Helping students develop a nose for news

ECU faculty participate in new program to build students’ information literacy skills

In a time of an increasing number of news sources, a never-ending news cycle and “fake news,” it’s not enough to just consume the news; we also must evaluate and interpret it.

A 2018 study by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Knight Foundation and Project Information Literacy surveyed nearly 6,000 students on 11 college campuses across the country about their news consumption habits.

Among the study’s findings: Two thirds of respondents said that the sheer amount of news was overwhelming. More than a third of students surveyed said that “fake news” made them distrust the credibility of any news. Only 14 percent felt confident in their ability to distinguish “fake” from “real” news.

And, 70 percent of students surveyed counted their professors and class discussions as among their news sources, which presents a powerful opportunity in the classroom.

Last fall, Meghan Wanucha Smith and David Hisle, faculty in Joyner Library’s Research and Instructional Services, developed a community of learning cohort program to help instructors build students’ information literacy, critical thinking and research skills. With support from an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, they created information literacy toolkits, designed online content, led a workshop series and hosted individual coaching sessions with participants.

The year-long experience aided participating faculty in redesigning existing assignments, developing new class projects, and revamping library instruction workshops to strengthen students’ critical evaluation of sources, understanding of information creation and dissemination, and the use of research within their disciplines. Faculty participants reworked at least one of the spring 2019 classes they taught.

“Inspired by the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, this project was about establishing a community of faculty and librarians working to increase ECU students’ critical thinking skills,” said Smith. “Information literacy is a complex concept that involves everyone on campus, not just librarians. Working closely with instructors at the assignment- and class-level helped us create meaningful learning experiences that made a real difference in the classroom.” 

The 2018-19 cohort participants came from departments across the university, including communication, foreign languages, English composition, hospitality, criminal justice, social work, psychology and nutrition science.

The inaugural Information Literacy Community of Learning members were: 

  • Eileen Angelini, Foreign Languages 
  • Jung-in (Stephanie) Bae, Hospitality Leadership 
  • Michael Daniels, Social Work 
  • Keri Grimsley, Criminal Justice 
  • Blake Hutsell, Psychology 
  • Randall Martoccia, English Composition 
  • Leanne Smith, English Composition 
  • Virginia Stage, Nutrition Science 
  • Brittany Thompson, Communication 
  • Kevin White, Social Work 

For more information and online resources, visit the online libguide.


Joyner’s information literacy community of learners program was supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (IMLS grant number LS-00-18-0034-18).