assignment to find qualitative and quantitative nursing research articles, a librarian has students practice identifying the different fields in a detailed record to determine the methods used in example articles. Students get to focus on finding and using descriptive information surrounding an article before they need it for their assignment.

Before the workshop the librarian finding and prints out detailed records for examples of at least the following article types: qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, systematic review, and meta-analysis. Before distributing the examples in for individual student work, the librarian walks through an example with the whole class, and after students work individually, they discuss their findings with the person next to them, and then the whole class discusses their findings together. Student learning can be assessed formally by collecting the identified examples at the end of class and informally through in-class discussion.

Swap Articles and Evaluate

Students are asked to complete a worksheet prior to the synchronous library session that walks them through the process of developing search terms, finding and evaluating two potential sources. In the synchronous session students swap the articles they found with another student and practice evaluating them - determining the scholarly or non-scholarly status and reliability of each one. This then leads into a class-wide discussion of useful criteria for determining scholarly/non-scholarly and reliability. Student learning can be assessed formally through the pre-session worksheets and informally through the in-class discussion.

Learning Assessment Techniques

These techniques require a bit more pre-planning and coordinator with the subject instructor, but they can lead to more meaningful assessment and comparisons between cohorts over time. Students can also integrate them into their individual research processes.

  • Research log
  • Sample reference lists/annotated bibliographies
  • Concept map-based research questions
  • Identifying themes across sources
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