Developing 21st Century Skills with Information Literacy Education

Developing a lifelong interest in learning is integral to many 21st century educational institutions and FET (TVET) colleges are no exception.

032-Russell-Chisango-and-Erika-Feltman-Information-LiteracyThe new world order, characterized by an abundance, proliferation and ready availability of digital information through computer networks, means that information has become ubiquitous:  it can be obtained any time, in any location. This underscores the need for students in the 21st century to have the appropriate skills to access and use technology correctly.

The exponential nature of information exposes students to a ready supply of unfiltered material.  The need for them to develop competencies in find and applying information critically, therefore becomes increasingly important.

Recent shifts in pedagogy and the application of constructivist approaches in education have underscored the importance of developing independent learners, capable of constructing their own knowledge.

Student centered methods of teaching employed at FET colleges such as, problem-based, evidence-based and inquiry learning have necessitated the significance of Information Literacy training towards the development of independent learners.  An information literate student is one who is can identify when to select information, possess the ability to locate this knowledge and evaluate, use and apply the data effectively.

In keeping with this important theme, the Open Learning Centre at False Bay College’s (FBC) Muizenberg Campus partnered with English Lecturer, Erika Feltman, to offer workshops for students focusing on Information Literacy. The workshops provided for a cross-pollination of ideas and reinforced the importance of literacy education training facilitated through a collaboration of librarians and lecturers.

Academics bring with them pedagogical understanding of students while librarians possess in-depth knowledge of information literacy skills. The success of the initiative highlighted the fact that effective delivery requires support from various stakeholders. Information Literacy is an educational issue relevant to various professions supporting learning; therefore collaboration with regards to its delivery becomes increasingly critical.

A paper highlighting the significance of information literacy education was presented at the LIASA-SLYSIG 1ST Biennial school and the FET colleges’ library conference 2014. 

The study explored the baseline incoming skills of students and a pre-test was administered. Information literacy workshops were conducted for the experimental cohort and a post-test was administered.  After the post-test, the results of the control and experimental group were compared.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Standards for higher education were applied as theoretical foundation scaffolding for the study.

Findings of the study gave credence to the view that offering Information Literacy interventions leads to students accumulating the knowledge and ultimately performing better in their studies.  The theory is supported by the difference in post-test scores between the control group and the experimental cohort. The experimental group attained a higher percentage difference in comparison to the control cohort.

However, it must be noted that, Information Literacy training is not an event but rather an ongoing process.  A solitary workshop cannot guarantee the assimilation of the full set of Information Literacy skills required by students.  FET colleges should envisage ways of inculcating and integrating information literacy training into the curricula.