Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Information Literacy Skills: Promoting University Access and Success in the United Arab Emirates

Academic journal article Journal of Education and Learning

Information Literacy Skills: Promoting University Access and Success in the United Arab Emirates

Article excerpt

Abstract

The focus of this research is to assess the level of information literacy (IL) skills required for the transition-to-university experience across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This research further seeks to shed light on the IL levels of incoming first-year university students and describe their perceptions of their IL skills. The research population consisted of first-year students from three private universities in the UAE: G1 from Ajman University of Science and Technology (AUST), G2 from Al Ain University of Science and Technology (AAU), and G3 from Al Hosn University (AHU). The three groups were recruited from students enrolled in first year general education classes. A total of 90 students were asked to take an IL pre-test to assess the level of IL skills they possessed upon entering university. Because the authors are currently teaching at AAU, G2 was trained as part of their first-year research skills course at AAU, while the other two groups G1 and G3 did not receive IL training. At the end of the semester, the authors used post-testing to determine if IL training helped improve IL skills of the trained participants. The post-test was given to two groups, including G1, which did not receive any training, and G2, the only trained group. Pre-test results identified a gap between the expectations and existing skills vital for secondary and university-level education in all three groups. The post-test evaluation of skills showed statistically significant increases in all IL assessed competencies. The need for customized curriculum to address the IL deficits revealed by new students is evident.

Keywords: information literacy, information literacy instruction, higher education, evidence-based practice, secondary education, United Arab Emirates

1. Introduction

Over the past decade, students have been adjusting to the rapid introduction of new information and media technologies. To accommodate this proliferation of new technologies, 21st-century students need IL skills that enable them to obtain the knowledge that qualifies them to be information literate. While IL is "increasingly considered as crucially important to enable people to deal with the challenge of making good use of information and communication technology" (UNESCO, 2008 in Horton, 2008: 3), generally this is prioritized in developing countries.

As a result, students who are growing up in a global digital age, particularly in developing countries, are not guaranteed to turn into skilled information hunters and users.

Researchers have confirmed that higher education delivers the most information-rich experience in a student's life. "Within today's information society, the most important learning outcome for all students is being able to function as independent lifelong learners. The essential enabler to reaching that goal is information literacy." (Britvic, 2000: 1) Even so, some researchers like Bailey, Hughes, and Karp (2003) indicated that more students enter the world of higher education unprepared for the IL skill requirements of a university-level curriculum (Foster, 2006).

Moreover, to keep pace with the changing economy, schools need to offer more rigorous requirements mandating that students use IL skills to solve problems, collaborate, and create. Murray (2008) recognized this fact by acknowledging that, "21st century students must be able to purposefully access information from a variety of sources, analyze and evaluate information and then integrate it to construct a personal knowledge base from which to make intelligent decisions" (p. 36). Therefore, the ever-developing information environment demands that IL curriculums be present in secondary and higher education.

Various scholars define IL as a group of capabilities that a person can make use of "to cope with and to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information which surround us in our daily life and work" (Candy, 1993: 284); and point out that such capabilities facilitate participation in lifelong learning experiences. …

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