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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Practical guidance for valuing objects in cultural collections

Facet Publishing have announced the release of Freda Matassa’s new book Valuing Your Collection: A practical guide for museums, libraries and archives

Assigning a financial value to a cultural object is always difficult, as there is no right answer. It is one of the many tasks of the curator, whether they work in a gallery, museum, archive or library, yet it is a role for which few have had any traChambers Cat 2.02.qxdining and that many approach with a lack of confidence. Even if there is a profound knowledge of the subject matter, there may be insufficient experience in the market for cultural objects. However, although it may not be easy, it has to be done.

In Valuing Your Collection, collections management expert Freda Matassa examines the issues around valuing objects in cultural collections, describing current practice in museums, libraries and archives, and giving practical advice on how to assign values. Matassa looks at the difference between value and worth and at how cultural value can be translated into monetary terms. She outlines the arguments over whether financial values should be assigned at all and provides guidance on how to approach a valuation by making comparisons and using a step-by-step process for which templates for a wide range of collections are provided.

Matassa said,

Valuation is fraught with difficulties for cultural collections. Finance is not their core business. Curators have little or no training and are reluctant to mention money as it may detract from significance. My book is designed to give the non-specialist confidence in their decision making.

Freda Matassa FRSA MA (Hons) DipAL DipEd is a well-known UK expert on collections management who advises, teaches and lectures internationally. Currently Director of Matassa Toffolo, a museum-standard art consultancy, former Head of Collections Management at Tate Galleries and co-founder of the European Registrars Conference, she is expert adviser on several European projects for museum standards and to the Minister of Culture on Immunity from Seizure. She was named one of the Top 50 Women to Watch in the arts and is the author of Museum Collections Management (Facet, 2011) and Organizing Exhibitions (Facet, 2014).

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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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Information literacy in the workplace: a different phenomenon

In this guest blog, Marc Forster, editor of recent Facet book, Information Literacy in the Workplace, explores how information is experienced in the workplace and the ethical implications for ensuring that students are equipped with the right skills to ensure they are information literate when they enter the workforce.9781783301324

Isn’t information literacy in the workplace just ‘information literacy’?

Information literacy (IL) has been defined (and redefined) and widely written about; why bother to draw attention to how it’s experienced in a ‘workplace’ setting? The answer comes (as it should) from research which has made it clear that we can’t be confident that existing assumptions, definitions of IL and methods of development continue to be relevant and appropriate for the workplace, surely one of the largest and most important contexts in which information is used. IL doesn’t appear to be quite the same phenomenon in the workplace as the more familiar version developed in, and for, the academic world. Young professionals, confronted by a way of dealing with information quite different to the academic, find themselves having to think about their relations to information in new ways: in terms of meaning, value, and purpose. How can librarians, LIS academics and researchers address this problem?

Thinking about information literacy in the workplace

Do we know in what way information experiences in the workplace are significant to professionals themselves, their employers and educators and society at large? Indeed, what is the ‘workplace’ in an increasingly virtual information world? Thinking about, and understanding workplace IL should be a task for librarians and LIS academics, and it is. Our book Information literacy in the Workplace presents some of that thinking, much of it based on research into how individuals, teams and organizations use information to achieve their objectives. Research which has required and developed new approaches in order to investigate the work environment.

We describe, from new perspectives, several aspects of IL’s nature and role in the contemporary information driven workplace, and how academics, librarians and researchers can understand and develop it. Our authors engage in a range of contexts, including IL’s role in assuring competent practice, its value to employers as a return on investment, its translocational nature; and its function as an ethical safeguard in the duty and responsibilities professionals have to clients, students and employers.

Information literacy experience

Several of us have made use of the research methodology phenomenography to find just how individuals experience IL in the workplace. How can library professionals know how, when and why information is used in the workplace? Such knowledge, potentially acquirable through this kind of research, shows librarians how they can more profoundly engage with workplace professionals and their needs and ambitions. Using research evidence from a phenomenographic study of information ‘experiences’, they can more precisely focus their information resource provision; potentially achieving both a superior service and a more cost-efficient one. There is also the possibility of more effective programmes of IL education, tailored as they could be to the information culture of the organisation and the actual range and focus of the information experiences of workers. The continuing call for evidence-based practice in the library and information professions finds an echo in our book.

 Workplace information literacy is collaborative

One of the key aspects of workplace IL which comes strongly to the fore is its co-operative and team-based nature; IL in the real world is often a joint venture. Employees often work in teams and always as part of larger organizations and companies. Information use is often, even if on individual initiative, a means of contributing to the knowledge development, and so capacity to act effectively, of a wider group. In several contexts and chapters we give details of this ‘social’ IL and how it seems to function as the backbone of organizational operations. In fact one of the chapters of our book describes how IL can be made the fundamental basis of a creative and effective organization through its role in ‘Informed Learning’.

Information literacy or death?

IL isn’t just a tool for learning or empowerment but a means through which one can save lives.

Some professions must be aware of and locate, correctly interpret and apply research evidence, research-based professional guidelines and other more local and personal sources of information, in the varying ways that contribute to that fully informed practice that has the best chance of achieving successful outcomes for the patient or client. To be unable to do this invites failure of competence and care. Not to have the necessary information skills is a professional but also ethical failure as information illiteracy means that the most up to date research evidence or other relevant information may not be identified and applied. Without the correct information or best research evidence, inappropriate or out of date practice may be the result; practice which risks the health, social, legal or financial wellbeing, or even life, of the patient or client.

This new way of looking at IL, discussed in chapter 7 of our book, is one which implies that IL in some professions is absolutely essential to professional, even personal, development. Professional education’s awareness of this remains patchy, but this new understanding of IL’s role promises a means of raising its profile.

Developing information literacy in the workplace

How can IL be developed in this key environment; one which is so important to the financial, medical and personal wellbeing of our fellow citizens? If IL in the workplace isn’t identical to its manifestation in the academic sphere then simply teaching database searching and essay/dissertation based methods of using information might well be found to be irrelevant and wrongheaded. Managing the transition to the workplace must involve a recasting of pedagogical practices to better accommodate the transition to work. There is the additional problem of making the world of work aware of the value of IL. We describe in detail how the development of IL amongst a workforce might be facilitated through applying strategies that bring IL to greater prominence in corporate thinking and through promoting a better understanding of the social/contextual dimensions of information use. We look at how academics can address the needs of students who will soon be using information in the professional workplace; and how new methods for formulating evidence-based IL educational interventions and monitoring educational progress can be developed from research data.

The workplace remains a ‘new frontier’ for those who research and think about IL. Our book is a contribution to the ongoing process of research, theory-building and professional understanding. In the modern world of expanding information-based professions, information overload and false news, such work is as important in both the narrowly practical, and the broadest human context, as ever.

Find out more about Information Literacy in the Workplace on the Facet website

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New book sets out a manifesto to make reading for everyone

Facet Publishing have announced the release of Reading by Right: Successful strategies to ensure every child can read to succeed.

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Literacy has been recognized as a human right for over 50 years in several international declarations and initiatives. Every child has a right to read and parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, campaigners and policy makers have a social responsibility to ensure that they are able to exercise that right.

Joy Court’s new book, Reading by Right, reveals the strategies that are proving effective in overcoming barriers to reading from birth to teens. The book looks at practices and projects from around the globe and highlights the common principles and drivers that have generated success. The book sets out a manifesto to make reading for everyone including the pledges, “Everyone is a reader – regardless of their background or what others might think or say”, “Everyone should have access to content to read to borrow, buy or keep” and “Everyone benefits from the social and creative opportunities tied to reading”.

Joy said,

“Because I am so passionate about the vital necessity of every child being able to read, I have become increasingly concerned about those children who either cannot or will not read: the reluctant, the disengaged, the struggling, the hard-to- reach. So when Facet approached me about editing another book for them, it was these children and young people that came to mind”.

The book features an illustrated foreword by former UK Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell and contains a collection of chapters from international experts covering aspects of overcoming reading difficulties or reading reluctance in children and young people.

Joy Court is Chair of the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals Working Party. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of the English Association and a Trustee and National Council member of UKLA. She is Reviews Editor for The School Librarian and author of Read to Succeed (Facet, 2011).

 Contributors:

Chris Riddell, UK Children’s Laureate 2015-2017

Rose Brock, Assistant Professor, College of Education, Sam Houston State University, USA

Alison Brumwell, freelance education and literacy consultant, Leeds, UK

Wendy Cooling, Head of children’s section, BookTrust

Prue Goodwin, freelance lecturer in literacy and children’s books

Mervi Heikkilä, Director of Libraries in Seinäjoki, Finland

Jake Hope, reading development and children’s book consultant

Teri S. Lesesne, Professor, Department of Library Science, Sam Houston State University, USA

Yeojoo Lim, adjunct faculty member, Hansung University, South Korea

Ginny Lunn, CEO, Beanstalk

Hilary Mason, education consultant, trainer and writer

Amy McKay, school librarian, Corby, Northamptonshire, UK

Alexandra Strick, specialist in the field of children’s books and disability/diversity

Sara Tuisku, Finnish-language, culture and communication professional

 

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The ‘why-to’ as well as the ‘how-to’ textbook for archivists

 Facet Publishing have announced the release of the second edition of Laura 9781783302062A Millar’s Archives: Principles and practices

Originally published in 2010, the second edition of the Waldo Gifford Leland Award-winning textbook, Archives: Principles and practices, has been extensively revised to address the impact of digital technologies on records and archives.

Written in clear language with lively examples, the book introduces core archival concepts, explains best-practice approaches and discusses the central activities that archivists need to understand to ensure the documentary materials in their charge are cared for as effectively as possible.

Author, Laura A Millar said,

Archivists search, sometimes in vain, for a balance between abstract theory and traditional practice, both of which can become increasingly arcane or impractical over time. My book seeks to strike a balance between principles and practices. It is as much a ‘why-to’ book as a ‘how-to’ book.

Part of the Principles and Practice in Records Management and Archives series, this book will be essential reading for archival practitioners, archival studies students and professors, librarians, museum curators, local authorities, small governments, public libraries, community museums, corporations, associations and other agencies with archival responsibility.

Laura A. Millar is an independent consultant in the fields of records, archives and information management, publishing and education. She has taught records, archives and information management courses in universities and colleges in Canada and internationally and is the author of dozens of books and articles on a range of topics. In 2010, the first edition of Archives: Principles and practices was awarded the prestigious Waldo Gifford Leland Award from the Society of American Archivists in recognition of its ‘superior excellence and usefulness in the fields of archival history, theory, or practice.’

More information about the book: http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=302062

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