This article questions the effectiveness and overall applicability of a tutorial as an instructional alternative to in-class instruction. A tutorial was developed to instruct undergraduate students in a high-enrollment psychology course, in the use of the PsycINFO database. A pretest and posttest instrument was developed to evaluate retained information. The results demonstrated that the tutorial significantly increased undergraduate students' understanding and use of the PsycINFO database, and that the resources used to develop the tutorial were well spent.
Over the last twenty years, libraries throughout higher education have developed and expanded their formal library instruction programs. These programs are designed to teach students how to identify and locate appropriate library resources efficiently and effectively. As library collections become increasingly electronic, there is a plethora of information resources accessible over the Internet, and it is increasingly complicated for the novice researcher to effectively navigate. The information landscape has increased the demand for library instruction for courses throughout the curriculum at all academic libraries. Furthermore, in this information age, students need to develop more sophisticated information-seeking skills using electronic resources for lifelong learning, regardless of their field of study. Not surprisingly, most campuses have begun to stress information literacy as an essential component of higher education. Librarians devote much of their time partnering with the teaching faculty to integrate library instruction and the effective use of electronic information resources into the fabric of a student's coursework. At most colleges and universities, the need and demand for library instruction exceeds the number of librarians available to offer it. Librarians are always seeking efficiency in the development of materials supporting library instruction and with methods of implementation.
In the 1990s the University of Iowa undergraduate psychology curriculum was substantially changed. The graduation requirements for the B.A. and B.S. degrees were increased. A decision was made to strengthen and emphasize the sophomore-level courses, including the Introduction to Child Development course. At that point, the psychology librarian began to assist each semester in two research assignment sessions in the instructional technology center for the Introduction to Child Development course. Since this course is so important to the curriculum, the faculty decided that information literacy and research were essential elements. To distinguish its undergraduate program from less research-oriented ones, the UI Psychology Department encouraged its undergraduate majors to engage in professional-level independent research through independent study and honors projects. By 1999-2000, more than 40 percent of the graduating psychology majors had participated in independent research. The purposes of this effort were to make classroom learning more meaningful, increase students' awareness of the nature and value of scientific research to society, and prepare the students to effectively evaluate psychological research and media presentations of this research. (1)
For years, the Psychology Department faculty members invited the psychology librarian to provide a lecture about searching the paper version of Psychological Abstracts or do a demonstration of the electronic version of Psychological Abstracts when first the CD-ROM and then the Web-based version became available. PsycINFO is an abstract database of psychological literature dating from the 1800s to the present. Developed by the American Psychological Association as the professional database in the field, PsycINFO currently provides access to more than 1,800 journals, books and book chapters, technical reports, and dissertations. (2)
In 1999 the Psychology Department faculty asked for a tutorial to replace a demonstration and invited the psychology librarian to assist in the instructional technology center when undergraduate students worked on research assignments. The faculty did not believe that the general tutorial in OVID was adequate. The first PsycINFO tutorial was developed in 2000, and the second, upon which this research is based, was developed in fall 2001.
The psychology librarian wrote the script, and a graduate assistant captured screens and designed the tutorial under the psychology librarian's direction. The tutorial was planned to address different learning styles. The tutorial pages may be read sequentially, and, if desired, the student may open another browser and complete the searching with the tutorial to reinforce learning. Given the licensing agreement, anyone not affiliated with the University of Iowa would not be able to use the second browser feature off campus. A table of contents on the left-hand side of each tutorial page allows the student to skip around to review a particular concept. A quick reference guide may be printed or used online.
The university librarian funded a graduate student to assist the psychology librarian with the technical work. The university librarian expressed interest in data that would justify the expenditure of funds and staff time in tutorial development for this discipline and perhaps for others.
The purpose of this research study was to assess the instructional effectiveness of the revised tutorial. This endeavor provided an opportunity for library staff to:
* work closely with selected faculty in psychology to integrate the tutorial and other library instruction into core classes;
* assess the educational value of the use of pretests and posttests to determine what the students learned and retained; and
* evaluate the applicability of this model for other disciplines.
Concern about assessment of user education is not new. Werking's historical review of the subject is widely quoted and reviewed. (3) In1995 Sutton, Feinberg, Levine, Sandberg, and Wilson completed a major review of the formal group bibliographic instruction literature in psychology, but there was no examination of the assessment of learning. (4)
Parr and Baxter have long advocated for library instruction for students in psychology courses, and Feinberg supported some of their assertions with his research. Given the importance of psychology in the behavioral sciences, class-and format-specific instruction was considered essential. However, in 1992 Eadie noted the fact that there was still little research to support the pedagogical effectiveness of bibliographic instruction. (5)
Teaching in large introductory psychology classes has been a challenge. Benjamin reviewed the literature on large classes and suggested ways to provide active learning opportunities and avoid depersonalization. Ransdell was well aware of the problems inherent in large introductory psychology classes and reviewed the use of educational software to increase active learning by students. Bostow, Kritch, and Tompkins also pointed out the literature that supports more participation in the learning process by college students. The lecture method is inadequate alone, and there are advantages to student participation in instruction, including the creation of time for faculty-student discussion and mentoring. (6)
Librarians at Lake Forest College collaborated with education faculty to create, evaluate, and revise research assignments. One component of the research assignments was effective computer database searching. As part of the evaluation process, students took a pretest and posttest on library skills. This pilot study pointed out the need to improve the pretest and posttest and also gave insights into ways to improve the library assignments. (7)
Kaplowitz, Fry and Kaplowitz, and Kaplowitz and Contini were early users of the pretest-posttest model of evaluation. Kaplowitz reported on evaluation of library usage, library skills, and attitudes toward librarians and libraries after students in a required writing composition class participated in library instruction. There was a significant difference between pretest and posttest scores for students who participated in the library instruction. For students who did not participate in the library instruction, there was no significant difference between their pretest and posttest scores. Fry and Kaplowitz did a three-year follow-up study of students who had participated in the library instruction program. Three years later, …