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Information Literacy Assessment Center: Information Literacy Standards

This guide is for in-house use and brings together documents to assess information literacy.

ACRL Information Literacy Standards

The Standards: Step-by-Step


The Standards have a logical hierarchy. 

Each standard is divided into several performance indicators. A performance indicator answers the question “What do we want the student to learn?”

Each performance indicator has several learning outcomes. A learning outcome answers the question: “How do we know that the student has learned?”

Standard One The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

Performance Indicators

Outcomes Include A. Confers with instructors and participates in class discussions, peer workgroups, and electronic discussions to identify a research topic, or other information need.

Each standard builds on and expands the previous one. In some cases you’ll find aspects of one standard are touched on briefly in others.

Standard One = Know

The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

Standard One is the foundation on which the other Standards will build. It seeks to focus an information need, explore various options for meeting this need. It requires basic understanding of how information is generated, organized and disseminated.

The student must be able to identify these questions: What is it you want to know? What kind of information do you need? How much information do you need?

This standard is divided into 4 performance indicators. The basic concepts of these performance indicators are:

1. Define and articulate

Example Your students are having trouble defining their research topic.

This is where the outcomes become important. Outcome 1D asks student to “define or modify the information need to achieve a manageable focus.” Look at the Toolkit page for outcome 1d and see how this is detailed.

Standard Two = Access

The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.

Standard Two builds on Standard One . It focuses on students’ ability to access information in an effective and efficient manner. However if the student has not clarified their need for information, they will have trouble accessing it.

This is perhaps the easiest Standard to understand as it is all about getting at the information. Students seem to struggle finding information for their assignments. There are different methods for gathering information: lab experiments, fieldwork, for example, and within the area of library research, there are numerous search systems and strategies.

The student must be able to answer these questions: What is the best way to gather this information? Am I using the best terms for this search? Which search system or other resource will get me this information?

This standard is divided into 5 performance indicators. The basic concepts are:

1. Method of accessing

Example Students are researching for your assignment and they say they are not finding anything. This may be because they are using the wrong terminology or because they need to use search strategies particular to this a specific source.

The outcomes will help students in their searching and generally yield better results. For example:

Outcome 2b relates to keywords and synonyms; Outcome 2c relates to controlled vocabulary specific to an index; Outcome 2d relates to using a strategy that employs Boolean operators, truncation and other commands.

Standard Three = Evaluate

The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

This standard is perhaps the most important as it stresses the need for all of us to evaluate information critically as we select and use it. This is especially important because of the amount and nature and formats of information available. Students must develop abilities that critically analyze information.

The student must be able to answer these questions: Is this a credible source of information? Is there another interpretation or point of view? How does this new information change what I know?

This standard is divided into 7 performance indicators. These are very complex because the evaluation process requires it.

1. summarize main ideas

Example You are worried because student are relying more and more on information quickly found in an Internet search rather than turning to the more traditional information sources found in the Library. You want them to know the differences between all the various types of information and to be able to judge the suitability and reliability of the information found.

Outcome 2a asks students to examine and compare information from various sources and gives them criteria for judging these: reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness and point of view or bias.

Standard Four = Use

The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

This is the Standard that focuses on the various uses of information as we communicate with others. Knowing how to use information technology has received much attention in colleges and universities. This ability is encompassed in standard four.

The student must be able to answer these questions:

What is the best method for presenting this information? Will this image convey the message I want? Are these quotes supportive of my ideas?

The performance indicators include the concepts of:

1. planning and creating a product

Example Sometimes you give your students a choice regarding the method for presenting their information: a research paper, an annotated bibliography, a presentation to class, a debate or simulation. This standard helps them decide which method is best.

Outcome 1d focuses the ability to manipulate digital text, images, and data. Outcome 3b looks at using a range of information technology.

Standard 5 = Ethical / Legal

The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally. This standard recognizes that students must be taught the social, economic and political issues surrounding information, specifically the ethical and legal uses of information and its technology.

Understanding the legal and ethical issues surrounding information is much more than plagiarism, a "hot topic" in our classes. Standard five outlines other important aspects such as freedom of speech, privacy, intellectual property and fair use, and more.

The student must be able to answer these questions: Can I make a copy of this material? What are the issues surrounding censorship? Are there university policies about information gathering, use or reproduction and dissemination?

Performance Indicators outline the following concepts leading to student success:

1.ethical, legal and socioeconomic issues

Example Your students struggle with the concept of plagiarism and too many times hand in papers that don’t adequately cite their sources.

Outcome 2f asks students to demonstrate what constitutes plagiarism. Outcome 3a focuses on documentation styles for citing sources.