Archive for July, 2007

Information Literacy workshop

July 24, 2007

I have finally got round to writing another blog entry after being on holiday for two weeks. I should have really escaped to warmer climes with all this abysmal rainy weather we are having, but no we had some time off work and had a visitor staying with us from Denmark, and there was plenty to show him round the town and area.  

Anyway, here I am back to my blogging. While we are busy at work, preparing for student inductions in September, my thoughts turn to a workshop I attended back in April on information literacy. The workshop was well attended by both librarians and very usefully academics, who could offer a different perspective on information literacy.  

The first session was run by Professor Christine Bruce from Brisbane in Australia on the Six Frames for Information Literacy. The 6 frames are content, competency, learning to learn, personal relevance, social impact and the relational frame. After trying to get to grips with the 6 frames, we were asked to each identify our preferred frame. I learnt that personal relevance and competency were my preferred frames.  

Then in groups we were asked to think of and talk of a case study and apply one of the frames to this and comment on how this affected the students, academics, librarians and the institution itself. I learnt that many of us felt that personal relevance was most important to students, ie. They won’t do something if they don’t have to, and that the social frame is important to the organization.

All in all, this session was a bit too theoretical and some in our group were tempted to veer away from the discussion and talk about other things. It was still a good opportunity, however, to network and share ideas.  

The next session was on ‘Applying the theory: a practical toolkit to deliver information literacy’. This toolkit was a set of resources which are associated with a recognized information literacy programme. The importance of liaising with academics was emphasized again and getting them familiar and confident in using the toolkit.

The SCONUL Seven Pillars Model for information literacy was used as a framework, out of which can be drawn skills levels that learners at different stages of their university career would realistically be expected to reach.  

The next session was given by a lecturer in Environmental Science talking about ‘Embedding Information Literacy into the Curriculum’. It was encouraging to see a relatively young lecturer being so enthusiastic and dynamic about using information skills and making them relevant to students in their course work and assignments. She also liaises closely with library staff in this and even attends the information skills sessions for students herself. 

Examples she gave of this approach were students going on a treasure hunt in the library; developing a learning log; developing a search strategy and mind map coupled with compiling a list of references.  

The thought did cross my mind about whether her approach was exceptional or not, and whether other lecturers, who had been in this profession a long time, would adopt such relatively new and innovative ways of teaching. This is the challenge that Liaison librarians have of trying to get the most stubborn and cynical lecturers on board and make them realize that we librarians do have some useful skills and ideas to offer!

The last session was run by Professor Sally Brown of Leeds Metropolitan University. This session I by far enjoyed the most as the trainer was dynamic and had an unusual training style of interspersing her research on assessment with getting us all to close our eyes for a few moments and thinking of good and bad examples of our own learning experiences. It was near the end of the training day – I could have fallen asleep but didn’t because the rapid pace of the session kept me awake! 

She got us thinking about the characteristics and range of students we now get at our universities; about non-traditional entrants into university and the risk of them dropping out. One reason for this, but by no means the only one, can be if they feel they are not being supported enough, for example, if they are not given the right and appropriate encouragement from lecturer and if the lecturer’s approach to assessment does not suit them.   

We were given too astonishing (but somewhat scarily recognizable!) accounts of how some students approach reading and writing in order to reach the attained goal – passing the assignment. Taking drastic shortcuts was an understatement! She talked about the importance of giving students guidance on information literacy.

I learnt that lecturers could best benefit their diverse student group by steering clear of just traditional assessment methods and use more imaginative ways, such as poster presentations, blogs and diaries. Finally, I learnt about the importance of lecturers giving students timely and appropriate feedback. 

In summary, an extremely useful training day which got me thinking about many of the issues raised. I learnt that information literacy is not just learning for students but also for the employees of an institution, academics and staff. I now have a better understanding of how some academics manage to embed information literacy into their course programme and how important it is for them to liaise with library staff and utilize their skills. Finally, I learnt much more about assessment and how this needs to fit a more diverse student population than ever before.