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.

Scholarship as Conversation

Scholarship is an ongoing process that builds and changes over time.  Not everyone agrees on answers, even within a single field, much less different disciplines.  Students have to learn a lot about a particular field before they will be considered a part of that discipline and allowed to join the process.

What is nice about this frame is that it brings scholarship to the forefront much more than the Standards did.  Teaching students about scholarship and scholarly sources is a key component of information literacy in higher education, especially at the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels. I don't particularly like the word 'conversation' that was selected to describe scholarship.  To me the word implies something a bit more informal than the scholarly process usually is.  I also think that by focusing on scholarship as discourse, it downplays the fact that while every academic discipline engages in scholarship, there are big differences in how that scholarship is made and distributed.

Scholarship as Conversation has a strong relationship with Research as Inquiry, as both focus on research as an iterative process.  It intersects slightly with Information Has Value, because both address properly acknowledging sources.  Scholarship as Conversation also has ties to both Authority is Constructed and Contextual and Information Creation as Process, because authority and creation process are both integral to understanding scholarly sources.

In the Standards, scholarship (and actually the word scholarly is the one used) appears only once (Standard One, Performance Indicator 2, Outcome d).  There are nods to methods and source types that are specific to particular disciplines, but those are scattered throughout the Standards.  During the process of mapping the Standards to the Framework, I actually made the most connections to Scholarship as Conversation from Standard 3, but I was a bit shocked at how small a part scholarship/scholarly sources had in the Standards.

Learning outcomes that can be assess through multiple-choice questions

Students will be able to identify characteristics of scholarly sources.

  •     Which of the following is the best definition of scholarly?
  •     Which of the following formats is not commonly used for scholarly sources?
  •     Which of the following best describes the peer-review process?


Students will be able to differentiate between various scholarly formats/creation types.

  •     Which of the following scholarly sources is most likely to be reviewed by an editor?   
  •     Which of the following is the best description of a conference proceedings?
  •     What is the average length of a scholarly journal article?


Students will be able to identify characteristics of scholarship in discipline X.

  •     Which of the following is a prominent journal in discipline X?
  •     Which of the following is a type of research conducted in discipline X?
  •     Which of the following is the best description of a primary source?


Students will be able to distinguish between scholarly and non-scholarly (popular) sources.

  •     Which of the following is a scholarly source?
  •     Is the following a scholarly source?  (providing a citation or description)


Students will be able to match citations with the represented format.

  •     Which of the following is a correct way to list a journal article in APA style?
  •     Which of the following is the correct format for an MLA in-text citation?

Learning outcomes for shorter assignements or quizzes.

Students will employ correct citation usage in style X.

  • A worksheet where students must construct citations in a specific style or identify and fix mistakes in ones provided.


Students will be able to explain the characteristics of scholarly works.

  • Ask students to list X many characteristics of scholarly work (either generally or in a specific discipline).
  • Ask students to compare and contrast different types of scholarly publications.


Students will be able to discuss the potential venues for scholarship available within discipline  X.

  • Assignment to research conferences in a specific discipline or on a topic.


Students will be able to give examples of how scholarly discourse occurs in discipline X.

  • Assignment where students use citations and citation indexing to track the discussion around on a specific topic.


Students will be able to identify  journals (or publishers) important to discipline X.

  • Assignment to research a specific journal (e.g., editorial process, what they publish, how selective).
  • Assignment to locate X number of journals that would be useful on a particular topic and justify the choices.
  • Assignment to compare several journals (or book publishers) within the same discipline (how are they the same/different, and what roles does each fill).


Students will be able to describe research methods that are commonly used in discipline X. Also listed under Research as Inquiry.

  • A quiz with questions about different research methods used in a specific field.
  • Assignment to locate an article (or other source) that uses a specific method and evaluate it.
  • Ask students to provide definitions of specific research methods, or come up with an example of a research project that would employ a specific research method.


Students will be able to describe  how the conversation around a particular topic have changed over time within a discipline (or across multiple disciplines).

  • Assignment where the student must find publications on a topic from two or more different time periods and discuss what has changed (or stayed the same) in research in that area.
  • Assignment where the student tracks the publication history of a specific scholar.

Learning outcomes for longer assignments with rubrics

A lot of this frame is about specific disciplinary knowledge that isn't introduced to students until upper-level undergraduate classes or even graduate school (e.g., critiquing scholarly sources, identifying the contribution of a particular scholarly source, changes in scholarship over time). For lower-level classes where professors may just want students to find a few scholarly sources, I would suggest looking at the learning outcomes for Information Creation as a Process or even Authority is Constructed and Contextual.

Students will be able to describe potential scholarly sources that might be available (in terms of disciplines, types of research,  and formats/delivery methods).

Students will be able to describe aspects of the scholarly discussion(s) related to their research topic.

Students will be able to evaluate/critique specific scholarly works (based on knowledge of methods, standard practices, theories, and types of format/creation processes and authority  that are valued in discipline X).  

Students will be able to integrate appropriate scholarly sources into their assignment.

Students will be able to identify the contributions of specific scholarly works to the scholarly discourse surrounding their topic.

Students will be able to connect their research topic/question to the larger scholarly conversation.

Students will be able to follow the conventions of discipline X and citation style X in in paper format,  citations, and bibliography.

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