Building Resilience Through Information Literacy Instruction

Building Resilience Through Information Literacy Instruction

From climate change to the way we interact with technology and with each other, we live in a world in flux. In these challenging times, it’s easy for pessimism and despair to overtake the drive to learn and grow. In the classroom, abilities like agility and open-mindedness have become critical aids for sustaining a growth-focused outlook among students and staff. Such mindsets are closely related to resilience, an essential soft skill that supports an individual’s ability to “bounce back” from setbacks and maintain a flexible, curious mindset. 

How can instructors and librarians leverage their existing curriculum to build resilience in the classroom?

Information literacy (IL) encompasses the skills that students need to locate, evaluate, and apply information effectively. While IL may seem like yet another curriculum requirement to meet, its value extends beyond the classroom. IL skills are themselves transferable abilities that will help students succeed as lifelong learners. Drawing on IL skills helps students solve problems independently and make informed decisions. Moreover, such skills directly support personal and professional success through developing resilience. 

How IL Supports Resilience 

In addition to the analysis and evaluation skills students gain from IL exposure, information-literate students build the habit of approaching challenges with curiosity and open-mindedness. Such qualities are the building blocks for the growth-focused outlook that defines resilient individuals. 

One of the six frames of the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy is “Research as Inquiry.” The mindset encouraged by the “Research as Inquiry” frame allows students to build resilience as a natural response to academic and personal challenges. For example, the information-literate student understands that research, much like problem solving and decision making, is an open exploration that requires the synthesis of multiple perspectives and asking the appropriate questions, as well as critical analysis of source materials and how these materials are interpreted. 

“Research as Inquiry” encourages students to practice curiosity, especially when they find themselves in ambiguous or frustrating situations. For example, many students struggle to begin an assignment or solve a problem because they don’t know where to start. By helping students internalize the guidance of “Research as Inquiry,” instructors can help students recognize the steps required to address ambiguity on their own. As they would when problem solving, the students will first outline the core question and define the scope of their query by identifying the keywords that will most likely help them find informative, objective sources. In this early stage of research, persistence is essential. Having a resilient, growth-oriented mindset will allow the student to reframe challenges encountered during the search process as opportunities. A less resilient student struggling to locate the right information may give in after a search turns up limited or irrelevant results. By contrast, information-literate students are able to revise their strategies and seek different approaches to fulfill their information needs. In this way, IL allows the student to “bounce back” from an unsuccessful attempt and continue on with a curious outlook. 

Students who follow the “Research as Inquiry” frame will simultaneously build a flexible, open mind when evaluating evidence and opinions about their topic. When engaging with sources, information-literate students understand the importance of taking a step back to recognize their preconceptions about the issue. Building on this practice of self-reflection, the students can then apply the growth-focused approach to expand their understanding of the topic, identify gaps in their knowledge, acknowledge conflicting perspectives, and determine their next steps. Going forward, the information-literate student will be able to replicate this approach to challenges outside of the research context.

IL Outside of the Classroom

As our “Research as Inquiry” example illustrates, applying IL skills in tandem with a resilient mindset allows individuals to be more able—and willing—to take the initiative to grow in times of stress. Students who enter the workforce with strong IL skills, for instance, will be able to locate and share information effectively with less direct involvement from their manager. Employees who practiced IL skills in the classroom will also be more receptive to an iterative, evidence-based approach to problem solving in the workplace. 

When it comes to being informed citizens, students with IL training also have the advantage over their peers who haven’t had that training. Part of being resilient is reframing the way you interpret an issue. Similarly, information-literate individuals are able to evaluate an issue from different perspectives supported by credible evidence. Both of these abilities are key to countering unsupported claims as well as the fixed mindset that makes one vulnerable to fabricated information. 

Reframing IL Instruction  

Students are often taught IL skills in the library and the classroom through targeted sessions on topics like search strategies, navigating databases, and evaluating sources. While classroom sessions offer focused environments in which to cultivate IL skills, to be truly valuable as lifelong learning habits, information literacy and critical thinking must be applied beyond the academic context. To do so, instructors and librarians can expand their existing curriculum to frame IL as a toolkit for lifelong learners navigating personal and professional challenges. For example, when teaching the IL skills that build resilience, such as the ability to synthesize multiple points of view, activities can be expanded to teach students how to make smart financial decisions and evidence-based choices about their well-being. 

Additionally, teaching IL in the context of professional success will give students a head start. They will have not only the transferable skills to navigate an ever-changing landscape of workplace information but also the mindset to take on challenges and grow from their experiences. In this way, expanding existing IL instruction to support resilience promotes personal and professional growth in our students and encourages resilient critical thinking outside of the classroom. 

Information Literacy – Core uses innovative technology and proven pedagogy to build essential information literacy and critical-thinking skills that will help students thrive in their academic careers and beyond. Learn more.


American Library Association. 2016. “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Accessed September 30, 2021.

Beene, Stephanie and Katie Greer. 2021. “A Call to Action for Librarians: Countering Conspiracy Theories in the Age of QAnon.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 47(1).

Dweck, Carol. 2016. “What Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ Actually Means.” Last modified January 13, 2016.

Doheny, Kathleen. 2021. “Building Resilience: Helping Workers Handle Stress for the Long Haul.” Last modified January 12, 2021.

Head, Alison J. 2012. “Learning Curve: How Students Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace.” Last modified October 16, 2012.

See also: