Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Discipline-Specific Information Literacy Courses

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Discipline-Specific Information Literacy Courses

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although not yet as prominent as general, for-credit information literacy courses, information literacy courses taught within particular disciplines are receiving increasing attention. The rationale for such courses is three-fold: (1) students often devote more attention to courses within their degree programs than to courses outside them, (2) the general abilities outlined in the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education may be minimally necessary but are not inherently sufficient for information literacy within a specific discipline, and (3) sometimes extensive course- and curriculum-integrated library instruction does not meet coherently students' needs. This article surveys disciplinary IL courses and discusses placement of these courses within the curriculum and academic term, credit hours and grade assignment for them, instructors for them, and courses' title and positioning for curricular approval.

**********

Much has recently been written about for-credit information literacy (IL) courses as electives or requirements within general education curricula or as electives outside degree programs. [1] The proliferation of literature on IL courses is hardly surprising, as 50 percent of respondents from four-year colleges and universities reported offering courses in a recent survey. [2] So established are courses as modes of library instruction that Spitzer, Eisenberg, and Lowe mention them along with online tutorials, workbooks, and course-related or -integrated instruction in their listing of various forms of IL instruction in higher education. [3] Not mentioned by Spitzer, Eisenberg, and Lowe, but also recently come into discussion, are IL courses offered within the context of disciplinary degree programs. Perhaps the two most notable general discussions of such courses are provided by List and Bell and Benedicto, [4] although descriptions of specific courses taught at particular institutions can be found in Geary, Hebert and Fitch, Herron and Griner, Kilman, Newby, Olmstadt and Hannigan, Ricker, Ridinger, and Wiggins. [5]

The rationale for offering IL courses within disciplinary contexts is three-fold. First, and pragmatically, students often devote more attention to courses within their degree programs than to general education courses. Second, while the general abilities outlined in the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education are minimally necessary for information literacy, they are not inherently sufficient for information literacy within a specific discipline. "Information literate" here has a usage like that of "literate": while people are often described in absolutes, as "literate" or "illiterate," what is really meant is that they can read and write in some specific language(s), not all languages. Similarly, someone who is fully information literate in chemistry is not automatically so within history. [6] Third, discipline-specific IL courses can also culminate trends toward increasingly course- and curriculum-integrated library instruction. Sometimes extensive, well-planned course- and curriculum-integrated library instruction is insufficient to meet students' needs coherently. Ricker describes such a situation at Oberlin College, where sequenced library instruction sessions within the chemistry curriculum were supplemented with a one-credit course. As Ricker suggests, "In reality, the sequence did not work for all students, who sometimes chose to take advanced organic chemistry classes without the analytic chemistry experience. ... We concluded that the time allotted for the traditional instruction session ... was inadequate, despite the irony of offering more sessions at different levels than had been provided in the past." [7]

This article provides a survey of disciplinary IL courses (see Appendix I) and discusses issues involved in establishing such courses. It is the outgrowth of research done by the author in designing or teaching credit-bearing, discipline-specific, IL courses to undergraduates and graduate students in three distinct fields (chemistry, education, and engineering) at two different institutions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.