Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Gets Tested Gets Taught; What Gets Reported Gets Measured

I started this post by first going on a bit of a frustrated rant regarding the lack of a specific curriculum document from the Ministry of Education for information studies and the MIA vision statement for libraries that was submitted to the Ministry last year. Then I changed my mind and am going in another direction because as I was writing I realized that we do have curriculum - it's just that it's embedded into the content curriculum documents and it's not in one convenient spot. It would be nice if it were in one spot but it's not so I'll move on.

So now the challenge is how do we assess these expectations in a precise way? How do we collect data on student achievement with information literacy skills? And how can we use this data to advocate for students in this information-age?

Well, I found this interesting FREE assessment tool for information literacy skills linked in my PLN (personal learning network). It's called Trails: Tool for Real-time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills developed at Kent State University. It's free (did I say this already?), it will assign student logins to take an online multiple choice test, gives individual student reports and class reports in pdf. I took the grade 9 test and scored 94% ( I got 2 questions wrong). In the class report it told me exactly what areas needed improvement (topic development and evaluating sources). I can't attach the exact reports that it generated for me (Blogger doesn't allow it) but there are samples available on the site and you'll get an idea of the type of data it's collecting.

It's worth a look. If you can get by some of the American content, it's an excellent outline of the types of skills that need to be taught to help students achieve. For example, I created an account (it's easy) and had a look at the grade 6 test (only tests for grade 6 and grade 9 are posted). One of the first items is narrowing a topic. Let's think about this. Narrowing a topic is really important in this time of information overload. Where else are we asking students to narrow their topics? In writing! And where does this fit when we teach writing? In ideas - the first traits of writing. So you see when we teach skills in information literacy, we are not only teaching them how to research but really how to read and write and think. Literacy skills.

But back to the main theme of this post, how can we use this little tool? In a couple of ways. One, it would make an excellent diagnostic to get both class and individual student base-line data. Based on the data, as a teacher librarian you could target the exact skills that students need to improve. You could then test at the end of the year and look for growth in individual students and classes. Even though it has tests for grade 6 and 9, you could use the test items and modify them for other grade levels based on the expectations in the curriculum docs.

Bottom line is that data needs to drive instruction. We need to collect data on student achievement in information literacy. This little tool may help you do this in a more precise way.
Remember, what gets tested gets taught and what gets reported gets measured.


paul c said...

Sounds like a promising little diagnostic test on literacy skills.

I am wondering; does the test list all the literacy skills it has set out to measure?

It would be interesting to know what those skills are.

Sharon Seslija said...

There are a variety of skills tested. If you would like, you could take the test yourself and see what information literacy skills are assessed. Just email me and I will give you a student code number and the website link. Once you take the test, I'll get a report on your results broken down into major skill categories and share that with you. Let me know via our regular email if you are interested.