Should we flip the script? A literature review of deficit-based perspectives on first-year undergraduate students’ information literacy

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Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol Mark Lenker Emily Cox Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger


This mixed method systematic review considers recent literature on the information literacy (IL) skills of first-year undergraduate students. The review uncovers the following themes: faculty and librarians perceive first-year students as lacking IL skills; students have varying perceptions of their IL skills; assessment studies yield conflicting findings on first-year students' IL; communication between high school and college librarians is challenging; and some IL researchers emphasise and leverage first-year students' prior knowledge and experience in IL instruction. These themes emerge from extensive searches in four research databases for scholarly and professional articles written in English within the past ten years. With the exception of a few articles, studies reviewed consistently express their findings in terms of students’ gaps or deficits. We question whether this is the most productive basis for developing effective IL programs. Instead, we call for further investigation of students’ existing knowledge and skills as a basis for implementing constructivist and strengths-based pedagogies.

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PASHKOVA-BALKENHOL, Tatiana et al. Should we flip the script?. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 13, n. 2, p. 92-111, dec. 2019. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 02 feb. 2023. doi:
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)