Information Literacy Assessment

The purpose of this guide is to provide a starting point for those who need to assess information literacy student learning outcomes, particularly those working with the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

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Rachel McMullin
F.H. Green Library, Room 209

Purpose of this guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide a starting point for those who need to assess information literacy student learning outcomes, particularly those working with the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. It includes:

  • a document mapping the outcomes of the old Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education to the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education
  • descriptions of each frame in the Framework and how they relate both to the Standards and the other frames
  • sample learning outcomes for each frame
  • sample assessment materials tied to those outcomes

Mapping the Standards to the Framework

The Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education are very different documents.  I decided to map the Standards (including individual indicators and outcomes) to the Framework, as a way to help myself sort through how the two documents relate to each other and what is new in the Framework.  I chose to move from the Standards to the Framework, because I was more comfortable moving from the more familial document to the less familiar one.   Amanda Hovious  has also created a very useful document, Alignment Charts for ACRL Standards and Proposed Framework, which moves from the Framework back to the Standards.

What I learned during the process is that just about everything in the Standards still has a place in the Framework.  I think that is important for librarians with existing learning outcomes based on the Standards.  In most cases it will be easy to align those outcomes with the Framework, though you may be inspired to revise them first.


Assessing student learning based on the framework

Assessment can be very intimidating for the novice.  Basing one's own assessment on someone else's example saves so much time and energy.  So, for each frame, I've developed a number of sample learning outcomes and accompanying sample assessment tools.  It's my hope that librarians and faculty will take them and modify them to suit their own needs, or use them as a starting point for developing completely new ones.

Type of assessment

I've focused on summative assessment (formal assessment done at the end of instruction to evaluate what students have learned).  If you are doing more informal formative assessment during instruction, I highly recommend Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians by Bowles-Terry and Kvenlid for more assessment ideas. 

Assessment tools and student learning outcomes

My focus on summative assessment has affected the outcomes I've made and the types of assessment tools I've developed.  I've grouped these tools into three categories:

  1. multiple choice and true/false questions (great for one-shots or when you want to test a large group)
  2. short assignments or quizzes where students might write anywhere from few words to multiple paragraphs (for librarians who have a bit more class time or for faculty teaching credit-bearing courses)
  3. rubrics (for use on evaluation more substantial assignments, like traditional research papers)


With those groups in mind, I organized sample learning outcomes in the same three categories, trying to word each so that it would be suitable for assessment by one of the types of tools above.  A lot of this has to do with the verbs used in the outcomes.  While I mostly used verbs from Bloom's Taxonomy, I made my own division of them based on what seems suitable to each type of assessment. 

I based my outcomes primarily on the knowledge practices and dispositions provided for each frame, though I've sometimes taken inspiration from the frame descriptions as well.  If you have worked with the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, you may notice that many of my outcomes would fit quite well into that document as well as the Framework, but I've also tried to write outcomes for material that wasn't included (at least explicitly) in the Standards.

Assessment benchmarks

While you are developing outcomes and assessment tools, you should also be thinking about setting your assessment benchmark levels.  A benchmark is how you decide if you have been successful in achieving your outcomes.  They usually indicate a certain percentage of students whom you want to achieve a certain score on an assessment.  I've included a few examples in this document

Can everything in the Framework be assessed?

That depends on what type of assessment you are able to use.  The Framework focuses more on concepts and less on skills and many of those concepts can't be assessed through a multiple choice question or even a worksheet.  So, some outcomes will only be assessable in the context of a credit-bearing course with one or more longer assignments.

Select Bibliography

There is a growing body of literature on the Framework.  I've selected the following because I found them extremely helpful.  Some do a good job explaining the Framework and how it differs from the Standards.  Others deal with teaching and assessment under the Framework.

Hofer, A. R., Townsend, L., & Brunetti, K. (2012). Troublesome concepts and information literacy: Investigating threshold concepts for IL instruction. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(4), 387-405.

Townsend, L., Brunetti, K., & Hofer, A. R. (2011). Threshold concepts and information literacy. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 11(3), 853-869.

  • A lot of the Framework was based on the work done by Hofer, Townsend, and Brunetti in these two articles.

Foasberg, N. M. (2015).  From Standards to Frameworks for IL: How the ACRL Framework addresses critiques of the Standards. Portal: Libraries & The Academy, 15(4), 699-717.

  • This article explains the philosophies upon which the Standards and Framework were created.  It is an extremely useful article for understanding how and why the two documents differ, as it discusses how the Framework was influenced by critiques of the Standards.

Morgan, P. (2015). Pausing at the threshold. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(1), 183-195.

  • Morgan presents a critique of the use threshold concepts in the Framework.

Beilin, I. (2015, February 25).  Beyond the threshold: Conformity, resistance, and the ACRL Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education.  Retrieved from

  • While the Foasberg article summarizes critiques of the Standards, Beilin summarizes early critiques of the Framework.

Bowles-Terry, M. & Kvenild, C. (2015).  Classroom assessment techniques for librarians.  Chicago, IL:  Association of College and Research Libraries.

  • This is a great resource for librarians who want to use formative assessment (less formal assessment that takes place during the instruction session to see where students might be struggling).  They provide examples of many different types of assessments and also discuss how to evaluate or score the results.

Jacobson, T. E., & Gibson, C. (2015). First thoughts on implementing the Framework for Information Literacy. Communications In Information Literacy, 9(2), 102-110.

  • Jacobson and Gibson provide not only a general introduction to the Framework but also two examples of using the Framework (including learning outcomes and assessments).

Carncross, M. (2015). Redeveloping a course with the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. College & Research Libraries News, 76(5), 248-273.

  • I found this article useful because it provides an example of a librarian re-evaluating and adjusting existing learning outcomes based on the Framework.

Garcia, L., & Labatte, J. (2015). Threshold concepts as metaphors for the creative process: Adapting the Framework for Information Literacy to studio art classes. Art Documentation: Bulletin Of The Art Libraries Society Of North America, 34(2), 235-248.

  • This provides an example where a librarian and professor found the Framework to be a better fit than the Standards.  They also describe their assessment.
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