Expectations of Information Literacy in General Education

at Louisiana Tech University


Research and Information Use Skills Are Core Undergraduate Competencies

Attainment of Information Literacy Is a Graduation Requirement

Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes Provides Evidence of Attained Competencies



Research and Information Use Skills Are Core Undergraduate Competencies

Accreditation standards currently demand that students learn and demonstrate competencies as well as content knowledge. Institutions are obliged to assure, usually through their general education or core curricula, that every undergraduate student develops foundational academic proficiencies, whether as preparation for disciplinary study in a declared major or to meet a common standard of performance required for graduation. Among such competencies as communication skills, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning is information literacy: practical understanding and skills in academic research and information use.1

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education (2002) has raised the bar for regional accrediting agencies. Standard 12 (General Education) includes information literacy among essential skills expected of undergraduates. Standard 11 (Educational Offerings) adopts the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000).

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) Principles of Accreditation declares in Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1. for Educational Programs, specifically Undergraduate Programs:

The institution identifies college-level competencies within the general education core and provides evidence that graduates have attained those competencies.2

According to Comprehensive Standard 3.4.10., the institution may set its own general education requirements, but "these requirements conform to commonly accepted standards and practices for degree programs."3 Unlike the Middle States Commission Characteristics, the SACS-COC Principles neither provides nor cites any such standards for core competencies. No expressed mention is made of information literacy or research and information use skills.

The Louisiana Board of Regents (BOR), however, expressly specifies information literacy among the undergraduate competencies it requires. Setting a common standard for general education in all public institutions of higher learning across the state, the BOR's Statewide General Education Requirements cohere with the SACS-COC Principles,4 including Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1. Their goals anticipate "that undergraduate program completers, depending on the respective degree level, shall attain appropriate competencies." In order to graduate, every student must demonstrate abilities

  • to communicate effectively in oral and written English;
  • to read with comprehension;
  • to reason abstractly and think critically;
  • to understand numerical data and statistics;
  • to understand the scientific method;
  • to be familiar with key technological and informational applications;
  • to learn independently;
  • to recognize and appreciate cultural diversity;
  • to understand the nature and value of the fine and performing arts;
  • to develop a personal value system while retaining a tolerance for others; and
  • to understand the American political and economic system.
This list of competencies has been amended to add information literacy:
Colleges/universities shall insure that each degree student has achieved basic computer and informational {sic} literacy before graduation. The method for determining whether this standard has been met shall be left to the discretion of the affected institution.5

Implementation of the statewide standard for information literacy is indeed a local prerogative; but its definition is not. The BOR has authorized the Louisiana Academic Library Information Network Consortium (LALINC) to articulate this standard. LALINC, in turn, has convened an Information Literacy Committee.6 This committee has endorsed the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as the set of performance indicators and learning outcomes undergraduate students must demonstrate in order to fulfill the BOR graduation requirement of information literacy. The committee also recommends ACRL's Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy 7 as guidelines for institutionalizing information literacy through strategic planning, curricular integration, pedagogies for active learning, assessment of learning outcomes, and faculty development.

Louisiana Tech University faculty, staff and administrators have developed their own "inventory of skills considered necessary for all baccalaureate graduates in all disciplines." Expected Outcomes for all Louisiana Tech Graduates.8 was compiled by the Curricula Effectiveness Council from results of a literature review and survey of stakeholders. It was approved by the Council of Academic Deans and by the Administrative and Planning Council, and it has been endorsed by President Reneau and Vice-President Rea. Expected Outcomes, though prior and unrelated to the SACS-COC Principles and the BOR Statewide General Education Requirements, is nonetheless compatible with these standards. Some of the skills it specifies, listed below, are commensurate with performance indicators and learning outcomes under the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards. Others, listed in italics, pertain to information literacy more indirectly:

Critical Thinking
Analyzes, synthesizes, and evaluates from a wide variety of information sources
Utilizes logic
Recognizes and forms conclusions based on those patterns
Utilizes planning and organization skills
Differentiates fact from opinion
Transfers concepts within and among disciplines

Creative Thinking
Is open-minded, flexible and adapts to new ideas
Devises new ideas, work, or solutions
Recognizes and evaluates alternatives

Communication Skills
Communicates effectively in oral and written forms, including presentations

Research Skills
Utilizes basic statistical analysis
Synthesizes information into a coherent whole

Technological Skills
Demonstrates knowledge of state-of-the-art and emerging technologies related to the discipline
Demonstrates knowledge and use of current technology for problem solving including: Internet use, word processing, and discipline-specific applications


Attainment of Information Literacy Is a Graduation Requirement

Louisiana Tech University requires self-assessment of academic programs, such as General Education, for which no accreditation agency provides guidelines. The policy for Academic Program Review, referring to the Expected Outcomes, instructs unit heads and faculty:

List the goals, expectations, or desired learning outcomes of the program, telling what students are expected to know and what skills they are expected to demonstrate.9
These learning outcomes are subordinated to program outcomes. The policy follows provisions of SACS-COC's former Criteria of Accreditation for curricular review: "The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) now [i.e. 2003] requires that General Education courses be specifically evaluated as part of the SACS re-accreditation process." 10 The policy directs unit heads and faculty:
2. List the courses in your academic unit that are typically used to satisfy a Louisiana Tech University GER requirement.

3. From these courses list the Expected Outcomes, those skills the course is to develop.

4. From these courses, tell how your academic unit determines that those skills are being taught in the courses (such items as syllabi that list Expected Outcomes and Catalog course descriptions.

According to Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1. of SACS-COC's current Principles of Accreditation (2004), however, "the institution ... provides evidence that graduates have attained [the identified college-level] competencies." Students must demonstrate their successful learning outcomes. Curricular documentation of course objectives and teaching outputs does not suffice.

The Academic Program Review policy's provision for Assessment of General Education Requirement Courses lists the competencies mandated by the Louisiana BOR's Statewide General Education Requirements. Again, these skills are presumed "to be developed through GER courses." "From that list," the policy inaccurately alleges, "the Regents generated specific area requirements."11 The BOR competencies, however, are separate from the content area requirements, neither linked nor subordinate to them. A student fulfills the content area requirements, appended to the statewide GER, by earning designated numbers of credit hours in English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Humanities, Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences which vary according to her declared major. Yet the BOR also mandates "that undergraduate program completers ... shall attain appropriate competencies," not that they accumulate credit hours. Coursework per se does not satisfy the competency requirements. Assessments of demonstrated learning outcomes, not passing grades, determine whether they have been attained.

Insofar as "Louisiana Tech developed its own version of the GER and the areas/courses to be used to satisfy those requirements," according to its Academic Program Review policy,12 the University has redefined the BOR competency requirements and thereby exceeded its local prerogative of implementation. The Academic Program Review policy misquotes the BOR's mandate of computer literacy: "Requirements to be determined by each institution." The policy permits students to meet this competency requirement simply by taking any course or courses containing a computing component: "Curriculum chosen by the student must provide basic instruction in and/or use of computer technology."13 This provision needs to be revised: both updated to account for information literacy as well as computer literacy and brought into compliance with the BOR's competency requirements. Unlike the BOR's global awareness requirement of International Education14 the computer literacy requirement, coupled with information literacy since 2001, is not satisfied by exposure to instruction or practice. Institutions are obliged to assure "that each degree student has achieved basic computer and informational {sic} literacy before graduation."


Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes Provides Evidence of Attained Competencies

The Curricula Effectiveness Council compiled the Expected Outcomes for all Tech Graduates in response to a direction in the University's 1997 Strategic Plan:

Louisiana Tech University shall evaluate and enhance curricula to ensure effectiveness in the development of the following skills as they relate to the current internal and external environments: critical, creative, and ethical thinking skills; research skills; marketplace skills; communication skills; and technological skills.15
The Council acknowledged the importance of student development and learning outcomes. But its chief purpose was to inform program review. Improvement of teaching inputs and the assessment of learning outcomes were regarded as voluntary.
This brochure has been developed to prompt faculty and their academic units to look closely at their courses and curricula to identify when and how the expected outcomes outlined above are being addressed and assessed. As part of an on-going University-wide assessment, individual faculty are encouraged to review their courses to identify when and how they teach and assess the identified skills and knowledge. Departments are encouraged to review their curricula and document their assessment of student success at achieving the above listed outcomes.16

"To determine the extent to which the expected outcomes were being addressed and assessed in GER courses," the Council developed the Curricula Effectiveness Survey. This questionnaire asks instructors to indicate for a given course whether each expected outcome was

Not Addressed – not a part of your course

Introduced – mentioned or considered in the class but not tested in any specific way

Assessed – mentioned or considered in the class and formally tested or assessed, or

Mastered – tested formally and considered an essential skill needed to pass the course.17
"GER courses were surveyed in 1998 to determine the extent to which skills/outcomes were addressed."18

The Academic Program Review policy suggests that the Curricula Effectiveness Survey "may be used in individual classes for assessment of achievement of expected skills/outcomes."19 The survey, of course, does not assess student learning outcomes. It only reveals whether or not skills instruction occurred in a course, whether student performance was assessed and, if so, whether any students attained or mastered competencies. Disclosure that any expected outcome was assessed begs how. By what means? Declaration that any expected outcome was mastered demands verification. What is the evidence?

The Academic Program Review policy requires documentation of learning outcomes. Unit heads and faculty responsible for teaching "courses used to satisfy the General Education Requirements at Louisiana Tech University" are asked to "describe in adequate detail the measures your unit and/or the University are using to evaluate the skills and knowledge added by these courses.20 They are directed to "present evidence of the extent to which the curriculum/program/major field goals are being met," and to "list the sources of evidence, both quantitative and qualitative."21 Various kinds of assessments, both direct and indirect, are recommended.

5. For these courses, tell how your academic unit internally documents that these skills have been transmitted to the student (such evaluation methods as standardized tests, written essays, final portfolios, oral presentations, research papers, and other teacher and peer assessments, as would apply).22

6. For these courses, tell how your academic unit externally documents that these skills have been transmitted to the student (such evaluation methods such {sic} as feedback from other academic units, standardized university-level testing, outside reviewers or other assessment methods, as would apply).23
Skills, of course, are not "added" or "transmitted" in the sense that they are taught and passively received. Each student actively learns and develops them; she may then demonstrate her attained competencies in performance which can be assessed.

Assessment results are presently used only in the internal process of program review and curricular reform of general education.24 But they could, and should, also be supplied externally to meet accreditation standards. To comply with Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1. of SACS-COC's Principles of Accreditation, "the institution provides evidence that graduates have attained [the identified college-level] competencies." The Louisiana BOR, likewise, expects not only that "undergraduate program completers shall attain appropriate competencies"; every student must demonstrate these abilities. The BOR specifically obliges public colleges and universities statewide to "insure that each degree student has achieved basic computer and informational {sic} literacy before graduation." Program performance matters only inasmuch as it assures and documents student achievement.

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1Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, Regional Accreditation and Student Learning: Principles for Good Practices (May 2003); Bonnie Gratch-Lindauer, "Comparing the Regional Accreditation Standards: Outcomes Assessment and Other Trends," Journal of Academic Librarianship 28 no. 1-2 (January-March 2002) 14-25; Gary B. Thompson, "Information Literacy Accreditation Mandates: What They Mean for Faculty and Librarians, Library Trends 51 no. 2 (Fall 2002) 218-241.

2The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement (approved December 2001; revised April 2004), p. 24.

3Ibid, p. 23.

4Louisiana Board of Regents Statewide General Education Requirements (Division of Academic & Student Affairs, Academic Affairs Policy 2.16; last modified March 11, 2002): "all applicable general education requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges shall apply."

5Ibid, Attachment IV.

6Formerly the Information Literacy & User Services Committee, it has been charged "to determine the ramifications of the Board of Regents Statewide General Education Requirement, survey ongoing information literacy activities [i]n member institution[s], ... and to cooperate with the State Library and public libraries in the advocacy of information literacy programs."

7ACRL Institute for Information Literacy, Best Practices Project, Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline, College & Research Libraries News 64 no. 8 (2003) 544-547.

8Expected Outcomes for all Louisiana Tech Graduates (Center for Educational Excellence, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA) was compiled by the Curriculum Effectiveness Council in response to a direction in the University's 1997 Strategic Plan: "Louisiana Tech University shall evaluate and enhance curricula to ensure effectiveness in the development of the following skills as they related to the current internal and external environments: critical, creative, and ethical thinking skills; research skills; marketplace skills; communication skills; and technological skills."

9Policy 2224 Academic Program Review (effective March 6, 2003), IV. (Program Goals and Curriculum) 1.

10Policy 2224 Academic Program Review, Appendix B Assessment of General Education Requirement Courses

11Ibid.

12Ibid.

13Ibid. See also Louisiana Tech Bulletin 2006-2007, p. 14: "Computer Literacy (GER) Curriculum chosen by the student must provide basic instruction in and/or use of computer technology."

14Ibid: "Colleges/universities shall ensure that each degree student has been exposed to international education (awareness, learning, scholarship, and/or engagement) before graduation. The method for determining whether this standard has been met shall be left to the discretion of the affected institution."

15Expected Outcomes for all Tech Graduates. >

16Ibid.

17Curricula Effectiveness Survey, appended to Policy 2224

18Policy 2224, Appendix A Expected Outcomes for All Tech Graduates.

19Ibid.

20Policy 2224 VI.4. Prior Assessment and Development of the Program, cf. Appendix B.

21Policy 2224 IV. {sic, i.e. V.} 2. Documentation.

22Policy 2224 IV. {sic, i.e. V.} 5. Documentation.

23Policy 2224 IV. {sic, i.e. V.} 6. Documentation.

24Policy 2224 IV {sic, i.e. V.} 7.Documentation: "Tell how the assessment results discussed in #5 and #6 are used in the annual academic unit plan to improve the GER courses taught in the unit." See also Policy 2224 VI. 3. Prior Assessment and Development of the Program: "Describe how you will use the information you have collected and analyzed, outlining changes to be made based on the evidence collected; such changes might include developing new courses, deleting courses, adding special topics, etc."


Last modified March 6, 2008
by Boris Teske, Prescott Memorial Library,
Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA 71272