California State University
INFORMATION LITERACY FACT SHEET
October 2, 2000
INFORMATION LITERACY DEFINED:
Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to
"recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate,
evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." An
information literate individual is able to:
- Determine the extent of information needed
- Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
- Evaluate information and its sources critically
- Incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base
- Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
- Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding
the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS TO BE INFORMATION LITERATE?
- Provides Proven Methods for Successfully Navigating
Proliferating Information Resources
- Individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices--in
their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.
Information is available through libraries, community resources, special
interest organizations, media, and the Internet--and increasingly, information
comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its
authenticity, validity, and reliability. The sheer abundance of information
will not in itself create a more informed citizenry without a complementary
cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively.
Supports National Efforts to Improve the Quality of
- The Boyer Commission Report, Reinventing Undergraduate Education,
strategies that require the student to engage actively in "framing of a
significant question or set of questions, research or creative exploration
to find answers, and the communications skills to convey the
Courses structured around these skills create student-centered learning
environments where inquiry is the norm, problem solving becomes the focus,
and thinking critically is part of the process. Proactive learning
environments require information literacy competencies.
Provide Additional Tools for Reinforcing Course
- The convergence of the prodigious production of the information age
and the growing awareness of the student memory loss of course content
suggests that a vital part of education must be in the students' ability
to locate information for themselves. If students graduate from a
CSU campus unable to locate, synthesize, and evaluate information, they
will not have the skills necessary for survival in any field. Moreover,
even if student retention of course content was almost perfect, the rate
of change of knowledge is so high that what students learn today, especially
in certain fields, may not be accurate or relevant a few years from
Enhances Lifelong Learning
- Developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher
education institutions. By ensuring that individuals have the
intellectual abilities of reasoning and critical thinking, and by helping
them construct a framework for learning how to learn, colleges and
universities provide the foundation for continued growth throughout their
careers, as well as in their roles as informed citizens and members of
communities. Information literacy is a key component of, and
contributor to, lifelong learning.
Information literacy competency extends learning beyond formal classroom
settings and provides practice with self-directed investigations as individuals
move into internships, first professional positions, and increasing
responsibilities in all arenas of life. Because information literacy
augments students' competency with evaluating, managing, and using
information, it is now considered by several regional and discipline-based
accreditation associations as a key outcome for college
WHO SHOULD ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR INFORMATION LITERACY TEACHING
The research undertaken by the CSU Information Competence Work Group
suggests that isolated, hit-or-miss, ad hoc attempts cannot ensure that
students are well equipped for the Information Age. It also indicates
that the best programs are integrated into the curriculum and are built
on strong alliances between discipline faculty and library faculty.
This suggests, therefore, that the education in information literacy is
a responsibility to be shared by discipline faculty and library faculty
and should be an integral element of the curriculum.
Through lectures and by leading discussions, faculty establish the
context for learning, inspire students to explore the unknown, and monitor
students' progress. Academic librarians coordinate the evaluation and
selection of intellectual resources for programs and services; organize,
and maintain collections and many points of access to information; offer
guidance on how best to fulfill information needs, and provide instruction
to the campus community on effective methods of accessing, selecting, and
evaluating information Administrators also play a significant role through
active support of information literacy programs and by creating opportunities
for collaboration and staff development among faculty, librarians, and
other professionals who initiate information literacy programs, lead in
planning and budgeting for those programs, and provide ongoing resources
to sustain them.
OPTIONS FOR INFORMATION LITERACY PROGRAMS
Freshman Orientation/Transitions Course
Freshman Seminar/Transitions courses are now widespread, and they
provide a place to begin a sustained education in information
literacy. The "orientation" nature of these courses, however,
usually dictates that the component devoted to information competencies is brief.
Since the ability to use information effectively and wisely is crucial
to a student's success in higher education, it seems natural to incorporate
information literacy into the general education curriculum required of
all students. It could be added as a stand-alone course dealing with
the topic, or it could be added as a component in several or all of the
courses included in the General Education curriculum
Cornerstone Class in Major Area
Each discipline has information resources that document and preserve
the scholarship of the discipline. In addition research on information
transfer documents that disciplines differ in the emphasis placed on currency,
use of primary documents, use of electronic publishing, etc.
Discipline-specific information literacies have been identified and all
graduates should be well versed in thus aspect of their discipline.
One option for including discipline-specific information
literacy in the major area is to integrate it into an
"gatekeeper" or "funnel" course, the one that students
take first in their disciplinary sequence. The introductory course in
a discipline typically familiarizes students with the methodologies,
terminologies, and resources of a discipline.
- Other models emphasize information competence in part or all
of several courses required in the major. These models can be effective
if the information literacy component is a required course component, regardless
of the professor currently teaching the class.
Information Competence through Competency-Based Mastery
A recent trend has been the willingness to award academic credit
on the basis of demonstrated mastery of skills rather than through course
work. For example, many nurses who return to college to pursue a
baccalaureate degree are permitted to receive credit for demonstrated mastery
of the skills they have acquired through experience, and are then placed
in the appropriate course in the baccalaureate sequence. CSU Monterey
Bay is an experimental program through which students, in order to graduate,
must demonstrate mastery of a host of skills and knowledge--regardless
of whether that knowledge was gained through life experience, independent
study, regular university courses, or community service.
- Another method, then, for a campus to institute a program of
information literacy is to require students to demonstrate mastery.
Students can be given ample opportunity to acquire the necessary skills
through workshops, workbooks, computer tutorials, classroom instruction,
etc., and when they believe they have mastered the competencies identified,
they can apply for an assessment and evaluation. Once the students
have passed the assessment, their transcript reflects that they have completed
this requirement for graduation.
Written by: Dr. Kathleen Dunn
- California State University, Commission on Learning Resources and
Instructional Technology, Work Group on Information Competence. Information
Competence in the CSU: A Report. CSUN, 1995.
Assistant University Librarian
Cal Poly Pomona
October 2, 2000
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