White paper: Information Research Fluency – Strengthening Student Success & Retention

Information has become increasingly complex, as have the mechanisms for accessing and manipulating it. Online growth has been dramatic and rapid, with “90% of all the data in the world… generated in the last two years” (SINTEF, 2013). The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) suggests that an escalating and complex information environment causes “diverse, abundant information choice” in academic studies, the work place, and in personal lives. Compelling evidence illustrates the positive and tangible impact of information literacy and research skills:

  • Assessment data links a higher GPA to an information literacy course for undergraduates, provided and taught by Entrepreneurial Library Program (ELP) librarians (Norton, 2013).
  • According to a recent case study, 87% of students at Columbia University reported that the strength of their papers increased significantly as a result of using information literacy resources (CredoRef, 2012).
  • First-year students who use the library during their first semester have higher grade point averages and student retention, according to a recent study from the University of Minnesota (Soria, 2013, p.162).

Information literacy strengthens curriculum and learning outcomes when embedded into a larger, over-arching framework. This white paper expands upon the Entrepreneurial Library Program’s view that information literacy can strategically build and refresh skills in a primary & secondary schools, colleges & universities, professional settings, and beyond into life-long learning.

The framework ELP has been testing provides the scaffolding to help shape specific skill development opportunities at a tactical level. Lifelong learning revolves around systematically building and strengthening people’s ability to manage and produce new meaningful content in a complex information environment. Applying the framework to a continuum of learning provides opportunities to build relevant and retainable skill development and refresh. The framework:

  • Operates on a learning continuum, building sophistication of skills overtime through refreshing skills
  • Takes a broad view of information literacy, recognizing that information literacy is not in isolation, but integrated into other kinds of literacy (such as visual, data, media, quantitative, etc.)
  • Embeds skills into curriculum if appropriate because then learning is at point of need and this is a more powerful way to build skills that are relevant and retainable
  • Ties the skill development to learning outcomes in order to demonstrate and assess impact

Precisely who champions the information literacy and who provides the instruction may be educators, instructors, or librarian-educators who sustain the teaching and evaluation of the content. Sometimes existing standards, such as the ACRL Science & Engineering information literacy standards, did not extend well for more advanced applications. The ELP framework provides the scaffolding to help shape specific skill development opportunities at a tactical level. As a result, the framework that ELP has been developing is both strategic and tactical, and may fill gaps where comprehensive solutions do not yet exist.

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