Assessment Workshop Reveals Keys to Enhancing Instruction

By Henri Mondschein

California Lutheran University


What makes instruction successful? How do you engage faculty to partner with you in creating meaningful assignments that parallel the instruction you do? How do you measure the impact of your instruction? These were just a few topics addressed in Assessing Our Impact: Making the Transformation to Assessment, a recent CARL-sCIL workshop led by Debra Gilchrist of Pierce College, Lakewood, WA. Approximately 50 librarians attended the day-long seminar at the Claremont Colleges.

Gilchrist’s definition of assessment focuses on understanding:

Assessment and evaluation are not synonymous, says Gilchrist. An example of an evaluation is a brief survey given to students at the end of a workshop. Assessment, however, is an ongoing and in-depth process of measurement and improvement.

Gilchrist pointed out that the foundation to successful instruction and assessment revolves around five key areas: Outcome, Curriculum, Pedagogy, Assessment and Criteria. These can be translated into five basic questions that can help you keep the process on track:

  1. What do you want the student to be able to do? (Outcome)
  2. What does the student need to know in order to do this well? (Curriculum)
  3. What activity will facilitate the learning? (Pedagogy)
  4. How will the student demonstrate the learning? (Assessment)
  5. How will I know the student has done this well? (Criteria)

A strong instruction and assessment program must also be anchored in a partnering relationship with faculty. "You must be seen as a colleague," she emphasized. Gilchrist encouraged librarians to work with faculty in tailoring class assignments to reflect the goals of literacy instruction. As an example, history students writing a paper on the Vietnam War could examine their topic in a chronology, a specialized encyclopedia, and a specialized dictionary and compare and contrast the information found. This type of assignment requires students to not only use various reference sources but to critically assess the information found. "Make concepts attainable so they can digest them," Gilchrist emphasized. "Show them why they need to know this."

Gilchrist recommends tailoring assignments to reflect guidelines of the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. She also encourages librarians to embrace the best practices of successful teaching faculty. "Look for examples of good teaching at your institution and adapt the techniques of top faculty," she urged.