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Book Reviews

Lyda Fontes McCartin and Rachel Dineen. Toward a Critical-Inclusive Assessment Practice for Library Instruction. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2018. 149p. Paper. $18.00 (ISBN: 978-1-63400-035-2). LC: Z711.25.C65 M37.

Book cover for Toward a Critical-Inclusive Assessment Practice for Library Instruction

One of the core learning outcomes that information literacy (IL) instructors aim to help their students achieve is to interrogate the credibility of information. Part of that process is to recognize the credibility of authors who have acquired valid information through experience and education; another part is to question hegemonic pressures in effect in the information dissemination ecosystem. Toward a Critical-Inclusive Assessment Practice for Library Instruction seeks to outline assessment methods for helping students learn both of these lessons. Information-literate individuals recognize gaps in their knowledge. Students come to educational institutions with gaps in their knowledge, which library instructors must help them to recognize and fill. However, students also have knowledge of themselves as learners that library instructors do not possess. This book outlines assessment processes for library instructors to fill the gaps in their knowledge of their students.

The book’s grounding in the work of Paolo Freire and bell hooks suggests that it will be targeted toward library instructors aiming to add social justice components to their teaching assessment. However, this book might easily have been titled Toward a Student-Centered Assessment Practice for Library Instruction. The authors’ approach to using critical theories to shape their instructional assessment relies on an organic emergence of social justice themes from a student-centered approach to teaching. The authors describe critical IL assessment as using student experiences with information seeking to shape IL course content. Depending on the demographics and dispositions of the students and instructors involved in a course, their approach toward assessment might include much or little focus on issues of race, class, or gender. The book focuses less on these issues after the introduction of the theory in chapter 1. This book is best used in conjunction with books on delivering critical library instruction, such as Critical Library Pedagogy Handbook.

Toward a Critical-Inclusive Assessment Practice for Library Instruction is organized into a preface and five chapters. The preface describes the project from the point of view of the authors. The first chapter provides their definition of critical pedagogy. Chapter 2 reviews various assessment methods for library teaching and learning. Chapter 3 provides a practical description of how one might use a variety of assessment methods to improve library instruction. Chapter 4 describes the ways in which student-centered assessment depends on creating student-centered lesson plans from the planning stages of the course. Chapter 5 functions as a discussion section; it describes some future assessment plans the authors have to make library instruction more student centered. The book contains appendices that provide examples of methods for instructional assessment. Other appendices are focused on peer feedback among instructors, and another focuses on encouraging student-centered learning.

The authors, Lyda McCartin and Rachel Dineen, are colleagues at the University of Northern Colorado Libraries. McCartin is the Head of Information Literacy Instruction at UNC and holds an MLIS from the University of Alabama. Dineen is an Information Literacy Librarian and holds an MLIS from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Prior to her affiliation with UNC, she held librarian positions at Oakland University and Baker College, both outside of Detroit, Michigan. Both authors have a strong background in library instruction.

Throughout the book, the authors offer a diagram adapted from Saran Stewart to represent the critical-inclusive assessment consciousness they outline in the text. This diagram contains five major concepts: Dialogical Professor-Student Interaction, Faculty-Student Interaction, Sharing Power, Utilization of Personal Narrative, and Activation of Student Voice. These concepts are not fully fleshed out for the reader. It is unclear how these concepts differ from or relate to one another. For instance, in what ways is Dialogical Professor-Student Interaction different from Faculty-Student Interaction? Doesn’t Sharing Power encompass Activation of Student Voice? These concepts in Stewart’s diagram originally derive from a chapter by Frank Tuitt in Race and Higher Education. Readers may benefit from reading that chapter to understand the diagram used throughout this book.

The basic premise of this book is that instruction and assessment are only effective when they consider students. That is true, but it is also true that instruction and assessment are not effective when they focus only on student input. Instruction and assessment must also take into account faculty strengths, diverse educational resources, institutional mission, accreditation requirements, job markets, and the larger cultural environment in which education is embedded. Student-centered learning will only bring about social change and growth when the participants involved in a course are diverse and the course and institutional structures impel students to question existing norms based on their diverse backgrounds. One shortcoming of the book is that it does not address the possibility that students may represent oppressive ideas in a classroom while instructors may represent oppressed identities in the classroom. While the book does not engage in depth with social justice concepts, it is a strong overview of conducting student-centered assessment of library instruction.—Sarah Rose Fitzgerald, University of Alabama

Copyright Sarah Rose Fitzgerald


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