I am currently reporting to you right from the thick of it. At last count Library Instruction Services had 169 instruction sessions recorded in our database for the semester, and that’s on top of all the other projects and responsibilities that don’t pause when we’re busy. At times like this it’s important to remember that while it may feel validating (and explain our stress dreams) to see how many instruction sessions we have scheduled, sheer numbers don’t actually tell us very much. We know how many students we teach, but the real insight comes from discovering much we taught them and where their information literacy skills are at the end of the semester. Unfortunately, those data are much more difficult to come by.
Luckily, we have an Assessment Plan to help us remember to assess student learning even in the midst of the madness. One of my first tasks as Instruction & Assessment Librarian was to pull together a comprehensive plan outlining and guiding LIS’s assessment efforts. While the task proved to be daunting at first, with a lot of guidance (I highly recommend ACRL’s Immersion: Assessment Track) we completed our first iteration of the plan last spring.
So far one of the nicest effects of having a plan has been the ability to refer back to it when faced with a question of new data we could collect. Rather than collecting everything we come across only to rummage through it later (or more likely forget about it), we have taken a targeted approach that helps us focus most of our efforts on the most important parts of our practice.
When the work feels overwhelming, it’s nice to have a system to fall back on that allows us the time we need to reflect on and improve our teaching, without grabbing every data point we come across. Parts of our assessment become almost automated (pre-and post-tests that we administer through email at the beginning and end of the semester), freeing up each of us to dig in deeper to authentically assess at least two classes each semester for a snapshot of critical thinking in action. In the tide of the fall semester it might feel like we can only keep our heads above water, but having an underlying plan will help us back to the shore so we can begin again and do even better in the spring.