How to Develop an Information Literacy Course
Early in my career I was asked to develop a for-credit information literacy course to be taught to returning adult learners. As the instructional and research librarian, I was excited about the opportunity to use my undergraduate degree in education to design a course. Below you’ll find five steps to help you design a similar course for your students:
Familiarize yourself with Wiggins and McTighe’s backward design, which maintains that when creating a course, you should start with the outcomes. Start by deciding what you want your students to be able to do at the end of the course and then work backward. For an information literacy course, include outcomes such as the following:
- The student will be able to write a research question.
- The student will be able to find information on a specific topic.
- The student will be able to select information that answers their research question.
- The student will properly cite sources.
- The student will be able to synthesize research.
The key to writing course outcomes is to make them measurable. In other words, it needs to be clear how each outcome will be assessed. To make the outcomes measurable, it is important to use verbs (e.g., write, find, synthesize). When writing outcomes, I use a list of verbs that align with Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Next, develop lesson plans that help students meet the identified course outcomes. Each lesson plan should include the following elements:
- Learning outcomes: These are specific lesson outcomes (what you want students to be able to do at the end of the class) that align with the course outcomes. For example:
- The student will be able to identify research topics. This aligns with the course outcome “The student will be able to write a research question.”
- The student will be able to use an academic database. This aligns with the course outcome “The student will be able to find information on a specific topic.”
- The student will be able to use Google Scholar. This also aligns with the course outcome “The student will be able to find information on a specific topic.”
- The student will be able to write an in-text and reference citation. This aligns with the course outcome “The student will properly cite sources.”
- The student will be able to use multiple sources in one paragraph. This aligns with the course outcome “The student will be able to synthesize research.”
- Learner background: This should detail what you anticipate students will already know before the class session, including any reading you’ll assign to students.
- Materials needed: List handouts, presentations, textbooks and other readings that would be used in assignments or as part of the in-class activities in the instructional sequence, as well as sticky notes or other supplies needed.
- Instructional sequence: Detail the in-class activities and how much time should be allocated for each activity.
- Assessment strategy: List whether you’ll be using formative or summative assessments or both (expanded upon below in part 4).
- Assignment: (Expanded upon below in part 3.)
When creating assignments, make sure the coursework helps you determine if the students are meeting the outcomes. To do this, create assignments where students are required to use the action verb you wrote for each objective (e.g., select, find, locate, write, synthesize). Example assignments include:
- Select a topic of interest for your research paper and write three potential research questions.
- Find a database that includes resources on the topic you selected.
- Locate two sources that will help you answer each of your three draft research questions.
- Write a paragraph that incorporates two sources. Properly cite the sources in APA style.
- Synthesize two sources into one paragraph.
Consider how you will formatively and summatively assess the students in your class. Formative assessment is when the instructor evaluates students throughout the course using both formal and informal measures in order to adjust instruction and meet the students’ needs (e.g., class discussions, quizzes, minute papers). Summative assessment is when the instructor evaluates students at the end of the unit or course to determine how much the students have learned (e.g., midterm papers, final exams).
As my course progresses, I formatively assess students during in-class discussions and through “minute papers,” where I ask students to spend one minute writing what they learned in class, as well as what they still have questions about. I also have students submit multiple drafts of their research paper. The final research paper is the summative assessment for the course.
You’ll also want to create rubrics that align with the lesson and course objectives. Share them with students at the beginning of the course and the beginning of each lesson. Rubrics help make the assignment expectations clear to students and should be written in such a way that the students grow in their understanding of the topic.
Any time you create something new, you’ll want to evaluate your work and make improvements. However, when teaching a course, it can be hard to remember what specific things worked well and what did not work well. Early in my career as an instructional librarian, I started the practice of journaling about my teaching. This has been a particularly helpful practice, and it can help you refine and improve your information literacy course.
When I journal, I write a few paragraphs about how the session went, what worked well, what did not work well, ideas I want to try in the future, and anything else that seems important. Before I teach the course again, I review the journal and make adjustments to the course based on what I wrote. Of course, I also use student course evaluations to inform future course iterations.
By following these five steps, you’ll be able to create an information literacy course that will successfully impact students and help them throughout their school and college careers.
- Bloom, B. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2015). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.
- Hollister, C.V. (2011). Best practices for credit-bearing information literacy courses. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.