IL Catches the Wave

The Association of American Colleges and Universities has published a new report, Liberal Education Outcomes: A Preliminary Report on Student Achievement in College. The report “documents the emerging consensus among educators, the business community, and the accreditation community about a set of key learning outcomes that are essential for all college students in the 21st century.”

Information literacy is one of the handful of key learning outcomes.

I know, we’ve been making waves about this for years, but now – hey, surf’s up! We seem to be reaching a point where information literacy is widely recognized as a key part of what it means to be educated. This is likely to be a widely-read document. Time to place a few strategic calls, ask some of your favorite power brokers to have a cup of coffee. We made the wave, now let’s catch it.

Another finding of the report is that “little national data is available on how well students are achieving these key outcomes.” They find some value in standardized testing, but it’s not the only answer.

[T]he best evidence about students’ level of achievement on liberal education outcomes will come from assessment of students’ authentic and complex performances in the context of their most advanced studies: research projects, community service projects, portfolios of student work, supervised internships, etc. Institutions can and should use a common framework of liberal education outcomes to report externally on students’ level of accomplishment, but they should help the public understand that the standards for advanced accomplishment take different forms in different fields. The key accountability question to ask of campuses is whether they currently expect all their students to undertake complex projects and capstone assignments that are assessed for advanced liberal education outcomes.

All of which suggests we might want to make sure information literacy is part of our institutions’ common framework and that we become as aware as we can of all the assessment initiatives on our campuses that might help us find in student work the evidence that we’ve made a difference – and where we may need to improve.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.