Student Learning Outcomes

The intent of the multi-institutional research project is to research the following questions in order to identify and share exemplary practices:

  1. What effect does library instruction have on the retention of college students?

  2. What effect does library instruction have on the academic success of college students?

  3. What is the impact of specific library instruction methods on the retention and academic success of college students?

I. Background

The American Library Association (ALA) defines information literacy as, 'a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."'1 These abilities may be considered fundamental not just for higher education, but also for one's career and personal success. Many academic libraries work with course/campus instructors to provide information literacy instruction to students, but how do they assess the benefit? To address this question, the a Student Learning Task Force was formed to conduct research on information literacy instructional methods.

II. Population/Data Collection

To obtain the most informative amount of data, the study will track the academic progress of students enrolled in information literacy classes for the first time during their first year attending the institution. In Fall of 2014, 11 GWLA members started collecting and submitting library instruction data for 100-level/1000-level/freshman-level courses. All participating institutions sought and received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval before collecting academic data from their respective Institutional Research/Office of Decision Support/ Registrar’s Offices. Compiling information over this six-year study will create a multi-institutional dataset that will be analyzed to inform best practices for instruction.


1American Library Association. Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. [American Library Association external link ; opens in new tab]

III. Review of Instructional Methods

The study's foundation is the recognition that varying instructional methods are used for information literacy, and the value in analyzing these methods' effectiveness over time. Library data collected for the study include variables for the differing styles of instruction (e.g. in-class activities-based learning, online interactive learning objects, and lecture-based instruction). Session characteristics such as one-time library instruction, tours, time spent in-class, collaboration on course development are also included to further differentiate methodologies.

Full evaluation of the data during and at the end of the study will inform institutions how to better provide for student success.

IV. Expected Outcomes

The Student Learning Outcomes Project will necessitate much collaboration between the GWLA member libraries. This will lead to a secondary outcome of ensuring that professional discourse on curriculum development, instructional practices, and student learning outcomes is advanced. Enhanced discussion across diverse institutions will in turn lead to improving instructional efforts and assessment for greater student success.

Comparing the effectiveness of different modes of library instruction will facilitate literacy instruction efforts in the refinement of teaching practices resulting in an enriched and consistent impact on student learning. This benefit will be reflected by 1. an increase in the GPAs of students who participated in information literacy course work, and 2. a rise in retention and graduation rates at institutions that follow identified best practices in teaching methods. Informed by this data the project hopes to provide value in guiding instructional methods for advancing students' knowledge of information literacy skills resulting in life-long benefits.

"The Impact of Information Literacy Instruction on Student Success: A Multi-Institutional Investigation and Analysis" (2017)

From the Executive Summary:

With over 42,000 students from 12 major research universities and over 1700 distinct courses represented, the multi-institutional nature of this study is unprecedented.

Our goals are to evaluate and improve library instruction programs, to quantify the library’s role in the academic success and retention rates of undergraduate students, and provide actionable findings for libraries and their information literacy instruction programs.

This study compares the academic outcome measures, retention, GPA and hours earned, of students who received library instruction interactions as part of their course’s curriculum with those who did not. A large set of de-identified registration data about 42,624 students enrolled in 1,725 courses was collected from twelve (12) participating universities for the academic year 2014-2015.

Documents Archive

Task Force Documents


Bibliographies and documents pertaining to the mission of the Student Learning Outcomes Task Force.


Association of American Colleges and Universities

VALUE Rubrics

The following two documents are reprinted [or excerpted] with permission from Assessing Outcomes and Improving Achievement: Tips and tools for Using Rubrics, edited by Terrel L. Rhodes. Copyright 2010 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Association of College Research Libraries

Megan Oakleaf Resources

GWLA Staff Liaison

Joni Blake, Executive Director (