Open Conference Systems at Dalhousie, International Association of University Libraries, 2016 Conference

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Assessment as Learning Project: Online Surveys with Immediate Formative Feedback
Yayo Umetsubo

Last modified: 2016-03-07



This paper proposes a practical assessment model that focuses on students’ performance-related variables, for which information literacy (IL) is designed and delivered. High satisfaction rates about library instruction do not always correlate with user’s performance level on elaborating information online and finding quality information; the findings from the case study at Cape Breton University (CBU), Nova Scotia, Canada, provides a solution to the current challenge in the assessment process.



The author launched a research project called Assessment as Learning Project: Online Surveys with Immediate Formative Feedback at CBU by designing and developing two online surveys for students who are taking courses in the School of Arts and Social Sciences. A 30-minute pre-survey (Fluid Survey & Moodle) includes seventeen exercise questions and consists of eighty-eight pieces of feedback in total. Fifteen questions are new, with the exception of two questions adapted from The Effectiveness of a University's Single-session Information Literacy Instruction (Hsieh & Holden, 2010). The pre-survey allows students to gauge their ability to assess credibility, accuracy, authority, and/or currency. Students can also learn how to develop their IL skills by reading each feedback that pops up immediately after students chose an answer. The pre-survey was delivered before the major assignment during the Winter semester. A 20-minute post-survey, including seven new exercise questions, was delivered at the end of the semester. The post-survey was designed to remind students of what they learned from the pre-survey.


Many exercise questions include a quotation from a source. The sources vary and include comments on a historical figure, biography that includes historical accounts on non-Western cultures, data that pertains to emotionally disturbing experiences, and news articles that can commonly be shared through social media (e.g.,  The paper includes an analysis on data from the surveys, for example, students’ progress on their IL skills. In addition, appendices include actual questions and feedback.



The results from the surveys indicate three benefits. First, given a reflective learning opportunity, students can recognize strengths and weaknesses of their information literacy skills and learn how to improve the skills. Second, students can learn what kind of questions they can ask librarians because feedback indicates what kind of questions librarians can answer. Third, instructors/faculty can save the time to repeatedly teach students not to use certain types of sources in their assignments.


Practical implications/Value

The current problem is undergraduate students who are overconfident of their skills, while underestimating the challenge of finding quality information online lack the skills to evaluate information. This can result from the lack of their critical self-reflection. Analyzing the problem, the surveys were designed to focus on various types of sources and how to consult a person/tool/platform as a source of information. Accordingly, the questions in the surveys are not subject or disciplinary specific; however, the skill-based assessment was widely tested in various disciplines in the School of Arts and Social Sciences. The results indicate a number of potentials to use and develop the surveys: for example, they can be incorporated into the curriculum assignment.




Lei Hsieh, M., & Holden, H. A. (2010). The effectiveness of a university's single-session information literacy instruction. Reference Services Review, 38(3), 458-473. doi: 10.1108/00907321011070937