Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership


Educational Research Cognition and Development

First Committee Member

Bob Ackerman, Chair

Second Committee Member

Robert McCord

Third Committee Member

David Forgues

Graduate Faculty Representative

Cyndi Giorgis

Number of Pages



Information literacy—the ability "to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (American Library Association [ALA], 1989, para. 3)—has been widely and increasingly cited as an essential competency for college success, for the workplace, and for life (Bruce, 1997; Eisenberg, 2008; Fitzgerald, 2004; Johnston & Webber, 2003; National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise, 2007; Obama, 2009; Rader, 2002). Information literacy best practice and standards state that students optimally develop this skill set through immersion in the research process—often and over time—and this proposition is also supported in the scholarly literature (ACRL, 2000; AASL & AECT, 1998; Eisenberg & Berkowitz, 1990; Stripling & Pitts, 1988; Kulthau, 1986; Irving, 1985). Additionally, best practice emphasizes that students further develop these skills through exposure to problem solving and higher-order thinking activities—a teaching style that best matches that of constructivist learning theory (ACRL, 2000).

The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to explore the relationship between a sample of first-year college freshmen students’ high school experiences that are developmentally related to information literacy competency and their scores on the iSkills assessment, an assessment developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which “tests the range of ICT literacy skills aligned with nationally recognized Association of Colleges & Research Libraries (ACRL) standards” (Educational Testing Service, 2011). A second purpose of this study was to develop a detailed understanding of how these high school factors influence students’ development of their information literacy competency.

Participants in the study were drawn from first-time college freshmen, who attended and graduated from high school (not home schooled) in 2011 and enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for the Fall 2011 semester. These students self-selected into a program designed for academic success. Ninety-three students were surveyed, took the iSkills assessment, and agreed to provide access to background data. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was utilized to predict how much of the variance in iSkills scores (dependent variable) can be explained by theoretical variables (independent variables of core GPA, number of honors classes, and number of research projects or assignments in high school), while controlling for demographic and other subject variables (i.e., gender, best language, ethnicity, and type of admission—alternate admit/exploring major). Thirteen of these students participated in a focus group or in-depth interview to explore how students from higher and lower level curricular tracks in high school describe their high school academic experiences related to the acquisition of higher-order information literacy skills.

Through the hierarchical multiple regression analysis, four variables predictive of a significantly higher score on the iSkills assessment at the p < .05 level were identified. Among background variables, a student’s best language, and to some extent, race, are significant predictors of his or her iSkills assessment score. Among the theoretically important variables, students’ cumulative core high school GPAs, as well as their curricular tracks (number of honors, etc. classes taken) explained a significant amount of the variance in students’ iSkills assessment scores. Through methods of qualitative data analysis five themes that shed further light on students’ high school academic experiences related to the acquisition of higher-order information literacy skills were identified. These themes are: the meaning of “research,” source of guidance, teacher pedagogy, factors affecting pedagogy, and college preparation. Differences in each theme were found between honors and non-honors-track students. Implications of these findings for theory, practice, and future research are discussed in the final chapter.


College freshmen; Constructivism (Education); High school; ICT literacy; Information literacy; iSkills


Community-Based Research | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Information Literacy | Library and Information Science