University of Texas at Arlington

Faculty Tools

UTA librarians address a variety of student learning styles and strategies. Academically, students prefer to learn by doing and working collaboratively. We strive for a partnership with students to help them understand the relevance of classroom materials, the real-world applications of what they are learning, and the interrelatedness of information literacy for this course and their other courses.

Learning Outcomes and Curriculum Design

Student learning outcomes are statements that describe how students will act and think differently as the result of having successfully completed a course. They focus on what the student will be able to do, rather than on the content being covered by the librarian. Well defined learning outcomes specify actions by students that are measureable, observable, and completed by the students themselves.

When designing curricula, librarians accomplish two goals:

  1. Connect learning outcomes to Assocation of College and Research Libraries' Standards, and
  2. Tailor assignments to course learning outcomes set by faculty.

Please see what classes we offer here.

Critical Thinking and Active Learning

Critical thinking is the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

Critical thinking has two components:

  1. A set of skills to process and generate information and beliefs, and
  2. The habit of using those skills to guide behavior.

Active learning is a process that employs a variety of pedagogical approaches to place the primary responsibility of creating and applying knowledge on the students themselves. It puts the student at the center of the learning process, making him/her a partner in discovery, not a passive receiver of information. Active learning requires students to interact with and integrate course material by reading, writing, discussing, problem-solving, investigating, reflecting, and engaging in higher-order thinking tasks such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and critical thinking.

Research shows that active learning and cooperation among students were the best predictors of student educational gains in college [1]. Active learning has also been shown to be a means to improve student retention and graduation rates [2].

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning
Knowledge recall data or information
Comprehension understand the meaning
Application use concept in new situation
Analysis understand organizational structure
Synthesis build pattern from diverse elements, build whole from parts
Evaluation make judgments about the value of ideas and materials

Examples of active learning techniques:

Low complexity clarification pause, daily journal, muddiest point, one-minute paper, note-taking pairs, think-pair-share
Moderate complexity active review sessions, concept mapping, debates, evaluation of another student’s work, puzzles, role playing
High complexity case study, cooperative groups on class, jigsaw group projects, send-a-problem



[1] G.D. Kuh, "Working Together to Enhance Student Learning Inside and Outside the Classroom," In Assessing Impact: Evidence and Action, ed. B. Cambridge (Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education, 1997).
[2] R.M. Fedler, G.N. Felder and E.J. Dietz. "A Longitudinal Study of Engineering Student Performance and Retention V. Comparisons with Traditionally-Taught Students." Journal of Engineering Education 87, no. 4 (1998): 469-480.

Librarians are always available to meet with faculty who are designing or revising library-related assignments. This collaboration helps faculty to generate assignments that refer to the best possible sources and also lets us make arrangements within the library to accommodate the needs of the assignment. A well-designed assignment can teach students valuable research skills and improve the quality of their papers. Unfortunately, assignments also have the potential to confuse and frustrate students, leading to a poorly written product. To collaborate on creating an effective assignment, contact your subject librarian.

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when developing assignments that require library or Internet research.


Set objectives and make them clear to students

A statement of objectives helps students focus on the research-related skills they should learn as a result of the assignment. The following example might be appropriate for a term paper in the social sciences or humanities. As a result of this assignment, students should learn to

  • Develop a suitable topic for research, using the library reference collection and other sources of background information.
  • Select and use the most appropriate library catalogs, article databases, printed indexes, and Internet search tools to locate relevant and timely materials.
  • Distinguish between popular and scholarly sources and detect signs of bias, whether the material is in printed form or on the Internet.
  • Quote and cite sources in a way that gives proper credit and avoids plagiarism.

The Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education provide an extensive and thought-provoking set of possible objectives.

Teach research strategies

Research strategies may seem obvious to experienced researchers but are often unknown to students. Breaking down the assignment into research strategy steps will help them accomplish your stated objectives. The following research strategy might be appropriate for the term paper described above.

  1. Define your topic using an encyclopedia article or textbook chapter for background information.
  2. Develop a list of relevant keywords and phrases to use in searching.
  3. Use the library catalog to find books on your topic.
  4. Use article databases and printed indexes to find more recent information in magazines and journals.
  5. Use Internet directories and search engines selectively to locate authoritative, high-quality websites.

Research, whether in a library or on the Internet, is a complex process that requires--and teaches--flexibility and adaptability. Students benefit from opportunities to reflect on their research strategies and think critically about what they are doing.

Provide resource lists

Resource lists give students a starting point, directing them to the most useful information sources for a particular assignment. Because so many reference sources are moving from print to electronic formats, you may want to check the library's listings of article databases to be sure you are including the latest versions. We can also work with you to create a guide specifically for your class.  See these examples:  MANA 5333, EDAD 5376, and CE 1105.

Our subject guides offer web pages listing important sources in their subject areas. Feel free to print and distribute these, copy from them, or link to them if you have a course-related web page.

Consider alternative designs for the assignment

Here are some possible examples:

  • Students keep a "research log" documenting where they looked for information, analyzing what search techniques worked and what didn't, and discussing how the material found affected their thinking on the topic.
  • Starting with a significant event or publication in your discipline, students find out more about the people and issues involved.
  • Students, working in groups, prepare a guide that introduces others to information sources in a subject field.
  • Students analyze the content, tone, style, and audience of three journals and/or websites considered fundamental to your discipline.
  • Students compare how a given topic is treated in several different reference sources, both print and electronic.
  • Students compare results from a general Internet search engine, a selective web directory, and a database of scholarly journal articles.
Avoid these common problems
  • Students are forbidden to use anything from the Internet, when in fact many scholarly resources are only available online (see "What about the Internet?" below).
  • An entire class is looking for one piece of information or researching the same specific topic; this problem becomes especially difficult when printed materials are involved.
  • Students are required to use printed materials the library does not own (or does own, but not in sufficient quantity) or online sources they are not licensed to access.
  • Students are working from incomplete/incorrect information.
  • Students are assigned excessively vague or general topics, e.g., "women in America," without guidance on narrowing a topic.
  • Students are given obscure trivia questions and told to find the answers.

Resentment toward rather than appreciation of library research is the likely result of these assignments. Library assignments are more meaningful if students use the information they find for an authentic task related to the topics covered in the course.

What about the Internet?

Many faculty members are justifiably concerned about the deteriorating quality of student papers caused by overreliance on Internet search engines and unquestioning acceptance of the first website they see. However, forbidding all use of the Internet may not be the best solution. Some scholarly journals are only available online, and there are reliable, teachable ways to find and identify high-quality websites.

  • Encourage students to find scholarly material through the article databases available on the Library website. These will lead them to both online and printed copies. Accept the online versions if they are properly cited.
  • If appropriate for your class, advise students to use selective directories of high-quality websites.
  • Remind students that there are techniques for evaluating websites. Consider having them evaluate sites as part of the assignment.

Adapted with permission from the University of California, Berkeley Library.


UT Arlington Library's instruction program embraces best practices by assessing the impact of instruction on student learning. The evidence provided through assessment identifies which curricula are successsfully meeting student learning outcomes and which curricula require revision.

Formative vs. Summative Assessment

Assessment of information literacy instruction can be either formative or summative. Formative assessment takes place in the library classroom and measures students’ immediate comprehension of instructional content. Depending on the evidence gathered through formative assessment, the librarian may change the activity, clarify key concepts, or provide supplemental instructional content to the course instructor.

Educators use summative assessment to measure whether students have met established learning outcomes and conduct this assessment at the end of an instructional intervention. 

Authentic vs. Standardized Assessment

Data related to the development of students’ information literacy skills is often gathered through standardized tests (e.g., Project SAILS) or pre- and post-instruction tests. Although these measures can provide instructors with valuable information, they do not measure students’ application of information literacy skills within authentic situations. Librarians and faculty achieve greater insight into whether students are learning and applying the critical thinking skills necessary to meet course-related learning outcomes through authentic assessment, which measures student learning through the examination of real-life student work. Through the application of rubrics that operationalize information literacy skills and student learning outcomes, it is possible to determine whether students are able to utilize the higher order thinking skills inherent in the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.

Survey 1

Tell us how we are doing! Please share your satisfaction not only of the class but also your impressions of your students' satisfaction and learning. In addition to completing this form, you are encouraged to talk directly with the librarian who taught your class and discuss your thoughts.  


Survey 2

This follow-up survey is to help us learn about the impact our library class had on your students' ability to successfully access and evaluate information necessary to complete their required coursework.  In addition to completing this form, you are encouraged to talk directly with the librarian who taught your class and discuss your thoughts.