Category: Information Literacy

6 suggestions for teaching information literacy

Most college students have been exposed to more technology than students of previous generations. This does not make them technology experts.  Students do a lot of searching online for information. This does not make them expert, or even good, searchers. Thanks to Google, students can always find information on any topic.  This does not mean that they have found true, accurate, useful information and does not make them expert finders of information. Students need instruction and guidance in learning how to find, evaluate, select and use information, just as they need instruction and guidance in learning anything else. They are not born “information literate” and frequent, uninstructed Googling will not make them so.

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The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (the Association of College and Research Libraries’ new “guide” to Information Literacy) is meant to explain the theory behind information literacy and the threshold concepts that students must incorporate into their thinking to become information literate.

The Framework document says:

“The Framework offered here is called a framework intentionally because it is based on a cluster of interconnected core concepts with flexible options for implementation, rather than on a set of standards or learning outcomes, or any prescriptive enumeration of skills…..Neither knowledge practices nor the dispositions that support each concept are intended to prescribe what local institutions should do in using the Framework; each library and its partners on campus will need to deploy these frames to best fit their own situation, including designing learning outcomes.”

How to teach students information literacy

While the “framework” provides a description of what a person who is information literate looks like and does with regard to information, the framework does not provide the answer we all want–How do we get our students to that goal?  The bad news is that the Framework is not going to help answer that question. The good news is that everything we have created up to this point is still relevant.  While some lessons may need to be updated and/or broadened to incorporate new types of information delivery or new groups from whom we can get information, the core of what students need to know to become information literate remains the same.  Students need to know how to find information, how to evaluate information, how to select information, how to apply information to a problem, and how to use information ethically and legally.

Here are 6 suggestions about how to offer students the concepts and skills that will set them on the road to information literacy.

1. Take them from the familiar to the less familiar to the unfamiliar.

Everyone I know uses Google on a regular basis.  The single search box is convenient, doesn’t require anything in the way of search strategy or specific language.  Most people have no idea that Google has an advanced search, much less how to use it.  In fact, Google no longer offers a link to its advanced search page from the basic search page.  Instead one must click on “settings” and select the advanced search.

Have students do a Google search for global warming in the single search box. They will get links to millions of pages returned to them.  Show them how to get to the advanced Google search page and have them use some of the search options to transform a giant search into something with a meaningful result.  From there, you might transition to a subject specific database, where students will find much more targeted information, making more of the information they find applicable to their information need.

2. Make students mentally stretch to make a lesson more memorable

If you want students to evaluate the information they find, ask them to determine what qualities make information credible, accurate, and reliable.  You can then ask them to evaluate information you supply against their list of criteria.  The supplied information may provoke changes in the list of evaluation criteria.  For example:

  • The hoax website Dihydrogen Monoxide should make students consider evaluation of the content
  • The website offering a scientific study on feline reactions to bearded men should make students consider evaluation of the bibliographic references.
  • The website of Dr. David Duke, a white supremacist, should make students consider the author and author’s credentials.

3. Selection and application of information is critical

There are thousands of webpages devoted to the recent Brexit from the European Union, many of them able to pass the evaluation test.  But every website does not provide information relevant to the same information need.  So a student seeking to answer a question about the effect of Brexit on Poland will need to select information targeting that effect and not information about how the term Brexit was created.
I have found it useful to put students into teams to role play a “real life” situation.  Students become researchers who must provide information to the CEO of the company they work for.  The CEO will base a decision about the future of the company on the information supplied.  Big money is at stake, as well as job security for the researchers.  The information must be on the CEO’s desk within the hour. A class presentation allows for discussion and critique of sources selected, sources discarded, sources undiscovered, and so on.

4. Get students to think about the consequences of plagiarism

Ethical concerns for students about the use of information usually center on the issues of citation of sources and plagiarism.  Students I have spoken to know they need to cite sources.  They know there are penalties for plagiarism, sometimes very harsh penalties.  They simply don’t know when to do it.  Is a citation required for paraphrasing?  Is a citation required for a quote?  How does one cite a quote from one person in a document from another person?  Providing students with a little practice in thinking through what a citation is for and what it accomplishes will go a long way to providing them with the answers to their questions.  As to the format for citations, there is software that will do that—much of it free.  Direct students to those tools and they will be forever grateful.

Get students to think about the ethical, economic and social consequences of plagiarism.  Have them look into the specifics of incidents of plagiarism that have had serious consequences (George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord vs. the Chiffons’ He’s So Fine, for example).  Discuss the nature of intellectual property and fair use.

5. The role of the individual in the information world is expanding

Students are both consumers and producers of information.  Students should be made aware that they can create and disseminate of information and discuss what that means for them in terms of both opportunity and responsibility. For some audiences the student can be an authority. Students can add perspective and new ideas to groups working on projects or problems by participating in blogs, listservs and other interactive discussion groups.  Students can create their own publications for issues of importance to them and make those publications available to the world.

Have students subscribe to and follow a blog that covers an academic topic over a specified time period.  Ask them to write about or discuss their experience, considering the positive and negative aspects of this form of communication, the quality of the information, the variety of people who participate, and whether or not the blog helps move the world forward in terms of the subject under discussion.

6. Apply the same skills to the “real world”

Students often fail to understand that what they learn in one classroom can often be useful in the next classroom, and that concepts and skills they learn in an academic setting can translate to applications in the “real world”.  The human brain works by analogy—comparing new information to information already in storage and looking for similarities. The use of analogies in the classroom can help students think about how one idea might apply in a completely different situation.

Get students to brainstorm steps to take when gathering information for a term paper. Write the ideas on a flip chart or white board.  Ask students to then suggest non-academic scenarios where the same process could be helpful.  (Buying a cell phone, planning a two-week vacation in an unfamiliar location, writing an annual report for work, finding a nursing home for an elderly relative, etc.)

To summarize, students need to learn basic concepts and skills in order to become information literate as students and as citizens of the world.  Make students active participants in their own learning.  Allow them to stretch their understanding through discussion and exploration. Get them to actively participate.  Ask them to grapple with the big ethical and social questions.  The instruction you have already developed is likely still relevant and useful so don’t start from the beginning, but build on what you have already created.

About Teaching Information Literacy Reframed

Teaching Information Literacy Reframed by Joanna M Burkhardt offers a starting point to understanding and teaching the six threshold concepts listed in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, an altogether new way of looking at information literacy.

Joanna M. Burkhardt is a full professor at the University of Rhode Island (URI) and Director of its branch libraries in Providence and Narragansett. She coordinates the branches’ information literacy program.

This blog post originally appeared on the CILIP blog in August 2016. You can view the original post here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/6-suggestions-teaching-information-literacy

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Why should critical literacy matter to information professionals?

Critical literacy is an approach to learning and teaching that has gathered momentum in recent years as it has become widely used in classrooms around the world. Critical literacy is not just important for formal education settings however. It is also relevant for libraries because it is an approach that can engage students (or other users) in more active forms of reading and more creative ways of critiquing texts, as well as equipping them with skills and strategies to challenge social and political systems.

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What is critical literacy?

Critical literacy differs from most models of information literacy because it is not simply about the ability to evaluate information for features such as authenticity, quality, relevance, accuracy, currency, value, credibility and potential bias. Instead, it addresses more fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge.

One way of describing critical literacy is as a process that, ‘challenges the status quo in an effort to discover alternative paths for self and social development’ (Shor, 1999). This description highlights two key components of critical literacy. Firstly, it has a focus on practical action and community engagement. Secondly, critical literacy is concerned with the social and cultural contexts in which traditional, digital, multimedia and other types of texts are both created and read. Critical literacy is not about studying texts in isolation, but developing an understanding of the cultural, ideological and sociolinguistic contexts in which they are created and read. It involves an explicit commitment to equity, social justice and inclusion.

Authors and readers

A fundamental notion of critical literacy is that all texts are constructed(by one or more authors) and serve particular interests or purposes. As texts are written or created by people, who all have their own views of the world, no text is completely neutral and objective. For example, when they write, an author makes conscious and unconscious choices about what to include and exclude and how to represent the things or people they depict.

However, it is not just the author who has an important role. Just like authors, all readers have their own experiences and knowledge whichthey bring to a text. This means that each person interprets a text differently and multiple ways of reading a single text are not just possible, but inevitable. In contrast to more conventional approaches to resource evaluation, with critical literacy there is no single ‘correct’ way to read and respond to a text.

This means that critical literacy can allow students to move beyond merely retelling information to become actively engaged with texts as they start to exercise their power as readers to interrogate what is written and question the ideological standpoint of the author to form their own interpretations. Critical literacy also helps students to see connections between texts they read and the ‘real world’ as they come to realise how the experiences and opinions of both the author and reader are integral in shaping any text.

Some practical examples

Critical literacy is a theory that is highly relevant to the practical work of library and information workers across all sectors including academic, schools, public, workplace, prisons and health. In the case of public libraries, it can support social inclusion activities and offer alternative ways of framing reading promotion. In healthcare settings, critical literacy approaches can empower patients and challenge stigma. When working with young offenders, or at-risk young people, critical literacy can help to improve decision-making skills. In schools, it can have a role both within subjects such as Communication studies and in extra-curricular activities. It can also enhance the school librarian’s role within the school as they become engage in debates around the use of new media and academic honesty. When working with both undergraduate and post-graduate university students, critical literacy can move the librarian’s contribution to the learning process far beyond the simplistic database demonstration session to a more active, questioning approach that can profoundly impact on how students interact with information. Critical literacy can also support librarians’ work with particular user groups. For example, in the case of international students, disabled users; or adult learners, critical literacy can help to reframe difference as an asset rather than a deficit.

There is no doubt that adopting a critical literacy approach in a library setting can be highly challenging. Teaching students that there is no single ‘correct’ way to read a text and that evaluating a resource is not a process which can be reduce to a simple checklist requires considerable time, skill and confidence. However, the potential benefits can be immense.

These are just some brief examples of the ways in which critical literacy can be used within libraries and information services. Is your library using (or planning to use) critical literacy approaches in any way? If so, please let us know.

Critical Literacy for Information Professionals, edited by Sarah McNicol, provides a foundation of critical literacy theory, as applied to libraries, combines theory and practice to explore critical literacy in relation to different user groups, and offers practical ways to introduce critical literacy approaches in libraries.

Sarah McNicol is a research associate at the Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.

This blog post originally appeared on the CILIP blog in March 2016. You can view the original post here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/why-should-critical-literacy-matter-information-professionals

 

Advancing Metaliteracy: A Celebration of UNESCO’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week

Guest post by Trudi E. Jacobson and Thomas P. Mackey, co-editors of Metaliteracy in Practice and co-authors of Metaliteracy

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Photo by Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash

In the past year, the term “fake news” first began to be used broadly, as part of the immediate media analysis and critique of the way false information easily circulated during the 2016 Presidential Election. Previously, fake news referred to made-up or distorted news, as evident in the kind of comedy routines we see on TV or read about in satirical publications, either in print or online. But soon thereafter, the term fake news itself was appropriated in a new and more cynical way to attack prominent news sources that countered in any way the narrative of “alternative facts” being presented. Welcome to the “post-truth era” and one of the many literacy challenges we face in today’s connected world. The term “Post-truth” was the topic of a book by Ralph Keyes in 2004, but took on new relevance in 2016 to describe the proliferation of misleading and untruthful information communicated by the famous and unknown through social media and other sources. The 2016 Oxford Dictionaries’ identified “Post-truth” as the international word of the year, and describes a situation “in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

This is the environment in which we celebrate and promote UNESCO’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week 2017, which runs from October 25 through November 1, 2017. A variety of terms are used for this crucial set of abilities and dispositions that help us to navigate through what are now particularly turbulent seas of information: Information literacy, media and information literacy, digital literacy, information fluency, and even Google literacy. Regardless of what it is called, having a command of literacies connected to information has taken on a critical importance for informed citizens in today’s complex and connected social media ecosystem. All of these approaches to literacy have value and advance critical thinking and learning in today’s world. We have contributed to this discussion by developing metaliteracy as a pedagogical framework for advancing critical and reflective thinking.

In 2016, we wrote an essay that addressed one of the significant concerns in a post-truth world and did so from an educational perspective. How can we learn to reject fake news in the digital world? focuses on the dangers of consuming, producing, and sharing false information. We argue that we need a reflective and participatory approach to address these challenges, given the unfortunate circumstances in which truth has been questioned in today’s political and social media environments. Because of metaliteracy’s emphasis on the active contribution of ideas in these spaces, we argued that, “Metaliteracy asks that individuals understand on a mental and emotional level the potential impact of one’s participation.” Doing so goes beyond effectively using the technology to seeing oneself as a responsible participant who carefully reflects on one’s own thinking and actions in these environments.

From our viewpoint, we are especially interested in exploring reflective learning as a way to empower individuals to continuously adapt to changing technologies while being responsible consumers and producers of digital information. Through this work, we are involved in expanding the roles of learners even further from consumer of information to participant, communicator, author, and researcher.

As an extension of these ideas, we focus specifically on several key components of metaliteracy in this blog post. Metaliteracy expands the understanding of UNESCO’s media and information literacy in our collaborative, social media-infused online environment with a focus on four learning domains. Yet metaliteracy and media and information literacy (MIL) have components in common, and strive toward informed, ethical, and engaged use and creation of information.

We have published several articles and two books about metaliteracy, including: Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners (London: Facet and Chicago: ALA, 2014) and Metaliteracy in Practice (London: Facet and Chicago: ALA, 2016). As noted in the latter book:

Metaliteracy applies to all stages and facets of an individual’s life. It is not limited to the academic realm, nor is it something to be learned once and for all. Indeed, metaliteracy focuses on adaptability as information environments change and [on] the critical reflection necessary to recognize new and evolving needs in order to remain adept. (Jacobson and Mackey, 2016, xv-xvi)

Metaliteracy is more than a model to be applied in academic settings and is an approach to better understand our everyday experience with living and learning in today’s connected world. It is especially pertinent now that we have many opportunities to contribute and collaborate through social media while also being faced with so much misinformation and division.

What might we learn from metaliteracy to help us through these trying times? Let’s start by examining this central image:

Metaliterate learner

By organizing the rings around the metaliterate learner, this graphic emphasizes the importance of an ongoing desire to learn. As illustrated in this image, the metaliterate learner is a complex, whole person who engages in four domains of learning: metacognitive, cognitive, behavioral, and affective. This circular diagram shows that metaliteracy places an emphasis on metacognition, as seen in the upper left quadrant of the middle ring. Metacognition involves thinking about one’s own thinking, and self-regulating what still needs to be learned. But the other three learning domains are also important: the cognitive domain (the knowledge that comes with learning), the affective (changes in attitudes that accompany learning, as well as the willingness to have an open attitude), and the behavioral (what one is able to do following learning). The outer ring on the diagram shows the roles that learners take on in our participatory information environment, roles that should be informed by the learning goals and objectives. We are all learning all the time—there is no set point at which one starts to assume these active roles.

As we move to the outer ring, we see all of the active roles the metaliterate learner plays, empowered by a reflective core that includes an intersection of knowledge gained, changes in attitude, and ongoing development of abilities or proficiencies. The metaliterate learner is an active participant in social spaces, either in person or online, an effective communicator, using and adapting to technologies as needed, and a translator of information, moving from one form or mode to another, adapting and repurposing information and ideas through this process. In this context, the empowered metaliterate learner is an effective author of documents in various forms and both learner and teacher, exchanging these roles as someone who seeks and shares knowledge with others. This involves the learner role as collaborator of new knowledge, demonstrating the abilities to be an active producer and publisher of information. Because this work requires seeking and verifying information in many contexts, while asking good questions, the role of research is central to this approach, continuously evolving with the other interrelated roles.

The metaliterate learner diagram is informed by the metaliteracy learning goals and objectives that underpin the four domains of learning and support the metaliterate learner in the active roles. We encourage you to review the four goals and their learning objectives to gain a sense of their reach. As you consider them, note both the elements that extend beyond media and information literacy, and the abbreviations, which refer to the center ring in the diagram.

Also ask yourself the following reflective questions: Based on your own experience with today’s connected world, which role(s) have you played? Which roles would be especially helpful to encourage lifelong learners to play in today’s information environment?

With this understanding of metaliteracy, consider how it might inform navigating the fraught information environment in which we find ourselves. Being metaliterate means that we:

  • Consider the format that information takes and the way in which it is delivered or shared: text, video, photos, statistics and other formats require the same scrutiny
  • Critically evaluate how information is packaged and shared online and the extent to which professional-looking materials impact our perception of content
  • Question the validity of information, regardless of source
  • Observe our feelings when we engage with information that we do or don’t agree with
  • Determine whether information is research-based or editorial
  • Determine the value added by user-generated content
  • Share information ethically and responsibly
  • Reflect on our own beliefs in these spaces and challenge oneself to consider other viewpoints
  • Always challenge our own beliefs and ask critical questions of information and of ourselves

UNESCO’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week is the perfect time to explore metaliteracy and then share what you learn with others. This is a critical time of engagement to fulfill the early promise of the Web and social media as open and participatory environments for collaboration, dialogue, and discovery. Recently we have seen the negative and destructive aspects of how these technologies have been harnessed as well, from fake news and alternative facts to an overall post-truth reality. These developments have challenged our own optimism and assumptions about these spaces as creative environments for producing and sharing knowledge. In any context, however, metaliteracy provides a critical and reflective approach to learning that supports an everyday practice of asking good questions, being an active and ethical digital citizen, while being open to new environments, technologies, and perspectives.

We invite you to continue the conversation as you delve further into metaliteracy and explore some of the questions we’ve raised in this blog. You can find us on Twitter @Metaliteracy and be sure to follow us at our own blog via Metaliteracy.org. We welcome all of your questions and insights.

 

Thomas P. Mackey, Ph.D. and Trudi E. Jacobson, M.LS., M.A. originated the metaliteracy framework to emphasize the metacognitive learner as producer and participant in social information environments. They co-authored the first peer-reviewed article to define and introduce this model with Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy (2011) and followed that essay with the first book on this topic Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners (2014). This team co-authored the essay Proposing a Metaliteracy Model to Redefine Information Literacy (2013) and co-edited their most recent book for ALA/Neal-Schuman entitled Metaliteracy in Practice (2016). They are currently working on a new book entitled Metaliterate Learning for the Post-Truth World.

 Trudi Jacobson, M.L.S., M.A., is the Head of the Information Literacy Department at the University at Albany, and holds the rank of Distinguished Librarian. She has been deeply involved with information literacy throughout her career, and thrives on finding new and engaging ways to teach students, both within courses and through less formal means. She co-chaired the Association of College & Research Libraries Task Force that created the Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education. Trudi is a member of the Editorial Board of Communications in Information Literacy. She freelances as the acquisitions editor for Rowman & Littlefield’s Innovations in Information Literacy series.  Trudi was the 2009 recipient of the Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award.

 

Thomas P. Mackey, Ph.D. is Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Professor at SUNY Empire State College. He provides leadership for the undergraduate and graduate programs at the college, including the School for Undergraduate Studies, School for Graduate Studies, School of Nursing, The Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies, the Center for Mentoring Learning and Academic Innovation (CMLAI), and International Education. His research interests are focused on the collaborative development of metaliteracy as an empowering model for teaching and learning. Tom is a member of the editorial team for Open Praxis, the open access peer-reviewed academic journal about open, distance and flexible education that is published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE). He is also a member of the Advisory Board for Progressio: South African Journal for Open and Distance Learning Practice.

 

Develop Your Visual Literacy

Guest post by Nicole E. Brown and Kaila Bussert, co-authors of Visual Literacy for Libraries: A Practical, Standards-Based Guide

Celebrate Global Media and Information Literacy Week by strengthening your visual literacy skill set. Try this step-by-step exercise, adapted from the “Begin to Interpret and Analyze an Image” “Coffee Break!” activity in our book, Visual Literacy for Libraries.

Begin by setting aside a few minutes at your desk. You’ll need: the device you’re reading this on, a writing implement, a piece of paper, and a cup of coffee (optional, but recommended).

 

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Moorish Coffee House, Algiers, Algeria, by The Detroit Photographic Company, via World Digital Library.

Step 1: Choose a visual to analyze.

  • Option A: Explore the World Digital Library (WDL) and select an image. This free multilingual source for primary materials is one of our top picks for finding images, so we encourage you to use it. If you’re pressed for time, you can use the coffee house image featured in this post.
  • Option B: Explore The Guardian’s Data Blog and select a data visualisation from one of the topical articles. Visual literacy skills apply to the world of data, too! If you’re short on time, choose one of the visualisations in the “Caffeine compared: from coke and coffee to aspirin and chocolate” post.

Step 2: Take a few minutes to examine the image or visualisation closely and record your answers to the following questions: 1) What do I see? 2) What is going on? 3) Why do I think this image or visualisation was created?

Step 3: Reflect on your answers to the three questions and identify one thing you’d like to know more about.

Now, consider how you might incorporate an exercise like this into your information literacy teaching practice. Imagine leading a group of students through this process with an image related to course content. Can you see how observing an image and recording details about it can prime learners to ask questions? This type of work with images invites students into the question-driven research process. Our book walks you through activities like this, and many more. We share ready-to-go activities and strategies to deepen your visual literacy skills and make your instruction more engaging.

Thanks for taking a coffee break with us! Please use the comments to share how you’re using visual literacy to advance media and information literacy.

Nicole E. Brown is Head of Instruction Services at the University of California, Berkeley.

Kaila Bussert is Foundational Experiences Librarian at California Polytechnic State University.

How can we make information literacy really matter to learners?

Facet Publishing have announced the release of Learner-centred Pedagogy: Principles and practice by Kevin Michael Klipfel and Dani Brecher Cook

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More than ever, librarians are required to possess pedagogical expertise and are being called upon to design, implement, and assess robust evidence-based reference and instructional practices that contribute to student success. In order to achieve this, librarians must know how to teach information literacy skills that go far beyond one particular library context to facilitate lifelong learning. In addition to the traditional information expertise of the library professional, today’s librarian must also master evidence-based pedagogical practices that can help make learning stick.

Learner-centred Pedagogy offers librarians concrete strategies to connect with learners at all levels. The book covers cognitive principles for organizing information literacy instruction, how to establish rapport and build learners’ motivation, questions to keep in mind for inspiring autonomous learning, the science behind information overload, and a balanced framework for evaluating specific educational technology tools.

Klipfel and Cook said, “Our goal in this book is to introduce readers to a practical, evidence-based vision of learner-centred pedagogy that helps learners develop the skills required to use information to think well about what matters to them. We hope that librarians, after reading Learner-centred Pedagogy, will feel more prepared for the changing job market’s increased focus on evidence-based instruction, have more confidence in adapting their skills to the robust teaching and learning environments of today’s libraries, and be well-prepared to facilitate learning environments that result in lifelong learning.”

Kevin Michael Klipfel received his master’s degree in philosophy from Virginia Tech. He received his M.S.L.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his master’s research on authenticity, motivation, and information literacy learning won the Dean’s Achievement Award for the Best Master’s paper of 2013 in the School of Information in Library Science. He has presented nationally on student motivation and learning both in and outside the library profession, and has published articles on the application of humanistic and existential psychology to learner-centred information literacy learning in journals such as College &Research Libraries and Reference Services Review. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

Dani Brecher Cook is Director of Teaching and Learning at University of California, Riverside. She holds an MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an A.B. in English Literature from the University of Chicago. She has published on information literacy pedagogy and learning technologies in College & Research Libraries News, Reference & User Services Quarterly, and Communications in Information Literacy. Dani has presented on the intersection of these two topics nationally at conferences such as ACRL, LITA, LOEX, and the Library Technology Conference.

More information: http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=301553

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The Professional Imperative for Learner-Centred Teaching

By Kevin Michael Klipfel and Dani Brecher Cook co-authors of Learner-centred Pedagogy: Principles and practice

Four years ago last month, we walked across the stage in the Great Hall of the Carolina Union at UNC-Chapel Hill, freshly minted librarians, both about to move to California to start our first professional jobs, ready to lay some information literacy knowledge down on our future undergraduates. Those two years in library school were incredibly formative for us, as we tried to absorb everything we could about teaching, reference librarianship, and the profession as a whole. We became friends working together at UNC’s Undergraduate Library reference desk, chatting about how we could get students engaged in our instruction sessions and make sure they actually, like, you know, learned things.

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The more we talked and read and taught, the more it felt like there was something missing from the information literacy literature we were reading: A focus on the individual learner, as a unique person with individual experiences, interests, and needs. While there are certainly exceptions to this statement, so much of what we read was about specific strategies for teaching specific content, while what we felt we needed was a step before that: What are the underlying principles that can make people invested in learning and able to learn, whether at the reference desk, in a one-on-one consultation, or an instruction classroom? Our experience as readers largely echoed that of librarian David Maxfield, who wrote in an article in College & Research Libraries in 1954 (!) that claimed that “conventional reference work does not always place so much emphasis upon the library patron as an individual person as it does upon library materials and bibliographic techniques.”

A year after graduation, we attended a LOEX conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Terry Doyle began his keynote presentation with the assertion that, as educators, it is our professional responsibility to understand how students learn and then apply this understanding to our work. This idea of focusing on the learner, and not the content, is known as “learner-centredness.” Doyle’s position that being learner-centred was not optional, but instead a kind of professional obligation, struck us as exactly right (see “Education Training for Librarians”). And we wanted to read something that was framed this way for librarians, focused on the individual learner, so badly that we…wrote a book like that.

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Our central question in writing a book on learner-centred pedagogy for librarians was: How can we teach information literacy to real learners – embodied existential beings with passions, loves, hates, and sources of life meaning that extend beyond understanding Boolean operators – so that they are engaged with information literacy outcomes in an authentic way? How can we make information literacy really matter to learners?

We turned to literature in education, counseling, psychology, and (yes) library science where others grappled with similar questions, and ultimately concluded that the core aspect of learner-centredness is a practice of empathy: the question what is it like to be a person learning something? is central to our learner-centered approach. That also led us to redefine information literacy in a learner-centred way as involving learners using information to think well about questions that matter to them.

So, practically, how do we go about this? In our book, we point to five main aspects:

  • Engaging people’s curiosity, interests, and personal experiences in an autonomy supportive rather than controlling learning environment
  • Applying ideas about how people learn from evidence-based literature in learning science
  • Developing meaningful relationships with our users (even in the briefest of interactions!)
  • Providing learning experiences that help to develop a growth mindset about the research process
  • Using technology wisely as a potentially useful tool to help learners use information think well about things that matter to them

…with empathy as the overarching framework that connects them all. This central idea, that who we are as people matters as both learners and educators, is both based in the current scientific literature, but also has a timeless quality that we believe will make it relevant for library practitioners for years to come.

Indeed, we believe that this view of learner-centredness is not a trend, but a way of approaching librarianship that can change over time, as our scientific and psychological understanding of what it means to be a person learning something evolves. While the specific answers to the central question of this book may not always be the same, as long as librarians continue to monitor and engage with the current literature on motivation and the science of learning and follow where the evidence takes us, the basic framework that we present here will continue to apply. As we strive toward a fully learner-centered practice of librarianship, we would consider a practical success to be expressing these interests and views to others, both within and without the library. Building community around this approach is a powerful way to transform our work and to practice an existential form of librarianship: we are learner-centred educators because we decide that is what we are. As you go forward and adapt these ideas for your own contexts, we hope that you will share your ideas and continue to enrich and expand the profession’s understanding that who we are as people matters for how we teach, how we learn, and how we engage with information and each other.

Kevin Michael Klipfel received his master’s degree in philosophy from Virginia Tech. He received his M.S.L.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his master’s research on authenticity, motivation, and information literacy learning won the Dean’s Achievement Award for the Best Master’s paper of 2013 in the School of Information in Library Science. He has presented nationally on student motivation and learning both in and outside the library profession, and has published articles on the application of humanistic and existential psychology to learner-centred information literacy learning in journals such as College and Research Libraries and Reference Services Review. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

Dani Brecher Cook is Director of Teaching and Learning at University of California, Riverside. She holds an MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an A.B. in English Literature from the University of Chicago. She has published on information literacy pedagogy and learning technologies in College & Research Libraries News, Reference & User Services Quarterly, and Communications in Information Literacy. Dani has presented on the intersection of these two topics nationally at conferences such as ACRL, LITA, LOEX, and the Library Technology Conference.
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New edition of Bradley’s seminal internet search handbook tackles fake news

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Image source: ‘search’ by Flickr user Pleuntje https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleuntje/

In the fifth edition of Expert Internet Searching, author Phil Bradley targets the recent phenomena of fake news. Bradley explains why it occurs, how it can be identified and how information professionals can lead the charge in combating it.

First published in 1999 (as The Advanced Internet Searcher’s Handbook), Expert Internet Searching covers the basics of search before going into detail on how to run advanced and complex searches using a variety of different search engines. The new edition references over 300 search engines and associated search tools and has been updated to include current trends including social media search, visual search, and discussion of the authority and validity of search results.

Bradley said,

We all still see the rather silly claim that ‘it’s all on Google, so why do we need libraries and librarians?’ but I firmly believe that information professionals are needed now more than ever. It’s part of our role to help stem the tide of fake news, to open people’s eyes to the rich abundance of information available in so many different formats, and to assist them in working out what they need to know and the best way of getting it. When I was a child and I told my careers officer that I wanted to be a librarian she said ‘is it because you like books?’ and I said ‘No, it’s because I want the power’.

Find out more about the fifth edition of Expert Internet Searching

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Phil Bradley is a renowned information specialist, internet consultant and conference speaker specializing in search. He has worked with a number of search engine companies to help them improve their products, and has a popular blog on internet search. He teaches internet search and social media skills to librarians and information professionals both within the UK and abroad. Phil was the CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) President for two years (2012–13). He also writes a column in the CILIP Update magazine and his previous titles with Facet Publishing include Social Media for Creative Libraries (2015).

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