Mar 17, 2003 by
Information Technology Editorial Board
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 topic.
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.
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 efficiently. 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.