Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Assessment at St. Catherine University

The following post is submitted by guest blogger Sue Gray of St. Catherine University Library, Minneapolis Campus, and summarizes her presentation at CLIC's Kick-off Program on October 26.

For the past two years, St. Catherine University has been preparing for accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (site visit will happen in February 2013). Carol Johnson, our library director, is on the team charged with preparations for the site visit, and the self-study report that is being created in advance of the visit.

As a part of this process, St. Kate’s has developed a university-wide model of systematic program evaluation called Outcomes Based Assessment Plan (OBAP).  This model is the recommended format for each academic department to describe their assessment process, and is a method to align existing assessment activities with the University’s mission, goals, and strategic plans.  Each department OBAP has a mission statement, student learning and program effectiveness goals, measurable outcomes, and a delivery plan.  

Each unit of the St. Kate’s libraries, including archives and media services, created a departmental OBAP.  Goals ranged from preserving collections for future scholarship, to collaboration with academic departments to create a rigorous research agenda, to preparing classrooms for digital/lecture capture.  As an example of the OBAP’s goal, delivery, outcome process, one of our goals has been to develop a robust online library presence.  Our web librarian utilized User Experience (UX) design principles and practices to initiate a redesign of the library website.  User interviews were performed in May 2011, and repeated in May 2012, to assess the library’s homepage.  Comprehensive personas were developed to address the core needs of users.  Based on user interviews and the development of user personas, target users and their needs were identified, and the homepage was redesigned to address those needs.

Many of our ongoing assessment activities have to do with addressing gaps in our collection.  One librarian used Journal Citation Reports as disciplinary benchmarks to analyze our holdings in Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Public Health to determine if we have adequate access to high impact journals in these disciplines.  This analysis created the foundation for a journal purchase priority list for titles not held that are a high priority for St. Kate’s faculty and students.

Circulation staff pulled 25 current master and doctoral theses from each department, and culled titles from the reference lists to see what we owned and what items needed to be requested through ILLiad.  (The other not-so-surprising finding was that graduate students need more citation support.  In response, two librarians will be offering an intensive APA workshop at the beginning of winter semester).  Evaluating copyright costs and VDX requests has resulted in identifying frequently requested journals that we should purchase.

As for next steps in our work, one of our priorities is to develop goals and learning outcomes for “The Reflective Woman,” a core course for first-year students.  Five librarians, on both campuses, teach a library instruction component for each class.  And while individual librarians have implemented their own assessment strategies (pen-paper/online feedback surveys, and, pre/post testing of students’ confidence in their research skills), we do not have a standardized method to assess student learning across all sections.  We hope to have an assessment workshop, conducted by Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment staff, to assist us in moving forward on this goal.

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