Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Student perspectives: redesigning a research assignment handout through the academic literacies model

Next discussion: Thursday 2nd February at 8pm UK time (3pm EST, 9pm Sweden).
Article: Hicks, A. (2016). Student perspectives: redesigning a research assignment handout through the academic literacies model. Journal of Information Literacy, 10(1) 30-43 http://dx.doi.org/10.11645/10.1.2049

Thank you to Alison for her article and for writing this kick-off post for our discussion.

Alison Hicks
Alison is a PhD candidate at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science as well as a research librarian at the University of Colorado, Boulder and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver where she teaches the library instruction course. Originally from Somerset in the UK, her works centres on sociocultural approaches to information literacy. She is very good at wrangling time-zones…

How does this discussion work?
Anyone can join this discussion!  Participants aim to read at least some of the article in advance, then come along at 8pm BST and join in the discussion by adding comments to this blog post. You can see how this works by looking at previous discussions (just scroll down the blog for previous posts). 

I first came across Academic Literacies research as part of my PhD reading. Frustrated by  the focus on skills and competencies within information literacy research and practice, I had turned to the field of literacy studies for inspiration and almost immediately came across the New Literacy Studies work of David Barton (2007) and Brian Street (1984). Centered upon the idea of what people do with reading and writing, Barton and Street’s research positions literacy as multi-purpose and multi-functional rather than as a series of neat steps that will automatically lead to social good. It was these same precepts that influenced Lea and Street’s work into academic literacies over a decade later, or the idea that academic reading and writing practices are as situated and contextual as more everyday literacy practices - to say nothing of opaque to most new learners. Further highlighting that conventions and values are often made explicit through academic documentation (such as syllabi), Lea and Street’s two articles inspired my own exploration of how these ideas played out within research education and more specifically, research paper assignment handouts.
Librarians have a long history of using supplementary paper and digital materials to support face to face teaching- from the pathfinder to the handout and the now ubiquitous LibGuide. Yet, while these resources serve a variety of pedagogical purposes, there has been little research into either the design of these tools or how they can scaffold the disciplinary values that drive and are driven by community knowing. In exploring how situational (or the purpose of research) and disciplinary (such as ways of knowing) context can be used to structure a handout, this paper aimed to both provide a model for the design of this type of instructional material as well as to draw librarian attention to the need for this work more broadly. Most importantly, in basing this research around an exploration of student experiences with the handout, this paper positions students as experts of their experiences, and aims to encourage the inclusion of student voices within future information literacy research studies.

Questions

  • While not all librarians are able to get access to class syllabi or assignment handouts, LibGuides have the potential to form a similar purpose. How do we translate Academic Literacy ideas into the use (and abuse) of LibGuides?
  • Information literacy research often tends to focus more on testing students rather than listening to them. How can we integrate more student voices into our research and practice? 
  • This paper was directly inspired by findings from the field of literacy studies. Recognising that literacy studies suffers from many of the same issues as information literacy (eg political rhetoric around falling standards, skills-based agendas), how else can we draw from their research (successes and mistakes) to develop information literacy research and practice?


Reference List

Barton, D. (2007) Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language, Malden, MA:Blackwell.

Lea, M. and Street, B. 1998. Student writing in higher education: an academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education 23(2), pp. 157-172. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075079812331380364

Lea, M. and Street, B. 2006. The “academic literacies” model: theory and applications. Theory into Practice 45(4), pp.368-377. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4504_11

Street, B. (1984) Literacy in Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Using the I-LEARN model for information literacy instruction

Next discussion: Thursday 29th September at 8pm UK time (3pm EST)

Article: Greenwell, S. (2016). Using the I-LEARN model for information literacy instruction. Journal of Information Literacy, 10(1), 67–85. http://doi.org/10.11645/10.1.2045  

Thank you to Stacey Greenwell for her article and for writing this kick-off post for our discussion. 

Stacey has been a member of the University of Kentucky’s (Lexington, KY, USA) library faculty for fifteen years and is currently Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Research. She teaches an academic libraries course in the School of Information Science and is currently working on the second edition of an academic libraries textbook. The article she will be discussing is based upon her dissertation research.
How does this discussion work? 
Anyone can join this discussion!  Participants aim to read at least some of the article in advance, then come along at 8pm BST and join in the discussion by adding comments to this blog post. You can see how this works by looking at previous discussions (just scroll down the blog for previous posts). 

While working on a degree in instructional design, early on in my studies I had the opportunity to meet Delia Neuman whose work intersects instructional design and information literacy. Her latest book had just been published, Learning in information-rich environments: I-LEARN and the construction of knowledge in the 21st century. Naturally I was excited about this as I knew I wanted to specifically investigate information literacy instruction in my instructional design program. I immediately read the book and began thinking about how designing instruction with the model might facilitate learning in the instruction we do for first year students in the library. That was sort of an interesting leap as Dr. Neuman’s model was developed with the U.S. K-12 school audience in mind. However, librarians in higher education and school media specialists do tend to have a good bit in common, and there are certainly commonalities in what our clientele need. After all, the difference between a high school senior and a college freshman is only about three months.

Neuman, D. (2011).  Learning in Information-Rich Environments: I-LEARN and the Construction of Knowledge in the 21st Century.   New York:  Springer.


So what is I-LEARN? The mnemonic is simply Identify, Locate, Evaluate, Apply, Reflect, and kNow.  Library instruction often focuses on identify, locate, and evaluate.  We're pretty good at those things, and that’s often all we have the time or opportunity to do with a group of students. The model digs deeper into those areas and emphasizes the recursiveness of those steps.  Most importantly, the latter parts of the model focus on using information--actually thinking about what you've found, synthesizing it into an information product, revising it, rethinking it, perhaps going back for more information, but ultimately adding to your own knowledge base through this experience.


Neuman, D. (2011).  Learning in Information-Rich Environments: I-LEARN and the Construction of Knowledge in the 21st Century.   New York:  Springer.
While the experimental study described in my article found no significant difference, students who used a course guide designed with I-LEARN used it more often and self-reported how beneficial they found it in helping them complete an assignment to write a paper. Further study of using I-LEARN to design instructional materials is warranted. Recently I have built an assignment guide using the model to help break down the process of writing a literature review for a graduate course. There are other examples of I-LEARN being used to design instructional materials which can be found at http://libguides.uky.edu/ilearn

I’m happy to discuss any aspects of the article, the experimental study, or the model itself. Certainly it can be challenging to successfully translate theory into practice, and I am curious what ideas others have for creating instructional materials using I-LEARN.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Inclusivity, Gestalt principles, and plain language in document design

Next discussion: Thursday 25 August, 15:00 BST

Article: Turner, J. and Schomberg, J. (2016) ‘Inclusivity, Gestalt principles, and plain language in document design’, In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

Thank you to Helen Farrell for suggesting our next discussion article and for writing this blog post.

How does this discussion work? 
Anyone can join this discussion!  Participants aim to read at least some of the article in advance, then come along at 3pm BST and join in the discussion by adding comments to this blog post. You can see how this works by looking at previous discussions (just scroll down the blog for previous posts).

I’m a big fan of Plain Language. Sometimes people express concern that it simplifies language too much, but it’s often the most popular format for the majority of users, when they are given a choice. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) goes beyond language and looks at connecting with people’s different learning styles; some learn best by visual methods; others prefer text or hands-on experimentation. There are so many ways that we can make teaching materials and our written communications more accessible and easily understood, by all.

I was really intrigued by the scope of the title “Inclusivity, Gestalt Principles and Plain Language in Document Design” (http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/accessibility/), recently published in the always-interesting, open access peer reviewed international library journal “In the Library with the Lead Pipe”. I’d read about Gestalt Principles in a very basic psychology-context, so I didn’t know much about them. Turner and Schomberg use these Gestalt components to illustrate the process of writing and designing material for users and librarians so that they are usable and understandable for all. I’m not sure this is the simplest method for explaining accessibility to the novice reader, but it was an interesting new approach to the topic of the design process using UDL and accessibility.

The section dealing with Plain Language was especially useful with clear directions and relevant examples, and I know I’ll refer to it when writing documentation in the future.
I was amused by the reworking of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Sciences (do you remember him from Library & Information Studies?) into “Turner’s Five Laws of Document Design”. These five new laws give a nifty 5-point checklist for Librarians to refer to, when creating documentation that’s accessible and usable by all.

I particularly enjoyed the link to the examples of pre-redesign library handouts, compared with the new handouts that used the Gestalt and Plain Language principles described in this article.
This document design process covers writing, design and usability. Putting accessibility to the forefront of the creation process means that you aren’t working backwards to retrospectively make documents accessible, but considering the variety of user-needs and learning styles from the very beginning. Although it’s written from an American context referencing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the principles and processes described are all transferable to any local context.


This work, “Visual Gestalt,” is a derivative of “7 Laws of Gestalt” by Valessio used under CC 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. “Visual Gestalt” is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Jennifer Turner.

No matter where I go when I’m writing, I always bring the same banker’s box with my favourite resources to keep beside me. One of these documents is a short booklet containing useful Writing and design tips by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) in Ireland that encourages the reader to use Plain English. The other booklet is “Written communication: Universal Design toolkit for customer engagement” from the National Disability Authority (NDA) in Ireland. Both are full of usable, practical and transferable guidelines that help me try to write clearly and simply, and avoid jargon. I will certainly be adding this new article to my banker’s box.

Our live discussion on 25 August 2016 15:00 GMT will no doubt be very diverse, but perhaps to begin the discussion, I’d be interested to hear how others are implementing (or considering implementing) Accessibility, Plain Language and UDL in Libraries around the world?

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Helen Farrell is a job-sharing Faculty Librarian for Social Sciences in Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland, having joined in March, 2016. Previously she has worked in e-publishing, web-design and mark-up languages (including XML), and as a Librarian/Webmaster for NGO’s and State Agencies. She was Librarian for the NDA up to 2008 and after 2012 she provided a Library service to the National Disability Authority (NDA), Ireland as well as the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) - co-located in the NDA. She has interests in accessibility issues, universal design (UD), user experience (UX), mark-up languages, and information literacy.
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Monday, June 27, 2016

Instructor perceptions of student information literacy

Next discussion: Thursday 21 July, 12-1pm BST

Article: Sandercock, P. (2016). Instructor perceptions of student information literacy: comparing international IL models to reality. Journal of Information Literacy, 10(1), 3–29. http://doi.org/10.11645/10.1.2065

Thank you to Pat for writing this introductory blog post and joining in our discussion. 
Pat Sandercock is the Instructional and Reference Librarian at the College of the North Atlantic-Qatar.  She teaches more than 400 students each year in classes that range from 6-12 students per class.  A librarian for almost 30 years, Pat joined the College 2 years ago on a 3 year contract.  The survey being discussed on July 21st was undertaken in the Fall semester of 2015 and written up for submission in November and December 2015 before it was published in the most recent issue of JIL.

How does this discussion work? 
Anyone can join this discussion!  Participants aim to read at least some of the article in advance, then come along at 12 noon BST and join in the discussion by adding comments to this blog post. You can see how this works by looking at previous discussions (just scroll down the blog for previous posts). 

On a campus with a revolving door of instructors, most ‘from industry’ rather than academic backgrounds, and a curriculum that implicitly favours one-shot information literacy classes, librarians at CNA-Q were facing an uphill battle.  The College of the North Atlantic-Qatar is a branch campus of a Canadian College located in Newfoundland, Canada’s eastern-most province.  CNA-Q was founded in Qatar just over a decade ago, promising western-style education and diplomas from accredited Canadian programs.  The problem was, that most of our students had never used a library, had never had a library in their public school system and confused us with the campus bookstore. And our one-shot lessons usually were sessions on how to use Ebsco or ProQuest databases….

The library’s target audience is a group of students in ‘Communications’ classes.  These classes are a requirement in all of the four Schools CNA-Q offers. Typically, each student does one written and one oral communication class each year in their program.  The written communication classes in the first year require students to find information about a company using their website and later in the semester a newspaper article about a company. In their second year written communications class, students must find 2 journal articles and one book on a chosen topic and summarize the findings.

But, there are huge hurdles for students in Qatar wanting a Canadian education.  Besides never having been exposed to libraries, websites are generally unreliable and out of date, newspapers are basically reprints of press releases which are riddled with grammatical errors.  Compound this with the small population of the country, there is a lack of both useful and credible information for students to use.

Consequently, none of us in the library were surprised by what we saw in the survey results.  They were entirely consistent with what has been seen in similar studies done in universities in the ‘western’ world.  We had expected the results to be poorer given the fundamental difference between 2-3 year college students and those on an academic path towards academic degrees.  We had also expected low results given that we work in an EFL environment and all our online content is in English.

Perhaps the most telling results were:

86% of instructors felt that students approached research assignments WITHOUT an information strategy.

 
Do you think you would get the same results at your academic institution?

17% of instructors felt students could not evaluate information for appropriate inclusion in assignments.


Do you think you would get the same results at your academic institution?

We in the library feel that this is a consequence of one-shot instruction (directed by a curriculum that assumes familiarity with libraries and information) and a failure to have a comprehensive ‘Student Success 101’ class with an IL component.

What would you do in this circumstance?

If we are ‘stuck’ with the curriculum we have, what would you do as the Instructional Librarian to affect positive change?

What would you do as the Library Manager to affect positive change?

I didn’t expect the results to be as positive given all the challenges our students face coping with a ‘western’ curriculum and all that encompasses.  Our instructors don’t actually ‘see’ how students choose journal articles like we in the library do.  Were our instructors jaded, un-informed, un-interested or complacent?