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The Teaching and Learning Library


American Association for Higher Education. (1996). Principles of good practice of assessing student learning.

Ascough, R.S. (2011). Learning (about) outcomes: How the focus on assessment can help overall course design. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 4(1/2), 44-61.

Earl, L. M. & Katz, S. (2006). Rethinking classroom assessment with purpose in mind: Assessment for learning, assessment
as learning, assessment of learning
. Winnipeg : Manitoba Education, Citizenship & Youth.

Fostaty Young, S. & Wilson, R.J. (2000). Assessment and learning: The ICE approach. Winnipeg, MB: Portage and Main Press. 

Gilchrist, D. & Zald, A. E. (2008). Instruction & program design through assessment. In Cox, C. & Lindsay, E. (Eds.), Information literacy instruction handbook (pp. 164-192). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Huba, M. E., & Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Mackey, T.P. & Jacobson, T. E. (Eds). (2010). Collaborative information literacy assessments: Strategies for evaluating teaching and learning. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Maki, P. (2010). Assessing for learning:  Building a sustainable commitment across the institution. Sterling, VA : Stylus.

Oakleaf, M. (2008). Dangers and opportunities: A conceptual map of information literacy assessment approaches. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 8(3), 233–253.

Oakleaf, M. (2010). Rubric training session at Assessment Immersion 2010

Workshop Materials


The Quality Assurance Framework requires that we demonstrate the impact of library instruction. What are students learning? This page offers ideas for identifying assessment tools that will give you feedback on student achievement of your intended learning outcomes.

Learning Framework: Backward Design Model

Why assess?

  • Establish expectations for what students will learn and how they will demonstrate their learning.
  • Provide students with opportunities and methods for engaging with the course material.
  • Provide effective feedback on learning outcomes (formative and summative)
  • Methods of assessment depend on level of skill (introductory – reinforcement – mastery), form of learning (cognitive, affective, psychomotor), and course context.

What forms of assessment are useful?

Clickers can be used for pre-post tests or during the session to assess understanding before introducing new content.
One-minute paper: usually at the end of a session. May be helpful to ask what they are still unsure about, especially if you have the opportunity to meet this class again. However, if you do not see the class again, at least you would know what may need to be explained better another time.
Pre- and post-tests: both could be used in one session, or the pre-test can be done at the beginning of a series of sessions and the post test after all sessions and formal assessments are completed.
Quiz (paper or online) in-class or at end of an online learning module. If you use MCQs (Multiple-choice questions) the marking and compilation can be done automatically.
Research projects: students submit the literature search to be marked by librarian(s) (see rubrics below)


 How do you decide which method to use? Consider the following factors:

Are you able to give formative feedback to help the student improve their learning, no marks assigned?

Do you only have a one-shot session?

Do you know the assignment that students are working on?

Can your assessment be integrated into a course assignment?

Case Scenarios

Scenario 1

Second year Nursing students (Nurs205) are given an assignment jointly designed by the faculty and the liaison librarian. The students select a nursing intervention, design a research question, search CINAHL (Nursing and Allied Health), select 5 articles and create an annotated bibliography. The librarians mark the question and database search (see Short marking checklist in the Workshop Materials box) while the faculty mark the bibliography.

Scenario 2

Medical students are assigned a drug advertisement and need to research the claims made by the drug company to see if they are substantiated in the literature, specifically in clinical trials about this drug. The students need to research their drug in various independent handbooks, create a PICO question and a literature search in EMBASE (strong database for pharmacology). The librarians mark this assignment using the "Long Marking Checklist" in the Workshop Materials box.

Scenario 3

First year MSc in Occupational and Physical Therapy students have a major research project that spans their 2-year program. After selecting a topic, designing a question and searching different relevant databases, they meet with a librarian for a consultation about their progress to date. Although the consultations are mandatory, the feedback is formative (ie not for marks) and the librarians use a marking rubric (see Workshop Materials box) to ensure that the students have done the required level of preparation. The next step is for the students to apply their improved searching skills in the rest of their research project.

What are rubrics?

  • Scoring guides usually in chart form
  • Outline explicit sets of criteria at progressive levels of learning performance
  • For written or oral assessment
  • Enable learner self-evaluation
  • Facilitate consistent, accurate, unbiased scoring
  • Can be used over time and across programs

Why use rubrics?

Oakleaf (2008) offers these reasons:

  • Students understand expectations and receive direct feedback
  • Students can self-assess
  • Consistent and reliable scoring
  • Can be reused at different times and in different courses
  • Provide a focus on standards/outcomes
  • Produce detailed data about instruction that can be communicated to others

How do you design a marking rubric?

Step1 Develop learning outcomes for the content.
Step2     Identify tasks that reveal understanding of outcomes.
Step3 Describe what an exemplary essay or project would look like. Use the ACRL standards as a tool to prompt your thinking across a range of information literacy evaluation criteria
Step4 Write descriptions so students will understand them
Step5 Request feedback from students or even create the rubric with student input.


Tips for Writing Multiple Choice Questions

  • Link to important learning outcomes, not trivia.
  • Single, definite statement without double negatives.
  • Avoid wordiness and complex sentences.
  • Only one correct response.
  • State the stem in a positive form. If negative must be used, CAPITALIZE, underline, or italic negative term.
  • Use only plausible alternatives as incorrect responses.
  • Avoid giving clues to the correct option.
  • Each response should be about the same length.
  • Don’t use all of the above or none of the above.
  • Avoid patterns of responses.