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.

59 comments:

  1. Welcome to today's discussion, which will be kicking off in 25 minutes! As you arrive, please introduce yourselves by replying directly to this comment.

    My intro: I'm Niamh, I manage the Engineering Library at the University of Cambridge and am one of the organisers of this discussion group.

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    1. Hello, everyone! I'm Stacey, the author of this article, and look forward to chatting with you all today! I'm currently on sabbatical as Associate Dean at the University of Kentucky Libraries to co-author the second edition of Academic Librarianship.

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    2. Hi - I'm Sheila, I teach and research in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, and I'm looking forward to today's discussion!

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  2. Thank you all for coming along. It's just gone 8pm here, so let's get started. Does anyone have any questions for Stacey?

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    1. Not so much a comment as an observation - I don't recall hearing about the I-LEARN model before but I love the simplicity of the mnemonic. Is it commonly used in the US?

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    2. Niamh, I know of a few individuals using it so far. Interestingly, the creator of the model initially had in mind developing it as a tool for instructors and librarians in early grades (in the US, K-12). It's been used in several public schools in Philadelphia. I've used it in a university environment, and it's been used at Rider University as well. They have some nice course guides using it. For example: http://guides.rider.edu/EOP_COM-104

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    3. Thanks Stacey, really useful to see it in use.

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    4. I agree and feel the Menomic emphasises the relevance of IL to the actual course the students are studying.

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    5. An interesting point about the mnemonic: since it was designed with a much younger audience in mind, I wasn't sure how students would react to it, so when I have designed instructional materials for graduate students using it, I don't make the mnemonic obvious.

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    6. That might be an interesting thing to look at, whether it's off-putting or helpful at graduate level.

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  3. Hi I am David Bevington. I work for Cornwall College at the Newquay campus.

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  4. Hello, I'm Ros. I work at Canterbury College - an FE College in the UK and I'm looking forward to seeing how this works.

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  5. My question is where in the model is referencing considered? This is the area that academics seem to focus on over and above locating and using the material to produce work.

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    1. Hi Dave, thanks for joining us!

      One of the things that the author of the model emphasized was how flexible it can be. When I developed instructional materials using I-LEARN, I discussed referencing with the "Apply" stage of the model. I think of that part as putting together the information you've found and taking those first steps to create your own product using it, whatever that product might be. Creating references and attributing that information properly is an important part of that, so that's where I provided information about citing, plagiarism, etc.

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    2. Thanks that makes sense. I was trying to put in the reflect section where it did not seem to fit.

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    3. Dave, I tend to think of "Reflect" as asking questions and thinking about your first draft. What additional information do you need? Are there points that could be illustrated more strongly? Doing a peer critique at the "Reflect" stage is helpful as it gets the learner thinking about what they've done to that point and where they might need to go back in the process since it's quite iterative.

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    4. I tend to encourage students to use references in recently written found papers to track back and check who have cited earlier papers to track forward. I can now see how this process is applying the found to increase the sense they are making of what they have found.

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    5. That's an excellent tip, and it's something I certainly use in my own research!

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    6. One year I gave an assignment for a (non librarian) class where the students used a list of reasons why people might cite, and they had to identify citations in an allocated paper and say which reasons they thought applied and why they thought it was for that reason. There has been quite a lot of research into "why do people cite things". The idea was to get them thinking more about the relationship between scholarly papers (they were each given a pair of papers) and why you bother using citations

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    7. That's a really useful exercise, thanks for sharing it Sheila.

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  6. Hello, How different was the I-LEARN model to the standard IL teaching?

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    1. Just to add to that, I was wondering why you chose not to have such an interactive session with the control group? I thought that probably the systems design approach would still allow for a more constructivist approach in the session?

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    2. Hello, thanks for your question!

      In the standard IL teaching, I did a typical single class period where we simply worked on finding articles. The single class period was limiting in trying to use I-LEARN as I was only able to talk broadly with them about the other stages. Creating an online guide using I-LEARN as a companion was quite helpful, however, as students had easy reference to those stages when they needed them. For example, I created a guide for graduate students writing a literature review, and the "Reflect" stage included a checklist of things to consider in their initial draft of the review. There was no way I could cover all of this in a session, so I relied heavily on the online guide.

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    3. Shelia, thank you for your question. The control group spent the remainder of the session doing hands-on practice with assistance from library staff. This is a pretty common approach to any session we do. It's not the group discussion of what they need to do after the session ends, but it is interactive in a different way as they have a chance to work on finding articles and interact with classmates and library staff as needed.

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  7. Some background. Referencing is the topic I am asked to teach to learners rather than helping them to locate useful materials for their assignments. In the library when listening to learners it is locating material that they find hardest. Actually identifying something useful is a skill they need to be taught but staff here have forgotten what it is like to be a new researcher at the undergraduate level.

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    1. Yes, and learning how to identify and select appropriate material is a difficult task, not something you can just pick up, especially if you are new to the discipline

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    2. The joys of one shot sessions...
      I'm interested to hear how you handle that Dave.
      An option that occurs to me is to teach a reference manager such as Zotero that gathers the information while you search, so you can mainly teach referencing while sneaking resource training in at the same time.

      Do you also just put on sessions on information resources that students can sign up to if they want to, that you could signpost in your referencing sessions?

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    3. In my classes staff have been surprised to discover how poor learners are in breaking down. Atopic and indentfying key terms. In some cases staff have rewritten assignment briefs to make it easier for students to do this. Especially in the early parts of the course.

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    4. Staff prefer I teach Mendeley or endnote. I offer library small group workshops to cover topics in greater depth. Working in a small campus with a small cohort means we are on first name terms with students and they seek us out for support. Rather than focus on the mechanics of reference construction, I teach the importance of why bother to reference so that students see it as a necessary task during the process of collecting information.

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    5. @Dave yes I think explaining WHY it is worth bothering to reference is important, often that gets skipped over

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    6. Thanks Sheila. I make the mechanics of creating references an assignment task and point students to the online version of cite them right to find the correct format.

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  8. Hi my name is Marlowe Bogino and I am a new MSLS grad just starting to work in a private high school setting. This process for instruction seems like it would work well with this student population .

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  9. I'm interested in the citation analysis rubric - do you usually get to see student outputs or was this just arranged because of the study? I'm curious about how academics generally award the marks set aside for referencing/bibliography (assuming there are some), e.g. whether they mark holistically or have a set rubric for it.

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    1. I'll just say that in the Information School referencing is one of the items on our standard marking matrix, but it doesn't normally have a set amount of marks. I'll mention that most of the lecturers and students in the iSchool are NOT librarians. It's one of the areas (like "Presentation") we have to check periodically that we are being consistent, as some people want perfection in referencing, others are not so focused on that. The exception is an exercise in our "Iformation Literacy" call were we have a rubric addressing specific aspects of an annotated bibliography, but that is a kind of special case

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    2. Niamh, my library colleagues have done amazing work with developing rubrics and assessing various artifacts from their sessions. It depends on which learning outcome they are evaluating, but they might follow up with two questions to the students which ask them to describe their search strategy, identify an appropriate topic for the assignment and which resources are best, or list three appropriate articles for the assignment and why, etc. In some cases, they may work with the faculty to obtain full bibliographies and/or papers. My colleagues have a more elaborate rubric to evaluate these artifacts than what I used. In the southern part of the US, at least, we are expected to assess information literacy instruction as part of the university accreditation process, so my colleagues put a great deal of effort into creating and refining our assessment process.

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    3. That's great that information literacy instruction is part of the university accreditation process - it's still a bit of an afterthought in many places here I think. I may well be in touch about possibly using some of the other rubrics your colleagues have developed.

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    4. I agree Niamh - at my university information literacy is one of our graduate attributes, but there isn't a requirement to include it explicitly in learning outcomes and assessment

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    5. Niamh, I'm sure they would be delighted to share materials with you and talk with you more about what they've done. These presentation slides from last year provide an overview of their process as well as an example rubric: http://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1131&context=libraries_present

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    6. where I work I am lucky to get the one shot sessions and staff do not see the value in helping their students become proficient in literature searching. They also fail to recognise how the internet has changed the game. Millions of hits but few that are academically rigourous and students reliance on google rather than our purchased databases.

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  10. I liked the citation analysis rubric for the ways it forces the students to evaluate the resources they find.

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    1. Dave, what I did was really simple, and I have seen some excellent examples of rubrics. Some of my faculty colleagues make their rubrics an important part of the class so that students can better understand the expectations and self-evaluate throughout the course. I mentioned above the emphasis on assessment with our accrediting body in the US. We've learned a good bit about rubrics during that process, and I see a lot of value in them.

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  11. I thought it was refreshing to read an article where the hypotheses were not supported by the findings. Will you continue with the I-LEARN session for all students now, or use a mixture of the approaches?

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    1. Given the duration of the sessions, the study, the number of participants, etc., my department wasn't that surprised that I found no difference. I did find it enlightening that the course guides designed with I-LEARN were used more heavily and were commented on more positively, so that's where I'm putting my efforts. I'm currently part of a conversation with the creator of the model and several colleagues at other institutions who have used the model to put together a book of example instructional materials utilizing it. So I've tended to focus on building online materials, including some guides within our learning management system for a graduate class I teach.

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    2. it seemed like some of the most most useful outcomes were highlighting the value of the sessions - either session - and teh student reaction

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    3. That's a great idea, I'll watch out for that and consider whether it might be appropriate for some of our training materials as well

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    4. Online course guides seem an appropriate development to back up the limited face to face sessions.

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  12. Please do keep the discussion going, but as it's nearing 9pm I'd like to thank you all once again for joining the discussion, and especially thank you Stacey for taking the time to share your research with us.

    We haven't yet identified articles for future discussions, does anyone have any recommendations?

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    1. Yes, thank you Stacey for all the contributions today!

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    2. Thank you all so much for having me here! Please feel free to stay in touch, and I'll keep you posted about the book.

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  13. Hi my name I'd Frederick and I am an Information Literacy Librarian at the University of Venda in South Africa. I am getting very useful information thanks to the discussion organisers and to Stacey. For me the ILEARN model will definitely suit the extended programme students I teach. For referencing the focus is more on the reasons why it has to be done than the technical aspects which differ widely among different lecturers.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Frederick! If you have questions, let me know.

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