Trends in Library Instruction – What Students Know and What They Think They Know

Students come into post-secondary institutions with information literacy that stretches across the spectrum of comfort and competency levels. Some clearly understand why they need scholarly sources while others are mystified when we caution them away from online resources like Wikipedia. Troublesome also are the students who think they know what research means, but are over-confident in their research skills.

These recent articles illuminate some of the challenges faces by students in post-secondary institutions around how they feel about research and how library instruction aims to help re-align students’ expectations with the reality of post-secondary information seeking.

Fortifying the Pipeline: A Quantitative Exploration of High School Factors Impacting the Information Literacy of First-Year College Students

Jennifer L. Fabbi, College & Research Libraries – 2015

Using the iSkills assessment tool, Fabbi asked incoming students to complete the lengthy iSkills survey and compared the results between students who had taken honours classes during high school with those who had not. In line with her hypothesis and constructivist learning ideology, students who completed a significant number of honours courses were more likely to score better on the iSkills assessment test. However, these students were also more likely to find the test boring and be anxious about getting the answers right, causing several students to run out of time before they completed the survey. When it comes to information seeking, we should be educating students who have not received this training while illuminating the fact that research is a process and one that allows for foibles and failures.

Student Confidence/Overconfidence in the Research Process

Valeria E. Molteni and Emily K. Chan, The Journal of Academic Librarianship – 2015

It may come to no surprise to some librarians and instructors that students who feel extremely confident in their research skills may not be accurate in their self-assessment. In this study, Moletni and Chan survey a Health Professions 100 Writing Class on their confidence in research skills and then test those students, asking them to evaluate different kinds of information resources. Students were always able to choose “Not sure” as an answer to the resource question. The study returns the reasonable conclusion that students who were not confident in their skills were more likely to select “not sure” as the answer to many questions. However, while students who reported high confidence in their skills were more likely to select a definitive answer, they were also just as likely to get a question wrong as students who were not confident in their research skills.

Information Anxiety from the Undergraduate Student Perspective: A Pilot Study of Second-semester Freshmen

Shelley Blundell and Frank Lambert, Journal of Education for Library & Information Science – 2014

Blundell and Lambert adapted the Information Anxiety Scale survey used by previous researchers to assess the current comfort levels of students conducing academic research. This survey gives students a number of statements about various elements of university life and information seeking practices and asks them to agree or disagree with the statements on a 5 point scale. While the study finds some interesting detailed results drawn along sex and race differentials, overall “50% of respondents were mostly sure about how to begin a general search for information, 47.8% respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they were unsure about how to begin their research, 62.5% of respondents felt uncomfortable searching for information, and 67% of respondents do not want to learn how to do their own research.” Overcoming anxiety about information seeking may be an uphill battle; motivating students to do more research and information seeking is a challenge that instructors and librarians can face together.

If you want to learn more about how comfortable students are with the library or how to help promote information literacy in your classroom, feel free to contact Alli Sullivan, the Instructional Services Librarian, or your subject librarian.

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