More Creative Assessments for the First-Year Experience

More Creative Assessments for the First-Year Experience

In a previous post, we covered different assessment activities that you can adapt in your instruction programWe find that FYE librarians need to continue shaping their instructional and assessment methods for first-year students. Instructional assessments are important to measure students’ learning and your own instruction performance. Here are some additional ones you can consider doing!  

  • Collaborations with faculty outside of the library: For a subject specialist librarian teaching primarily within the one-shot format, it can be tricky to evaluate instructional effectiveness. Partnering with disciplinary faculty to co-create an assessment tool, such as a rubric measuring key information literacy competencies of a particular discipline, is a viable option. Rubrics can be tailored to evaluate the knowledge and skills of students brand new to a field of study (such as first years) or extend up to the graduate level. The rubrics could assess student artifacts (e.g., research papers) by librarians and subject faculty. This process will yield rich information that can be applied in both classrooms to improve specialized information literacy skills.
  • Fun Surveys with BuzzFeed: BuzzFeed, the popular social media news site, has a special feature called community posts where anyone can create an account and blog or design a BuzzFeed survey. These surveys can be fun, quirky, and intentional. Before you can have students fill out a BuzzFeed survey that you created such as “What kind of a reader are you?”, “What’s your favorite study space?” and “What should be your major?”, collect the data, and have a small discussion about it. It can be a fun way for student engagement and to share experiences and thoughts about being a first-year student.
  • Real-Time Assessment with Google Sheets: Thinking about assessing students in a real-time classroom setting? Consider using Google Sheets, an open source tool under Google Drive that can engage with many students at once. You can set up a Google Sheet and allow students to fill out each box on their research topics, search terms, results, keywords, etc., and then engage with them as they conduct their searches. This is an effective way to manage a one-shot with more than 50 students so you can easily browse through the Google Sheet to see who is behind, who is ahead, and who might be using the wrong keywords for their research topics. This can be corrected immediately, and everyone else can learn from these teachable moments.
  • Collaborative Keyword Development Activity: This activity has two goals: helping students work together to improve keyword development skills and providing librarians with an idea of first years’ basic search capabilities. Divide students into groups of two to three and instruct them to help their teammates think of keywords for each of their research topics. Students are provided with a table to complete (see below) for each group member. They gain practice by generating synonyms in a team-based environment, and librarians can evaluate keyword skills of first-year students to better inform their teaching practice.

John’s research question: Should health care organizations serving senior citizens mandate employees to receive the seasonal flu vaccine?

John’s Keyword Table


Health care organizations


Elderly people


Seasonal flu vaccine

Person #1 name:


Rachel’s suggestion: Hospitals Rachel’s suggestion:

Senior citizens

Rachel’s suggestion:

Influenza vaccine

Person #2 name:


Shawn’s suggestion:

Nursing homes

Shawn’s suggestion:


Shawn’s suggestion:

Flu shot

See also:

About the Authors

Raymond Pun (he/him/his) is an academic/school librarian in the Bay Area, CA. Ray has written and published extensively in the library and information science field. He co-edited books including The First Year Experience Cookbook (ACRL Publications, 2017) and The Sustainable Library’s Cookbook (ACRL Publications, 2019). You can find him on Twitter @raypun101.



Katelyn Angell is First-Year Success Librarian/Assistant Professor at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus. She has published several articles on assessment of information literacy skills, including “Far from a Trivial Pursuit: Assessing the Effectiveness of Games in Information Literacy” in EBLIP with Eamon Tewell.