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Information Literacy Assessment Toolkit: Course-Level Assessment

PALNI's Information Literacy Assessment Toolkit

Considerations Prior to Assessing

Course-Level Considerations:

  • Student learning outcomes
  • Curriculum assignments
  • Pedagogy methodology
  • Goals for success

See PALNI's Framework for Information Literacy guide for learning outcome ideas that align with ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education.

Instructional Strategies
The resources linked below provide a variety of pedagogical techniques to apply in the classroom prior to assessment. The Librarian Evaluation tab also provides information and resources for improving teaching.

Course-Level Assessment

5 questions to ask for classroom assessment

Instructional Design
Prior to assessing information literacy instruction, intentional design must be in place. To design effective instructional sessions, Zald & Gilchrist (2008) recommend asking 5 questions.

  1. Outcome -- What do you want the student to be able to do?
  2. Information Literacy Curriculum -- What does the student need to know in order to do this well?
  3. Pedagogy -- What type of instruction will best enable the learning?
  4. Assessment -- How will the student demonstrate the learning?
  5. Criteria for Evaluation -- How will I know the student has done this well?

defining classroom assessment

Classroom Assessment Defined
When performing classroom assessment, the cycle of plan, do, respond is imperative. Consider the following:

  • Classroom assessment is learner-centered and formative.
  • It assesses what students know and what they can do.
  • Feedback is almost immediate, as it is usually done in the classroom.
  • It does not assess student satisfaction with instruction or teaching methods.


formative or summative classroom assessment

Assessment can be done one of two ways: formative or summative. Formative assessment involves gathering data for improving student learning, whereas summative assessment uses data to assess how much a student knows or has retained at the completion of a learning sequence (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & the National Council on Measurement in Education [AERA, APA & NCME], 2014).

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment has been defined as “activities undertaken by teachers—and by their students in assessing themselves—that provide information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning activities” (Black & Wiliam, 2010, p. 82)

Formative assessments occur in two primary forms: spontaneous and planned (Cook, 2009). Spontaneous formative assessments are impromptu, such as (a) when a teacher reads misunderstanding in the body language of students during a class session and queries the student about her understanding, (b) when a teacher calls on a student to provide an example of a concept just covered, or (c) when question-and-answer sessions are conducted during a lesson. Planned formative assessments include activities such as quizzes and homework exercises that are assigned to assess student progress.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments are “cumulative assessments . . . that intend to capture what a student has learned, or the quality of the learning, and judge performance against some standards” (National Research Council, p. 25). Unlike formative assessments, which are generally used for providing feedback to students and teachers, summative assessments are generally high-stakes assessments and used to get a final assessment of how much learning has taken place—that is, how much does a student know (Gardner, 2010).

characteristics of formative and summative assessments
Formative and Summative Comparison Chart (Google Doc, make a copy to reuse)

rubric examples for classroom assessment

Grant Wiggins in his book Educative Assessment defines rubrics as:

A set of scoring guidelines for evaluating students’ work. Rubrics answer the following questions: By what criteria should performance be judged? Where should we look and what should we look for to judge performance success? What does the range in the quality of performance look like? How do we determine validity, reliability, and fairly what score should be given and what that score means? How should the different levels of quality be described and distinguished from one another? 

In developing a rubric, it is important to select the specific work to assess. The first example (Rubric: Worksheet) provides a scoring guideline for a research worksheet completed during the library instruction session. The second example (Synthesis Rubric) is a rubric of a research paper completed after the instruction session.



synthesis rubric


Worksheet Rubric (Google Doc, make a copy to reuse)
Synthesis Rubric (Google Doc, make a copy to reuse)

Best Practices

Metacognitive Evaluations can be done as pre or post session reflections, as well as after a specific activity or can used to analyze a selected source/website. They allow students to reflect on personal strategies/thinking patterns.

Metacognition from Vanderbilt University
Ten Metacognitive Teaching Strategies


The examples below provide a variety of metacognitive statements for you to choose from. These example statements can be applied to general instruction or information literacy and research-specific scenarios. You can decide to have students rate themselves on a scale or select true/false on each statement.