My final project for a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign focuses on a phenomenon seen all too often by academic librarians: the information literacy knowledge and skills deficits so often seen in new college freshmen.
The Standards for the 21st-Century Learner developed by the American Association of School Librarians serve as a guideline for high school librarians as they prepare their students to enter college or the workforce as information-literate persons. However, many or most of these librarians do not have the access to their students that is required to effect a significant degree of learning. As a consequence, a great number of freshmen arrive on campus lacking the skills they will need to approach college-level research with an acceptable degree of competence.
To assess the information literacy knowledge and skills of students enrolled in English 101 (Composition I), I administered the Tool for Real-Time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (TRAILS) to over 200 students. I used the 9th grade assessment, as prior experience with the tool in a graduate-level instruction class and with my own staff revealed the challenging nature of the 12-grade assessment. I also distributed a survey to high schools in our community college district to get a snapshot of the IL skills they believe are integrated into their curricula, and I was pleased with the level of response to the survey.
I reviewed recent literature about young people’s information-seeking habits; experiences of college freshmen seeking and using information; and methods that have been used either to work collaboratively with high school library media specialists or to address knowledge and skills gaps at the college level. I analyzed what I had learned from the experiences of others and assessed the feasibility of applying their methods in my own environment.
I designed a basic information literacy curriculum for my institution to address knowledge and skills gaps identified by TRAILS and by the survey. The six lessons introduce or build on concepts associated with effective research practices. Ideally they would be integrated into English 101 and English 103 (Composition I and II) curricula as students are engaged in actual research assignments, but they could also be offered as stand-alone workshops.