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

72 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 David, I manage the Learning Centre at Cornwall College Newquay and am one of the organisers of this discussion group.

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  2. Hi, I'm Sheila, I'm a faculty member in the Information School at the University of sheffield, UK.

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  3. Hi, I'm Niamh and I look after STEM libraries at the University of Cambridge

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  4. Hi, I'm Alison and I'm juggling a lot of LIS roles right now :)

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    1. Welcome Alison, thanks very much for sharing your article with us!

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    2. My pleasure- this reading group is such a good idea!

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

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    1. One thing that concerned me when I was writing this article was how often librarians have access to course handouts/syllabi etc (I had access because this was part of a broader project), but it's not always the case. Does anyone else get access to these learning objects?

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    2. Well, I'm not a librarian, but as a faculty member I create module outlines (course syllabi) and other handouts.... Liam our subject librarian has access to the Blackboard VLE where we have all our course material

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    3. We have access within the Department of Engineering because we manage the VLE for the department, but we have limited opportunities to engage in the coursework in this way. I'd love to hear more about how you got to be involved to this extent with this particular programme.

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    4. Fortunately, where I work I have access to the shared drive where teaching staff store handouts and syllabi. So once I learnt where they were it was easy to get access. Across the group, access is much harder as each campus has its own shared drive and you don't necessarily have access to those files unless it is requested. The HE ops department keep all the HE syllabi but not in any easy to use organisation. Even identifying modules for a course it hard. There are 771 modules covered.

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    5. (There's a particular assignment our first years take that I can imagine this approach being very helpful for - especially the scaffolded approach for students whose assignments are not usually essay-based.)

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    6. That's good to know- this project grew out of a broader redesign of a History class (the changes we made to the class assignments etc was written up in a journal called The History Teacher), and the professor and I worked very closely on every aspect of the information literacy portions of the class. I think I had just been reading Alison Head's PIL article about handouts and so I had it in my head to redesign the handout at the same time as we redesigned the rest of the class- but it involved working with a very game faculty member :)

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    7. Actually this was particularly interesting for me, since I am just now marking students' reflections on a small scale teaching intervention they had to deliver - mostly remotely, so they are using a variety of media, including handouts

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    8. Your article may go on the reading list next year, @Alison ;-)

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    9. Something that I learned (more than I wanted to know about) was how some faculty see their syllabi as a learning contract rather than a learning object- which made it harder to insert learning material into that space (even though it may be what students look the most at)

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    10. Oh that's fab- thanks, Sheila! That sounds like a really valuable experience for students.

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    11. Though, for example when you are giving assignment briefings they do have to be a sort of contract - in that if someone has really ignored the assignment briefing and wandered off track so much it is going to fail or get a low mark - at that point it has to be very clear that so you can say - ok you needed to do x, y, z, and you didn't do y ad z at all (of course I don't just throw and briefing at people and run - we have FAQs, sessions focusing on understanding the assignment etc., I hasten to add)

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    12. I can see how that might be, I can imagine that there is potential for irate students if the content and assessment methods don't match what they expected based on the syllabus. It's hard to see how this approach to setting questions would cause that sort of conflict though, if anything I'd have thought it very helpful to have the additional support with approaching the problem.

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    13. Yes, and that's what the students said in my research- that they appreciated having the extra detail. However I have run into, maybe more shock among other faculty that I have spoken to about this- shock at the very idea of putting this type of guidance on a syllabus. (and yes, sorry, didn't mean to imply that assignment rules/rubrics were a bad idea!)

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    14. @Niamh no I wasn't saying the additional support isn't useful, not at all, it was defending the idea of "syllabus as contract" to some extent.

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    15. Sorry Sheila, cross-posting, I was writing mine in reponse to Alison's one at the same time as you were writing yours!

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  6. Well at the risk of playing at my own party I will ask a question inspired by Alison's post, which is, how do we translate Academic Literacy ideas into the use (and abuse) of LibGuides?

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    1. Haha, yay, LibGuides, my favourite topic :) :)

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    2. Libguides are definitely a curse and a blessing to our work.I wish I had had the idea but feel they hasn't moved us much beyond the paper guides I produced when I started work as a librarian back in the 80s promoting the databases, indexes and other resources we purchased..

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    3. I will come out and admit that I haven't experimented with Libguides, just looked at others' Libguides

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    4. This is an interesting question. In a previous role, we used a Libguide instead of a presentation, setting up all the links we were going to need for demos and including tips and information that students would be able to refer back to easily later. I thought it worked well, but it doesn't seem to be online any more so I can't link to it.

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    5. Sheila, as an observer what are you thoughts on Libguides?

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    6. I know, I'm so torn- they are so easy to use as dynamic learning tools- but they frequently seem quite static and dreary as well...

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    7. The lack of learner voice is one element that I feel Libguides need to help them embed in learning. However, without that option, how could academic literacies help improve the use of Libguides?

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    8. I love that, David- I can think of a couple of librarians who have had students make their own LibGuides, but they were either school librarians or were teaching on a credit long course, so easier to implement that idea.

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    9. I suppose I see Libguides as one way of presenting a compact website about a topic - but I think you might need to understand how to get the best out of a Libguide - to know how to engage with it when faced with a particular problem or assignment. I think perhaps the ones which are very specifically focused (rather than e.g. tring to cover a whole discipline) might work better? (my deleted comment was me putting this in the wrong place!)

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    10. I can see how having learners make their own Libguide would be very useful. However, I could not easily implement that in my current situation despite the focus Cornwall has on learner voice. Still, thanks for the thought Alison.

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    11. We seem to be moving into a discussion of Alison's second question about integrating more student voices into our research and practice? Alison, how did academic literacies assist in facilitating this?

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    12. @Sheila Yes, agreed. I sometimes wonder about all the thousands of librarians all creating the almost exact same Psychology/Art History/Biology LibGuide. Makes me think what we could achieve if we could somehow collaborate on this, or work with established tools like Wikipedia etc

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    13. @Alison Perhaps, what is needed is a more open educational approach that encourages sharing and collaboration rather than a silo approach. We are not just creating almost but not quite the same Libguide but also guides on research, reading, note making to help learners make sense of the resources

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    14. @David, ooh yes, I love that idea of linking it more with the OER movement- that seems like a perfect fit.

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    15. Though I find that learners respond best (particularly if they are not starting with loads of intrinsic motivation) if all the learning material and engagements is obviously related to them in their situation - so the problem with OERs ccan be that by the time you've customised them to your own situation, you might as well ahve done something new. I do use videos created by others, though, in particular

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  7. I'm interested in what the next steps are with this particular programme. Are there particular elements of the student feedback that were unexpected/helpful/you will use to develop future handouts? Have you considered actually inviting a more senior student to co-design an assignment handout or would that be a step to far?

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    1. @Niamh, I love the idea of involving senior students to support their juniors.

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    2. OOH, I LOVE that idea so much! That would be a fantastic way to build upon student knowledge at the end of the class! Hmm, plotting, I wonder if I can do this with a different class! The collaboration with this professor is temporarily on hold (the class is not offered very year) but I have another class collaboration that looks at workplace IL that I could maybe try that with...

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    3. Maybe you could come back and tell us how it went!

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    4. I would love to hear about that too.

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    5. To answer the second part of your question- and this is something that has been bothering me for a while- the students were quite worried about using non-traditional sources in a history class, and it took them a wee while to be ok with this- I feel like they have had the "do not use Wikipedia/webistes/blogs" drilled into them so much that it is quite scary to suddenly be asked to do so. So that would definitely be another angle I would like to explore more.

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    6. @Alison. I get lots of students asking me if I think a particular website/blog is academic enough to be worth citing in their assignment. It offers me the opportunity to explain what they should be looking for to assist them in making he decision.

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    7. Yes! I'm working with a group of language teachers at the moment and they ask me the same question!

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    8. There's a horrible inconsistency in teachers' approaches to using Wikipedia - confusing for students

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    9. I feel wikipedia serves as the modern equivalent of an encyclopedia. A place to get an overview and simple understanding of a topic to help with searching the literature. I used to point encyclopedias as the first port of call whne you knew nothing about a subject you needed to study or learn more about.

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  8. Thought it might be worth starting a new comment stream on david's prompt of "Alison's second question about integrating more student voices into our research and practice?"

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    1. One exercise which I do in my information literacy modules is to ask students to contribute to a shared google doc, to give their tips on searching google and google scholar, and then the next week they have to design reference sheets in groups focusing on features of their choice, drawing on the tips. It's a version of the search/teach kind of idea

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    2. This question emerged out of my disquiet at the move towards Learning Analytics or analytics that can "predict" your ability to be successful at uni etc- and how we can rehumanise these learners rather than just seeing them as risk factors or similar. But that's a powerful educational movement in the US right now...

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    3. I used to do a similar thing about group work in 1 3rd year businerss intelligence class - get everyone to contribute ideas about things that make group work a good or bad experience, put all the lists together and then draw up a final list that they used to form a group contract in their group work. They'd all had experience of group work and had lots to say

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    4. @Alison yes - in fact analytics could be a force for good, so to speak, if used appropriately, but teh discourse seems disturbingly quantitative a lot of the time, and as if it could substitute for understanding students

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    5. @Sheila- oh that's really cool, I love the idea of a crowd-sourced group contract

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    6. Actually there was a class in the 1st year of our now defunct undergrad (Information Management) class where the students developed the marking criteria for a major part of their assessed work - a research poster - and then they did peer marking alongside the marking by tutors, we used input from both to form the marks. Because they had been inviolved in developing the criteria, they understood them better

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    7. @Sheila Yes the focus on the "pipeline" or the one way that students can be successful in Higher Ed is frustrating- even though I know people are trying to encourage student success, it's all just so blunt.

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    8. so to summarise we seem to be saying that learner voice can be integrated by crowd sourcing the required information from, and amongst, the group. although I must add that this would work only if the group is prepared and able to share and communicate their experiences and ideas.

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    9. Yes- if the class is structured and values these sharing concepts, I would add.

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    10. @David yes it has to be something you know that just about everyone will have some experience or knowledge of that they are willing to share

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  9. 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 Alison for taking the time to share your work with us.

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

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    1. Thanks, David! As it's 10pm in Sweden, I'm going to sign out but thank to you all for facilitating this and sparking the conversation tonight!

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    2. Thanks for organising this, David!

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    3. Thanks very much for a great discussion! How about asking Lauren if she'd be willing to discuss hers? Very topical: School libraries, political information and information literacy provision: findings from a Scottish study.
      Lauren N. Smith
      2016, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 3-25
      http://dx.doi.org/10.11645/10.2.2097

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    4. Strangely enough, the article by Lauren was the one I was considering. As a former school librarian, I know many working in this field I could invite to participate in the discussion.

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    5. Excellent! That would be great.

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