The Language of Information Literacy: Do Students Understand?
Gayle Schaub, Cara Cadena, Patricia Bravender, Christopher Kierkus
College and Research Libraries
To effectively access and use the resources of the academic library and to become information-literate, students must understand the language of information literacy. This study analyzes undergraduate students' understanding of fourteen commonly used information-literacy terms. It was found that some of the terms least understood by students are those most frequently found in faculty-created research assignments and syllabi and that are used by librarians during library instruction. It is
... ended that librarians work with faculty to make them aware of students' lack of understanding of information literacy terms and that librarians also reinforce their meaning during library instruction and in one-on-one consultations. There is a language of information literacy that explains how information is organized, stored, retrieved, evaluated, and ethically used. While there is ongoing debate about its status as an academic discipline, there are specific terms that students must understand in context to effectively access and use the resources of the academic library and to become information-literate. Students encounter these terms in library instruction and individual consultations and through research and writing assignments given by discipline faculty. This study had its genesis in conversations between the authors when they were writing and editing lesson plans designed to teach students information-literacy threshold concepts. Often, these written lesson plans included terms used by librarians when teaching information literacy concepts such as source, database, and peer review. Many of these same terms are used frequently by discipline faculty in course syllabi. When students do not understand this language, it can interfere with their comprehension of how information is created, disseminated, and used in research, making it difficult for students to become information-literate. The authors wanted to measure student understanding of this language. By assessing what students do and do not know, librarians can be more purposeful in instruction and can more effectively integrate information literacy into the curriculum. Background Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is a comprehensive state-supported university with campuses in Allendale and Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the time of this study, 21,235 undergraduates and 3,049 graduate students were enrolled in classes at the university. GVSU Libraries consists of three libraries, including the main building in Allendale and two satellite libraries in downtown Grand Rapids. GVSU libraries uses a liaison system in which librarians are assigned to work with specific discipline areas within the university community. Primary among each liaison's duties is providing classroom instruction in information literacy to the students in those disciplines.