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Adjunct Faculty Orientation: Incorporating information literacy skills into course assignments

Information literacy instruction

The Association of College & Research Libraries provides objectives and competency standards for higher education1 which provide guidance in what outcomes assignments intended to improve information literacy among students should produce. Based on the these, the information literate student:

  1. determines the extent of the information needed
  2. accesses needed information effectively and efficiently
  3. evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system
  4. individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  5. understands many of the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally

The websites cited below also provide outcomes and performance indicators with each standard. 


1. "Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction: A Model Statement for Academic Librarians", American Library Association, September 1, 2006. (Accessed July 8, 2014) Document ID: bbb3383f-1eba-dcd4-e94e-90a036e3a76d 

"Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education", American Library Association, September 1, 2006. (Accessed July 8, 2014) Document ID: efeb57df-7090-e1d4-558f-d59c7537f9c7

Tips for developing assignments: 

  • Have the requirements of an assignment clearly stated in writing. Include specifics such as: the citation style you expect students to use and what types of resources are acceptable and what types are not (for example, mention in a syllabus or assignment description you expect citations in MLA style and that at least five peer-reviewed sources are to be used for an assignment). 
    • The Plagiarism section of Pellissippi's library orientation tutorial should be useful in instructing students about this, Pellissippi has guides for APA and MLA citation styles, there is also a plagiarism libguide to help faculty detect plagiarism, 
  • Provide learning objectives for an assignment. This will allow students to understand why they are doing the assignment and the purpose it serves. An assignment should relate to the subject of the class and contribute to or demonstrate understanding of the material through researching and making use of relevant information.
  • Distinguish between different types of resources, such as popular and scholarly, primarily and secondary (and, as mentioned earlier, make expectations clear about which types are expected for an assignment).
  • Make sure the requirements can be met using resources available at the library/ERC. If you expect students to use resources from other libraries, make that clear and be sure they know how to use those resources.
  • Test the assignment. Attempt to complete the assignment yourself before assigning it, with your students' level of expertise and perspectives in mind. If you find it difficult to complete, make changes. Since library resources are often changing, check to verify an assignment does not require students to make use of outdated resources, outdated research methods, or resources that are no longer available. Also check to see whether there are new resources available that should be used instead.
    • Your subject librarian is able to help with this. Send them a copy of the assignment and let them get back to you with how well it can be completed using the library's resources (or if there are any new resources you should be aware of, etc.)
  • Assume students are not familiar with completing their assignments using the resources available in the library (it may be beneficial to schedule a information literacy and research instruction session, or consider requiring students to complete the Library Orientation Tutorial)
  • Allow students to select from multiple topics or otherwise design the assignment in a way to prevent the entire class from needing the same one or few resources from the library at the same time (if it is necessary for an entire class to use a resource, consider putting it on reserve).
  • Encourage critical thinking by creating assignments that require students to synthesize knowledge from many sources. Encourage students to evaluate pieces of information they use.
  • In order to allow students to improve, design the assignment in stages that begin early in the semester. For example, have them select a topic, then turn in an annotated bibliography, then an outline and provide feedback.
  • Get in touch with the subject librarian for your department/subject.1 They can help with:
    • Informing faculty of available resources and new databases appropriate to their curriculum
    • Receiving requests for library resources and selecting resources
    • Creating LibGuides for departments, programs or class assignments
    • Coordinating with faculty regarding assignments and suggesting appropriate resources available at PSCC library
    • Providing reports to support the requirements of academic program review and accreditation

1. List based on suggestions in Neely, T. Y. (2006). Information literacy assessment: standards-based tools and assignments. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions. pp 16-18.

Additional Resources

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