Assessing Information Literacy Instruction in the Basic Communication Course

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Course/Program Assessment

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Information literacy is becoming a key component of general education programs nationwide. As a critical part of most general education programs, the basic communication course is on the frontlines of the charge to teach information literacy skills to first-year students. Thus, the information literacy skills of basic course students should be assessed to track the effectiveness of instruction and pedagogical practices. The present study used a pretest/posttest design with experimental and control groups to assess the effectiveness of information literacy instruction in the basic course. As predicted, students in the experimental group outperformed students in the control group on the information literacy measure. Results of the present study have implications for basic course directors and instructors, general education curriculum specialists, and librarians.

Library instruction is rapidly becoming a key component of general education programs for first-year students (Jacobson & Mark, 2000) under the assumptions that information literacy is important and that students should be instructed in this area as soon as they start college (Breivik, 1998; Jacobson & Mark, 2000; Samson & Granath, 2001). Thus, information literacy instruction must be integrated into first-year classes. Information literacy skills must also be assessed to gauge the effectiveness of instruction.

The basic communication course is assuming a larger role in the general education requirements of universities (Cutspec, McPherson, & Spiro, 1999; Morreale, Hanna, Berko, & Gibson, 1999). As a result, the basic course is at the forefront of the push to teach information literacy skills to first-year students and is typically responsible for, and often charged with the mission of, advancing students’ information literacy skills. As the role of the basic course in general education expands, the pressure to demonstrate student mastery of information literacy through assessment measures will likely increase. Assessment can indicate if the basic course is effectively teaching information literacy skills and identify areas where the pedagogy of the basic course may need to be modified (Hunt, Novak, Semlak, & Meyer, 2005). Pedagogical content knowledge, or the content knowledge the communication discipline has of the best ways to teach communication (Friedrich, 2002), should be expanded to include an evaluation of the instructional practices employed in the basic course with regard to library instruction and information literacy. Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to determine the most effective practices for information literacy instruction, expand basic course pedagogy to include information literacy, and identify the areas of deficiency for students’ information literacy skills.


This article was published in Communication Teacher. Vol. 22 Issue 1. (2017). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17404620801926925