Characteristics of Effective Information Literacy Assignments

Effective Information Literacy Assignments typically have one or more of the following characteristics:

Specify Acceptable and Unacceptable Sources
Tell students what kind of sources they are expected to use, and help them make distinctions where ambiguities occur. For example, clarify the difference between the free Web found through search engines likeGoogle, and Web-based periodical databases.

Encourage Critical Independent Thought
Assignments that emphasize comparing, contrasting, and evaluating ideas are more likely to spur independent thought in students than assignments that emphasize processes such as comprehension and knowledge. You may wish to consult Bloom’s Taxonomy for words to use in the assignment description:http://www.coun.uvic.ca/learn/program/hndouts/bloom.html

Discourage Plagiarism
This can be accomplished by giving students assignments that are unusual, engage the students’ imagination, and cannot be easily completed by copying and pasting off the Web. Use of technologies such as Turnitin can also be helpful in educating students about plagiarism and discouraging its practice. Defining plagiarism in the syllabus and outlining its potential consequences can also be effective.

Teach Proper Citation
Require students to cite sources properly, according to whatever format they have been assigned, and take advantage of resources such as RefWorks, which make it simple for students to keep track of sources and format their bibliographies. Emphasize that citing sources serves a dual purpose: to fulfill the ethical obligation of giving credit when using another person’s words or ideas, and to allow the reader to judge the quality of research.

Grade the Research, Not Just the Paper
Make clear to students that you will pay close attention to the sources that they choose, and that their grade for the assignment will depend partly on the quality of their bibliography. Discourage them from indiscriminate use of the World Wide Web, and encourage the use of peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles. Assign tutorials to help your students through the process.

Break Longer Assignments into Steps
For research papers or presentations, have students first submit an outline with their research question, short outline of what will be covered, and an annotated bibliography. This is helpful to students, who get feedback on their topic selection and preliminary research, and gives the instructor a chance to assist those students who may have gotten off track.

Use the Information Literacy Grading Rubric
Share this rubric with your students, and make them aware that it will be used as the basis of their grade for the assignment. The IL Rubric is available at http://www.stjohns.edu/assessment.