Information Literacy Instruction (ILI) is a requirement for most accrediting agencies (ABHE, ATS, TRACS, and most regional agencies). That means that each school must offer Information Literacy instruction to its students—all its students.
Depending on the agency, the requirements vary. In essence, though, all of the agencies want each college to offer ILI to every student, whether face to face, online, traditional residential four year students, commuter, or those that transfer in and those that transfer out.
The Road for the Small College
So, how does one go about offering that kind of instruction? By setting up a curriculum, a roadmap that reaches students at various points in their academic career. The idea being that it is sequential, builds upon previous learning, fits the mission of the school, and isn’t too repetitive.
Smaller schools have an advantage here. Because of the small size of the school, students often go through the same sequence of courses for the first year or so. An incoming class almost behaves like a cohort in a larger school. Because of this sequencing of courses, planning should be easier for the small school than for the large school.
Mapping the Curriculum
Step 1: Faculty and Administration Agreement
The first step to mapping the ILI curriculum in the small college is to get the faculty and the administration in agreement about the need for ILI curriculum mapping.
Librarians cannot act alone, they do not have that kind of authority in the institution. All of the people involved with the consequences of a curriculum change must be in agreement about the need for, and about the changes themselves.
This first step is essential. The greatest advantage for the librarian is that ILI is required for accreditation; therefore, the librarian must leverage that requirement to drive the curriculum mapping project ahead. Librarians must be patient with the administration and faculty, who probably don’t think that ILI is the most important thing for the school or an individual class.
Step 2: Place Required Courses in Sequence
The second step is to identify all the courses that every student must take and arrange them in the sequential academic order.
One advantage for the small college is that students typically go through the same sequence of courses; they all take the same General Education/Core courses the first two years. For the librarian this means that instructions can occur in the same courses every term, and all the students in the institution will receive that instruction before they leave.
Step 3: Establish Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
The third step is to establish Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) tied to a set of standardized information literacy goals.
The institution may already have an IL statement as bland as “our graduates will be information literate.” That may be enough of a statement for a catalog, but accrediting agencies want a paper trail; they want to see ILI demonstrated in individual courses.
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) basically state a goal for the student, demonstrated in work to prove competency with a skill or practice. As librarians we can take our goals from a number of places (ACRL Frameworks, ACRL Standards, AAC&U’s VALUE Rubric, etc.) or create our own.
The agencies will want to see the SLOs articulated and they must appear in syllabi. One essential aspect is that the information literacy SLOs are actually tied to assignments and that they impact the grade in the course.
Step 4: Ensure every student is offered every Student Learning Outcome
The fourth step is to ensure that every SLO is offered to every student.
Our fourth task is to place the SLOs into the appropriately mapped courses; tying together steps two and three.
All SLOs must be accounted for in the curriculum. Every SLO must appear in at least one course that is taken by every student. Not that every SLO appears in every common course, but that every student will take a course with every individual SLO.
For example, five SLOs may be in common courses and two or three may occur in program specific courses. An SLO that deals with bias of author and ethics may appear in a senior seminar or ethics courses that may be unique to each department or degree program, i.e. a Business Ethics and an Ethics for Ministers courses may have the same SLO.
Step 5: Incorporate the Curriculum into Courses
The fifth step is to win the hearts and minds of the school’s administration and the teaching faculty.
Our fifth task is possibly the most difficult; getting the curriculum established. This happens in two phases. The first phase is to get the approval of the program idea by the administration. Once the approval has happened then comes the difficult task of working with faculty to get the SLOs incorporated into their courses.
Faculty can be very protective of their course and what goes on in their limited instruction time. Instead of presenting the SLO as something new to be added to their course, present it as modifying/enhancing what they are probably already doing. In most courses that require papers or projects, for example, there must be a works cited page. This page is ideally suited to SLO enhancement.
The librarian-created SLO, to be added to the syllabus and its instruction added to the assignment, may have a wording that ties proper citation to the overall IL program as well as legal and ethical use of resources. Such an SLO would be recognized by accreditors.
Another approach is to note those faculty members who have used the library or have requested instruction in the past couple of years, and attempt to get the SLOs into their courses.
Step 6: Monitor and Modify SLOs As Needed
The final step to mapping the ILI curriculum is the constant care and maintenance of the map and of the SLOs offered in the individual classes.
The final task is the continual assessment of the curriculum and changes to the college curriculum. Over time, the IL standards will change. Programs will change (courses added, majors and degrees offered). Individual courses change. This means that librarians will need to be constantly aware of changing GE/core courses and programs to stay on top of the map and to ensure that all the SLOs are being taught to all the students.
Librarians will also need to stay in touch with the faculty to ensure that the SLO that was created for a class is still appropriate and useful. As faculty change, or the course requirements change, the librarian will need to ensure that the SLO is appropriately taught and covered in the class.
SLO Example 1: Freshman Writing Course
Freshmen typically take a Composition/Writing course. In such a course, it would make sense to emphasize the need for citations in order to avoid plagiarism. An appropriate assignment, or part of an assignment, would be to create a properly formatted works cited page along with proper citations in the paper.
This would fulfill the following:
- ACRL’s Framework that says “information has value,”
- ACRL’s Standard 5 in which a student “uses information ethically and legally,” and
- AAC&U VALUE’s element to “access and use information ethically and legally.”
SLO Example 2: Intro to Psychology or Sociology
In the first two years, students often take an Introduction to Psychology, Sociology, or maybe a humanities course. In that course it might make sense to emphasize a search strategy. An appropriate assignment might be to annotate the works cited or add argumentative footnotes that detail the search strategy for each resource.
This would fulfill the following:
- ACRL’s Framework that encourages “searching as strategic exploration,”
- ACRL’s Standard 2 that a “student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently,”
- AAC&U VALUE’s element that allows a student to “access the needed information.”
The bonus for this assignment is that it also requires a works cited page and thus fulfills the requirements of the first example as well. Therefore, this assignment fulfills two IL elements if they are listed as SLOs and are included in the instructions.
SLO Example 3: Church History or Theology Course
In the third or fourth year, most students will have to take a church history or theology course. In that course it would make sense to emphasize historical research or historical debates.
An appropriate assignment would be to require that some of the research comes from a specific period of time: e.g. fourth century arguments on Christology by early church fathers and documents.
This would fulfill the following:
- ACRL’s Framework that says “scholarship is a conversation,”
- ACRL’s Standards 2 and 3 for “accessing” and “evaluating information,” and
- AAC&U VALUE’s element, which encourages students to “evaluate information and its sources critically.”
The bonus for this assignment is that it requires a works cited page (fulfilling example 1) and could also require the annotations/footnotes from example 2. This assignment could reinforce the earlier assignments and fulfill three IL elements if they are all listed as SLOs and are included in the instructions.
Further Reading about Curriculum Mapping for Information Literacy Instruction
Archambault, Susan Gardner, and Jennifer Masunaga. “Curriculum Mapping as a Strategic Planning Tool.” Journal Of Library Administration 55, no. 6 (September 2015): 503–519. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed December 10, 2015).
Buchanan, Heidi, et al. “Curriculum Mapping in Academic Libraries.” New Review Of Academic Librarianship 21, no. 1 (January 2015): 94–111. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed December 10, 2015).
Charles, Leslin H. “Using an information literacy curriculum map as a means of communication and accountability for stakeholders in higher education.” Journal Of Information Literacy 9, no. 1 (June 2015): 47-61. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed December 10, 2015).
Gessner, A. Gabriela Castro, and Erin Eldermire. “Laying the groundwork for information literacy at a research university.” Performance Measurement & Metrics 16, no. 1 (March 2015): 4-17. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed December 10, 2015).
Information Literacy Definitions
Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015; http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/infolit/Framework_ILHE.pdf.
Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Association of College & Research Libraries, 2000; http://www.acrl.org/ ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/standards/standards.pdf.
Rhodes, Terrel L., ed. Information Literacy VALUE Rubric. Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2010.