Test Modules

The Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy measures both knowledge and dispositions. Students who attain knowledge of information literacy concepts and practices are well-positioned to effectively address their information needs and contribute meaningfully to society. Dispositions are the qualities students cultivate that underlie and shape their actions. Strong dispositions are associated with lifelong learning and critical thinking. They can be strengthened through high-impact pedagogical practices and social learning.

Modules

The test is organized in four modules designed to be administered separately according to the outcomes you want to assess. The content for each module is inspired by one or more of the frames of the ACRL IL Framework.

For descriptions of each module, including the outcomes, performance indicators, and dispositions, click on the module title below. You may also download a PDF document with descriptions for all four modules. Each module can be completed in 50 minutes or less. The test is web-based and administered on Internet-connected computers.

The information about each module will help you determine which of the modules are most appropriate for your assessment goals for any class or program in a given year. To support programs and institutions meeting accreditation requirements, we also provide options for test managers to compare their results to those of peer institutions that have administered the test.

Module 1: Evaluating Process & Authority

This module combines concepts from two of the ACRL information literacy frames, Authority is Constructed and Contextual and Information Creation as a Process. It focuses on the process of information creation and the constructed and contextual nature of source authority.

Knowledge

The knowledge dimension measured by this module specifically addresses students’ ability to apply their knowledge of source context and creation processes to judging source authority, analyzing claims, and supporting their own claims.

Knowledge Outcomes

  • Apply knowledge of source creation processes and context to evaluate the authority of a source.
  • Apply knowledge of authority to analyze others’ claims and to support one’s own claims.
  • See the performance indicators for each outcome.

Knowledge Performance Levels

Three performance levels are used to describe student achievement on the knowledge section of the test.

Conditionally ready.
Students who are conditionally ready define authorities as people who have gained expertise through relevant experiences. They are able to use familiar types of information but without consideration for how they were created. They are able to evaluate a source based on how easily they can incorporate it into their own knowledge base and research paper. Conditionally ready students accept information that they have used before and rely on sources that are easy to understand rather than sources created through a rigorous process of review and editing.

College ready.
Students who are college ready are able to select sources based on the idea that authority is more than simply having relevant experiences because it includes considerations like the author’s field of study. They are able to define basic differences among sources when they are told about the process that was used to create them and they have an intuitive understanding of how sources fit into the information cycle. Based on their understanding of generic processes of information creation and of the information cycle, they are able to make basic distinctions among the information sources they are evaluating in order to select the more authoritative and the more appropriate source for their information need. College ready students are prepared to follow clear and detailed assignment instructions about what types of information they are expected to use for their college papers or projects.

Research ready.
Students who are research ready are able to determine if a source will strengthen their own authority by considering markers of the author’s authority (e.g., credentials and prior publications) within the context of the student’s own field and audience. They are able to judge how well a source is likely to satisfy their information need by identifying indicators of the process used to create that source (e.g., quoted sources, methods, citations). They know that standards for authority are socially constructed by people who share a set of scholarly or professional values and apply that knowledge to select information sources that are appropriate for the social context within which they will use the sources. They are confident enough in their own judgments about authority to selectively use sources that are not scholarly when the research literature is silent on the experience or topic they are studying. Research ready students are prepared to strategically employ sources as part of strengthening their own authority.

Dispositions

Students who can evaluate sources based on the processes used to create them are more likely to critically examine the authority of information within a given context, rather than simply using a one-size-fits-all judgment of credibility. Since the credibility of a source is not absolute or stable, and varies, for example, by discourse community, students must be (1) mindful about the processes used to create the information, (2) comfortable with the fact that the same sources may be considered authoritative in one context but not in another, and (3) responsible to their academic community in looking beneath surface-level markers of authority. The test assesses how students understand and value authority, how they define their role in evaluating sources, and how they perceive the relative value of different types of sources for common academic needs.

Disposition 1: Mindful self-reflection
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate self-reflection when they are evaluating sources of information consistently question their assumptions about what makes a source authoritative. Example behaviors:

  • Looking for features that challenge one’s assumptions about the trustworthiness of one’s preferred sources.
  • Questioning one’s own assumptions about the reliability of traditional forms of scholarly authority.
  • Recognizing when there are good reasons to change one’s position on an issue.

Disposition 2: Toleration of ambiguity
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate toleration for ambiguity when they are evaluating sources of information treat authority as subjective because it is based on the context of the information need. Example behaviors:

  • Deciding what to do when authorities disagree.
  • Flexibly using traditional and non-traditional information sources at appropriate points in the research process.
  • Treating authority as a flexible concept when information needs can only be met with less traditional sources.

Disposition 3: Responsibility to community
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility to their community when they are evaluating sources of information are conscientious about how they invoke authority in order to gain credibility with their audiences. Example behaviors:

  • Fulfilling one’s responsibility to one’s discourse community by using sources carefully.
  • Recognizing that the sources one is permitted to use will depend on one’s discourse community.
  • Taking responsibility for critically evaluating and explaining sources’ authority to one’s audience when stating and standing by their claims.
Module 2: Strategic Searching

This module relates to the Searching as Strategic Exploration frame. It focuses on the process of planning, evaluating, and revising searches during strategic exploration.

Knowledge

The knowledge dimension measured by this module specifically addresses students’ ability to select and apply search strategies, use features of search tools to improve results, and identify when they need to change their search strategy in order to continue their search.

Knowledge Outcomes

  • Plan, conduct, evaluate, and revise searches to achieve relevant results.
  • Compare and contrast a range of search tools.
  • See the performance indicators for each outcome.

Knowledge Performance Levels

Three performance levels are used to describe student achievement on the knowledge section of the test.

Conditionally ready.
Students who are conditionally ready can conduct basic searches in search tools that are familiar to them. They search using natural language but are able to identify common keywords for their topics if prompted to do so. They are able to follow instructions to locate information using their library’s tools.

College ready.
Students who are college ready are able to use the library’s tools independently to find information for typical college writing assignments. They are able to increase the precision of their results by adding keywords. They are able to organize their keywords using concepts such as Boolean operators. They are able to analyze item records to inform revisions to their searches, including identifying subject terms. They are able to recognize when a search is not working and are aware of at least one other search tool that they can try. College ready students can successfully conduct basic searches and make adjustments to their keywords or choose a different search tool to improve their results.

Research ready.
Students who are research ready are aware of the wide range of search tools available to them and are able to select their search tool based on the type of information they are trying to find. Students are able to determine the types of sources they have discovered by deciphering the citations. They are able to increase the precision or recall of their results as needed by using keyword synonyms and search syntax. When they encounter problems, they are able to accurately evaluate their search results in order to make strategic revisions to their keywords, limiters, search tool selection, syntax, and so on. Research ready students can conduct advanced searches for information using multiple strategies that they select according to their information need and that they revise according to the results that are returned.

Disposition

Students who are strategic searchers are more likely to develop a broad repertoire of search techniques because they learn from trial and error and pick up strategies from observing their professors, librarians, and peers. Since searching involves exploration and uncertainty, students must be persistent in order to sustain their searches despite difficulties and frustrations. A disposition toward productive persistence means that students are more likely to satisfy their information needs and keep searching until they find high-quality sources. The test assesses how students understand and value exploration and how they define their role as a searcher.

Disposition 1: Productive persistence
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate productive persistence during their searches for information approach searching as iterative and not linear by employing alternative strategies and learning from mistakes. Example behaviors:

  • Adapting and evolving new strategies rather than clinging to familiar search techniques.
  • Handling feelings of frustration that commonly surface during the search process.
  • Recovering from a failed search in order to continue searching until the information need is satisfied.
  • Taking constructive assignment feedback from instructors as an impetus to continue searching for better sources.
Module 3: Research & Scholarship

This module combines elements from the Research as Inquiry and Scholarship as a Conversation frames. It focuses on the knowledge-building process and how scholars build knowledge.

Knowledge

The knowledge dimension measured by this module specifically addresses students’ ability to apply the research process to their college work in order to participate in the scholarly conversation.

Knowledge Outcomes

  • Understand the processes of scholarly communication and knowledge building.
  • Understand stages of the research process.
  • See the performance indicators for each outcome.

Knowledge Performance Levels

Three performance levels are used to describe student achievement on the knowledge section of the test.

Conditionally ready.
Students who are conditionally ready recognize that important scholars and thinkers have influence on those who come after them. They are able to understand that different genres of writing they are assigned to do may require different research approaches. They are able to identify issues related to bias in scholarly and other information sources. Conditionally ready students approach scholarly reading and writing with a goal of finding the correct answer.

College ready.
Students who are college ready recognize that scholars who study a problem might arrive at different conclusions because knowledge changes over time as new information is discovered and analyzed. They are able to understand that expertise in a field comes not from merely knowing things but through using established methods to perform research. They are able to identify the value of applying a systematic research process for deepening their understanding of the subjects they study. College ready students approach college-level research with a goal of developing meaningful research questions and proposing credible interpretations or answers.

Research ready.
Students who are research ready recognize that research is a complex activity and can be done using many different approaches. They are able to understand that these different approaches may lead to equally credible findings even if the results are contradictory. They are able to understand that scholarly conclusions, while grounded in appropriate research methods, are contingent and necessarily limited. Research ready students recognize their role within the scholarly community as a member who is learning to construct and deepen disciplinary knowledge.

Dispositions

Students who value the role of the research process in building knowledge are more likely to embrace all challenges of the research process, particularly the difficulties of conflicting information and contingent answers because they see research as a process of asking new and better questions as their research progresses. Since research is an iterative process with uncertain outcomes, students must be (1) mindful about the temptation to have their biases confirmed, (2) persistent through the setbacks inherent within the research process, and (3) responsible to their academic community in honoring scholarly ways of knowing and communicating.. The test assesses how students understand and value their role within the scholarly community.

Disposition 1: Productive persistence
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate productive persistence throughout the research process approach inquiry as iterative, adjusting their research question as they learn more. Example behaviors:

  • Applying appropriate methods/practices of inquiry regardless of their complexity or negative emotional associations (e.g., frustration).
  • Committing to building a knowledge base through background research when exploring an unfamiliar topic.

Disposition 2: Mindful self-reflection
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate self-reflection in the context of research and scholarship consistently question their own assumptions as they are challenged by new knowledge. Example behaviors:

  • Spending time exploring a topic with openness and curiosity before committing to a thesis or claim.
  • Using critiques from professors, librarians, and peers to improve the quality of their inquiry.

Disposition 3: Responsibility to community
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility to the scholarly community recognize and conform to academic norms of knowledge building. Example behaviors:

  • Identifying and pursuing appropriate ways to enter the scholarly conversation while still an undergraduate.
  • Seeking out and following established models of scholarship and inquiry.
Module 4: The Value of Information

This module is inspired by the Information Has Value frame. It focuses on the norms of academic information creation and the factors that affect access to information.

Knowledge

The knowledge dimension measured by this module specifically addresses students’ ability to apply their knowledge of social, legal, and economic factors in order to respect the rights of others and protect their own rights in the information creation process

Knowledge Outcomes

  • Recognize the rights and responsibilities of information creation.
  • Recognize social, legal, and economic factors affecting access to information.
  • See the performance indicators for each outcome.

Knowledge Performance Levels

Three performance levels are used to describe student achievement on the knowledge section of the test.

Conditionally ready.
Students who are conditionally ready can apply the basic definition of plagiarism as taking someone else’s work as their own. They are able to understand that people have basic rights over the information they produce. They are able to recognize the need to attribute credit to the sources they use. Conditionally ready students acknowledge the value of using other people’s creations to help complete their own work.

College ready.
Students who are college ready understand that plagiarism is prohibited because of expectations that students will demonstrate their own learning rather than re-purposing the work of others. They are able to recognize that plagiarism can even occur when rephrasing ideas into their own words. They are able to understand the value of existing work as a grounding for new ideas. They are able to understand that they cannot get all of the information they need for free online. College ready students apply basic information ethics because they are aware of their responsibility to the creators of the information from which they benefit.

Research ready.
Students who are research ready recognize the purpose of protecting the rights of creators or participants on whose work other creative and scholarly work is built. They are able to recognize that social structures and affiliations determine who has access to some types of information and whose voices are valued. They are able to identify the rules governing free and restricted access to information online. Research ready students can navigate the complex territory of rights and responsibilities when using and creating information.

Dispositions

Students who value information in terms of its accessibility and its role in knowledge-building are more likely to recognize the rights of information creators and the effects of commodifying information, rather than taking the information they find for granted and using it irresponsibly. Since the Internet has made it seem that information is free to create, access and share, students who value information must be (1) mindful to spot and challenge the negative effects of inequitable distribution of information privilege and (2) responsible to their community by giving credit to intellectual work according to established standards. The test assesses how students understand and value their role within the information ecosystem.

Disposition 1: Mindful self-reflection
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate self-reflection in the context of the information ecosystem recognize and challenge information privilege. Example behaviors:

  • Considering how to use existing intellectual property to spur creative work without violating the creators’ rights.
  • Participating in informal networks to reduce disparities caused by the commodification of information.
  • Recognizing and suggesting ways to reduce the negative effects of the unequal distribution of information.

Disposition 2: Responsibility to community
Learners who are disposed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility to the scholarly community recognize and conform to academic norms of knowledge building. Example behaviors:

  • Accessing scholarly sources through formal channels.
  • Avoiding plagiarism in their own work and discouraging plagiarism by others.
  • Recognizing the value of their own original contributions to the scholarly conversation.

Next up: Learn about the test questions and see examples.