Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Information Competence in the Freshman Seminar

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Information Competence in the Freshman Seminar

Article excerpt


This article describes a collaborative model designed to facilitate integration of information competence into the curriculum of the Freshman Seminar at Sonoma State University. The model focuses on collaboration among librarians, faculty, peer mentors and students.


The May/June 2001 issue of Change magazine reported the following statistics regarding college graduates' self-reported information competence:

   Roughly two out of three college graduates (63 percent) feel
   confident in their ability to organize information and communicate
   its meaning to others. Nearly as many (61 percent) feel confident
   in their ability to perform quantitative tasks and analyses. But
   less than half (48 percent) feel confident in their ability to
   find information--essentially, in the skills needed to research a
   topic. (Gumport 29)

These statistics should resound dramatically in the halls of academia, where information competence is increasingly perceived to be one of the fundamental learning outcomes of a college education (Markum 98). Librarians are currently working to find ways of facilitating students' acquisition of the necessary skills; professors, on the other hand, are only slowly coming to an understanding of this daunting task. This article will report on a unique partnership which involved the development of a program for the incorporation of information competence as one of the fundamental learning objectives of the Freshman Seminar at Sonoma State University (SSU).

The California State University's Chancellor's Office is strongly committed to the incorporation of information competence (as defined by the Association of College and Research Libraries information literacy standards) as a core component of a CSU education. In addition to workshops and conferences developed by the CSU Information Competence Task Force, the Chancellor's commitment to information competence included grant money made available to librarians and instructional faculty. Over the past several years, many of these grants have been awarded to libraries. However, as the search for information and the ability to evaluate information have become more complex, it has become glaringly apparent that information competence is no longer just the purview of the library, but rather must be tackled across the curriculum, with the library as a strong participant. Consequently, in the 2000-2001 academic year, grant money was directed to instructional departments committed to including information competence as an educational outcome of their programs. One such grant was awarded to the Freshman Seminar course at SSU.

SSU's Freshman Seminar, team-taught by a faculty member and a peer mentor, is open to all incoming first-time freshmen {1}. Peer mentors are carefully selected from the population of sophomore, junior and senior students to serve as full teaching partners in the course. Approximately seventy percent of all freshmen choose to enroll in the Seminar as part of their first-year experience. The culture of the university is such that, in almost all areas, students are given options of courses within the curriculum. Such a position encourages students to participate actively in their own educational choices. In keeping with this culture, the Freshman Seminar is strongly encouraged, but not required, except in the case of EOP students. Due to the high percentage of freshmen in the course, the Freshman Seminar seemed the ideal place to lay the groundwork for information competence in a significant number of students. We developed a "pilot" program for a new instructional approach to information competence in a selected subset of Freshman Seminar sections.

While SSU's librarians are already committed to the belief that students do not become information competent simply by writing one research paper or having one fifty-minute library session, the initiation of information competence projects by faculty came to be recognized as necessary to students' acquisition of information competence. …

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