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Libraries Receive Grant to Assess Information Literacy Levels

In an effort to determine the Libraries' contributions to student learning, Cathy Palmer, the Libraries' Head of Education and Outreach, and Dr. Jonathan Alexander, Professor of English and Campus Writing Coordinator, received a Division of Undergraduate Education Assessment Grant to measure the information literacy competencies of first year students at the beginning and at the end of their first year of university study.

With the assistance of Dr. Kevin Ruminson, the Libraries' Director of Planning, Assessment and Research, we have completed the first phase of the Information Literacy Assessment project which was to administer a survey of Research Practices to over 700 first year students. We have just begun to analyze the results of the 15 question survey, which asks students about their attitudes and beliefs about research, as well their familiarity with research strategies. Students will complete a similar survey at the end of their first year and will help librarians and composition faculty identify those areas where students improved as a result of their first year of instruction at UCI, and those areas which continue to challenge them.

The early analysis of the survey reveals that regardless of their skill level, almost 90% of incoming first year students indicate that the ability to conduct library research is an important skill for undergraduates.

Information literacy is a particularly important skill for the college students of today who are entering the world of higher education at time when the amount of information available on any topic is expanding at an unprecedented rate. According to a recent IDC market report, the amount of digital information created and replicated in the world will grow to 35 trillion gigabytes by 2020. If you picture each byte as one DVD, this is the equivalent of a stack of DVDs from here to the moon. In this increasingly digital era, where information is so readily available, information literacy, defined as a set of abilities individuals employ when they "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use the needed information effectively," has emerged as a necessary key to a student's academic success.

In recognition of its importance to student learning, information literacy is articulated as a student learning outcome for both lower-division and upper-division writing courses at UC Irvine and research librarians play an increasingly more visible and important role in teaching students how to locate, evaluate and use information effectively. Understanding what students know when they arrive at University will allow us to focus our teaching and to measure the impact that we have on student learning over time.

For more information, contact Cathy Palmer, Head of Education and Outreach (cpalmer@uci.edu or x44972).


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