Partnering with Teaching Assistants to Transform Information Literacy Instruction via Assignment Design Alyssa Russo & Glenn Koelling

Warm up: Tell us a 6 word story in the chat about your library's instruction

(Remember to change chat to "All panelists and attendees")

E.g. One shots no more, now TTT

Session Takeaways

  • Library instruction programs are changing
  • Assessing information literacy is hard because so much is process not product
  • Programmatic information literacy needs community partners


Sustainability & Reach; Breadth & Depth

Instruction tug of war between sustainability and reach. - photo from Center for Southwest Research

Research clinics

  • Replaced one shots for first year courses with many sections
  • Assigned a tutorial beforehand
  • 75 min. of research time outside of class
  • Everyone briefly meets with a librarian

What we learned

  • Saw more assignments & the sticking points
  • Sustainable in small numbers but was harder when they became popular

an assessment study

Teaching Assistants’ Research Assignments and Information Literacy

Article forthcoming later this year in portal

The Study

Q1: What info lit elements were included?

A1:Deeper elements: scaffolding & project purpose Surface level elements: research process; topic choice; and finding, evaluating, and using information.

Q2: How are information formats presented?

A2: Format types mixed in with other categories (e.g. primary, secondary, scholarly, popular, vendor). Scholarly formats prioritized. Variety of sources emphasized

OUr findings

The Missing Library

The Implied Library

"journal articles" "academic journals" "scholarly articles"

Writing/Research Overlap

Project help, offers of assistance, guidance from texts

Inconsistent classification of information types

  • “include at least 2 valid and reliable sources”
  • “You must have . . . at least 3 different types: book, article, website, etc.”
  • “at least 6 scholarly sources and a few popular sources”
  • “secondary sources [to] support your argument with both scholarly publications and online sources"
  • “One source must come from a governmental or nonprofit agency, such as a study or data compiled by the Center[s] for Disease Control or a university or another not-for-profit type of organization.”
  • “At least one source must come from . . . one of the library’s databases.

Flexibility & Specificity

Flexibility: Variety & Vagueness
  • “Identify a current issue facing your community”
  • “You should have a variety of sources, in multiple mediums (journal articles, books, web pages, etc.”
  • “Do some research” or “Research your topic.”
  • “several body paragraphs that incorporate your research”
  • “2 or more sources included”
  • Citation style


  • “Therefore, each SWA [small writing assignment] will lead up to the MWA [major writing assignment] so that you are as prepared as possible”).
  • “The ad critique is a microgenre of the larger genre of Rhetorical Analysis.”
  • “think [of] sources that help you build a foundation, or introduce you to new ideas and concepts that you may not necessarily use in your final project.”

implications for our program

Source Classification
  • More structured source requirements for novice researchers
  • Talking about authority explicitly rather than relying on exemplars (e.g. CDC)
  • Gain a shared vocabulary/understanding of format and medium; see how "genre" fits within these concepts
Selecting Information
  • Explanation of why different information formats can strengthen a research assignment
  • Adjust assignment to avoid long, one-size fits all source checklists (i.e. right tool for the job)
  • Already doing a great job of explaining rhetorical situation & genre, we could add on contextualizing format
Incorporating Information
  • Prioritize purpose of citation rather than accuracy of citation (although none of the assignments talked about citations in a punitive manner)

Break for questions

Librarians as Gardeners

The most pressing need during the next three-to-five years is for practitioners to further develop and articulate the Framework locally at various curricular levels.
This process involves experimenting with arranging the seeds provided by the Framework within and across campus curricula as a gardener would strategically plant seeds in fertile soil.

- Donna Witek (2016)

New mexico General Education

Information Literacy as an Essential Skill

Example Rubric Dimension: Information Structures

Select, use, produce, organize, and share information employing appropriate information formats, collections, systems, and applications.

"[Information literacy] has no specific place in the curriculum. It’s everywhere, and nowhere. It’s everyone’s job, but nobody’s responsibility."

- Barbara Fister (2021)

Gen-Ed Pilot Assessment

  • Key finding: information literacy scored lowest of all essential skills
  • Although the student may have performed well within the assignment, the rating was low because the assignment did not align with the rubric
This assignment did not require the use of external sources except for the one in-class required reading but the rubric requires synthesis of various sources

The Office of Assessment recommended training and support for GenEd instructors.

reworking and improving instruction


Shifting from teaching students to teaching instructors.

The primary way that librarians can ensure that students are developing their information literacy is to ensure that faculty understand, value, and know how to teach information literacy.

- Risë L. Smith in Hammons (2020)

Workshop Content

How to measure an invisible process?

Workshop goal: Participants will become more confident in teaching information literacy skills to Gen-ed students.

Participants will be able to:

  • Define information literacy
  • Apply the New Mexico GenEd rubric dimensions (aka Frames) in their teaching
  • Design assignments so that information literacy can actually be assessed

Workshop Logistics


3 Workshops

1) Information Structures

2) Authority & Value of Information

3) Research as Inquiry

Audience & Recruitment


Workshop Assessment

Info lit in a time of transformation

Questions or Comments?

Keep in touch:

Alyssa Russo, arusso@unm.edu

Glenn Koelling, gkoelling@unm.edu


Bowles-Terry, M., & Clinnin, K. (2020). Professional development for research-writing instructors: A collaborative approach. Communications in Information Literacy, 14(2). https://doi.org/10.15760/comminfolit.2020.14.2.8

Fister, B. (2021). Lizard People in the Library. Project Information Literacy Provocation Series. https://projectinfolit.org/pubs/provocation-series/essays/lizard-people-in-the-library.html

Hammons, J. (2020). Teaching the teachers to teach information literacy: A literature review. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(5), 102196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2020.102196

Koelling, G., & Townsend, L. (2019). Research clinics: An alternative model for large-scale information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 13(1), 75-90. doi: 10.15760/comminfolit.2019.13.1.6

Koelling, G. & Russo, A. (Forthcoming 2021). Teaching assistants’ research assignments and information literacy. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 21.

Witek, D. (2016). Becoming gardeners: Seeding local curricula with the ACRL framework for information literacy. College & Research Libraries News 77(10), 504–8. doi:10.5860/crln.77.10.9572.

Image Credits


Created with images by Pexels - "hand write pen" • bschut - "computer lab education" • jarmoluk - "library books bookcases" • Skitterphoto - "abandoned factory hdr" • vonriesling - "card catalog drawers wood" • OrnaW - "bird little egret white" • AhmadArdity - "scaffolding workers construction" • terimakasih0 - "ask sign design" • emkanicepic - "dahlias pompon dahlias flowers" • grvault - "darts dartboard dart board" • Pexels - "automobile automotive car" • TitusStaunton - "wildlife nature animal" • 3844328 - "architecture blueprint floor plan" • nastya_gepp - "medicine mask coronavirus" • PublicDomainPictures - "adorable animal baby" • congerdesign - "cancel event corona" • geralt - "save piggy bank money" • arielrobin - "measure yardstick tape"