Effective Information Literacy Assignments typically have one or more of the following characteristics:
Specify Acceptable and Unacceptable Sources
Tell students what kind of sources they are expected to use, and help them make distinctions where ambiguities occur. For example, clarify the difference between the free Web found through search engines likeGoogle, and Web-based periodical databases.
Encourage Critical Independent Thought
Assignments that emphasize comparing, contrasting, and evaluating ideas are more likely to spur independent thought in students than assignments that emphasize processes such as comprehension and knowledge. You may wish to consult Bloom’s Taxonomy for words to use in the assignment description:http://www.coun.uvic.ca/learn/program/hndouts/bloom.html
This can be accomplished by giving students assignments that are unusual, engage the students’ imagination, and cannot be easily completed by copying and pasting off the Web. Use of technologies such asTurnitin can also be helpful in educating students about plagiarism and discouraging its practice. Defining plagiarism in the syllabus and outlining its potential consequences can also be effective.
Teach Proper Citation
Require students to cite sources properly, according to whatever format they have been assigned, and take advantage of resources such as RefWorks, which make it simple for students to keep track of sources and format their bibliographies. Emphasize that citing sources serves a dual purpose: to fulfill the ethical obligation of giving credit when using another person’s words or ideas, and to allow the reader to judge the quality of research.
Grade the Research, Not Just the Paper
Make clear to students that you will pay close attention to the sources that they choose, and that their grade for the assignment will depend partly on the quality of their bibliography. Discourage them from indiscriminate use of the World Wide Web, and encourage the use of peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles. Assigntutorials to help your students through the process.
Break Longer Assignments into Steps
For research papers or presentations, have students first submit an outline with their research question, short outline of what will be covered, and an annotated bibliography. This is helpful to students, who get feedback on their topic selection and preliminary research, and gives the instructor a chance to assist those students who may have gotten off track.
Use the Information Literacy Grading Rubric
Share this rubric with your students, and make them aware that it will be used as the basis of their grade for the assignment. The IL Rubric is available at http://www.stjohns.edu/assessment.
- What is Info Lit?
- Why is Info Lit important?
- How is Info Lit taught?
- What do librarians offer for curriculum planning?
- How do librarians support faculty to teach Info Lit?
- How do I know if students are learning?
- How does the library's instruction program support Info Lit?
1What is Info Lit?
The ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use information.
Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. (See: Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report)
The information literate student can:
- Determine the extent of information he or she needs
- Locate and access the needed information effectively and efficiently
- Evaluate information and its sources critically in order to identify the best resources
- Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
- Acquire and use information ethically and understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information
- Incorporate selected information into his or her knowledge base
2Why is Info Lit important?
The ability to locate, evaluate, and use information has always been important, but in today's world, where information is created at an exponential rate, these abilities take on a new urgency. Having more information from which to choose can make research more difficult rather than easier. Often the easiest information to find is unfiltered or unreliable, making information literacy skills more important than ever.
Information literacy skills are important for students´ academic, work, and personal lives. In academia, discipline-specific information is constantly changing, and much of what students learn in class will become outdated. An information literate student is a lifelong learner, with the skills necessary to continually find and evaluate information about new developments in an academic discipline. In an information economy, students need information literacy skills to succeed in the work force. Having these information literacy skills empowers students to become independent seekers of knowledge and provides them with the ability to make intelligent decisions in their personal and civic lives.
3How is Info Lit taught?
Students are more likely to learn the concepts and skills in the context of an academic course when they have an information problem to solve. For that reason, information literacy best practices recommend integrating the teaching of information literacy into the curriculum. Ideally, information literacy competencies are sequenced and integrated into the curriculum of an academic department.
4What do librarians offer for curriculum planning?
On a programmatic level, librarians are available to map information literacy competencies onto an existing departmental curriculum, or to work with departments to build those sequenced competencies into a revised curriculum.
5How do librarians support faculty to teach Info Lit?
Librarians are available to assist faculty in teaching information literacy skills to their students in a number of ways. These methods, which can be combined, include:
- collaborating with faculty to create effective research assignments
- creating exercises for faculty to assign to students to teach information literacy concepts (ex: the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals)
- creating course research guides for a specific class
- library and research instruction sessions
- online tutorials tied to course content
- involving a librarian in your online course
6How do I know if students are learning?
Any information literacy class will include an evaluation of student learning. The form this evaluation takes will be developed in consultation with the faculty member.
7How does the library's instruction program support Info Lit?
See Library Instruction Mission Statement (pdf).