The status and practice of information literacy for teaching and learning in four Tanzanian universities.
Lwehabura, Mugyabuso J F.
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the status and practice of information literacy in Tanzania's four universities with the primary intention of establishing the foundation for appropriate strategies that could be adopted when introducing or developing information literacy programmes into higher learning institutions in Tanzania that are systematic, effective and capable of fostering adequate information literacy knowledge and skills in students. Information literacy is a set of skills and knowledge that allows people to find, evaluate, and use the information that they need. These skills also help people filter and synthesise the information they encounter so that they can use that which is useful and meaningful. Information literacy knowledge and skills are the necessary tools that help people successfully find their way in the present and future field of information. The importance of information literacy is based on the fact that technological developments of the 21st century require that people in all walks of life acquire information literacy knowledge and skills so as to be able to adjust, cope, work and function compatibly with various changes that are taking place in all aspect of daily life and human activities. In the academic arena information literacy enables students to become competent and independent learners because they acquire the knowledge and skills to know their own information needs and an ability to manage the tools of technology gives access to relevant information, for communication and to problem solving. Tanzania is a developing country, where the school library system has a very poor infrastructure in terms of resources. This situation denies school leavers the opportunity to acquire appropriate knowledge and the skills required to use various information resources. Systematic information literacy intervention at all educational levels is vital not only for learning independence and academic performance but also for life-long learning skills. The data for this study were collected from Sokoine University of Agriculture, University of Dar-Es-Salaam, Iringa University College and Saint Augustine University of Tanzania. Self-administered questionnaires were used together with data from 358 teaching staff, 25 librarians and 664 students and interviews were conducted with three Deputy Vice Chancellors (Academic), 12 Faculty Deans, two Library Directors and one Library Head. In addition data were also collected through observation. The study found that although the four universities' librarians provide some form of information literacy instruction, using a combination of methods that include orientation, lectures, hands-on practice and web-page, this instruction was not effective in fostering the required information literacy knowledge and skills in students. Thus the study established that most students lack adequate skills in the use of both electronic and non-electronic information sources. The study also established a number of impediments that are linked to the non-effectiveness of information instruction. The researcher considered the lack of an explicit information literacy policy, to provide guidance and directives on how information literacy activities should be conducted, as the main barrier to information literacy activities in the universities studied. Lack of an information literacy policy led to the existing information literacy programmes not being allocated official time within the university timetable, hence they were being attended by students on a voluntary basis. Lack of a formalised programme and inadequate resources are also among the factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness. However, the study found that the potential opportunity for conducting information literacy in a more systematic and effective manner can be created through involving teaching staff in infoffi1ation literacy activities and integrating information literacy into the mainstream curriculum.