Assessment in Action

Augustana College: Project Description

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Primary Outcome Examined (select one or more)

(No) 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)

Other (please describe)

student learning: special collections

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)

Other (please describe)

instruction: material artifacts

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) Humanities

(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

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

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

Pre/Post Test


(No) Other (please describe)

Direct Data Type (select one or more)

(No) Student Portfolio

(No) Research Paper/Project

Class Assignment (other than research paper/project)

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)


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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. This Assessment in Action project addressed the effect of using original primary materials on first-year students’ information literacy (IL) and critical thinking skills. IL and critical thinking are among Augustana College’s college-wide student learning outcomes.
    More than 25% of Augustana first-years use Special Collections each year, yet we had little data on how this affected student learning. This study evaluated a worksheet given as a pre- and post-test around class visits to work in Special Collections, and papers by students who did and did not visit Special Collections with class.
    Our team consisted of a special collections librarian, the college’s director of assessment and institutional research, and a faculty member/administrator who chairs the campus assessment committee and has taught using special collections materials. We later added a research and instruction librarian who is the library’s point person on assessment and who has worked closely with special collections.

  • 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. Our project provides a model for performance assessment of student learning in special collections, something absent in current literature. While our results were inconclusive, we expect that this study will be of value to the community. Venturing into uncharted territory showed that the library was willing to continue its pioneering efforts in assessment on campus, and that interesting things can be learned from assessment of parts of the college that are not traditionally considered to be data-driven. In assessing the library’s impact, we ran up against a common problem of students not having much time to reflect or integrate their library experience into their work; thus, we recommend repeating such a study when students are farther along in their academic careers.

  • 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 project aligns closely with other recent qualitative assessments of the Augustana library’s first-year instruction program and will contribute to the library’s ongoing efforts to coordinate outcomes and instruction inside and outside Special Collections. Because the skills we evaluated--information literacy and critical thinking--are also college-wide student learning outcomes, the project will have continuing implications as the college assesses those outcomes in years ahead.
    Although the results of the project were ultimately inconclusive, the college’s new special collections librarian will be able to use the AiA team’s analysis to inform her own pedagogy for first-year students and, we hope, conduct future assessments to advance special collections instruction at Augustana and beyond.

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

  1. "CARLI Libraries Assessing Library Impact: Engaging a National Initiative" panel at the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois Annual Meeting, Champaign IL, November 1, 2013.

    Contact Information:
    Sarah Horowitz
    Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts
    Head of Special Collections
    Haverford College
    (for information on instruction and assessment in special collections)

    Stefanie Bluemle
    Research and Instruction Librarian
    Augustana College
    (for information on implementation and Augustana College)

Assessing Hands-On Learning in Special Collections: A Pilot Study

How does experience in special collections (SC) affect first-years’ information literacy and critical thinking skills? Students completed pre- and post-tests of their ability to describe, analyze, and engage with primary documents. Then, papers by students who used SC were compared with papers by students who had not to identify differences in source use. Learn the results of this study and implications for future assessment of student learning in SC.