How to Integrate Information Literacy into Higher Education Curriculum

Author: Ru Story-Huffman

The last column I wrote for the Big6 eNewletter covered the topic of collaborating with faculty to develop information literacy programs and classes in an academic setting. Link: Higher Ed Collaboration: The Key to a Successful Partnership. In that article, I outlined a current effort to develop such a program at my institution. It is now time to move past the collaboration stage to talk about integration. Integration is a method where two or more people work together to provide content. This article will provide some examples of integration of information literacy into the higher education curriculum, and provide a practical method for doing so.

What is Information Literacy Integration?
Integration is the desired result of a collaborative effort to develop an information literacy project. First, the collaboration team needs to develop a list of learning objectives and course ideas, assignments, or topics. Integration may take a variety of forms, including single course integrated instruction, workshops for faculty, electronic integration through course management systems or tutorials, or the development of an information literacy course for specific disciplines. Each method is useful in an academic setting and may be tailored to meet the needs and goals of the institution.

The process of integration may also lead to content development. For example, single course integrated instruction may include topics that are covered in the information literacy curriculum and standards. A communications class that is studying how to identify a topic for a public speaking opportunity would focus on Task Definition-Big6 #1. The librarian and professor may develop relevant class activities such as brainstorming, the use of concept maps to help identify a topic and its related concepts, or free writing to express ideas.

Models of Information Literacy Integration
One way universities can integrate information literacy into the curriculum is by developing an information skills course for a specific discipline. The information literacy course for specific disciplines model is a fully integrated concept in which instructors identify course curriculum goals, content, and skills and then tie them to standards-based outcomes identified in the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. The Big6 becomes the framework within which to deliver content.

In this model, each discipline on campus develops an Information Literacy component. For example, the Psychology department would require students majoring in Psychology to take an Information Literacy class that would highlight information literacy theory and concepts using psychological topics. During this time students would study Location and Access, Big6 Stage 3, and the librarian and professor may present the various psychological databases and journal titles that are assessable through the library. Working closely together, the professor and librarian identify specific assignments and activities that represent the outcomes and learning objectives for both the discipline and the ACRL Standards, again tied together through the use of The Big6. Often, the fully integrated course model is a team-teaching responsibility, with both the professor and librarian delivering content and assessment. This model represents the highest form of information literacy integration, and is truly a team-based approach to student learning.

The Importance of a Solid Foundation
No matter the type of integration that is developed, all course integrated instruction and learning needs to have a foundation developed through course curriculum (Young & Harmony, 1999). An information literacy course or program that is tied to institutional goals and curriculum is one that will provide the best opportunity for learning and scholarship. Not only are the institutional goals and learning outcomes important, information literacy sessions, assignments, and overall curriculum should be tied to the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (San Diego State University, 2006). The standards and learning outcomes stated in the ACRL document provide a baseline for objectives, student learning outcomes, and can assist with course and assignment development.

A curriculum map is a useful tool for new course development or for expanding an existing assignment or information literacy topic. If you integrate an information literacy program into an existing course, map the course to the ACRL Standards and the Big6 model to aid with the entire process. A curriculum map organizes “content, skills, assessments, and resources” (Kentucky Department of Education, 2008) and provides the user with opportunity to develop a road map for evaluation, and assessment that also provides documentation of instruction.

Here is my sample information literacy curriculum (link to blank version) map to show you the different parts of a curriculum map and to demonstrate how useful it is in the integration stage.

Blank Information Literacy Curriculum Map

An information literacy curriculum map includes a timeline, the course content, skills students will gain, assessment plans, the ACRL Standards, and the relationship of the Big6 stage or stages to each section. You may use the curriculum map for a single assignment or for semester-long guidance. A curriculum map is just one method for integrating information literacy into the curriculum, and can be used to clarify goals, objectives and curriculum, while serving as a planning and assessment document for each project or class.

Here is a completed curriculum map for Introduction to Public Speaking undergraduate level class (link to sample). This concept map takes the “specific assignment” approach and illustrates three student outcomes expected for a public speaking assignment. Each outcome is tied to both the Big6 and the ACRL Standards. This map is not complete, but is merely an example in progress.

Sample Curriculum Map With Text

Instructors and librarians have the common goal to enable student learning, and information literacy is a skill that will serve students beyond graduation. Successful integration is not a one time opportunity, but rather a continuous refinement of goals, outcomes, and learning opportunities for all involved, the professor, the librarian, and most of all, the student.

Reference List
Kentucky Department of Education. (2008). Sample Curriculum Maps. Retrieved February 11,
2008, from
Rockman, I. F. (2004). Integrating Information Literacy into the Higher Education Curriculum.
San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass.
San Diego State University. (2006). Task Force on Information Literacy Integration and

Utilizing Learning Management Systems: Final Report. Retrieved February 6, 2008,


Young, R. M., & Harmony. S. (1999). Working with Faculty to Design Undergraduate