Full-Time Faculty View Information Literacy as Important but Are Unlikely to Incorporate it Into Their Teaching

Eamon C. Tewell


A Review of:
Bury, S. (2011). Faculty attitudes, perceptions and experiences of information literacy: A study across multiple disciplines at York University, Canada. Journal of Information Literacy, 5(1). Retrieved from http://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/ojs/index.php/JIL/article/view/PRA-V5-I1-2011-1

Objective – To explore faculty attitudes towards information literacy (IL); in particular, faculty perception of student IL competencies, importance of IL skills and instruction, and ideal means of planning and delivering IL instruction.

Design – Online survey questionnaire.

Setting – Large public research university located in Toronto, Canada.

Subjects – 221 full-time faculty.

Methods – The author designed and distributed an online survey to all full-time York University faculty (n=1,451) in March 2007 using Zoomerang software. The survey consisted of between 26 and 36 questions depending on responses selected by respondents, and included both open- and closed-ended questions. The author hand coded the qualitative data and used SPSS to analyze the quantitative data. The survey had 221 usable responses giving a response rate of 15.2%.

Main Results – The study revealed a high degree of concern among survey respondents regarding undergraduate students’ information literacy skills, accompanied by a perceived gradual increase in IL abilities corresponding to student year. Faculty ranked each of the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education as being extremely important. No ACRL standard ranked below 6 on a scale of 1 to 7, suggesting full agreement with the value of IL proficiency. Of the faculty 78.7% felt that IL education should be a joint collaboration between faculty and librarians. A considerable majority of respondents (81.7%) answered that IL instruction should be required for all students. Far fewer faculty incorporated IL teaching in practice, with 52.9% engaging in IL instruction and 47.1% not incorporating IL instruction at all. Of the faculty who incorporated librarian-led IL sessions into their courses, 85% of faculty perceived a “substantial impact” or “some impact” on their students’ IL competencies.

Conclusions – The author concludes that this study adds evidence to the claim that a disconnect exists between faculty beliefs about the importance of IL and their teaching practices. Faculty consistently express concern regarding student IL abilities and support collaborative IL instruction, yet the rate of IL integration within their classes remains low. The results corroborate that faculty perceptions and attitudes towards IL remain relatively consistent when compared with other studies. The author recommends that librarians be flexible regarding IL instruction models and encourage further investigation of faculty development models to achieve wider IL integration. A stronger advocacy role is also advised to increase instruction opportunities and the promotion of information literacy at the institutional level. The author identifies four areas for future research, including examining why faculty do not incorporate IL instruction into their classes, disciplinary differences in IL attitudes and adoption, which IL instruction models faculty view as most effective, and replication of this study to test generalizability. As of the study’s publication, the author was conducting a qualitative follow-up study in the form of semi-structured interviews with faculty.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18438/B8VS4Z

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