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National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Occasional Paper 31 - Creating Sustainable Assessment through Collaboration: A National Program Reveals Effective Practices



Malenfant, K. J., & Brown, K. (2017, November). Creating sustainable assessment through collaboration: A national program reveals effective practices. (Occasional Paper No. 31) Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Paper Abstract

Meaningful and sustained assessment is best achieved when a campus unit takes a collaborative leadership role to work with other departments, offices, and groups. Simply developing and implementing assessment in isolation and for the unit itself is not enough. While the value of collaboration among diverse campus constituents is widely recognized, it is not easily achieved. This occasional paper synthesizes the results of the program Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success (AiA) by the Association of College and Research Libraries, which involved over 200 campus teams led by librarians. Five particularly compelling AiA findings are the positive connections documented between various functions of the library and aspects of student learning and success: (1) Students benefit from library instruction in their initial coursework; (2) Library use increases student success; (3) Collaborative academic programs and services involving the library enhance student learning; (4) Information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes; and (5)Library research consultations boost student learning. These findings emerged from an assessment processgrounded in collaborative planning, decision-making, and implementation. In this paper, we describe the collaborative practices advanced by the AiA program and explain how these practices promote assessment alignedwith institutional priorities, encourage common understanding among stakeholder groups about attributes ofacademic success, produce meaningful measures of student learning, create a unified campus message aboutstudent learning and success, and focus on transformative and sustainable change. This paper asserts that theAiA experience serves as a framework for designing assessment approaches that build partnerships and generateresults for improving student learning and success through action research, and that the program results demonstrate how libraries contribute to fostering broad student outcomes essential to contemporary postsecondaryeducation. The assessment practices that emerged from the AiA projects can be implemented in a variety ofinstitutional settings and with varying campus priorities.

Biography of the Authors

KARA J. MALENFANT is a senior staff member at the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, a division of the American Library Association), where she coordinates government relations advocacy and scholarly communication activities and is the lead staff member on the Value of Academic Libraries initiative and Assessment in Action program. She provides consulting services on organization development and use of ACRLís standards for libraries in higher education. Kara began her position at ACRL in fall of 2005 after working for six years at DePaul University Libraries in Chicago. A former Peace Corps volunteer, she holds a PhD in leadership and change from Antioch University and a masterís degree in library science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

KAREN BROWN is a professor at Dominican University (River Forest, Illinois) in the School of Information Studies and teaches in the areas of assessment, collection management, foundations of the profession, and literacy and learning. Prior to joining Dominican Universityís faculty in 2000, she developed and coordinated continuing education programs for the Chicago Library System, one of Illinoisís former regional library systems. She has also held positions focusing on collection development, reference, and instruction at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Maryland, Columbia University, and Bard College. She holds a PhD in media ecology from New York University and masterís degrees in library science and adult education from the University of Wisconsin.






The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 10,500 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL is on the web at, Facebook at and Twitter at @ala_acrl.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.