University of Vermont students have more access to information now than they have ever had in their lives. Yet rarely do students come to us with a complex understanding of the information they encounter. As teachers, how do we guide our students through a complicated information landscape and help them become better researchers and more informed writers?
Information literacy is more than a discrete set of skills. Students must understand the context in which information resides. A request to find appropriate information on a topic assumes that students will understand why a certain resource may or may not be appropriate for a given audience. A request to find scholarly articles on a topic assumes that a student understands how scholarly articles are produced and contribute to disciplinary conversations. To be effective teachers of information literacy is to explicitly attend to the contextual questions of “how” and “why” that are so often overlooked. Information literacy is an iterative, progressive, and scaffolded set of skills, abilities, and habits of mind.
Information literacy at UVM is:
- relevant to all disciplines and across all disciplines.
- embedded throughout the process of identifying topics, posing questions, reading, research, and synthesizing information to create final products.
- taught across all years of the student experience.
- collaboratively taught in partnership between librarians, faculty, and students.
- assessed through assignments and coursework.
The Association of College and Research Libraries, which guides and supports information literacy in higher education, defines information literacy as:
“The set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”
UVM'S Integrated Approach to Information Literacy
Expectations for understanding information literacy, conducting research, and writing are different in all disciplines. As learners and practitioners, our understanding of information literacy is constantly developing.
Students learn about information literacy most effectively when it is integrated throughout the curriculum. UVM’s Writing and Information Literacy General Education outcome helps address the teaching and learning of information literacy, and writing through the collaboration of librarians and faculty.
Continuum of Librarian Support for Information Literacy
- Point-of-need assistance is available through various Ask A Librarian reference services.
- Student research support is available through individual and group consultations with librarians.
- Library instruction is available for individual courses to support specific research needs.
- Programmatic information literacy is integrated into the curriculum in cooperation with faculty across campus.
At UVM two initiatives are in place to structure this progression by combining the interrealted practices of writing and information literacy:
- Foundational Writing and Information Literacy (FWIL) is designed to meet the needs of first-year students. Courses that fulfill this requirement address information literacy, critical reading, revision, and the ability to adapt one’s writing to a particular audience and situation.
- Writing and Information Literacy in the Disciplines (WILD) works with departments to develop a curricular approach to teaching information literacy and writing across a student’s four-year undergraduate experience.
Information Literacy Beyond the Classroom
As students move past college they will continue to engage with the concepts of information literacy and use the skills that they have developed at UVM. In many professions, information literacy manifests itself through the use of evidence-based practices that help inform decisions and actions.
As citizens in a complex global society, UVM graduates will face demands to critically engage with information, generate knowledge, and solve problems in a variety of personal, professional, and civic contexts. UNESCO’s Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning describes information literacy as a basic human right in a digital world that promotes social inclusion. In this larger context, information literacy can be transformative and provides a means for understanding the economic, political, and social forces that impact people’s ability to access information in order to educate themselves and facilitate change.
Librarians can work with you to:
- develop information literacy outcomes for your course.
- support specific assignments through targeted instruction.
- create tutorials and guides to enhance student learning outside the classroom.
- collaborate to create and assess effective assignments.
An Invitation to Collaborate
We invite you to work with your subject librarian and Special Collections librarians to integrate and sequence information literacy into your classes and across the curriculum. Contact them to start the conversation.
Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016).
Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey 2015. Wolff, C., Rod, A.B., & Schonfeld, R.C. (2016).
Project Information Literacy. Information School, University of Washington. (2016).