Photo: IMPACT team at Purdue University. Photo courtesy of Tuhin Dey, Purdue University
Evolving landscape of information literacy
Academic libraries have advanced an educational agenda for over four decades to teach students general information skills, such as searching or evaluation. Building on this important work, libraries are now turning their attention to other important information literacy goals, such as enabling students to use information within different disciplinary or professional environments, or examining the role information plays in various social or political contexts.
Highlighting the social and communal aspects of using information, the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (ACRL, 2015) attempts to address some of these concerns. Other models go even further by linking information literacy to professional or societal goals for learning (Bruce, 2008; Lloyd, 2010; Whitworth, 2014). One model, “informed learning,” provides a framework for developing teaching strategies that leverage the relationship between information literacy and learning (Bruce, 2008), making it an excellent fit for addressing emergent goals for information literacy.
From information literacy to informed learning
The key idea behind informed learning is that students should simultaneously engage with new ways of using information while they are learning about disciplinary content (Bruce, 2008). For example, rather than assigning undergraduates to write a typical research paper, the teacher of a language and gender course taught students to trace how an issue, such as gendered humor, or sexist language in children’s literature, evolved through new research studies (Maybee, Bruce, Lupton, & Rebmann, 2017). What the students learned about the issue they explored was shaped by the specific way they were guided to analyze the information sources they collected. Informed learning experiences are guided by three principles:
- Build on learners’ previous experiences of using information to learn
- Emphasize learning to use information and disciplinary content simultaneously
- Foster new awareness of both using information and disciplinary content (Bruce, 2008)
To advance information literacy using an informed learning approach, academic librarians need to be able to influence course assignments and lessons. To do this they must partner with classroom teachers, who have control of course curricula. Academic librarians at Purdue University have been able to build such partnerships by working with other units on campus to spearhead Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation (IMPACT), an initiative to make undergraduate courses more student-centered by creating learning environments that are more active and engaging.
In the IMPACT program, teachers, instructional developers and librarians work in teams to redesign courses. The librarians strive to integrate information literacy by helping teachers identify their goals for disciplinary learning, and then suggesting how students can engage with information to accomplish those goals. For example, one librarian partnered with a statistics instructor who wanted her students to practice analyzing statistical information they might come across in the “real world.” With an information technologist, they developed an assignment in which the students analyzed statistical information they encountered in the popular press by posting and commenting in a Facebook-like environment (Gundlach, Maybee, & O’Shea, 2015).
Informed learning on your campus
To advance information literacy using an informed learning approach, academic libraries need to locate the conversation about teaching and learning on their campus. This may be a course development program, such as the IMPACT program at Purdue, but could also take many other forms depending on administrative or faculty interests, including undergraduate research, competency-based learning, etc. In joining such an initiative, librarians must be careful not to promote information literacy for its own sake, but rather show how information literacy is supportive of the program’s goals. Integrating information literacy into courses using an informed learning approach will allow academic libraries to advance their institution’s goals for student learning and success.
ACRL. (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework
Bruce, C. S. (2008). Informed Learning. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
Gundlach, E., Maybee, C., & O’Shea, K. (2015). Statistical literacy social media project for the masses. The Journal of Faculty Development (Special issue: Social media in pedagogy and practice: Networked teaching and learning), 29(2), 71-80.
Lloyd, A. (2010). Information literacy landscapes: Information literacy in education, workplace and everyday contexts. Oxford: Chandos.
Maybee, C., Bruce, C. S., Lupton, M. & Rebmann, K. (2017). Designing rich information experiences to shape learning outcomes. Studies in Higher Education, 42(12), 2373-2388.
Whitworth, A. (2014). Radical information literacy: Reclaiming the political heart of the IL movement. Burlington: Elsevier Science.