Student’s perspective on information literacy

Published on 26 Aug 2020

As a Maastricht University (UM) student, tutor and student assistant of the Information-Wise project, I have no doubt that information literacy (IL hereafter) is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ skill for us students. Due to the increasing information overload, it is becoming a survival skill that influences our day-to-day decisions and choices. Often without knowing, we apply IL skills to a broad range of issues – starting from finding a good pizza place, a useful article for a tutorial or more fundamental issues of democracy and citizenship.

Alicja Garbaciak

The ‘Why’ of information literacy

Many of us explicitly recognise the need to deal with (mis)information, as we are surrounded by fake news, overly emotional statements, erroneously interpreted scientific research… or worse. As a Polish citizen, I have recently experienced on my own skin how vital information literacy is for a well-functioning democracy. You might have heard about the political situation in Poland, where propaganda and fascist messages are openly communicated by public media and those in power. Interestingly, it is the media outlets, specific politicians or political parties who are blamed for the spread of nonsense. But it’s not the fake news that is the problem – these can never be completely eradicated. The problem lies in how we deal with the misinformation and “critical thinking can act as our armor” (a quote from one of my fellow students).

However, some of us might not yet realise how fundamental information skills are. I talked to fellow students about issues related to IL and it worried me that part of us do not realise its impact yet. So how can we change that?


The ‘How’ of information literacy education

What we, as students, want and need to become information and data savvy comes without surprise and falls in line with the philosophy of Problem-Based Learning (PBL).

Contextualized learning. Our experience with finding, organising and analysing information often comes down to workshops isolated from the rest of the curriculum and related to the research domain. We would like to develop and practice our IL skills in the context of real-life problems relevant to the topic of our studies or to the assignment, we are currently busy with.

Experienced-based learning. We love to be active and experiment but it has to go hand in hand with evaluation, feedback and reflection. Allow us to take action, reflect on our mistakes and on the ‘why’ of our choices. A potential learning activity could include writing a blog post or a Wikipedia article so that we can experience the challenges of providing high-quality, reliable information to a wider audience.

Diversity of perspectives. Let us ‘entertain’ different ideas, opinions, alternatives. Encourage us to talk with people with different beliefs, backgrounds and get out of our own bubble. This way we can practice our argumentation and have a critical look on our views.
We students want to be involved. Many of us want to shape our own education and can offer our hands and brains to help you with the challenge of implementing IL education. At times, it might not be visible that we are willing to take the initiative. Based on my experience as a student and a tutor, I believe that all we need is to be challenged and inspired.

  • Author: Alicja Garbaciak, UM student, tutor and student assistant at UM Library / EDLAB


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.


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Last updated: 27/08/20