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Assessment in Action

Swarthmore College: Project Description

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Primary Outcome Examined (select one or more)

Student Learning: Assignment

Student Learning: Course

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)

Instruction

(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)

Undergraduate

(No) Graduate

(No) Incoming

(No) Graduating

(No) Pre-College/Developmental/Basic Skills

(No) Other (please describe)

Discipline (select one or more)

(No) Arts

(No) Humanities

Social Sciences

(No) 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

Institutional Research

Teaching Faculty

(No) Writing Center

(No) Information/Academic Technology

(No) Student Affairs

(No) Campus Administrator

(No) Library Administrator

Other Librarian

(No) Other (please describe)

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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

Rubric

(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

(No) Other (please describe)

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Inquiry Question (150 words open)

What was the project's primary inquiry question?

  1. By exploring how undergraduate students communicate evidence in written work, this project aims to identify productive zones of intervention in which librarians and faculty might focus their teaching efforts. In partnership with the Sociology/Anthropology and Educational Studies departments, the AiA team conducted a rubric-based evaluation of senior theses and group projects. We focused our analysis on the following question:
    How do students support their claims with source-based evidence?

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. Growing out of our strong institutional commitment to undergraduate education, we undertook a collaborative assessment to explore how students navigate the relationship between research and writing. By partnering with two academic departments and evaluating completely different projects, we gained insight into some of the challenges our students face with integrating sources into their writing.

    Our work suggests that this is an area in which librarians are well-positioned to collaborate with academic departments. The results of this project give strength to our philosophy of teaching research as a rhetorical process. We identified aspects of the ‘communication of evidence’ with which students struggled more frequently.

    Joining librarians and faculty, members of the AiA team included the Director of Institutional Research and the Associate Provost for leadership on assessment, whose support demonstrated the value of our initiative and allowed us to explore meaningful assessment.

  • 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. This project offered a valuable opportunity to reflect on our pedagogical practice. The process of developing and conducting this assessment sparked greater discussion of teaching and learning both within our department and with our faculty colleagues.

    Our assessment highlighted some potential zones of intervention in which more students seemed to face challenges, such as contextualizing evidence and maintaining an independent voice while discussing ideas from outside sources.

    We intentionally chose to focus on one aspect of information literacy: the incorporation and contextualization of evidence. This relatively narrow focus afforded us a nuanced perspective on the multiple ways in which students’ skill levels vary. ‘Communication of evidence’ usually receives a single score on information literacy rubrics, whereas we evaluated each aspect of this concept separately. We found that individual students scored well on different combinations of skills; some students cited consistently but struggled to contextualize their sources, others vice-versa.

  • 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. Our assessment points in the direction of focusing on specific zones of intervention when advising students during the research process. Students find and cite a variety of sources but struggle with how to use them. By framing source use with Joseph Bizup’s BEAM method, one can help students move away from accumulating sources to the point of using sources intentionally, successfully positioning their argument within the framework of existing scholarship. After completion of the analysis, we ask ourselves the following questions:

    How can library instruction emphasize research as a process of exploration and building rather than one of accumulation?

    What other strategies might we employ to better understand student facility with research-based writing?

    Particularly in the small college environment, how can librarians partner with faculty to reach more students at their own varying levels of research experience and facility?

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

  1. Pamela Harris, Associate College Librarian for Research & Instruction
    Swarthmore College
    pharris1@swarthmore.edu

By exploring how undergraduate students communicate evidence in written work, this project aims to identify productive zones of intervention in which librarians and faculty might focus their teaching efforts. In partnership with the Sociology/Anthropology and Educational Studies departments, the AiA team conducted a rubric-based evaluation of senior theses and group projects. Possible zones of intervention suggested by this analysis include the contextualization of evidence and maintaining student voice while discussing ideas from outside sources.
Filename
aia_final_V7.png Finding the Zones: Communicating Source-Based Evidence in Undergraduate Research