Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Associations weigh in on how to gauge post-college outcomes @insidehighered\


Associations weigh in on how to gauge post-college outcomes @insidehighered.

If this were adopted, where would libraries fit in?

When I originally posted this here, I did not have time to write or indeed, even read it thoughtfully.   Now that I have, here are my thoughts – which may or may not be worth a plug nickel.

Like the information literacy skills we, as a profession, um, profess, I looked at the responsible parties of the content: a partnership of 3 higher-ed organizations – the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).  These groups have been heavily involved in the student outcomes trend for some time now, at least individually.  With funding from the  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they have gotten together to develop this framework.  Now, the B&MGF has been criticized for being too focused on measurable outcomes, the idea of which can be stifling to educators who are focused on educating the human mind.  So such efforts are often viewed with a jaundiced eye.

Next to examine is the goal or purpose of their work – why did they do this?  Why publish it?  Why promote it?  From the IHE article,

A key goal, they said, was to encourage policy makers to use appropriate measures of post-college success, rather than just available or simple ones.

And from the executive summary (emphasis added by me),

to create a framework and application tools that will enable colleges and universities, policymakers, and the public to better understand and talk about post collegiate outcomes in areas such as economic well-being, ongoing personal development, and social and civic engagement. The development of the framework and the accompanying tools are an important first step toward the creation of common metrics and indicators for use by institutions to report a more comprehensive set of post collegiate outcomes.

So it seems to me that the groups, which represent different levels, and often different stages, of higher education at both the individual student and the educational system level, were trying to get on the same page, so to speak.

Now, what do they say?  Well, the graph highlighted in the IHE article pretty much says it all:

Figure 1: PCO Framework

Figure 1: PCO Framework

It’s interesting to me that they reduced some incredibly abstract ideas into a two-dimensional chart, but that is not uncommon.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that we are still communicating in two-dimensions – a hologram would be able to add a 3rd dimension.  But even that would be too limiting.  Oh well…So, this is what they presented – two dimensions of student outcomes:  public/personal and economic/human capital.  This is an improvement on the more conservative approach that suggests that higher education is primarily a personal, economic benefit, and thus should be paid for by the individual, and not society.

Figure 3: Examples of Outcomes Across the Framework

Figure 3: Examples of Outcomes Across the Framework

Actually, these examples do not seem to live up to their own goals of not relying on simple and easy to get measures.  Earnings, for example – this is already being used, and with much criticism.  Because there is much disparity in earnings by professions, it is not a reliable measure of student outcomes.  Comparing the earnings of programs or institutions which focus on STEM with liberal arts institutions or humanities programs leads to great disparities.  It is not an indicator of quality. However, if earnings is a measure considered equally among many, and if it will be compared in a relative manner (comparing like programs or like institutions), then it may be considered by some to be fair to include it.

So, with these examples in mind, I return to my original question, Where do libraries fit in?  How do librarians contribute to these outcomes?  Where can we improve?  Certainly just be continuing to do our jobs well, librarians and the resources we provide contribute to the education of our students.  But that, of course, is not measurable.  In what ways and how much do we contribute?

Thoughts that have occurred to me include engaging students with resources, instruction & activities associated with…

  • career selection, which contributes to career satisfaction
  • professionalism, which contributes to career advancement
  • critical thinking and social responsibility, which contributes to voting participation, charitable donations, employability, and, well, everything
  • personal and public financial management, which contributes to voting participation, lower student debt, and employability
  • …well, I could go on, but I think you get the drift.

How can measure our contributions to these outcomes?  It won’t be easy.  It’s one thing to demonstrate what we do, but it’s much harder to assess the impact of what we do on these outcomes.

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This entry was posted on January 9, 2015 by in Academic Libraries, Assessment.
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