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Peer Review

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

by ACRL Standards Committee


Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Mar 17, 2003 by Information Technology Editorial Board
Overview: Information Literacy is a very important construct in higher education. As
knowledge bases increase in scope and complexity, and as new sources of
information emerge, it is fundamentally important to define "information
literacy" in rigorous terms. Also, it is necessary to delineate how this
construct is related to, and is different from, constructs like information
technology, higher education and pedagogy. Finally, it is important to specify
how to perform assessments on information literacy. To faciliate institutions
developing assessable measures of information literacy, each standard is broken
down into performance indicators and specific behaviors that exemplify subareas
of information literacy.

Type of Material: This site is primarily a Web version of a text document.
The focus is on definition of standards and performance assessment metrics for
information literacy in higher education, which is admittedly a very complex
Recommended Uses: Given the fundamentally immportant nature of this topic, it is appropriate to
disseminate it widely in undergraduate and graduate classes.
This document is a great starting point for anyone interested in defining
information literacy. Also, for individuals or institutions faced with
developing standards-based assessment of information literacy, this site is
quite valuable. On a larger scale, the standards presented here offer an
organizing framework for larger discussions of information literacy and what it
should encompass. A good understanding of these standards and performance
indicators should greatly facilitate learning and scholarly endeavors.

Technical Requirements: None
Identify Major Learning Goals: The major learning goal is to provide individuals and institutions with an
operationalized definition of information literacy. To this end, this document
outlines five assessment standards and twenty-two performance indicators for
information literacy. The standards are enumerated below, and are intentionally
broad in scope to reflect the needs of students in higher
education at all levels:
1. The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the
information needed.
2. The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and
3. The information literate student evaluates information and its sources
critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base
and value system.
4. The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group,
uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
5. The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and
social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses
information ethically and legally.

Target Student Population: Overall, the standards and performance indicators are intended to help
students, faculty/administrators in higher education, and librarians to map out
appropriate strategies to facilitate learning and scholarly endeavors.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: The discussion assumes some appreciation of the importance of elements of an
advanced or liberal education (e.g., critical thinking, higher order thinking).
An understanding of the structure of assessment-based standards is also helpful.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Prior to the development of information literacy standards outlined in this
document, national standards did not exist on this important topic. As a
result, many states, school districts, universities, and local institutions
developed their own idiosyncratic definitions of information literacy. An
important strength of this document is that, it is the first attempt to formally
outline a rigorous and nationally accepted definition on informaton literacy,
and the specific performance indicators associated with this construct.
Overall, given the goal it sets out to accomplish, the content of this site is
excellent. A careful, comprehensive discussion of information literacy is
presented, its relationship to information technology and pedagogy is explored,
and clear, measurable standards are presented. The authoring body of this site
has considerable involvement with, and history in, this area, and it shows. This
is a very authoritative treatment of information literacy.
Concerns: Given the nature of this topic, and the continuous development of technology, no
definition of information literacy can remain satisfactory for a long period.
It is therefore important to recognize that this is a "working" definition that
may continuously evolve over time.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: This definition and related standards were adopted in the year 2000. They
reflect a reasonably comprehensive attempt to explain what information literacy
means, and how they should be assessed/measured in higher education.
Concerns: Although much of the "concerns" articulated in motivating the need for
rigorously defining information literacy stems from the tremendous advances in
information technology, information literacy is defined in fairly broad terms.
Perhaps a strong case can be made for re-evaluating the definition/standards
from the standpoint of "online" information literacy. This will place the
definition, standards, and related assessments in the context of the evolving
debate about information privacy.
Although the site presents detailed definition and discussion of information
literacy, its usefulness is somewhat limited as a teaching tool. The level of
discussion is rather advanced; thus, the language and concepts used will be
difficult for many undergraduate students to digest or understand fully.
(Granted, the writing is appropriate for the intended audience, but it does
limit the usefulness of the resource for other groups.)

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: In Appendix 1, the document cites several historic documents on Information
Literacy Initiatives in the US. These documents provide a logical context for
the evolutionary history of the information literacy construct, and more
importantly, several justifications that support the definition of information
literacy articulated in the document.
Overall, the site and its information are presented in an easily navigated
format. Applying the information - the standards and the manner in which they
are broken down into measurable objectives - is also fairly straightforward.
Concerns: Although this document describes the taskforce responsible for crafting this
document, it does not explain the mechanism (if any) to periodically review and
re-evaluate the standards/performance indicators described in this document.
The difficulty, particularly for students, will be in understanding the
relevance of much of this site to what might fit a lay definition of information
literacy. The language and precision with which information literacy is defined
and operationalized are more appropriate for an audience of graduate students.

Other Issues and Comments: This is a very authoritative treatment of information literacy.