Assessment in Action

College of the Holy Cross: Project Description

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Primary Outcome Examined (select one or more)

Student Learning: Assignment

(No) Student Learning: Course

(No) Student Learning: Major

(No) Student Learning: Degree

(No) Student Engagement

(No) Student Success

(No) Academic Intimacy/Rapport

(No) Enrollment

(No) Retention

(No) Completion

(No) Graduation

(No) Articulation

(No) Graduates' Career Success

(No) Testing (e.g., GRE, MCAT, LSAT, CAAP, CLA, MAPP)

(No) Other (please describe)

Primary Library Factor Examined (select one or more)


(No) Instruction: Games

(No) Instruction: One Shot

(No) Instruction: Course Embedded

(No) Instruction: Self-Paced Tutorials

(No) Reference

(No) Educational Role (other than reference or instruction)

(No) Space, Physical

(No) Discovery (library resources integrated in institutional web and other information portals)

(No) Discovery (library resource guides)

(No) Discovery (from preferred user starting points)

(No) Collections (quality, depth, diversity, format or currency)

(No) Personnel (number and quality)

(No) Other (please describe)

Student Population (select one or more)


(No) Graduate

(No) Incoming

(No) Graduating

(No) Pre-College/Developmental/Basic Skills

(No) Other (please describe)

Discipline (select one or more)

(No) Arts


Social Sciences

Natural Sciences (i.e., space, earth, life, chemistry or physics)

(No) Formal Sciences (i.e., computer science, logic, mathematics, statistics or systems science)

(No) Professions/Applied Sciences

(No) English Composition

(No) General Education

(No) Information Literacy Credit Course

(No) Other (please describe)

AiA Team Members (select one or more)

Assessment Office

(No) Institutional Research

(No) Teaching Faculty

(No) Writing Center

(No) Information/Academic Technology

(No) Student Affairs

(No) Campus Administrator

(No) Library Administrator

Other Librarian

Other (please describe)

Director of First-Year Program (Montserrat)

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Methods and Tools (select one or more)

(No) Survey

(No) Interviews

(No) Focus Group(s)

(No) Observation

(No) Pre/Post Test


(No) Other (please describe)

Direct Data Type (select one or more)

(No) Student Portfolio

Research Paper/Project

(No) Class Assignment (other than research paper/project)

(No) Other (please describe)

Indirect Data Type (select one or more)

(No) Test Scores

(No) GPA

(No) Degree Completion Rate

(No) Retention Rate

Other (please describe)

Citations within the paper

Page 3

Inquiry Question (150 words open)

What was the project's primary inquiry question?

  1. Do freshmen who engage in Personal Research Sessions and library instruction sessions select more appropriate sources for their research?

Executive Summary (150 words open)

  • How does the project align with your institution’s priorities and needs?
  • Why did you choose the outcome and library factor as areas to examine?
  • Why was the team composition appropriate?

  1. “All first-year students enroll in a year-long Montserrat seminar…..[to] develop broad foundational skills, including critical thinking, strong writing and effective communication.” (, accessed June 20, 2016.). Because Montserrat is the beginning of a rigorous writing component of a Holy Cross education, we wanted to determine if Personal Research Sessions (PRS) are a part of students’ success in this area. And, with a shifting approach to reference service – less reference desk coverage, more personal appointments – we wanted to formally assess the PRS program in the context of student writing to gauge next steps for our program.
    The Director of Assessment was enthusiastic to help both team librarians with forming the research question, crafting the rubric, and analyzing the data. The Director of Montserrat was key in identifying faculty appropriate for participating in our project. Our close collaboration culminated in a successful project both in results and in organization and teamwork.

  • What are the significant contributions of your project?
  • What was learned about assessing the library’s impact on student learning and success?
  • What was learned about creating or contributing to a culture of assessment on campus?
  • What, if any, are the significant findings of your project?

  1. We created a sustainable program of personal research sessions contributing positively to student writing projects, strengthened relationships with Assessment and Montserrat, and developed a structure with which to assess next steps with other research and instruction programs and with other groups (i.e. upperclassmen).
    We learned that our personal research sessions (PRS) do have a statistically significant positive impact on student research papers.
    We also learned that it is hard for librarians to contribute to our campus’ assessment efforts. But, with new relationships – Assessment and Montserrat – and clear results to share, we are poised to change that.

  • What will you change as a result of what you learned (– e.g., institutional activities, library functions or practices, personal/professional practice, other)?
  • How does this project contribute to current, past, or future assessment activities on your campus?

  1. -Combined with our growing numbers of Personal Research Session(PRS) sign-ups, a statistically significant impact from our AiA project creates a valuable package of positive data to solicit faculty buy-in for future library programming.
    -In terms of assessment practice, we are equipped to create a better rubric. In future assessments, we’ll be prepared to craft a more effective model.
    -We knew that the issue of freshmen using research in papers was ripe for review. Our library’s research services needed some data to continue progressing, and this project fit perfectly into the timeline for such a review.
    -Further, because the Montserrat program is also currently under review, we are equipped to contribute actual data to that process. And, we are better poised to be consulted in general for Montserrat programming and involvement.

Please list any articles published, presentations given, URL of project website, and team leader contact details.

  1. Whelan, J.L.A. & Hansen, A. (in press). "Personal research sets the stage for change." The Reference Librarian.

    Whelan, J.L.A. (2016, Feb 10). “Making reference personal: Student and faculty outreach through Personal Research Sessions.” Presentation given at “Bridging the Spectrum: A Symposium on Scholarship and Practice in Library and Information Science,” The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

    Whelan, J.L.A. (2015, Aug 20). “Personal Research Sessions: A consultation-based program for research support.” Library Connect Newsletter 13(7).

In first year (Montserrat) research papers, are cited sources higher quality when the student engaged in a personal research session (P RS) with a librarian? Application of a rubric will determine the quality of cited sources in papers with and without PRS. The difference between the two groups will show a correlation, or no correlation, between PRS and effective selection of research.
AiA-Poster-Final_resize.jpg First year students & source selection: Assessing personal research sessions in Montserrat