Assessment in Action

Dalhousie University: Project Description

Page 1


Primary Outcome Examined (select one or more)

(No) Student Learning: Assignment

(No) Student Learning: Course

(No) Student Learning: Major

(No) Student Learning: Degree

Student Engagement

Student Success

(No) Academic Intimacy/Rapport

(No) Enrollment


(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) 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) 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)

(No) Assessment Office

Institutional Research

(No) Teaching Faculty

(No) Writing Center

(No) Information/Academic Technology

Student Affairs

(No) Campus Administrator

(No) Library Administrator

Other Librarian

Other (please describe)

Assistant Dean, Student Matters

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Methods and Tools (select one or more)


(No) Interviews

(No) Focus Group(s)

(No) Observation

(No) Pre/Post Test

(No) Rubric

Other (please describe)

GPA analysis

Direct Data Type (select one or more)

(No) Student Portfolio

(No) 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) Degree Completion Rate

(No) Retention Rate

Other (please describe)

survey responses

Page 3

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. Dalhousie University has the lowest retention rate in the “U15” group of Canadian research-intensive universities, and so has made improving retention a priority in our new strategic directions. The Dal Libraries felt it was important to develop a small “seed” program of one-on-one Research Assistance (RA) for readmitted Arts & Social Science students, and to measure the impact of RA on two factors that the literature states to have a strong effect on retention: academic success (improvements in GPAs) and the student’s sense of personal connection to the university (gathered via a survey). The campus team included all necessary contact points to inform upper levels of university administration and consisted of the Assessment Librarian, two RA Librarians, the Assistant Dean for Student Matters, the AVP of Student Academic Success, and the Research Office.

  • 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 provided some evidence via GPA increases and student feedback, that our RA service is having a direct impact on academic performance and personal connections to the institution which then impact student retention. GPAs of our small group of students who attended two RA sessions increased an average of .371, versus the control group’s increase of .196; and 92% of the students surveyed said RA experience improved their sense of personal connection to Dalhousie. By being an active participant in these efforts to curb attrition, the library is being recognized as a contributor to student success. We have learned that there are many factors affecting student retention, making it a very difficult task to measure program impact. Our experience with this project (which will be ongoing) and knowledge of assessment principles has boosted our profile and we are now being called upon to provide assessment guidance with related projects.

  • 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. This assessment project was considered a seed project. We anticipated a larger experimental group and acknowledge that the resulting group (25 student subjects) was small; however, this small group provided very exciting data that compels us to continue and expand this study with a slightly revised program (based on lessons learned). This assessment project contributes to the research already being conducted by the university on impacts of program intervention on student outcomes; however, we have learned that this is a disjointed effort and department analysis is often done in isolation of other program interventions/effects of services. We recommend that our Research Office take the lead on retention-related student data analysis, pulling data from as many service/intervention/academic programs (RA included) as possible. As the university moves forward with our new strategic directions that contain an emphasis on student retention, the libraries will no doubt be included in these discussions, research and planning.

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

  1. Contact information:

    Linda Bedwell
    User-Experience & Assessment Librarian
    Dalhousie University
    6225 University Ave
    PO BOX 15000
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    B3H 4R2

Research Assistance Linked to Student Retention

The Dalhousie University Libraries created a “seed” program of mandatory, one-on-one Research Assistance for readmitted Arts & Social Science students to improve their research skills and their personal connection with the university. By surveying the students and analyzing changes to GPAs, we have shown a possible correlation between Research Assistance and student retention.