Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Project SAILS - Kent State University This is a neat project at Kent State University to assess information literacy skills. I worked with the Project group a few years ago back when it was first starting up.

Description from site:

Believing that the ability to locate, access and evaluate information is essential to closing the gap between the information rich and the information poor, libraries across the country have increasingly adopted information literacy as their instructional framework. For many libraries, particularly in schools and higher education institutions, it has become the focal point of their mission and a growing source of demand for resources.

Simultaneously, competition for public resources had intensified. Universities and colleges are being held to increasing levels of fiscal responsibility. Assessment has become a key initiative both for programmatic improvement and to fulfill the obligation for accountability. At Kent State University, we realized that if university administrators were to be persuaded to allocate resources necessary for us to grow our information literacy program, then we must be prepared to substantiate the claim that these skills indeed make a difference institutionally. We asked: What are students' entry skills upon admission to the university, and is there a significant change in skill levels from the freshman year to graduation? If there are significant changes in students' information literacy skills, do those skills then have any correlation to student's academic success and retention? A thorough search of the library literature revealed that our profession was not yet in a position to agree upon the best method for assessing those skills, let alone assert they make a difference.

The purpose of the Project for Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (SAILS) has been to develop an instrument for programmatic level assessment of information literacy skills that is valid and thus credible to university administrators and other academic personnel. We envisioned a tool to measure information literacy that:

- Is standardized
- Contains items not specific to a particular institution or library
- Is easily administered
- Has been proven valid and reliable
- Assesses at institutional level
- Provides for both external and internal benchmarking

With such a tool, we will be able to measure information literacy skills, gather national data, provide norms, and compare information literacy measures with other indicators of student achievement. Armed with this tool, libraries that utilize SAILS will be able to document information literacy skill levels, establish internal and peer benchmarks of performance, pinpoint areas for improvement, identify and justify resource needs, assess and demonstrate effect of changes in their instructional programs. This tool will enable librarians to clarify for themselves and their institutions what role, if any, information literacy plays in student success and retention.

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