Sunday, December 11, 2011

SAILS and Beyond...

Classes at MC ended on Wednesday and Finals began on Friday.  The library filled up with students early in the week and became busier and busier everyday.  Although there were basically no reference questions, and only a few random questions related to printing or using programs such as WORD, there were still projects to accomplish.

One activity that I worked on was to take the SAILS test.  This stands for Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills and is provided by Kent State University.  According to the Project SAILS website, it is "a knowledge test with multiple-choice questions targeting a variety of information literacy skills.  These test items are based on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education" (Project SAILS, 2011).  Many consider this test to be the "gold standard" for information literacy assessment.

The SAILS test has many strengths and a few weaknesses.  The test costs $3.00 per student and is administered online.  The test provides an "overall information literacy score for each student" that "identifies proficiency and mastery levels" (Project SAILS, 2011).  It measures the following eight skill sets as mentioned on the Project SAILS (2011) website:
  • Developing a research strategy
  • Selecting a finding tool
  • Searching
  • Using finding tool features
  • Retrieving sources
  • Evaluating sources
  • Documenting sources
  • Understanding economic, legal, and social issues
This customizable 45-question (cohort based) test takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.  The questions are very detailed and are almost too difficult for those who have a general knowledge of research. Some of the test questions related to Government Documents, which might not be too applicable for certain disciplines or majors.  For example, one question dealt with locating a Government Document by showing an item record and asking what item would help a student find this resource.  The average student attending a liberal arts college might not know about the SuDoc numbering system and would have to make a very uneducated guess to answer the question.

Besides a few difficult, almost irrelevant questions the SAILS test focuses on research knowledge and does not show a student's self-perception of research skills versus actual research skills like the RRSA (see blog post from 12/3/11 entitled, "Proctoring the RRSA").  Since I took the SAILS cohort based test, feedback will not be received for a few weeks.  The RRSA provides immediate feedback to both the administrator and the individual, which has strengths because discussion within a classroom setting can take place.  Individuals can ask questions about their findings and receive answers to questions about the test results.  Otherwise, when test results are not immediate and/or provided to the individual directly, the effect of the test might be diminished, especially if follow-up to the test is delayed or not carried out.

For Reference Librarians who teach information literacy, assessment tests can help show areas that need to be covered, or at least areas where students lack knowledge or skills.  In library school, we have learned about plagiarism, scholarly research/resources, proper citation, and other bits of knowledge/skills that will prove useful for addressing areas measured by tests such as SAILS.

In addition to working on the SAILS test and learning more about it, I spent a small amount of time working on the Information Commons Student Worker Training Libguide.  More information on this libguide will be provided in the week to come.  Finishing this libguide will be the final project of my practicum.  I have almost made it to the end.  Stay connected to read about the end of my practicum....


Kent State University. (2011). Project SAILS. Retrieved from

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