Student Perceptions as a Method to Improve Information Literacy
Purpose When considering the information literacy skills of students, faculty (and librarians) often make assumptions as to what students know, understand, or why they act as they do. To help alleviate these misunderstandings, librarians and faculty co-created a tool to gauge student perceptions on finding information and using information in research projects. The tool is utilized in classrooms, and then faculty members (in conjunction with librarians) use that data to improve information literacy via assignments and instruction. Design/Methodology/Approach A 10-minute questionnaire was designed in late 2008 that gauges student perceptions in the following areas: • Research Habits • Resource Use • Library Use • Library Services The tool is utilized by faculty in approximately 20 courses each semester. Results (which are compiled and anonymous) are returned to the faculty member, including overall results since the project began. Faculty members discuss these results with librarians, and make changes to their assignments/syllabi based upon what they have learned. Findings Some results of the questionnaire tool were not surprising at all. For instance, student effort in seeking information is tied to grades, students overwhelming prefer online materials to print, and Google is the first place that students look for information. On the other hand, student perceptions on assignment construction and resource requirements often differed from faculty, and even librarian expectations. Just as important as the data in this project is how faculty members interpreted that data and made changes in their classrooms. The information faculty receive is personalized to their own classes, and provides additional context that they do not receive from the literature or national projects that collect similar information. Currently we have 3.5 years of data from approximately 3500 students, and continue to add to the data set each semester. Practical Implications/Value While national data collection efforts such as Project Information Literacy are very useful in helping to better understand the information literacy skills of students, sometimes that data is too general for faculty members to find value in it. Having a tool that is easily implemented in the classroom helps faculty members to better understand the problems they see in student research projects, and to change their teaching and assignments based upon what they have learned from their students. Considering that this tool costs extremely little to implement and analyze, it is an extremely high value for the change that results.