Did you know that selected regional accreditation programs may include information literacy as a core competency skill? Are you involved in the accreditation process for your school or library? Today, many academic libraries are tasked with providing students’ IL learning data for accreditation purposes.
Groups such as WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) have included IL as a core competency along with written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking. From region to region, there can be wide variation with regard to standards, deadlines, and procedures. If you’re not yet aware of these groups, here are other common accrediting bodies for higher education:
- Accrediting Commision for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Longitudinal studies and instructional assessments can be starting points to gather institutional data on student learning progress in IL, particularly if you teach workshops to first year students consistently. However, it may take some time to consider which techniques, programs, or tools to use—and where to even start if you are new to this. Whether or not you’re leading these studies or efforts at your institution, it’s good to know more about them, and to start collecting statistics to understand how your instructional efforts are progressing.
Packaged IL tests such as Project SAILS, TRAILS or National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) can be utilized for this purpose. Distribute the surveys and maintain the results for your own annual reports. If these instruments are unaffordable, you may also customize your own pre/post tests to assess first year student learning using free tools like Google Forms, Survey Monkey, or Qualtrics.
Gathering descriptive data is important: the number of students taught in an IL workshop, the number of classes per semester, the types of classes, and the day/time of each class, etc. Collecting these internal data requires a collaborative effort with colleagues who work in the library, and also those who do not. If your school has an “office of institutional effectiveness” also known as “OIE,” be sure to reach out to those folks and see what kind of tools they prefer. They may also provide you with existing data so that you can identify benchmarks for future improvements. Presenting these data sets can tell an impactful story of how library instruction enhances student learning.
Accreditation planning and process often takes a while, but participating in relevant committees and learning about existing resources and studies may help you make real improvements over time.
Here are some other resources and readings as you think more about the role of IL in the accreditation process:
- ACRL Keeping Up With … National Credentialing and Academic Libraries by Cinthya Ippoliti: A very brief but important article to give information on national credentialing and badges.
- Information Literacy in the Disciplines: Regional Accreditation Standards by ACRL Instruction Section
- Teaching and Learning by ACRL Student Learning and Information Literacy Committee (SLILC): it also includes useful tools and resources for assessment
- Schmiedel, T. (2017). Library support for accreditation: A guide to online resources. College & Research Libraries News, 78(2), 96-100. Doi: https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.78.2.9624