ERIC Identifier: ED465375
Publication Date: 2002-06-00
Author: Kasowitz-Scheer, Abby - Pasqualoni, Michael
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Information Literacy Instruction in Higher Education: Trends
and Issues. ERIC Digest.
Students today face a daily explosion of information resources and the
challenge of using these resources effectively and responsibly. Academic
libraries worldwide have responded by providing instruction in information
literacy, described as the "ability to locate, manage, critically evaluate, and
use information for problem solving, research, decision making, and continued
professional development" (Orr, Appleton, & Wallin, 2001, p. 457).
Information literacy instruction (ILI) requires a shift in focus from
teaching specific information resources to a set of critical thinking skills
involving the use of information. This change is reflected within the
Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, developed by the
Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) (American Library
Association, 2000). ILI in an academic setting includes a variety of
instructional approaches, such as course-related library instruction sessions,
course-integrated projects, online tutorials, and stand-alone courses (Spitzer,
Eisenberg, & Lowe, 1998). Those running formal ILI programs consider
curricular objectives, invoking combinations of instructional solutions over a
period of time.
This ERIC Digest examines characteristics of successful programs, presents
approaches currently being taken by academic libraries to support ILI, and
addresses common challenges in developing and maintaining ILI programs.
Since higher education institutions vary
widely in mission and student body, ILI programs should be designed to meet
specific needs rather than a prescribed set of criteria (Breivik, 1998).
Implementation of a particular approach or program depends on many institutional
and situational factors such as audience, purpose, budget, staffing, facilities,
and time (Grassian & Kaplowitz, 2001).
ACRL's Best Practices Initiative (American Library Association, 2001) offers
one of the most complete sets of best practice characteristics. These
characteristics emphasize the importance of integrating ILI throughout a
student's entire academic career and advise using multiple methods of assessment
for evaluating ILI programs. ACRL provides a detailed outline of the recommended
components for excellent ILI planning, collaborative ILI pedagogy, outreach to
academic departments and other efforts necessary for creating successful ILI
In addition, the literature offers some specific characteristics of
successful ILI programs:
use of student-centered, active, and collaborative learning
methods (Wilson, 2001)
adherence to instructional design principles during planning (Hinchliffe &
relevance to particular course goals and, ultimately, the overall curriculum
(Breivik, 1998; Dewald, 1999)
formation of partnerships between library, faculty, and other
campus departments (Stoffle, 1998)
support of faculty learning and development (Wilson, 2001)
scalability for large numbers of students (Stoffle, 1998)
A variety of approaches and combinations
of approaches have been taken, depending on the particular needs of the
institution. The following sections provide some recent examples.
Information Literacy Instruction
With an increase in remote access to information and a demand for more rapid,
anytime-anyplace sharing of information (Bawden, Devon, & Sinclair, 2000),
many academic libraries have started to offer ILI via the Internet. The most
common online instructional tool is the Web-based guide (e.g., pathfinders,
webliographies) (Vander Meer, 2000). Another trend that has gained popularity is
the information literacy tutorial, which is an interactive, Web-based program
designed to introduce students to general information literacy concepts and
information resources. These tutorials sometimes replace or supplement in-person
library instruction sessions (Donaldson, 2000).
Specific cases receiving recent attention within higher education include:
The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Information Literacy Tutorial (TILT)
integrates Web-based ILI into first-year college courses and enhances students'
conceptual grasp of information resource selection, database searching and
Internet source evaluation. University of Texas, Austin offers interested
educational institutions a
The California State University Information Competence Project presents ILI
tutorials in a visually interesting environment and addresses mass media
literacy. Interactive learning exercises and diverse audiovisual components
(e.g., sound, quick-time movies, animations) are incorporated (Clay, Harlan,
& Swanson, 2001).
The University of Washington Information Literacy Learning (UWILL) initiative is
designed to teach information literacy skills in context with course objectives.
Customized tutorials assist students in completing course assignments while
developing information competencies (University of Washington, 2001).
Online ILI tutorials are helpful in many ways to students, faculty and
librarians. However, they are also criticized for being tedious and text-heavy
(Vander Meer, 2000); presented as stand-alone lessons, disconnected from courses
or assignments (Dewald, 1999; Donaldson, 2000); lacking sufficient interactivity
to create adequate active learning experiences (Dewald et al, 2000); and
communicating an academic research process that is not relevant to students'
expectations (Veldof & Beavers, 2001).
Information Literacy Course
Some institutions offer formal information literacy courses. These courses
range from for-credit to non-credit, from required to elective, and from
distance to face-to-face. They can involve integration with a core curriculum,
specific discipline or course, or general information skills (Donnelly, 1998).
Such courses have gained popularity because they offer opportunities for
in-depth instruction and reinforcement of research skills through course
activities (Frantz, 2002).
According to Jacobson and Mark (2000), instruction is most effective when
offered in context with content-based courses and assignments. Academic
libraries have incorporated meaningful learning experiences into information
literacy courses in a variety of ways:
University of Oregon's LIB 101 course uses a "scenario-based approach" by
building assignments around research situations familiar to undergraduate
students (Frantz, 2002).
Instructors of "Information Literacy" at the State University of New York
College of Environmental Science and Forestry offer research assignments
allowing students to address topics from their other courses (Elkins et al,
Montana State University College of Technology's Information Literacy course
requires students to investigate a personal problem using information gathered
throughout the course (Kaip, 2001).
University of Maryland University College offers a required online course,
"Information Literacy and Research Methods," in which students research a
particular topic and participate in electronic discussions on timely research
issues (Read, 2002). **Information Literacy Across the Curriculum
Other schools go beyond the stand-alone information literacy course by
integrating ILI into the overall curriculum. An across-the-curriculum approach
is favored because it ties information literacy into all students' experiences
(Orr, Appleton, & Wallin, 2001; Snavely & Cooper, 1997). This model
requires collaboration among the library, other academic departments, and
administration to meet the common goal of teaching information literacy skills.
Specific approaches include integration of information literacy objectives
into general education and first-year programs (Hinchliffe & Meckstroth,
2001; Jacobson & Mark, 2000) and development of campus-wide information
competency initiatives (Grassian & Kaplowitz, 2001). In these situations,
librarians, faculty and others work together to provide ILI at the point of
Information literacy instruction is alive and
well on campuses today. However, there is much work to be done before integrated
ILI across the curriculum is standard practice. Some challenges include
motivating students to learn information literacy skills; assessing student
mastery of concepts and skills; training librarians to serve as instructors and
instructional designers (Grassian & Kaplowitz, 2001); advocating the value
of information literacy (Bawden, 2001) in an environment of competing literacies
(Snavely & Cooper, 1997); and preparing students for business settings that
demand a more specialized level of information fluency (Marcum, 2002).
There is a clear need for discussion of information literacy instruction
outside of the library field. A more multi-disciplinary approach to information
literacy research and instruction will create opportunities for more
substantial, curriculum-integrated and long-lasting instructional experiences
that will benefit students throughout and beyond their academic careers.
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