Assessment of information literacy skills among Science Students of Andhra University.

Author:Sasikala, C.
 
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Introduction

Information literacy is a necessary skill that is utilitarian in every aspect of a person's life. For students, information literacy skills would lead to independent and student-centric learning, rather than dependence on the teacher to provide answers to questions or problems that they encounter. This in turn creates a greater responsibility towards their own learning, which would help him become dynamic learners and thinkers who are creative, analytical and efficient instead of mere regurgitators of facts.

But information literacy goes beyond coursework in its meaning and application. In a world where an infinite amount of information is available, individuals need to develop a greater understanding of information sources and need abilities to acquire, evaluate, use and communicate information. Become information literate will provide essential skills, needed to become a more proficient learner in the college, and subsequently, benefit students in both professional and personal endeavors. Information Literacy skills enable students to choose the best information for important decisions.

Further, the contemporary information world offers abundant information choices-print, electronic, image, spatial, sound, visual and numeric. The challenges posed to the users of information include too much of information in various format and all not of equal value. Explosion of information on Internet with billions of websites and pages and millions of print items both are complicating access and retrieval of information by the end users.

Information literate Individuals who are knowledgeable about finding, evaluating, analyzing, integrating, managing and conveying information to others efficiently and affectively are respected more. These are students, workers, and citizens who are most successful at solving problems, providing solutions and producing new ideas and direction for the future.

The critical responsibility of education system in facilitating the empowering role of information has also been recognized by experts in the field (Boyer.1994). With in the college or University environment it is also important for students to be able to build up on the foundation of information literacy knowledge by successfully transferring this learning from course to course., understandings the critical and empowering role of information in a free and democratic society, and demonstrating ethical behavior and academic integrity as consumers, as well as producers, of information. Specially designed and implemented information literacy programmes by the academic libraries are instrumental in meeting the above said objectives of educational institutions. The present study focuses on this aspect of academic environment.

Review of Literature

Numbers of research papers have been published so far covering the basic concept of IL (Breivik, 1999; Owusu-Ansah, 2005; Lloyd 2005; Matoush 2006; Harris and Millet, 2006; Ramesha, 2008; Lloyd, 2008; O'Connor 2009), the range of IL standards and models (Donaldson 2004; Mackey and Ho 2005; Loo and Chung,2006; Keene and others, 2010), designing of IL programmes for different types of users (Fjallbrant 2000; Harley, 2001; Hartmann, 2001; Satish and Vishakha 2006; Stephenson and Schifter Caravello 2007; Sales 2008; Pinto 2010; Zuccala (2010), IL education, (Ercegovac, 1998; Elmborg, 2003; Krooden, 2004; Andretta, 2007; Limberg and others, 2008; Andretta 2008; Secker 2010), IL skills learning and instruction and technology (Ramalho, 2003; Berk and others, 2007; Godwin, 2009; Walsh, 2010) with in IL programmes.

The literature published on IL skills reveal some useful and interesting findings that assist in planning, designing and implementing programmes to develop as well as measure IL skills of specific user communities. A digital information literacy programmes at university of Texas at Austin serve as a case study for implementing information literacy skills into traditional library services and collaborative activities (Dupuis, 1997). An ongoing survey of information literacy competencies of graduate students of University of California- Berkeley (Davitt Maughan 2001) also examines the extent of which undergraduate students are information literate. The conclusions reveal that the students think they know more about accessing information and conducting library research than they are able to demonstrate when put to the test. These findings reiterate the earlier study findings that students continue to be confused by the elementary conventions and procedures for organizing and accessing information.

New methods of teaching information literacy skills, combining with problem solving techniques, to develop, promote and assess critical and analytical thinking of students further using information technology available in the contemporary environment have also been highlighted (Macklin, 2001). Efforts were also made to develop an instrument for measuring of IL skills of University students. This instrument will be administered to students to assess entry skills upon admission to the University and longitudinally to ascertain whether there is significant change in skills levels from admission to graduation (O'Connor, 2002). Another study by Feast (2003) evaluated the impact of an action plan that aimed to assist in integrating information skills into teaching and learning practices of eight first-year core business courses at University of South Australia. Content analysis and staff interviews were made to evaluate the success of the action plan. The findings show that the action plan had not delivered the expected outcomes. Brettle (2003) conducted a study to undertake a systematic review of literature on IL skills to determine the effectiveness of information skills training, to identify effective methods of training and to determine whether information skills training affects patient care. The majority of studies took place in US medical schools. Wide variations were found in course content and training methods. Eight studies used objective methods to test skills, two compared training methods and two examined the effects on patent care. There was limited evidence to show that training improves skills, insufficient evidence to determine the most effective methods of training and limited evidence to show that training improves patient care. Further research was suggested in a number of areas. An project was conducted at the University of Melbourne during 2002 to evaluate effectiveness of different methods adopted for teaching information literacy skills to students in the Arts Faculty. The three programs that were evaluated used different modes of delivery. The paper discusses the rationale of the project, the methodology and the results of the evaluation (Fiona and Ellis, 2003).The need for the training the library and information professionals in the planning and implementation of IL programmes working in Indian University libraries was emphasized by Nyamboga (2004). Another study (Ramakrishna and Valmiki, 2004) conducted in KUVEMPU University to assess the computer literacy and information literacy of the post graduate students reveal that majority of the students lack awareness regarding the printed reference sources, highest percent of them do not possess the ability to identify the key concepts in the given information environment. About 44 percent of the respondents are unable to use the computers and many of them do not possess the knowledge about software, hardware and storage devices. Significant percent of them are not able to use the Internet. Majority opined that the computer literacy and information literacy programmes are "very important for them". These findings suggested the design and implementation of IL programmes for students at PG and UG level and the librarian need to play crucial role in imparting information literacy education to students. The importance of incorporating courses on information literacy skills to address the individual needs of students with disabilities for successfully meeting the academic standards for all the students has been demonstrated by Vreeburg Izzo and others (2003). A case study reported by Alfino and others (2008) explains the importance of integrating library skills into course goals to add coherence to the curriculum. In this project, staff were included in the instructional team, and information literacy skills that relate to critical thinking. Critical and philosophical arguments for constructivist based approaches to teaching critical thinking skills through online library instruction has been provided by Allen (2008). Kupier and others (2008) have conducted a study on the adequacy and specific characterizes of school students' use of web literacy skills and strategies. Morgan and Walton (2008) reported how librarians embraced new methods of working to general library and IT inductions at higher education level. In another project by Sounders and Coles (2008), the creation of a new research interface for academic users to improve their information literacy suggests that the diverse information literacy practices the users demonstrated could be enhanced if on--screen clarity and consistency of terminology were improved. An investigation by Gross and Don Lathan (2009) focused on student conceptions of and experiences with interacting with information. Using interview technique the students been assessed in terms of their information literacy skills. Findings reveal a general view of IL focused on product rather than process, a perception of achieving information skills on their own, a performance for people over their information sources and an emphasis on personal interest as key to successful information seeking. Contemporary research has also focused on digital literacy and its relationship to information literacy (Kenton and Blummer, 2010). They suggest the application of novel educational techniques in...

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