Information Literacy and Critical Thinking in Higher Education: Some Considerations

Information Literacy and Critical Thinking in Higher Education: Some Considerations

Ann Marie Joanne White (The University of the West Indies – Cave Hill Campus, Barbados)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7829-1.ch020
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This chapter acknowledges the widespread recognition of the importance of instruction in the area of information literacy and shows how information literacy and critical thinking, another vital skill demanded in more and more fields of endeavor, can be integrated as institutions seek to prepare their students to be able to function effectively in today's knowledge-based environment. Some attention is given to Information Literacy frameworks which aim to guide the development of information literacy and enhance delivery and assessment in this field. It recognizes the importance of information specialists and faculty in higher education institutions to be able to work together to establish and develop Information Literacy programs that will equip students with the relevant skills to be considered information literate. It also touches briefly on pedagogical approaches that may be taken in the delivery of Information Literacy instruction and emphasizes the importance of assessment as a means of enhancing the ultimate value of the process to students who participate.
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Higher education institutions are expected to produce graduates who can take their place in the world in a variety of productive areas. The challenge, therefore, is to offer programs that will equip the future graduates with the skills and capacity to fulfill the roles that the society requires. Over the centuries and to a very great extent in the last century and in the present, these roles have changed and continue to change rapidly. Preparation of students of the 21st century, the digital age, the age of technology, must of necessity include a focus on elements some of which were not even heard of in the industrial age and subsequently. It is not that progress from the industrial era to the digital age is not a good thing. It is. But somehow it has cheated students in thinking critically or becoming information literate. To understand the present, one should observe the past.

The industrial era, the 1700s, was a time of great inventions and discoveries in the world, starting the explosion of information. Now has come the digital age, beginning in the 1970s, when there has been an expansion of developments and inventions, when technology creates things to be faster, instantaneous, and obsolete quickly. It has changed the way people learn and want to learn; how they think and do things and how they perceive things. It cannot be that in both eras critical thinking and information literacy were never heard of or known to man. In fact, according to Fisher (2011), critical thinking has been with us for over 2000 years with Socrates beginning this approach to learning. John Dewey is widely considered as the pioneer of the concept of critical thinking in modern times. Information literacy, on the other hand, is a term coined in 1974. According to Andretta (2005), they both reappeared about the time that the educational icon of the 21st century, “life-long learning,” also entered the language of formal and informal education.

This chapter draws attention to the relationship between critical thinking and information literacy, and why and how they are important in the context of higher education. The integration of information literacy instruction into the formal curriculum has become an accepted practice. The chapter also gives attention to international standards established in order to guide and enhance the development of information literacy as an integral part of college programs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Information Literate: An information literate person is one who is able to recognize the need for information and has the ability to find, assess and use the needed information in a meaningful way, sometimes to create new knowledge.

Community of Thinkers: A group of learners who come together, supporting each other to address or reflect critically on a particular problem following an agreed procedure. It is sometimes seen as an alternative to the traditional classroom.

CRAAP: A test used as a means of evaluating the process of searching and finding information on websites, in articles and other sources on the basis of the following criteria: currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.

Frameworks: A framework is a set of rules, guidelines, beliefs that guide how a particular situations or problems are addressed. The standards framework for information literacy would therefore provide guidelines for how information literacy would be defined, understood and applied.

Pretest-Posttest: A pretest-posttest design is a kind of experiment in which a group is tested/studied before and after the particular experiment or activity is administered. In this way it is possible to determine what changes if any have taken place and thereby judge the effect or value of the experiment.

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