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Incorporating Information Literacy Into Oberlin First Year Seminars

This guide is intended to help Oberlin faculty teaching first year seminars incorporate information literacy.

Defining Information Literacy

"Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning." ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

We recommend focusing on four of the six frames in a first year seminar context. 

  • Authority is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration

Information Literacy in a First Year College Context

"From many Writing Associates' observations, students seem to be having trouble figuring out how to do research, as well as finding good sources. Especially for classes with students who are new to the field, providing explicit instruction on how to find sources that are relevant would be very helpful. Students often came in not knowing how to find sources, as well as how to distinguish sources that were "good" and helpful." Ryo Adachi, Fall '22 Oberlin Writing Center Summary Report

There is often a significant difference between how the research process is taught at the high school level and how Oberlin students will be expected to be able to perform in inquiry based assignments beginning in 100-level classes. The First Year Seminar provides a unique opportunity to get students thinking at a college level about: 

  • Evaluating information: The more students are explicitly taught about the process of creating scholarship and other kinds of information, the better able they will be to determine if a source is authoritative in a particular context. The more students are asked to think about the functions of different types of evidence in writing, the more equipped they will be to find evidence that is appropriate to arguments they're building in their own writing. 
  • Retrieving information: The pandemic has exacerbated the phenomena where many recent high school graduates are simply not familiar with search tools other than Google. They need to be explicitly told that a variety of tools are available to them and trained in how to use those tools. The more they can build the habit of looking beyond what is immediately and obviously available on Google, the more successful they will be in completing research assignments and the less their research will be limited by the biases of the Google algorithm. 

The most authentic and comprehensive way to prepare students for later college research is, of course, including a research or inquiry based assignment in the first year seminar. However, if that doesn't fit your course goals, you can also foster information literacy skills in students through in-class discussions and activities. Ensuring that students engage with the format, structure, and use of evidence in assigned readings in addition to the content will help lay a foundation for their own writing and research.