Academic journal article Composition Studies

Not Just One Shot: Extending the Dialogue about Information Literacy in Composition Classes

Academic journal article Composition Studies

Not Just One Shot: Extending the Dialogue about Information Literacy in Composition Classes

Article excerpt

While composition programs are frequently responsible for teaching basic research writing, it is still common practice to limit lessons in information literacy to "one-shot" library instruction sessions. This practice reinforces the perception that the research process is separate from (and simpler than) the writing process, that teaching students effective research practices can be reduced to a single, skills-based class session, and that, ultimately, literacy in information is only useful if tied to the academic research paper. We argue that writing and information literacy are complimentary processes that need to be integrated into multiple, contextual classroom sessions. Through collaboration and shared responsibility, writing teachers and librarians can better incorporate information literacy instruction within composition programs and improve students' research options and behaviors.

Introduction

Instructors across the disciplines would probably agree that students' ability to incorporate research within their writing is an essential facet of college education. Yet, most compositionists would assert that simply helping students use and cite research in their writing is not sufficient to make them more thoughtful writers or more successful students. Instead, writing instructors have increasingly come to see information literacy (IL) as a key element in a range of critical activities. According to Diane VanderPol, Jeanne M. Brown, and Patricia Iannuzzi, information literacy enables students "to determine the nature of information needed to solve a problem, find targeted information and evaluate its reliability and usefulness, apply and analyze the information to create new knowledge, and function with an understanding of the ethical and financial contexts of their information use" (12). Twenty-first century teachers of writing recognize that because our students have an excess of information resources at their disposal, creating rich opportunities for undergraduate engagement in diverse, dynamic research projects that develop such literacies is absolutely essential.

Despite the proliferation of information resources, however, a recent Project Information Literacy report notes that students' habits as information seekers appear slow to change. According to the report's authors: "students exhibited little inclination to vary the frequency or order of their use [of information resources] , regardless of their information goals and despite the plethora of other online and in person information resources - including librarians - that were available to them" (Head and Eisenberg 3). As such, we can conclude that many students will attempt to complete all of their college writing assignments using only a handful of the resources at their disposal.

Because composition instructors commonly bear responsibility for general research instruction, helping students to take advantage of such resources - and to use them creatively, purposefully, and thoughtfully - should be a prominent goal in our pedagogy and curriculum design. Indeed, in highlighting the importance of information literacy in all disciplines and at every academic level, professional organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) have effectively set the stage for those who wish to infuse both writing and research across the curriculum (see also D'Angelo and Maid; Grafstein; Mackey and Jacobson; Information Literacy Articulation Group) . Yet even as institutions are beginning to embrace direct information literacy instruction as part of the twenty-first century college curriculum, sustained attention to students' use of information resources has not yet become a central curricular component of first-year composition, where information and research instruction is too often relegated to a one-shot library session. Librarians use the term "one-shot instruction" to describe brief (50-75 minute) library sessions in which they are asked to teach students all the skills they need to become information literate (Reitz 499). …

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