Information Literacy in Vision 2018 and New University Learning Goals

The DePaul University Library is working with the Office for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment in its project to align existing program learning outcomes for both academic and co-curricular programs with the university’s new learning goals, which include information literacy.

Information literacy looks different in different disciplines, but the newly adopted University Learning Goals articulate it quite well. By the time they graduate, DePaul students should be able to: “systematically access, analyze and evaluate information and ideas from multiple sources in order to identify underlying assumptions, and formulate conclusions.”

DePaul’s research and instruction librarians teach these skills on a regular basis to classes in our library instruction sessions and one-on-one via our virtual and in-person research and reference services.  In fact, the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL), in its publication Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, defines information literacy as the ability to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”

Information literacy is also mentioned in DePaul’s new strategic plan, Vision 2018, Objective 1a: “Focus the entire university community on student learning and success.” In order to “Strengthen the student academic experience,” we are charged with leveraging “flexibility in library services and delivery modes to meet changing student needs in information literacy.”

According to the November 2012 Pew Research report, “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World,” large majorities of high school AP and NWP affiliated teachers agreed that “the amount of information available online today is overwhelming to most students (83%) and that today’s digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of sources when conducting research (71%).”

As members of the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) project, DePaul librarians were trained in ethnographic research methods. Librarians from Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois (Chicago and Springfield) and Illinois Wesleyan University tried to understand what students actually do when they are assigned a research project for class.  The librarians came away with the impression that many students spend a significant amount of time and put great effort into their search for sources and information, but simply don’t know how to do it effectively. When students learned a tool or strategy that worked once, they continued to use that tool or strategy for future research, even when it was ineffective. When students hit an obstacle, they assumed the library did not have resources on their topic.

These findings correspond with preliminary research done by Project Information Literacy (PIL). In early 2012, PIL conducted an exploratory study with employers and recent college and university graduates. Employers placed a high value on information searching skills that went beyond a simple Google search as well as people who knew how to share information and work in small groups.  Furthermore, employers reported looking for employees who were able to find patterns, make connections, and retrieve information in a variety of formats.

The Library takes a programmatic approach to library and information literacy (IL) instruction, working with faculty departments and disciplines to integrate these skills into appropriate courses, so that students have a chance to immediately apply what they have learned to course content.

As illustrated by our partnership with HLTH 202 (see accompanying article in this newsletter), our librarian subject liaisons connect with students and faculty in classes that are both required for the major and will require the use of library resources. If you are teaching a course that fits these criteria, your library subject liaison would be happy to meet with you to discuss your course’s research needs. There are many ways we can help you meet your course’s library research objectives. A librarian can meet with your class in-person, work with you to develop a series of shorter classroom activities, or put together online research guides or screencasts specific to your course. Contact and find your librarian liaisons.

Want to integrate information literacy learning goals into your course or program or learn more about the Library’s instruction program? Contact Heather Jagman, Coordinator of Library Instruction (  / 773-325-7704).

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