Saturday, November 19, 2011

RRSA and More

We are down to the homestretch with a condensed week ahead due to Thanksgiving Break and then only a few weeks until the semester finishes up!  With the end quickly drawing near, I realized it was time to focus on some final projects.  I spent this past week reading about Research Readiness Self-Assessment (RRSA) and then decided to use this tool to see how it worked and what it covered.

RRSA, developed by Lana Ivanitskaya and other librarians or "learning researchers" at Central Michigan University, is a tool used to compare student's perceptions of their research abilities with actual research skills.  It seems that this tool became necessary in part because academic librarians desire to effectively help students learn research skills (Ivanitskaya et al. 2008, p. 510).  With the explosion of knowledge and the ability to access it from almost anywhere at almost anytime, lifelong learners need a different skill set to be efficient researchers who obtain quality information.

Many students turn to the Internet for research thinking they can find the information they need quickly.  The problem is in knowing if the information is scholarly, trustworthy, or accurate.  The simplicity of using Google or Yahoo is almost pacifying, but the quality of information obtained is not always adequate.  When librarians train students to use "licensed electronic databases" the searches are more complex but produce better, more scholarly results (Ivanitskaya, Laus, & Casey, 2004, p. 168).  The challenge in getting students to see the benefits of this second type of search above and beyond this first type of search is in showing that perception does not always match actual skills.  This is where RRSA enters the picture.  If students can see that their research skills are not as developed as their perception of having such skills, the student is more willing to seek help, or even pay attention during information literacy sessions.

I decided to see what the RRSA was like and what questions were asked on it, so I received access to this tool and tried it out.  At first, I was somewhat anxious because I did not want to receive a poor assessment, but as I read over the first several questions I gained confidence.  In the end, I discovered that my research skills were actually higher than my perception of having those skills!  I have worked in a library for several years now, so I have a moderate-to-high level of research/library experience.  My experience working in periodicals coupled with my time spent in library school thus far have greatly helped with my ability to evaluate information.  Much of what I learned in LIS 501 (Reference and Information Sources) aided in using this online assessment tool.

After reading more about RRSA (see the articles listed below) and using the online assessment tool, I have a better understanding of the need for information literacy sessions, and a somewhat clearer idea of what areas to focus on.  For me, this week is ending with an epiphany of sorts in the area of research readiness - ie. students' perceptions of their research skills as compared to their actual research skills.  In a couple of weeks, I might have the opportunity to proctor a class of students using the RRSA online tool.  We'll have to wait and see how that works out!

Ivanitskaya, L., DuFord, S., Craig, M., Casey, A. M. (2008). How does a pre-assessment off-campus students' information literacy affect the effectiveness of library instruction? Journal of Library Administration, 48 (3/4), 509-525.  Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

Ivanitskaya, L., Laus, R., Casey, A. M. (2004). Research Readiness Self-Assessment: Assessing students' research skills and attitudes. Journal of Library Administration, 41 (1/2), 167-183. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

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