Communication of information in the digital age among social sciences students. Uncovering a synthetic indicator of performance

Date16 July 2018
Published date16 July 2018
AuthorMaria Pinto,Rosaura Fernandez-Pascual,Dora Sales
subjectMatterLibrary & information science,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information management
Communication of information in
the digital age among social
sciences students
Uncovering a synthetic indicator of performance
Maria Pinto
Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain
Rosaura Fernandez-Pascual
Faculty of Economics and Business Sciences, Universidad de Granada,
Granada, Spain, and
Dora Sales
Department of Translation and Communication, Universitat Jaume I,
Castello de la Plana, Spain
Purpose The purposeof this paper is to analyze the informationalbehavior of a groupof future professionals
in the field of social sciences (SS), in terms of their competence in the communicationdissemination of
Design/methodology/approach The IL-HUMASS, EVALCI/KN and EVALCI/SK tests regarding the
affective (attitudes, motivations) and cognitive (knowledge, skills) dimensions are distributed to a stratified
sample of five universities and eight degree courses in Spain. Infographicsand non-parametric methods allow
to compare the disciplinary profiles with regard to gender, academic course and academic degrees. An
Information Literacy Communication synthetic indicator based on structural equation modeling includes the
subjectiveand effective dimensions to measurethe holistic learning outcomesin communicationdissemination
of information.
Findings Significant differences regarding the informational behavior of future professionals in SS are
discovered. The synthetic indicator allows academic degrees to be ranked in order to identify those in need of
initiatives aimed at improving communicationdissemination competence.
Practical implications Findings must be taken into account to design effective learning programs. This
methodological approach can be expanded to scientific and academic environments.
Originality/value The paperputs forward the first evidence-basedstudy on communicationdissemination
competenceamong future SS professionals,as no similar researchhas been found in the scientificliterature. It is
also the first time that the definition of a predictive performance indicator, based on a powerful statistical
methodology, has been proposed.
Keywords Information, Higher education, Communication
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Few studies have addressed the topic of learning informational competences from an
empirical perspective and in an integral manner that agglutinates the different dimensions
involved, especially the combination of the affective and cognitive aspects of learning.
In line with the latest trends in the evolution of information literacy (IL), and its redesign as
metaliteracy, mainly derived from the ideas put forward by the ACRL Board (2016), there is
a need for a renewed picture of the relationship between individuals and information.
Moreover, a more holistic and inclusive perspective is required. Yet, the subject of IL is so
Aslib Journal of Information
Vol. 70 No. 4, 2018
pp. 326-343
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/AJIM-02-2018-0035
Received 28 February 2018
Accepted 4 June 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MINECO), which has
funded the research project EVAL-CI: Assessment of Information Competences of Social Science
Students in Higher Education (EDU2011-29290).
comprehensive that this paper is self-restricted to the communicative-disseminating
behavior of individuals in relation to information, since this is probably one of the areas that
have received less attention within the wide range of IL-related tasks. The case of future
professionals in the different social sciences (SS) disciplines is a special one from the point of
view of the communicationdissemination of information, since these tasks play a key role
within the profile of SS activities. To this end, this study addresses a number of degree
courses restricted to the SS.
This research is pioneering and original for a number of reasons. It is the first
evidence-based study on communicationdissemination competence among future SS
professionals, as no similar research has been found in the scientific literature. It is also the
first time that the definition of a predictive performance indicator, based on a powerful
statistical methodology, has been proposed. The idea fits with the recommendations of
international organizations on the need to define indicators for measuring learning
effectiveness. In this way, it would be possible to predict patterns of informational behavior
among future SS professionals that may guide the design of effective learning programs on
the communicationdissemination of information.
The research questions posited in this work are the following:
RQ1. In terms of the communicationdissemination of information, what are the levels of
competence of a large group of future SS professionals as regards the cognitive
(knowledge/skills) and affective (attitudes/motivations) learning dimensions?
RQ2. From the disciplinary point of view, are there any significant similarities and
differences related to learning dimensions, genres and academic courses with
regard to communicationdissemination competence?
RQ3. Based on the cognitive and affective dimensions of learning,would it be possible to
design a synthetic indicatorthat predicts learningoutcomes performance?According
to this indicator, how would the different degree courses involved be ranked?
2. Literature review
There is no doubt about the relevance and potential of competence-based learning, and more
especially of transversal skills such as IL. Within the IL framework, the importance of
communicative competence is evident in the new globalized and digitalized world of information
(ACRL Board, 2016; Davis-Kahl, 2012; Davis-Kahl and Hensley, 2013; Garcia-Marco, 2017;
Gibson and Jacobson, 2014; Mackey and Jacobson, 2011; Ogburn, 2011, 2013; Pinto, 2010).
University students are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of
communicationdissemination competence for both academic development and their future
careerwithin the overall frameworkof their learning. This is consistently confirmedby the few
empirical studies conducted on the issue, since they all conclude that students consider this
capability as being especially important (Bordonaro, 2008; Lopes and Pinto, 2016; Pinto et al.,
2010, 2016; Sales, 2008). A recent empirical study that addressed a range of u niversity degree
courses, however, showed there was an important need for students of all the courses to
improve in this com municationdissemination competence (Pinto and Sales, 2015).
Innovative and collaborative technologies constantly challenge and push forward the
traditional definitions of IL. The emergence of social media and collaborative online
communities requires a reframing of information literacy as a metaliteracy that supports
multiple literacy types [] Metaliteracy promotes critical thinking and collaboration in a
digital age, providing a comprehensive framework to effectively participate in social media
and online communities(Mackey and Jacobson, 2011, p. 62). As part of this metaliteracy
reframing, competence in information communication and dissemination, that is skill in
producing and sharing information, are critical activities in the dynamic digital environment
of information

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