A Very Personal Review: Library Instruction and Academic Success by Bowles-Terry

I was excited to read Melissa Bowles-Terry article that seeks to examine the connection between student academic success and information literacy instruction because of its focus on the impact of tiered instruction as well as the amount of transcript analysis that was undertaken. Here at UWM we’ve argued for a tiered information literacy program so this study is welcome research to support our anecdotal observations. [See embedded graphic]

As with most institutions we are feeling the pressure to show our value, especially our impact on student success. So I was very impressed with the study’s data transcript analysis. It is this type of research, as opposed to the focus study segment of this paper, that is most difficult for institutions such as mine.  The transcript analysis does come with some caveats, that Bowles-Terry acknowledges; the biggest one being that GPA is a flawed surrogate for student learning, but it is the best we have.

The most interesting finding applicable to my needs is that upper-level library instruction has the most impact on students’ GPA. Like most academic library instruction programs most of our manpower is focused on freshmen courses. So to find that this instruction has minimal impact beyond that specific course is disheartening, but not surprising. Freshmen often struggle to see connections between their courses. I think that freshmen level information literacy instruction could have a greater impact if faculty referred to that instruction in other classes, reminding students that they need to use the skills and concepts they gained in English 102, for example, to the research at hand. This is where an online tutorial can be useful as a virtual learning space to bring students back to, reminding them of the applicability of these skills.

After discussing the findings, Bowles-Terry reminds her readers of the limitations of this study. The transcript analysis does not show causation only a correlation. And here is the rub for library instruction programs. Can we show direct causation between information literacy instruction and student success? Is it necessary that we do? Can we prove value without causation?

I’d love to hear what campus-level administrators think about that. What accreditors think about that.

I think we can and I think studies such as this add to the body of research on the value of embedded library instruction.

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