I’ll admit–I was a bit nervous about this topic going into the reading for this week. At times, I feel like some places begin to worship at the altar of assessment; everything possible is measured and evaluated. Objectively, I understand why this is the case. Assessment and data help us improve instruction and other services. They tell us if something didn’t work in our teaching. They keep us accountable. They’re measurable and help us make a case of our services. I just worry, sometimes, that we lose sight of the forest for the trees. In other words, does the focus on assessment ever make us lose focus on our users?
Using Assessment for the Benefit of Learners
Thinking about assessment as a tool that improves learning or benefits the learner in front of me helped me accept some of the reading this week. I tend to see assessment as a survey or quiz we force students through at the end of a one-shot session, or worse something we try to make them do after the session. As Booth points out, assessment is something that actually happens at all stages of the planning and teaching process.
I was particularly interested in formative assessment methods. Booth’s examples of the objective-activity-assessment cycle really clarified how all three elements work together. And I can see how many of the formative assessment methods enable learning, instead of just providing feedback or data for librarians. Some techniques Booth mentions that seem useful for one-shot sessions:
- One-minute paper
- Muddiest point (The instruction sessions I teach often get broken into two class sessions. I’d love to try this at the end of one of my first sessions to help direct the second.)
- Misconception/preconception check
- Concept maps
- Classroom opinion polls
I had an Aha moment this week, or at least recognized something that has been ongoing all semester. As I mentioned above, I help teach one-shot instruction sessions tied to a introductory writing course for college freshmen. There is a standard lesson plan for these sessions (we call it ITLR: Intro to Library Research) that were developed by librarians. We can adjust it as needed to match the needs of the course.
I taught several of these the last two weeks, and I realized two things.
- I was a lot more willing to try new things or move away from the lesson plan when needed than I was last year. Some of this I’d attribute to confidence (I was a new teacher last year) and a lot more to taking this class.
- As I’ve been teaching these ITLR sessions and working with the materials, I’ve seen the ways ideas we’ve discussed in class are worked into the standard lesson plan. So, this week, I realized how assessment has been tied in (a learning activity on white boards, several worksheet activities throughout the class, and an evaluation quiz that rarely gets used at the end).
Questions for Guest Speaker
This post is already getting long, but I did want to record a few questions for our guest speaker this week. We have a librarian from the St. Kate’s Library coming in to talk about a new initiative that in embedding librarians in a core course. It sounds like a very interesting program! Here are a few questions I have about assessment:
- Does having librarians embedded into a course provide richer data for assessment?
- What assessment techniques have you used so far? Which have been more successful? Have you done any overarching assessment of the pilot study itself?
- How have you or will you use assessment to reshape the program in the future?