Fake news? Biased media? Perpetuation of untruths through social media? Such criticisms are fired from the full political spectrum. What can be distilled from these critiques is the need for people to be empowered to critically evaluate their information sources, especially given the proliferation of information available online. Our democracy depends on it.
At a town hall co-hosted by the Institutional Effectiveness Committee and the Academic Senate, faculty and staff explored how Skyline College students are faring with the Information Literacy Institutional Student Learning Outcome (ISLO). Competencies include the ability to effectively locate and access information; evaluate the relevance, quality and credibility of these sources; and use information ethically and legally.
Town Hall participants discussed the results from the Fall 2016 assessment, when twenty-two faculty members from across the disciplines embedded research-oriented projects in their classes, eventually evaluating 742 students’ work. For example, Psychology and Health Science students created pamphlets to inform the public about psychological disorders and the pros and cons of health related propositions on the ballot respectively. All students enrolled in the assessed English classes attended two library information literacy workshops, whereas a little under half of non-English classes attended only one workshop, typically on evaluating sources.
While the results show students generally use information ethically and legally, students seemed to struggle with using sources that are relevant, high quality, and credible. Only 67% of student work was scored at proficient or higher; the remaining 33% may have chosen sources that were inappropriate and/or of dubious quality and credibility.
In addition, 627 students from the assessed courses took a survey in which they evaluated how often they employed information literacy strategies. Students who attended two library workshops were more likely to use effective search strategies, evaluate sources, and cite sources properly than those who attended none.
Student responses from the survey also provided us a unique opportunity to explore how students’ self-assessment compares to their actual performance. Students identified their own skills in the survey as higher than their actual competencies as scored on the rubric. For example, 95% of surveyed students claim that they sometimes/ frequently/ always evaluate their sources, yet as the aforementioned notes, only 67% of student work was scored at proficient or higher in this competency.
Of the three information literacy competencies, surveyed students scored lowest in statements pertaining to search strategies. 83% sometimes/ frequently/ always use search strategies and/or the credible databases paid for by the College. The challenge is in reinforcing to students how search skills are important since they can be applied to any source– particularly digital, and in persuading students to make use of the databases to which the college subscribes.
While every issue was not resolved during the Town Hall, there was much food for thought as the college prepares its students to take their seat at the table of democracy. Having received departmental results, and/or their own class’ results, faculty who assessed the Information Literacy ISLO in collaboration with the librarians will continue to explore the implications of these findings, and how our College can support students in acquiring these skills.
Results can be downloaded from the Skyline College SLOAC website at https://skylinecollege.edu/sloac/assets/islos/information%20literacy%20islo%20results%20fall%202016.pdf.
Article by Karen Wong