Information Literacy: A Neglected Core Competency
By Sharon A. Weiner
- College students think of information seeking as a rote process and tend to use the same small set of information resources no matter their question.
- Information literacy is essential for lifelong learning and empowers individuals and societies.
- Our educational system should expose students to information literacy from elementary school through postsecondary education so that it is a habit of mind they can call upon throughout their lives.
- Collaborative efforts between faculty, librarians, technology professionals, and others can develop students who graduate with information literacy competency.
Researchers at the Information School at the University of Washington released an important and thought-provoking report in late 2009: "Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age."1 The study confirms and expands on the results of other reports. Its particular value is the size of the population studied, the diversity of institutions represented, and the use of both a survey and follow-up interviews for data collection.
The findings are troubling. College students think of information seeking as a rote process and tend to use the same small set of information resources no matter what question they have:
- The primary sources they use for course work are course readings and Google.
- They rely on professors to be "research coaches" for identifying additional sources.
- They use Google and Wikipedia for research about everyday life topics.
- They tend not to use library services that require interacting with librarians.
And although they begin the research process engaged and curious, they become frustrated and overwhelmed as it progresses.
The results of the study suggest that many college students view their educational experience as one of "satisficing" -- finding just enough information that is "good enough" to complete course assignments. They miss opportunities that college education provides for exploration, discovery, and deep learning.
The University of Minnesota Libraries participated in the next phase of this research--an analysis of assignments.