#assessment4evah! - Reflections on Capacity Building

Lisa and HKLC contributors Chris, Jo, and Chloe

Lisa and HKLC contributors Chris, Jo, and Chloe

On 13 and 14 June, three of HKLC’s core contributors had the opportunity to attend a Capacity Building Program, which forms part of the JULAC project Enhancing Information Literacy in Hong Kong Higher Education. The facilitator-trainer for the programme was Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and past-president of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). In all, 39 librarians representing all eight of the UGC-funded universities attended the training event at HKUST Library. It’s a rare thing for so many instruction librarians to be gathered in one place, and the sight of so many colleagues engaging in intensive professional development was inspirational in itself!

The focus was on assessment, both of student learning and of our information literacy programs. We know that assessment is important, but it is something that is often lower down our list of priorities. What makes assessment difficult? Prior to the programme, participants were asked to identify some of their biggest challenges relating to assessment. Here are the top six:

  1. Developing assessment tools can be a challenge
  2. Time constraints limit assessment during library sessions
  3. Time constraints place limits on librarian time to analyze and provide feedback
  4. Students are not motivated to complete assessments
  5. Librarians have difficulty in knowing how to follow up
  6. Course assignments do not include information literacy performance assessment

A daunting list to be sure! As individuals and in groups, we explored possible strategies to solving these problems. One important takeaway for me was time management. In a typical one-hour library instruction session, we cannot realistically assess everything we teach. Selectivity is key. Time needs to be spent wisely, and a little bit of preparation goes a long way.

In a typical one-hour library instruction session, we cannot realistically assess everything we teach.
It wouldn’t be one of Lisa’s workshops without some Play-Doh! This exceptional sculpture is the work of Jennifer Gu (HKBU Library) :-)

It wouldn’t be one of Lisa’s workshops without some Play-Doh! This exceptional sculpture is the work of Jennifer Gu (HKBU Library) :-)

The development of effective assessment tools is often a challenge because of a lack of time and/or expertise. Lisa introduced a really useful resource to help with this, a book called Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Angelo & Cross (for those with access to a UGC library, there are plenty of copies in HKALL). Although the latest revised edition was published way back in 1993, the activities described in the book are still incredibly relevant. We are already thinking of ways that some of them could be adapted and used in our classes. Also, I found that just last year ACRL published a volume entitled Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians that introduces many of the same techniques with library-specific examples.

I particularly appreciated the practice-oriented nature of the workshop. We were asked to bring in some real examples of assessment pieces from our own institutions, and worked on improving them. Another exercise had us drafting learning outcomes for a given instructional scenario. As Lisa pointed out, most of the theories covered made perfect sense until we actually tried to apply them in practice! Being able to discuss these challenges with others at the table and workshop them with the larger group was tremendously valuable. This really brought home the fact that getting additional perspectives from colleagues is great way to improve. I plan to do this much more often, both within my institution and hopefully beyond as well.

This was an intensive couple of days that was tiring but also inspiring. I certainly feel better-equipped to handle the upcoming JULAC information literacy project. Lisa was a brilliant facilitator, who challenged us to stretch beyond our comfort zones. A special shout-out to colleagues at HKUST Library, in particular Victoria Caplan, for organizing everything.

Questions? Do you have anything you want to share about assessment in your own library? Let us know in the comments below!

Text by: Chris