Linking Information Literacy, Experiential Learning, and Student Characteristics: Pedagogical Possibilities in Business Education

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The goal of teachers and scholars engaged in any institution of higher education is to train future business leaders and managers who are capable of making decisions based on knowledge which is learned and developed in our classrooms. To learn how to make enlightened decisions one must actually gain experience in decision-making. Experiential exercises that demand rigorous engagement and involvement on the part of students are found to be an invaluable pedagogical tool in underscoring and achieving learning objectives related to decision making in a dynamic "real-life" environment. While no definitive generalizable findings can be provided for all experiential learning exercises, research reported by dozens of scholars over a period spanning several decades (Dewey, 1938; Lewin, 1951; Piaget, 1952; Kolb, 1984; Kolb and Kolb, 2005; Alic, 2008) suggests that experiential learning, in general, does exhibit external validity and educational value.

Reporting on information literacy, The Washington Post (2008) quotes findings from a National Endowment for the Arts report that indicates that there has been a 14% decline in readership among 13 year olds, just about 33% of them report reading on a daily basis. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study reported on time spent reading for personal interest that showed individuals age 75 and over averaged 1.0 hour of reading per weekend day. Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 5 minutes per weekend day. The average attention span hovers around 9 minutes! Based on the document, The Alexandria Proclamation of 2005, which labels information literacy as a basic human right in the digital world that empowers humans to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals, UNESCO has recently taken first steps in measuring and tracking indicators of Information literacy at a global level (UNESCO, 2005).

This research builds on past research in the area of experiential learning and provides preliminary results on student perception of the value of using experiential learning exercises in business courses to promote information literacy. It contributes to our understanding of the student-point-of-view regarding learning outcomes achieved through the use of such exercises in gaining information literacy to meet the learning goals of a business course. In addition, it contributes to our extant knowledge concerning measuring the effectiveness of experiential exercises in teaching-learning endeavors involving information literacy. Empirical data from a student sample is analyzed and findings are presented. This paper concludes by underscoring the implications of our study on attainment of learning outcomes achieved through the use of such pedagogical strategies upon student learning, employer expectations, and faculty expectation from teaching-learning endeavors.

A REVIEW OF RESEARCH

Experiential Learning

Past studies (e.g., O'Brien and Deans, 1995) have underscored the concerns raised by potential employers of undergraduate students that relate to inordinate emphases on theoretical concepts at the expense of a practical application of knowledge and skills. Employers (and graduate programs) are interested in students that possess analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities that are founded on sound information gathering and evaluative skills. The effectiveness of experiential exercises in teaching-learning endeavors has been studied over the past several decades. Some of the commonly cited advantages (Kolb, 1984; Kolb and Kolb, 2005; Alic, 2008) of using experiential learning exercises as pedagogical devices are:

   They sharpen student skills at setting strategic plans and goals.
   They aid in teaching and learning analytical techniques.
   They help students work with, and through, others in a team.
   They provide timely, meaningful, and quick feedback facilitating
      reinforcement of concepts. …