Assessment in Action

Appalachian State University: 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

(No) Instruction: Games

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)

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


(No) 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)

(No) Assessment Office

(No) 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) 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)

Not applicable

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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. Assessment is highly valued at Appalachian State University and librarians in Belk Library are leading many assessment efforts on campus. Our Assessment in Action project studied the impact that library instruction in the use primary sources has on student learning. The project also allowed us to contribute to the larger conversation in higher education and academic libraries on the value of using primary sources in student work. Our project team consisted of four librarians and three teaching faculty members, allowing for a productive collaboration. We focused our project on instruction with primary sources as it was an area of our library’s instruction program that had not yet been formally assessed. The guiding question was: Does exposure to primary sources through library instruction and class assignments improve students’ abilities to think critically and creatively? This question established a framework throughout the project as we identified criteria and assessed student learning outcomes.

  • 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. Assessing the library’s impact on student learning and success is challenging. Above all, these assessment efforts contribute to longitudinal opportunities for assessing information literacy across the curriculum. This project set the stage as a model for librarian/faculty collaboration and provided an opportunity for librarians to be involved at the assignment level. We recognized the connection between assignments and the perceived needs of library information literacy sessions and how assessment impacts future instructional efforts. This project contributes to a growing culture of assessment on our campus by benchmarking data and establishing partnerships across campus. As librarians, we are in a position to communicate with faculty regarding the information literacy needs of students, discovering that learning takes place on all sides: by students, librarians, and faculty. Based on our experience, we have a higher degree of knowledge and understanding of student needs from multiple perspectives.

  • 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. As a result of this project we continue to assess our primary source instruction. Moving forward we intend to complete a similar project in the upcoming academic year now that we have a baseline of data. The library instruction program has previously been assessed primarily through the use of student and faculty surveys. Being able to use student assignments to assess the effectiveness of instruction was an essential component for this project, and we would like to continue to examine student work for future assessment efforts. This project has shown that we need to foster closer collaboration with faculty at the assignment level and reexamine the pedagogical methods of instruction (such as online tools) used to introduce students to using primary sources.

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

  1. Team Leader Contact Information:
    Cynthia Harbeson
    Processing Archivist/Assistant Professor
    Carol Grotnes Belk Library
    Appalachian State University
    Boone, North Carolina

How Primary Source Instruction Informs Student Learning

As part of a collaborative assessment effort, a team of librarians at Appalachian State University partnered with History and Appalachian Studies faculty to assess the impact of primary source instruction on student learning. We examined student assignments from three classes to answer our guiding question: Does exposure to primary sources through library instruction and class assignments improve students' abilities to think critically and creatively?