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Assessing organically: turning an assignment into an assessment

Carol Perruso Brown (California State University, Long Beach, California, USA)
Barbara Kingsley‐Wilson (California State University, Long Beach, California, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 16 November 2010




This paper aims to report on how a close collaboration between librarian and instructor made it possible for an existing course assignment to organically evolve into an information literacy assessment, overcoming some of the impediments educators confront in assessing student learning. In addition, the paper seeks to discuss how assessment with realistic scenarios requiring actual research helped to highlight deficiencies in skills and critical thinking, a method known as “authentic assessment”. Results from a pilot and the formal assessment are included.


A six‐question pre‐ and post‐test “authentic assessment” was piloted with 60 students, then administered to 43 students. Other journalism instructors and librarians reviewed the questions for validity. A detailed scoring rubric was used, with the authors reviewing each other's work for reliability.


Of students completing both tests, 80 percent showed an average improvement of 47 percent, and average scores increased on five of the six questions. The assessment tool, which addresses most learning outcomes for the course, appears to be a useful gauge of information literacy for journalism students.

Research limitations/implications

The reliability of the instrument needs to be tested. Also, modifying questions between pre‐ and post‐test, to prevent copy‐and‐paste answers, requires care to assure similar levels of difficulty.


While there are many case studies of collaboration in information‐literacy instruction and of assessment performed by librarians, there are few examples of assessments jointly developed by librarians and course faculty, and fewer still “authentic assessments” using measures requiring real‐world research because of the effort involved. Additionally, the paper finds no examples of what is described as “organic assessment”, wherein an existing course assignment, if developed to demonstrate student learning, was adapted to become an assessment tool.



Perruso Brown, C. and Kingsley‐Wilson, B. (2010), "Assessing organically: turning an assignment into an assessment", Reference Services Review, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 536-556.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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