Information Literacy Strategy

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Information Literacy Strategy

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  1. Why is Information Literacy important?
  2. Context
  3. Objectives of this strategy
  4. Collaboration for Information Literacy development
  5. Information Literacy standards and strategic pathways
  6. Information Literacy standards and learning outcomes
  7. Appendix - Information Literacy Learning Objectives

The aim of this strategy is to establish a collaborative framework for library and teaching and research staff to facilitate the development of effective, lifelong information literacies for all USC graduates.

This Information Literacy Strategy contextualises information literacy within USC learning, teaching and research and provides a map for the development of information literacy skills in all USC graduates. It references the internal values and structures of USC against an external, global information environment.

1. Why is Information Literacy important?

We live in a globalised digital world where information proliferates, uncontrolled, diverse and commodified. Individuals accessing information must deal with more than abundance – questions of authenticity, accuracy, ethics, reliability and applicability pose challenges for the individual and society. Our University operates within this information-rich environment and has a commitment to empowering our students to participate effectively in it.

The need to acquire skills to translate information into knowledge is relevant to all disciplines. Information literacy is linked to professional competency and gives graduates skills which extend into all areas of life. The Graduate Attributes of USC acknowledge the importance of equipping students with transferable capabilities that are central to satisfying participation in contemporary society.

Students and academic staff generally underestimate the information literacy skills needed and overestimate the skills possessed (University of Leeds, 2003). Many students continue to rely on serendipitous internet searching rather than strategic and considered use of a range of information resources, not recognising the value of acquiring more sophisticated knowledge skills. Information literacy is an acquired skill to be learned, synthesised, practiced and applied.

Information literate people know how to learn. They are prepared for lifelong learning because they know how knowledge is organised, how to find information and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them (American Library Association, 1989). They know how to verify or refute opinion and become expert seekers of truth (American Library Association,1989)

Individuals who are able to collect, understand and critically analyse information are empowered to become responsible participants in a democratic community.

Information literate people:

  • recognise a need for information
  • determine the extent of information needed
  • access information efficiently
  • critically evaluate information and its sources
  • classify, store, manipulate and redraft information collected or generated
  • incorporate selected information into their knowledge base
  • use information effectively to learn, create new knowledge, solve problems and make decisions
  • understand economic, legal, social, political and cultural issues in the use of information
  • access and use information ethically and legally
  • use information and knowledge for participative citizenship and social responsibility
  • experience information literacy as part of independent learning and lifelong learning

2. Context

External context       

The Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) has developed The Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework. Similar developments are being undertaken in the US and the UK. The second edition of the Framework, revised in 2004, presents six Information Literacy Standards. These standards are used to define the behaviours and learning outcomes for librarians and educators in teaching and assessing information literacy.

The six core standards identify an information literate person as one who:

  • recognises the need for information and determines the nature and extent of the information needed;
  • finds needed information effectively and efficiently;
  • critically evaluates information and the information seeking process;
  • manages information collected or generated;
  • applies prior and new information to construct new concepts or create new understandings; and
  • uses information with understanding and acknowledges cultural, ethical, economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information. (ANZIIL, 2004)
Internal context

Information literacy has been recognised as one of the generic skills identified as a valued outcome of a USC education. The University has a widespread but still ad hoc understanding of the concept of information literacy as an intrinsic aspect of knowledge development.

This strategy is informed by the USC Strategic Plan, the USC Learning and Teaching Plan, USC Learning and Teaching Policy and the USC Information Services Operational Plan.

Information Literacy and learning and teaching

Quality teaching and learning recognises the value of information literacy. Within its Learning and Teaching Plan USC has identified a set of measurable goals for university teaching. Information literacy is a core component of effective student learning outcomes, learner-centred curriculum and research excellence. It is the aim of this strategy to ensure that the development of information literacy, a fundamental literacy in the 21st century, is inherent in the provision and growth of teaching and learning at USC.

Information Literacy and Graduate Attributes

The University views its educational role as one of encouraging the development of critical understandings of the world as well as more specific capabilities that are relevant to work and employment.

A capacity for information literacy is a component of those USC Graduate Attributes which create opportunities for students to be:

  • creative and critical thinkers
  • empowered, having both the capacity and confidence to pursue the attainment of their full potential
  • engaged, contributing positively to diverse communities through service and leadership
  • ethical, acting with integrity in intellectual, professional and community pursuits
  • knowledgeable, building disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge through a scholarly approach incorporating global and regional perspectives

3. Objectives of this strategy

Meeting the goals of the Learning and Teaching Plan and the Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework, and in cooperation and collaboration with academic staff, the Library will provide leadership in the development and implementation of information literacy programs and strategies which stimulate creative insight and are relevant, timely and diverse.

A key objective of this strategy is to provide academic staff with a structured framework which will facilitate the mapping of information literacy skills against course objectives and USC Graduate Attributes.

Further aims of this strategy include:

  • working toward information literacy skills embedded within all curricula
  • promoting information literacy as a university-wide responsibility referenced in the graduate attributes
  • emphasising the importance of information literacy within the context of problem-based learning
  • opening opportunities for staff and students to develop their skills beyond the structured curriculum
  • providing resources in a range of formats which suit the needs of a diverse learner community
  • establishing a framework of identifiable core skills which can be mapped against learning outcomes and objectives

4. Collaboration for Information Literacy development

Good practice models from the UK indicate that library and academic staff working collaboratively produce the most successful integrated information literacy skills programs, tying learning and assessment as closely as possible to the curriculum (The Big Blue project, 2002). USC Library recognises that information literacy is most effectively learned when it is relevant and contextualised – delivered, embedded and assessed within curricula.

In order to be responsive to the different life and learning styles of students, information literacy learning takes place in a variety of contexts:

Broadly, these are defined as:

  • extracurricular; generic classes or self-paced tutorials outside the curriculum or parallel with the curriculum;
  • intercurricular; integrated classes or tutorials that are aligned with or support the curriculum but not taught as part of the curriculum content; or
  • intracurricular; embedded education strategies taught as part of the curriculum content, where students have ongoing interaction and reflection with information.

Successful information literacy strategies in a learning situation map information literacy needs against learning tasks so learners develop appropriate skills and strategies to meet curriculum requirements.

In order to achieve true education and development of information literacy, a combination of these strategies is imperative. Students need a variety of repeated opportunities to identify information needs, seek information for those needs, evaluate the information critically, and apply that information appropriately, legally and ethically.

The Library fosters a scaffolding approach to information literacy education, where base-level skills are developed in first-year undergraduate courses, and these skills are further developed and reinforced in second and third year courses. More diverse and advanced skills are required for the successful transition to postgraduate research work.

The development of information literacy skills is guided by discipline-specific needs (eg identifying trade sources; evidence-based literature). Broadly, however, within the first year a student should become competent in understanding the contexts in which information is sought, located and reported. Second year students should be developing analytical and evaluative skills. By third year students would be expected to seek a range of information resources and understand and apply the legal and moral values which attach to the use of information.

Postgraduate programs acknowledge prior learning of students, and foster the further development of information literacy for postgraduate research scholarship. As a skill for lifelong learning, information literacy requires that USC students learn to identify, find and use information for the workplace and to inform them as global citizens.

Appendix 1 provides a comprehensive outline for information literacy development.

Stakeholders in Information Literacy collaboration

The Library provides leadership in the strategic and systematic development of information literacy education for USC graduates, giving strategic direction for the processes, initiatives and programs for information literacy education.

USC Library acknowledges that most effective learning and development of information literacy understandings and skills occurs in an intracurricular context, allied with discipline knowledge, professional skills and core attributes in communication and understanding. To this end, the Library undertakes a variety of collaborative strategies to ensure information literacy education extends beyond the Library and information literacy is embedded into the curriculum of every course in the University.

The role of the Library

The establishment of University-wide commitment to the development of information literacy skills and empowering our students with the concepts and strategies for building knowledge from information, is a priority for the Library.

The Library will provide:

  • expert advice on integrating and embedding information literacy proficiencies in curriculum design 
  • leadership in the development of discipline-based activities for information skills
  • partnering in the formulation of authentic assessment tasks which address information literacy learning outcomes and behaviours
The role of teaching staff

Teaching staff work in consultation with the Library

  • to offer information literacy development as a component of their courses and programs (intercurricular) and/or
  • to embed information literacy development within their curricula (intracurricular) 

Examples of this collaborative effort result in the development of curriculum strategies that teach students to understand, find, evaluate and use information within a discipline-specific problem or context, and challenge their ability to employ these skills within discipline-related assessment.

Collaborative relationships beyond faculty

The Library is positioned to support research and learning through informal and formal relationships within the University, including TARS, Academic Skills, International student services and Indigenous services. Information literacy is inherent in quality research outcomes.

The Library works with TARS to ensure that USC researchers develop information management skills to:

  • engage with international research literature
  • compete and secure research funding 
  • perform collaboratively in the external research environment

The Library works with student support services to provide a range of extracurricular activities and services which facilitate foundations of information literacy.

These might include:

  • informal one-to-one instruction 
  • focussed collaborative teaching within the curriculum 
  • structured, culturally appropriate learning opportunities with the Library
USC students

Library staff provide instruction and assistance with information seeking and information queries. USC students learn concepts and skills to enhance their development of information literacy for university study and beyond university. Information literacy initiates, sustains and extends lifelong learning.

Students at USC graduate with not only the discipline knowledge and skills of their chosen field, but also the ability to grow as professionals and undertake ongoing development and learning. Students at USC develop attributes that signify the achievement of professional practice, critical concepts and the ability to participate in contemporary society.

The Library also suggests that students who develop information literacy skills will be better able to engage in research, will produce better informed papers as a result of applying a critical approach to information sources, and will be less likely to plagiarise as they manage and access information sources more effectively.

5. Information Literacy standards and strategic pathways

The development of information literacy education is a strategic focus for the USC Library. The Library undertakes a leading role in the development and implementation of initiatives which promote information literacy within the framework of the Graduate Attributes as a set of key skills for lifelong learning. USC Library aims to foster models of effective practice for the education and evaluation of information literacy in terms of student learning outcomes, behaviours and assessment.

USC Strategic Planning identifies pathways to achieve strategic goals within a five-year timeframe. The current Strategic Plan (2005 – 2010) focuses on: Growth and development of the University; Learning and teaching; Research; Regional engagement; Internationalisation; Student support; Staff; Environmental sustainability. These goals are framed within the University’s mission to be a major catalyst for the innovative and sustainable economic, cultural and educational advancement of the region, through the pursuit of international standards in teaching research and engagement and inform, and are informed by the USC Graduate Attributes and the Learning and Teaching Plan.

6. Information Literacy standards and learning outcomes

Information Literacy is ongoing throughout a student’s academic development and is interdependent with the needs of a discipline area, expectations of teachers and level of program. Approaches to teaching and learning information literacy are being driven forward, from within the academy through pedagogies such as problem-based learning and content-focused online courses and through an external need to develop information evaluation skills to meet the increased pace of technological change.

The traditional approach of librarians delivering “library skills” classes needs to be replaced by collaborative planning and the development of multifocused learning experiences which assess not only the production of content, but the process of planning, searching, evaluating and creating which lies behind it. Embedded opportunities for reflection and documentation of information practices, combined with a curriculum providing integrated information learning opportunities (in the library, online or with library staff) is the ideal, blurring the line between the library and the classroom.

USC is well positioned for best practice in the development of information literacies. The university’s relative youth and size, coupled with a commitment to the development of broad educational outcomes as evidenced in the COR courses should enable the growth of curriculum which both develops and assesses students’ information literacy outcomes.

The establishment of Faculty Librarians at USC has opened opportunities for collaboration in identifying, planning and delivering information-literacy driven assessment items. Successful activities undertaken within individual courses are more effective when components of a multi-layered faculty-driven strategy.

Successful, embedded information literacy collaborations result in students who are more engaged in the process of learning. Increased confidence in the process of research and abilities to synthesise information and create knowledge result in higher quality assignment outputs with less plagiarism. There are opportunities in turn for library and faculty to engage in collaborative investigations into the most effective strategies to deliver, manage and assess information literacy outcomes.

The challenge for USC is to strengthen and embed existing information initiatives and to extend information literacy collaborations throughout the university. The University has individual examples of good practice: identifying where to provide a baseline skill, mapping skills against a point of need within courses and programs, designing assessment items which engage information literacies and include reflective practices in learners. Currently these initiatives operate at an individual level. Successful expansion would require engagement at a planning level to ensure that students have the opportunities to build on the skills they have gained in other courses and to identify that the skills required to complete a particular learning activity have broader understandings and applications. Future, effective programs should engage staff and students to realise that information literacy has all-of-life and lifelong applications.

References

American Library Association Presidential committee on information literacy 1989 retrieved from

Bundy, A, ed. 2004, Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice, Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy, retrieved from

 

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