Keynote speaker Alison J. Head

Keynote speaker Alison J. Head

Theme: Assessment of information literacy


What today’s university students have taught us

Alison J. Head, University of Washington, USA

Today, more students in the US are attending university than ever before. An unprecedented number of these students were born digital?meaning
digital technologies have been a constant feature in their lives. For
them, information literacy competencies are always being formed,
practiced, and learned. Finding and using information is exponentially
more complex than it was a generation ago, especially since the
information landscape has shifted from one of scarce resources to one of
overload. These combinations of factors make today?s students an
important and unique cohort to study, given their sheer numbers, their
learning styles, their needs as information seekers, users, and
creators, and their professional destinies.

Information Literacy (PIL) is a series of ongoing research studies in
the US that investigates what it is like to be a university student in
the digital age. Since 2008, we have surveyed and interviewed more than
11,000 university students at nearly 60 US higher education
institutions, making PIL the largest study of information literacy ever
conducted. We seek to understand how students find information and
conduct research?in their words and through their experiences?for
coursework, use in their everyday lives, and, once they graduate, in the
workplace and their communities.

In our research, we have
found students? information competencies are put to the test in the
vast information landscape they inhabit during their university years.
Our findings indicate a large majority of students still want to learn,
but are lost in a thicket of information. Nearly all university students
use strategies driven by efficiency and predictability in order to
manage and control a staggering amount of information. They struggle to
manage ubiquitous and distracting IT devices. Most students turn to
friends, family members, or professors?or no one at all?for help with
research, rather than asking librarians. No matter where they are
enrolled and no matter what they are studying, most students adopt a
risk-averse approach to their information-seeking research. Once they
enter the workplace, graduates leverage their competencies from
university for evaluating and managing published content, but the skills
only get them so far. Most have trouble staying motivated to learn
everything they think they should know to stay current.

this keynote, an information-seeking typology for understanding
students? strategies and difficulties with research is introduced, key
research takeaways are presented from eight PIL studies, and a
discussion examines the implications for teaching, learning, work, and
librarianship in the 21st century.