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Information Literacy is about Choices

I just had a really fun meeting with a professor who is developing a new freshman seminar for Fall, and we were trying to work out what exactly first year students could reasonably and usefully get out of her course in terms of information literacy, particularly since she’s interested in ditching the Big Final Research Paper kind of assignment. As we talked, we realized that what we really wanted students to get out of this course is an understanding that intellectual output is the product of intellectual choice.

So, if they write responses to readings and are asked what kinds of evidence the author used to support the argument, and what other kinds of evidence could have been used, that’s information literacy. If we talk to them about the ways that citation styles reveal epistemology, that’s information literacy. If we ask them to think about why articles appeared in one kind of publication rather than another, that’s information literacy. If we talk about disciplinary vocabulary, that’s information literacy.

And all of this will, of course, mean introductions to standard sources and search strategies and things. And some of this will involve 10-15 minute visits from me. But all of it should help these first year students move from thinking of published literature as The Voice Of Truth (to be paraphrased and revered) and start seeing it as a living body of work that each scholar navigates, and that each scholar shapes while navigating.

So I guess that’s another piece of the answer to my ongoing question: An information literate student can recognize intellectual choice and make appropriate intellectual choices when gathering, evaluating, and communicating evidence.

One thought on “Information Literacy is about Choices

  1. This is great. I’m working with the director of our new first-year Critical Thinking Seminar program to get the faculty teaching those seminars to think beyond The Big Final Research Paper assignment and beyond The One-Shot Library Session model for IL instruction. I’m hoping that because this is a new kind of course in our curriculum (we’ve not had a first-year seminar), it will help the faculty think more creatively about what they can ask their students to do that will build information literacy skills, and also help them accept more (and better) help from us.

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