Education Opinion

Are Freshmen Ready for College Research?

By Justin Reich — January 28, 2014 1 min read
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We identified a disparity between the Google-centric search skills that many first-term freshmen brought with them from high school and the competencies they needed to meet the far higher research expectations in college. Moreover, we found freshmen we studied had gaping holes in their understanding of how libraries--and the vast array of digital resources academic libraries provided--could best meet their needs, especially when it came to sifting out the trusted information they wanted."

That’s the conclusion from the most recent report from Project Information Literacy, headed by Alison Head of the Berkman Center and the University of Washington.

Alison studies students information literacy skills and readiness for college. In a sense, she provides a crucial barometer of important skills that are difficult to measure in standardized tests. And as her reports show, high schools are not adequately preparing student for the rigors of college.

When I work with educators in schools, one of the things that I often hear is “Well, we’d love to give our students more challenging, engaging learning environments, but we can’t because in college they just sit in lecture halls.” That may be sort of true. But students are also, as Alison’s work makes clear, expected to solve complicated research problems: navigating sources, weighing evidence, reading new genres, iterating through research and writing multiple times, and so forth. There is much more we can be doing in the K-12 system to prepare students for those challenges, and this study of the struggles freshman face in starting college helps to point the way.

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