Monday, April 27, 2015

Next discussion: 3 June on Information literacy learning design


Next discussion: Wednesday 3 June, 8pm GMT 

Article:  McNicol, S., & Shields, E. (2014). Developing a new approach to information literacy learning design. Journal of Information Literacy, 8(2), 23–35. http://doi.org/10.11645/8.2.1911

Thank you to Sarah and Emily for writing this introductory blog post and joining in our discussion. 

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 GMT 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). 

Sarah McNicol is a researcher in the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and Emily Shields is a librarian in the same institution, with responsibility for the library’s Information Literacy offering, InfoSkills. In the article we’ll be discussing, we reported on the development and early testing of a new model for information literacy learning design called InFlow. 

InFlow has been designed to encourage students to engage with information in a variety of ways as they map, explore, ask, make, reflect, imagine, show and collaborate. As Sarah’s background is in school libraries, at first, the model was intended as one for schools, but it was clear at an early stage that there was a lot of interest from other sectors, including librarians at MMU. So Emily and her colleagues trialled the model in their information skills sessions for final year undergraduates to help to investigate how it might be used in non-school settings.

InFlow was created as part of iTEC (2010-14), a European project focused on redesigning teaching and learning. The model is closely based on a series of learning activities that were piloted among primary and secondary teachers in 19 European countries. So InFlow’s starting point is a series of practical activities which have already been tested with, and well-received by, large numbers of teachers (something we feel may be an important advantage given the challenge librarians often face when trying to engage educators in IL).

 


InFlow consists of eight elements (ask, collaborate, explore, imagine, make, map, reflect, show) which can be undertaken in any order and an iterative approach is strongly encouraged as students may return to a particular element several times. Unlike many models, there is no single ‘correct’ order of activities; instead, librarians, teachers and students can design different options which are best suited to their environment, student needs, resources available and so forth.

The research that supported the development of InFlow raised fundamental questions about current teaching practices in relation to IL, such as the need to encourage collaborative working; the role of students as producers of information as well as consumers; and the privileging of particular types of information sources and outputs. The resulting model suggests ways to address these. For example, while InFlow can be used to produce traditional outputs such as essays or presentations, it is equally applicable to making more creative outputs such as games, videos and artefacts (digital or non-digital). The model also encourages students to engage with primary information sources, by interviewing people or observing aspects of their environment for example, as well as using more traditional secondary sources. And collaboration is a key component of InFlow: it is designed to support social constructivist pedagogies and group projects and to help develop students’ team-working skills.

Of course, the development of InFlow didn’t happen in isolation; there’s growing recognition that IL frameworks need to change to ensure they are relevant for twenty-first century society, and for the types of pedagogies which are becoming increasingly common in today’s classrooms, such as collaborative learning, creativity, problem-solving and authentic learning tasks. Similar issues have been recognised in work such as ANCIL (Secker and Coonan, 2014) and the revised ACRL Framework (ACRL, 2014).

We welcome discussion on any issues or ideas related to the article, but questions we’ve been thinking about while we’ve been working on this include:
  • How can we involve as students active participants/co-designers in IL design? (We’ve been thinking about ways InFlow could be used to do this.)
  • What are the benefits of using IL theory to help inform practice and refresh your teaching?
  • Do you need the theory or is it better to get out there and throw yourself into teaching? How can we bridge the divide between pedagogical (teacher) language and IL (librarian) language? (Teachers in the iTEC project were often teaching aspects of IL, but were unaware of it.

50 comments:

  1. I think that theory is extremely important to guiding pedagogy and more critical to effective assessment. In my view, one of the major weaknesses in how IL models have been applied stems from the lack of theoretical understanding of teaching and learning. It is true that these models are built on theory, but those who apply them rarely have a good grasp on the theory driving teaching and learning and, even if they do, they tend to fall short when it comes to bridging learning theory within IL with current theories or practices within particular disciplines. For example, in first year writing, librarians often focus on teaching IL concepts without understanding theoretical developments that lead to current pedagogical approaches; if a writing instructor uses expressionistic methods, IL teaching (including the model suggested) will have to respond to these approaches. In an upcoming research that I am working on, I address this particular gap. How can InFlow be adopted/adapted to, not only discipline specific needs but pedagogical needs of teachers.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Ethan, I hope you'll be around to join the conversation this evening, but if not feel free to come back with more comments later!

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    2. Hi Ethan
      I agree with your point about discipline specific needs; I've had conversations with a Law librarian about how InFlow could be used within their teaching approach for example. In terms of more general pedagogy, again, I agree that IL models need to be designed with this in mind. InFlow came out of an educational (rather than specifically IL project) so pedagogy is crucial e.g social constructivism, reflection on/in action, situated learning.

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    3. Thanks very much for joining us Sarah, and for getting the ball rolling with the introductory post!

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    4. Thanks Ethan. Would you agree with Christine Bruce's "informed learning" approach to information literacy: "engaging in information practices in order to learn, engaging with the different ways of using information to learn" (2008: viii)? Her work (and mine) is very much exploring information in varying contexts, including disciplinary contexts.

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    5. ok .. it's working now .. yes, I agree that IL needs to make further leaps towards "informed learning". This will not be easy when considering teaching librarians in the context of teaching. Interestingly, I found that we (teaching librarians) have quite a bit of similarity, in terms of how we are viewed, to writing instructors (particularly in the 1990s when many were recent graduates hired without adequate training, particularly for teaching writing to non-English speakers). We, like them, struggle with learning on the go.

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  2. We're starting the discussion in 5 minutes, that's 8pm GMT. Some tips for anyone new to this format:

    - Refresh the page often, to see the latest conversations

    - Use the "reply" link to reply to a particular comment, or use the "post a comment" box to start a new idea or question.

    We're looking forward to the discussion!

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    1. Hello! sorry I'm a few minutes late joining in ;-)

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    2. Hi Sheila, good to 'see' you!

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  3. A general remark. When we inroduce a 'method' to students we should make them aware that it's about critical thinking. When they 'use' the method they should be aware of why and how and not 'use' it automaticaly as a machine.

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    1. Agreed, Albert. I haven't got as far as I want to with this yet, but I'm looking at ways to get students using InFlow independently. I think this could be done, to some extent, with students at all educational levels as it's pretty straightforward to use. If anyone's interested in being involved in that do let me know.

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    2. I agree, and this is something that came across really clearly in the work Jane and Emma did on ANCIL. This is something I try to do with my PhD students, but I find it harder with undergrads who I see for 30 minute sessions. It's a challenge I'm still working on, don't think I've got it right yet...

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    3. I forgot to say...I think it's important taht the model involves students (or librarians) using it making choices about what elements to use in which order, so although it's easy, it's not something they can use unthinkingly.

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    4. Hello Albert! One thing that I think is important is to identify to learners that they are using a model or framework which emerged from research - I think it encourages them to engage with it more seriously rather than just seeing it as superficial skills. Do you think that is related to your point?

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    5. Yes, Niamh, only seeing students for such a short time is a real challenge. That's a wider educational issue that needs to be addressed!

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    6. Yes Sheila, they should be aware why and how they are doing it in this way.

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    7. In the current debates around the new ACRL framework, there is a lot of discussion about "how can we make this work with the one-shot"!

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    8. I think the real benefit to "one-shots" is to form them to be train the trainer experiences. The faculty must be in the classroom. It's not a day off. And after a few semesters, they need to be able to deliver the message and allow the librarian to move upward in sophistication with student learning. (I'm an idealist, I know.)

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    9. Ah, but that assumes the one-shot has happened as part of a particular course, not the case for us! Although I have high hopes for building things up with a particular first year module next year with a very supportive academic, we'll see how that goes...

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    10. True. I was thinking of a repeated course. I have to wonder about pre-class materials. How would this new model work in a flipped classroom space? Has that been tried? (Sorry, I didn't get to finish the article.)

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    11. The debate of over "how can we do this in 50 minutes" has been around before the new frameworks came about. While it is true that 50 minutes is not enough to address everything there is, there have been many ways that librarians have been able to address multiple IL concepts (and higher order concept) particularly with course management technologies. I have spoken about this at LOEX recently (2013). I think the secret to successful application of IL instruction lies in design and planning. We simply can no longer afford to go into a class without designing a 50 min session as an interactive experience. I found faculty very willing to accept pre and post work requirements, particularly when they have been tailored tho their syllabi.

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  4. I guess it's in the 'law of the least effort', students/people search for information the same way as they did last time. Some type of 'tunnel vision'. That's why I don't like those 'servces' on internet that present you information based on your last searches.


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    1. Agreed, Albert. Google, and now I've learned that our new Discovery engine will remember what you've looked for previously so that it will bring back those kinds of results. What fun is that? And how can someone learn how powerful language is when describing the information you are looking for. Boo! That's taking important power out of the hands of the searcher.

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    2. And serendipity disappears ....

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    3. And serendipity disappears ....

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    4. Absolutely. No more undiscovered buried treasures.

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    5. As a "super encounterer" (someone who counts on acquiring a lot of information by encountering or bumping into it) I have to agree!

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  5. Hi Sarah, could you unpack the question "How can we involve as students active participants/co-designers in IL design?" a bit more? I was wondering - are you thinking of involving learners in curriculum design? in assessment design? is it related to Inquiry based learning do you think?

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    1. Hi Sheila
      I think all of the above are options! The ways of involving students are likely to vary between different institutions for example. I suppose I was thinking more about curriculum design. For example, in a school (becuase that's my background!) I wonder whether it would be possible to map IL skills across the curriculum and see where there are links and gaps - I think it would be really important to involve students in this, perhaps asking then to think about how what they learn in one subject applies to others for instance.

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    2. It must be even harder in schools than it is in universities to REALLY give students a say in designing the curriculum - I mean, for example enabling learners to have some more say in how the class they've just started could develop. I mentioned IBL because that's where I had most experience e.g. in a first year IBL class - but it required more planning, time, persuasion (of learners) etc., though also fascinating - and we weren't being that radical....

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    3. Sara and Sheila

      I think one way we could look at student involvement in this respect through flexible learning activities, where students are able to create/chart their own learning experience as well as defend it. For example, when asking students to analyze their keywords, they could provide you with a map (instead of textual responses), or perhaps have them present an article summary visually (it's harder than you think and requires multiple skills, but ultimately that's the point).

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    4. I've used mindmaps in my classes - in one class at one point it was part of the assessment. This year one of my colleagues had an infographic as part of the assessment for her business intelligence class

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    5. We partnered with professors to teach students to concept map articles that were required reading. Curriculum was designed around misconceptions seen in the maps, as well as concepts that were missing from the maps.

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    6. That sounds great - what level was that targeted at?

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    7. These are fantastic alternatives. Thanks for sharing everyone.

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  6. Sarah, I really like how clear and applicable the words used in the InFlow model. I'm think I'd be more likely to flag those for my students than the headline terms used in other models, even though I'd use e.g. the 7 Pillars for my own reference when considering which elements I'm addressing in a particular session. Your experiences with students skipping reflection strikes a chord as well.

    I'm curious about how explicitly the model was described to the students in the MMU case study - would they have been aware of the model, or was it used to design the session?

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    1. Hi Niamh
      It's a shame Emily couldn't make it as she could answer that a lot better than me! From the session I observed, it wasn't explicitly described to students. However, I knnow some school librarians who have used the model with students by describing it, or by making cards with the different elements on for students to use independently.
      I included some ideas for reflection in the model that (hopefully) are a bit more interesting for students. These are ideas I've used with school students, but some of them could probably be adapted for HE?

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    2. Thanks Sarah, I'm taking a closer look at the model website as we speak!

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    3. Does it connect with the metaliteracy models at all? I was thinking that they emphasise creation and collaboration for metaliteracy too.

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    4. Yes, I can see there are connections...although it's perhaps more difficult to say what metaliteracy doesn't include ;)

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    5. At the end of the day I amstill in favour of sticking with information literacy rather than than renaming it metaliteracy, since I think the concept already accommodates these elements, as long as you see IL as contextual and developing as society develops.

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    6. This discussion reminds me of the proverb "a rose by any other name" .. The way I see it, we know what a rose is, call it whatever you like, it information literacy should be something that is tangible in whatever name you give it. Personally, I avoid the mention of "literacy" if at all possible. Coming from English as a discipline, "literacy" - never mind information literacy - is problematic and has overwhelming implications; it is also judged differently by various disciplines. As such, I talk about information literacy in terms of learning outcomes. So, rather than saying we are going to learn about how to cite information, for example, I start with an analogy between identifying the appropriate mobile phone to meet a student's need and having the appropriate information to find an article. What information would a student need to be able to identify the "right" mobile? [The design/designer (i.e. author), the brand (perhaps the title), the company (the publisher), the model year (self explanatory), the price (pages?)]. These pieces of information lead to making a decision about the product (mobile/article) that meets a specific need (networking vs. research). An analogy like this would serve student far better than talking about "citing resources" and "content of citations" in a limited context.

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    7. That's a great analogy, brings something that might seem overwhelming (making sense of an article) down to levels that are much more relevant. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I'm glad you mentioned the new ACRL Framework and the conceptual ideas it tries to bring to the US competency standards. Definitely more digital literacy, creation, and collaboration. Not so much "the student will..." Your European models have always been ahead of us in those dimensions.

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    1. I think it's very interesting how people are working hard and creatively (at least that's what it looks like from the discussions and events going on) to see how they can make the new ACRL framework work, even though some people are still rather doubtful about it

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    2. Yes, some librarians built their whole programs on the Standards and really don't want to start from scratch. But the Framework is so freeing and so inspiring. It's what I've done (I read a lot of other models from many of you). I'm so thankful for Trudi Jacobson.

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  8. Hi Sheila and all .. Sheila, regarding your comment under mine (I couldn't reply to yours above for some reason), but regarding "Christine Bruce", yes I agree. In fact, the article I am working on makes similar points (so I will be interested in reading some of your work as well, glad you replied).

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  9. 9pm already! Keep the conversation going here this evening and over future weeks, but in the meantime I'd like to thank Sarah and Emily for their research, the blog post and the discussion today.

    Any suggestions for future articles? We generally go for something that's openly available to make it as easy as possible to join the conversation.

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    1. Thank you, Niamh for organising this and for inviting us to take part :)

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    2. Thanks Sarah for responding to all the questions! Very interesting!

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