Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Assessment in Fieldwork Courses: What Are We Rating?

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Assessment in Fieldwork Courses: What Are We Rating?

Article excerpt


Fieldwork has many variations, definitions, and interchangeable terms associated with it. Library schools have different names for the experience, including practicum, field problems, internship in libraries, library practice work, professional field experience, and cooperative education (Futas, 1994; Mediavilla, 2006). According to the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) (1990), fieldwork essentially entails learning in a professional work setting. Formally, ALISE says it is the "structured pre-professional work experience which takes place during graduate coursework or after coursework but preceding the degree" (Futas, 1994, p. 146).

For the purposes of this study, Coleman's (1989) definition of fieldwork (echoed by Nakano & Morrison, 1992) as a "relatively short-term, professionally supervised work experience offered as part of the school's curriculum and taken during the academic sequence" (p. 22) is restricted to unpaid experience, and enlarged to include the practica and field experiences discussed in literature describing fieldwork. It is generally held that fieldwork of this nature is conducted pre-degree, but at the end of a degree program (Monroe, 1981; Palmer, 1975). It is commonly administered by faculty or designees within library schools. A host site is the location where the fieldwork occurs.

Ongoing communication between all involved is necessary so there are no surprises in assessment (Claggett, et al, 2002). Instantaneous feedback on any misinterpretations or errors is often necessary (Genovese, 1991). The student is not only gaining real world experience about library basics, but is also participating in an introduction to peer review, evaluation, and human resources issues. One school reports that its evaluation form serves as a mechanism through which students can get "more formalized feedback on their progress as measured against professional criteria" (Botello, 2006, p. 15), although the exact criteria are not specified.

Assessment as a problem regularly occurs in library literature, as it is difficult to assess what is not always seen (Brundin, 1989; Damasco & McGurr, 2008; Nakano & Morrison, 1992; Ricker, 2005). It is hard to create a fair evaluation of competence and skill based on infrequent observation. Faculties are noted as indicating the need for better methods to assess student performance, and how to assess their own support of the students (Nakano & Morrison, 1992). A lack of correspondence between faculty and site supervisors is an issue, and there is a lack of group effort in establishing the objectives before field experience begins (Cobum, 1980; McGurr & Damasco, 2010). No consensus exists as to whether faculty should ultimately be responsible for assigning grades or credit for fieldwork, or the site supervisor, or some combination of both parties.

This study aims to collocate and analyze the evaluation forms used by library schools that are distributed to fieldwork supervisors in order to discern what attributes we expect students to be rated. Specific research questions include:

What are the most frequently occurring attributes?

How do library school evaluation forms compare to one another?

How do the attributes on evaluation forms compare to the ALA Core Competences for Librarianshipl

The researcher also proposes a new evaluation form that takes the ALA Core Competences into consideration, along with information that can help the library school assess the experience.

Literature Review

History of Fieldwork in Library Schools

Research looking at fieldwork in library schools has generally been historical and comparative, showing a progression in the regard for fieldwork in the curriculum. Since the late 1800s, the idea of fieldwork has been discussed in library literature. Monroe (1981) stated that its initial purpose was to mitigate a deficiency of textbooks and a lack of established curriculum. …

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