Setting the Course: Revisiting the Dawn of Nursing Information Literacy Scholarship in the Work of Fox, Richter and White

Bridget Faricy-Beredo


Objective - To use a multi-dimensional approach to evaluate the effectiveness of a nursing information literacy program (Pathways to Information Literacy) delivered to undergraduate nursing students. Assessment sought to track progress in both affective and cognitive spheres.

Design – This program evaluation focuses on the Pathways to Information Literacy (PIL) curriculum, which was delivered from 1988-1992. It consisted of 6 hours of librarian-delivered instruction, divided over 4 sessions. To evaluate the impact of this curriculum, the authors gathered five different data sets: informal feedback; the results of a survey measuring the affective domain of confidence; the results of a longitudinal cohort survey of graduates; and two different sets of data gathered from distinct samples but utilizing the same information literacy assessment tool. All five data sets served the greater purpose of assessing students’ mastery of information literacy.

Setting - An undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program within a state university, the University of Northern Colorado.

Subjects - In general, the subjects were different cohorts of nursing students between 1988 and 1992. Class size hovered at just over 100. For most measures, response rate was high and the dropout rate was low. It is worth noting that one of the assessments was a longitudinal cohort survey of graduates. As the mobility of graduates often decreases the number of responses, the omission of the response rate for this measure is of concern.

Methods - The methods are one of the most striking aspects of this study. The authors employed no less than five methods of assessment:

• From 1988-1992, investigators gathered informal feedback from both students and faculty members about the written assignments of the PIL program. The specific method for gathering feedback was not reported.
• From 1988-1990 PIL students in their junior year took pre- and post- PIL program confidence surveys. The survey tool, which was included, contained 6 Likert-like questions which assessed their affective domain of confidence as related to their ability to perform information literacy related tasks, such as using a bibliographic index.
• During the 1990/91 academic year the authors administered a general, university-wide information literacy assessment tool, which was included. It measured both self-perceived progress and objectively measured skill attainment in the cognitive domain. The survey tool lacked validation, but had been previously published in the library literature (Greer, 1991). Students from the PIL program were extracted from the data for comparison to the general student population.
• During 1991/92 PIL students completed the above mentioned information literacy assessment tool as a pre-and post- test.
• Both PIL (1990/91) and non-PIL (1988/89) cohorts completed a longitudinal post-graduation survey which was included. Comparison of the two cohorts aimed to examine the effect of the PIL program on subsequent scholarly professional activities.
While the methodologies were all tied to the overall purpose of program evaluation, they were not tied to specific pedagogies or content units.

Main results - Fox et al. generally utilized simple, descriptive statistical data. The data derived from the information literacy assessment tool was the exception, producing ordinal data which was analyzed using a chi-squared approach.

All outcomes supported the positive effect of the PIL program. The soft technique of gathering informal feedback from students and faculty resulted in positive feedback. Faculty reported that their students became independent in information-seeking and the quality of their papers increased. Students also reported that the assignment and instruction gave them confidence and that the written assignments were a nice break from the traditional examinations. The affective confidence survey noted a substantial improvement: pre-program only 26% reported confidence when performing information-seeking strategies compared to 76% post-instruction. When the information literacy assessment tool was administered both to 68 PIL participants and to 208 general students, the PIL students both believed themselves to be more successful and demonstrated greater knowledge. 70% of PIL students answered CD-ROM index questions correctly, compared to 49% of general students. When the same tool was given to only PIL students as a pre-and post- test, it showed statically significant increases in the use of the library and mastery of several specific search techniques: p<0.05 for 7 of 20 measures. The post-graduation survey showed that 45% of the PIL students had engaged in some scholarly activity, as compared to 10% of non-PIL graduates.

Conclusion - The authors concluded that the multidimensional assessment efforts delivered a comprehensive view of the effectiveness of the program, demonstrating student benefit in cognitive (knowledge attainment) and affective (confidence levels) domains as well as in subsequent professional behavior.


Nursing students, Information literacy, program evalution

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