Volume 4, Number 1; March 2012
The Case for Course-based Information Literacy Instruction
Written by Sheila Hoover
Do you assign written projects in your classes? Do you have the expectation that your students (undergraduate and graduate) know the most expeditious way to get to the "best information"? Are you tired of seeing Wikipedia as a source or the source of information in student papers? If you answered yes to any of these questions I have an idea that might prove useful. Collaborate with a librarian. Yes, a librarian, a librarian who specializes in the literature of your subject area.One of these subject specialists can help you and your students. A librarian can give a 50-minute presentation tailored specifically for your class or for your research group.
External accrediting bodies and professional societies know the value of information literacy instruction. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) addresses accreditation standards for student learning outcomes and states that, the "institution ensures that users have access to regular and timely instruction in the use of the library and other learning/information resource. "The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) published information literacy competency standards in 2000. They state that "students should be knowledgeable about finding, retrieving and effectively using information."
What impact can a library presentation have on your class and students and the work they do? A faculty member in human sciences reported that the quality of class projects improved dramatically when she began having a librarian come in and speak to her class. The subject librarian for psychology, in collaboration with the psychology faculty, has been testing psychology students to measure their ability to learn and retain information literacy skills in psychology. This includes evaluating the quality of the information retrieved, particularly the utilization of critical thinking skills to distinguish empirical research from non-empirical research.
Teaching information literacy in university courses is deeply relevant. What a student learns in ENGL1301/1302 will not necessarily help them in an upper division biology, chemistry, psychology or engineering class. Information plays a role in developing discipline specific intellectual frameworks. As you socialize your students in your discipline, one of the skills they need to gain, whether their goal is graduate school, industry or a small family-owned company, is how to get the information they need for the task in front of them.
Students have adopted strategies to get by. Faced with a daunting array of interfaces and search methods, students easily abandon the system of academic information in favor of more intuitive sources like Google. In today’s complicated information landscape students can’t be criticized for going to what they know. The students know how to use Google and some even know about Google Scholar, but they often cannot distinguish between a web page and a scholarly article. Your students are not alone. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) reports that many college students lack the information and computer technology literacy skills necessary to navigate, evaluate and use information based on the administration of their iSkills test.
It is up to us to expose them to the scholarly resources in their discipline. The Library has hundreds of electronic databases and tens of thousands of electronic journals and books. Information literacy instruction involves teaching the evaluation of information, critical thinking and integration skills. We can show your students where to look for information, how to find information, how to know what kind of information they find, where it came from and how best to evaluate it.
It is impossible to do any kind of adequate research outside of the digital environment. Librarians know how the environment works and know it better than anyone else. So call your personal librarian and ask how he or she can best help you and your students.
Find your personal librarian here: http://library.ttu.edu/services/subject_librarians/subject_librarians.php
About the Author
Sheila Hoover serves as associate dean of Texas Tech University Libararies.