Information Literacy: Credit vs. One-Shot

How would you answer this question?

Which is better, one-shot sessions or credit courses in information literacy?

I think a good number of librarians would heartily agree that credit courses are the better approach to teaching information literacy skills. I say, not so fast. There are lessons we can learn from the literature on teaching critical thinking skills that are applicable to information literacy instruction. Like critical thinking, information literacy is a skill that can be thought of as having both general and specific applications. Information literacy is also a skill that requires critical thinking skills. That overlap makes it impossible to not pay attention to critical thinking instruction.

The literature on teaching critical thinking skills has debated the standalone vs. integrated approach for many years. At one time, standalone critical thinking courses were in vogue. Today, a growing body of research is leading to the consensus that an integrated approach to teaching critical thinking is more effective, both in general and discipline-specific courses (Hatcher, 2006). You can see the evidence of that in the learning outcomes statements of many undergraduate programs.

That research has implications for information literacy instruction. If you think about it, the average classroom instructor cannot discern between information literacy and critical thinking skills on many counts. For example, those who are more familiar (or comfortable) with the concept of critical thinking are likely to view research as a critical thinking skill rather than an information literacy skill. They’re right too. Research is in fact critical thinking — critical thinking about identifying, finding and evaluating information. This leads back to the question of credit vs. one-shot. If an institution takes an integrated approach to teaching critical thinking across the curriculum, it makes more sense for information literacy instruction to follow the same protocol.

As I see it, the real problem for information literacy instruction is the same as for critical thinking instruction. Both suffer from poor implementation. I think an integrated approach makes much more sense for both. For information literacy, a better approach to implementation would be to anchor the one-shot around embedded and collaborative approaches to teaching. The librarian would not necessarily play a bigger role in the classroom than in a typical one-shot, but the library would.

The downside to an integrated approach is that you need classroom instructors on board with it. They need to understand what it is, how it fits into their teaching, and how to assess the outcomes. Frustration with lack of cooperation makes standalone approaches tempting. However, if we are to look at learning from a student-centered perspective, we must make an effort to try the most effective approach.

I do think standalone information literacy has a place in education, but primarily in teacher training programs and graduate studies.




2 thoughts on “Information Literacy: Credit vs. One-Shot

  1. I think a for-credit, multi-session (ie. 1-3 contact hours per week) is the best way to approach information literacy, and I have designed a one credit hour course here ( that you might be interested in. The trick is indeed to get institutional buy-in from administration and your fellow faculty. The approach that seems to work best is to develop a learning community around a central theme, such as global warming or food justice, and then pair courses from different disciplines with the info lit course, requiring that students must take all of the courses concurrently. Instituting that kind of course at a college can be a bit o fa challenge and here is a narrative about the process:!topic/illinois-lis-101/jCI5fAprakA You might have to join our google group to read the link. Anyway, glad to see people talking about this issue…especially in light of the ACRL task force to update the information literacy standards.

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