Academic Senate CSU

March 1998

In his chronicle of the life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell
wrote, "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we
know where we can find information upon it."

In higher education, faculty have devoted themselves to both kinds of
knowledge: knowing a subject and knowing how to find information
about a subject. However, in an age of rapid advances in electronic
technology, the amount and speed of information transfer has
sometimes compromised teaching students these same skills. In a world
awash in new information--much of it is spurious, erroneous,
misleading, false--we cannot afford to compromise the teaching of how
to find information and evaluate and use information responsibly and

The latter half of the twentieth century has rightly been called the
Information Age. Never has so much information been available in our
history. We have moved into an environment in which information
competence is at the center. With nearly 2.7 billion documents
published world-wide each year, with he magnitude and complexity of
current scientific research, with the rapid development of technology
which has given us access to information never known before, every
student who wishes to be considered educated and who needs to make a
successful career must have a mastery of information competence.
(Information Competence Work Group, 1996, p. 2).

In its report, Baccalaureate Education in the CSU (1998), the
Academic Senate CSU emphasized the importance of information
competence. It identified the knowledge and skills for lifelong
intellectual endeavor that were essential for each graduate to have
mastered. These included learning, locating, evaluating, analyzing,
synthesizing, and creating information. Further support for the
development of these skills were included in The Cornerstone Report:
Choosing Our Future (January, 1998), a CSU framework for systemwide

In 1995, the Commission on Learning Resources and Technology (CLRIT)
initiated CSU systemwide efforts to discuss information literacy or
information competence. A systemwide CLRIT work group on information
competence, including two faculty members from the CSU Academic
Senate, was established and promoted this conversion through
conferences, workshops, reports, and support for campus projects.

What is information competence?

The meaning of information competence has evolved to go beyond
library literacy or bibliographic instruction or computer literacy.
Through discussions in systemwide CSU workshops on information
competence and within the professional literature, there is general
consensus that information competence is the ability to find,
evaluate, use, and communicate information in all of its various
formats, including the plethora of electronic communications. In
other words, information competence is the fusion or integration of
library literacy, ethics, critical thinking, and communication

In its second report to CLRIT (1996), the Information Competency Work
Group stated its position: No student should graduate from California
State University without the ability to formulate a research question
or problem, to determine its information requirements, to locate and
retrieve the relevant information, to organize, analyze, evaluate,
treat critically and synthesize the information and to communicate
and present that information in a cohesive and logical fashion.
Moreover, no student should graduate from California State University
without understanding the ethical, legal and socio-political issues
surrounding information. If our graduates are to make a contribution
to a wider socio-political world and create a better society, they
must understand information--its power, its uses and its abuses.

What are the specific skills of information

In order to be able t find, evaluate, use, and communicate
information, students must be able to demonstrate these skills in an
integrated process:

1. State a research question, problem, or issue

2. Determine the information requirements for the research question
problem, or issue.

3. Locate and retrieve relevant information.

4. Organize information.

5. Analyze and evaluate information

6. Synthesize information

7. Communicate using a variety of information technologies

8. use the technological tools for accessing information

9. Understand the ethical, legal, and socio-political issues
surrounding information and information technology.

10. use, evaluate, and treat critically information received from the
mass media

11. Appreciate that the skills gained in information competence
enable lifelong learning

How is information competence

Programs to develop the information competence of students have long
been undertaken by academic libraries and academic disciplines
utilizing library resources as their main source of research
information. These programs teach students the value of how to
locate, evaluate and use information effectively, and the critical
thinking skills to assess the information in the context of their
scholarly work. AS made evident in the CSU workshops in 1995 and
1997, many faculty members do indeed foster the studentsÕ
ability to attain and use information resources and encourage
students to develop the skills necessary to be independent,
self-directed learners.

In general, however, it is uncertain whether the skills of
information competence are slowly being compromised as new
information advances rapidly, or whether there is a lag in developing
university programs that firmly embedded these skills in the academic
curriculum at a rate that keeps pace with new electronic information
resources. The research undertakes by the Work Group suggests that
isolated, hit-or-miss, ad hoc attempts cannot ensure that students
are well equipped for the Information Age. It also indicates that the
best programs that teach students information competence are those
that are integrating these skills within the curriculum throughout
the students education tenure. In addition, most of these same
programs have strong alliances between the academic teaching faculty
and the library faculty. The CSU Work Groups report assumes that the
information competence of students is a responsibility to be shared
by academic teaching faculty and library faculty and should be an
integral element of the curriculum.

Participants at the CSU workshops considered the strengths and
weaknesses of the various models for implementing a program in
information competence. It was generally agreed that there are many
difficulties associated with implementing ANY program at all;
however, there was also strong concessus that if a program were to be
implemented, it must be integrated throughout the curriculum. In
other words, almost no one is in favor of a quick fix, in which a
stand-alone course, taken once in the students career, is expected to
meet a students need to be an informed, ethical consumer and producer
of knowledge.

There is a great deal of interest in achieving this goal through a
three-stage process, in which: (1) the fundamentals of information
competence are introduced in freshman- orientation/transitions
course; (2) the skills are further developed by being embedded in
general education courses; and, (3) the skills are reinforced and
amplified in the major area.


Academic Senate of the California State University. (1998).
Baccalaureate Education in the California State University.

Information Competence Work Group. (1995).
Competence in the CSU: A Report

Information Competence Work Group. (1996).
Competence: Second Report

Information Competence Work Group. (1997). Information
Competence: A Set of Core Competencies.

Information Competence Work Group. (1997)
Competence: Third Report

The California State University. (1998).
The Cornerstone
Report: Choosing Our Future


For more information on information competence:


Breivik, Patricia S. (1998). Student Learning in the Information
Age. American Council on Education
, Oryx Press.

Breivik, Patricia S. & Gee, E. Gordon. (1989). Information
Literacy: Revolution in the Library.
New York: Macmillan.

Farmer, D.W. & Mech, T.F. (eds). (1992). Information Literacy:
Developing Students as Independent Learners.
San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass,1992. Number 78.

Web Sites: