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.

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.