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Information Literacy


Unlike the first three areas of self-study that focus on understanding and assessing the efficacy of innovations that have been or will be implemented by the university, the fourth area of self-study, information literacy, is a developmental inquiry. The nature of information delivery and its use has changed in dramatic ways in the last twenty years. Indeed, a major theme that permeated our last reaffirmation activities centered on the delivery and use of electronically generated information and our use of electronic data in planning, budgeting, and assessment. Similarly, the sources and types of information used by students have changed dramatically. They no longer only get information through textbooks, journals, class handouts, library collections, and other materials carefully vetted by faculty and professional staff. Instead, students today far more often obtain information as "free agents." They have easy access to electronic information from home, residence halls, and libraries. Some of this information is reliably vetted, and some is of questionable origin and value. Instructional materials are now provided to students in a variety of ways, e.g., map rooms, slide presentations in art history, group listening of auditory samples in music theory courses, and headset listening in language laboratories. This theme focuses on the development of a principled study that will lead to an institutional understanding of the degree to which it can responsibly address these changes in information technology and its pedagogical applications and consequences. The proposed inquiry, formulated under the direction of the University Librarian as a member of the WASC Executive Steering Committee, will emphasize three primary issues:

  • "e-stores," 
  • class management and information systems, and 
  • the vetting of information sources.

The first of these, "e-stores," is concerned with the degree and manner by which the university has provided high quality, reviewed materials accessed through electronic means, e.g., maps, journals, art, and primary source data sets. The second, class management and information systems, investigates the degree to which the university has provided tools, though the electronic media, for the management and improvement of class-based instruction. The third, and perhaps most important and most difficult, addresses the vetting of information by focusing on critically important student-learning outcomes. The following questions will be the focus of this component of inquiry:

  • Are students instructed in how to critically review information from electronic sources?
  • Are students able to detect bias in information?
  • Should there be a unit with responsibility for teaching students how to use information from electronic sources in a critical and ethical manner, or should this be a shared responsibility of all academic programs?
  • Should such instruction be embedded in general education requirements?
  • Are vetting processes homogeneous, or are they discipline specific?

Proposed Actions

We anticipate that this study will result in a series of conversations, inquiries, and a written report with recommendations that will serve as the basis for the development of an action plan. An outline of preliminary findings will be available at the time of the Capacity and Preparatory Review. By the time of the Educational Effectiveness Review, a fully articulated report and action plan will be available to the University community and reviewers. At least one reflective essay will be written in response.