LILAC14 – day 2

kaffe og goderi og mac

All set for keynote: with coffee, candy and my Mac

Day 2 of LILAC opened with a keynote from Alison J. Head. This was the moment that I had waited for! I have followed Dr Head`s work for a few years, and I have been very impressed with her research, particularly the scale of it – really sound. The keynote was entitled: “Truth be told: how today`s students conduct research”. I have copious notes from the keynote, but I`ll do my best to summarize here.

Truth be told: How today`s students conduct research (Head)

Head said that her interest in how students conduct research was raised by a senior student asking her how to find research. The student had reached her senior year without knowing how to use the library. This led to Head`s interest and research on how students find and evaluate information, and the study: “Truth be told: how students evaluate and use information in the digital age” (pdf). (I used this report in my master`s thesis, so I knew the report pretty well, but still.. hearing Head talking about it (and her other projects) at LILAC was great.) “What can we learn from students?” asked Head. She had interviewed many students to find out what they do and what they feel when they (students) conduct research. Some findings:

1. Students find it harder to do research now than before. Why? We provide them with so many options and so much information that they are completely overwhelmed by it. The students who come straight from high school find the transition very difficult. Many are anxious, tired, stressed and afraid. 30 percent of first year students don`t come back for their second year of college. Students feel that there is more risk connected with everyday life research, rather than coursework research, mainly because the everyday life research they do usually involves purchasing (eg. new laptop).

2. Students find that getting started on their research assignments is the hardest part (69 percent find it so). They have trouble defining what they are going to write about. The second hardest thing is searching (41 percent).

3. Students lack context. They do not understand the meaning of the words they are supposed to use and they don`t know how to handle it. Google Scholar are the “training wheels” for database searching, and it is the first place to go for many first year students (and others too, in my experience). As Head put it: “It is the simple search for something that is not simple”.

4. Students use the same few “go-to” sources every time. They use curriculum first. They think that professors only provide “top sources” so they don`t have to be critical there (oh boy.. is it a fair argument on my point now to say that curriculum makes students passive??). After curriculum, students go to Google. Students use the three C`s: Convenient, close at hand and current. Strategy and predictability are important factors for the students.

5. “Wikipedia is my presearch tool”. Students use Wikipedia to get a summary, to find definitions and to get started on their assignments. They use Wikipedia for “big picture context”. They like the interface and it helps them get started.

6. Instructors are the students` coaches. The classrooms/ lecture halls are huge, and few students will contact the lecturer after class. Teachers can be very influential when it comes to research skills, but they rarely or never ask the students to go to the library, even the teachers who are library users themselves (wow.. I find this very suprising!). Teachers are angry and frustrated by students` lack of research skills, but they are not willing or have the necessary skills themselves to teach the students these skills.

7. The library is the students` sanctuary. They like the “productivity vibe”, and they use the library computers so that they are are not constantly interrupted by Facebook etc. The students use the library to be efficient, but also to relax.

Head thinks that our future will be to give the students context and to be “translators”. Critical evaluation is a 21 century skill; it is vital for handling the information load.

More publications from Project Information Litearcy (PIL) available at their website, and I recommend having a look there. Very, very interesting!

What can we learn from our first year students (Nikoi)

A positiv transition to higher education has a profound influence on retention. Students are bombarded with information on everything from housing and childcare to social events, finding the best pubs etc., yet something as simple as a reading list for the first semester is not in the information packages. What do we know about the students and their knowledge on IL when they arrive as first years? What expectations do they have regarding their academic work? What expectations do they have regarding the support systems at their institution? Research done at Aberystwyth (sp?) University suggest that students there felt confident in information gathering, but not academic writing. They feel confident that they know how to listen to lecturers, take notes etc. Many feel insecure about presenting findings for other students, but most feel confident about teamwork. Students use Google and their instructors to find information. The library (but strangely enough not librarians.. what does that mean, exactely?) comes high up on the list. Students were familiar with concepts like plagiarism, copyright and bibliography, but that does not mean that they know how to handle it in real life research. Conclusions: What students know when they enter college/university varies greatly: they think they have good cognitive skills, but they know they have bad academic writing skills, they know little about scholarly sources, and they know nothing about learning management systems.

Nikoi used the terms “cold knowledge, warm knowledge, hot knowledge”, where cold knowledge is something like a library guide on paper. What the students want is hot knowledge; knowledge in a context with people they can talk to.

At Aberystwyth (sp?) University they use the MAMA and PAPA network for first year students. PAPA= pre-application, admission, preparation and arrival. When students arrive: MAMA= meeting, anxiety, managing change and academic work.


Teachmeet was organised a little differently this year. The presenters sat at tables and the delegates ran (yes, ran!) around to the different tables to hear 5 minute presentations of different projects done the last year. The themes varied from using annoted bibliographies, to introducing Summon, to “research courts”. Teachmeet is a great way to discover what is going on in libraries now. You only get small snippets, but you are free to contact the presenters afterwords to get more information. It is a great way to get ideas to projects, great and small. I don`t have many notes from this session, as running around doesn`t leave much time for notetaking. I`ll just mention here two projects I would like to know more about: “Research court in session” and “Improving IL through annoted bibliography assignments: a collaboration between library and faculty”. I`ll follow up on these later.

I missed the first half of the session “Crossing the line with the students: is that you or the other lady?”, so I never really got what that was about. My last session of the day was “Hidden vegetables: a collaborative approach to embedding information and academic literacies in the curriculum”. I think I left by brain behind at Teachmeet, because I have three sentences of notes from the last session, and they don`t really make any sense. I am sorry! I should apologize to the speakers for not paying enough attention, but there are so many good ideas to digest at LILAC – I am still not recovered completely:)

Lovely conference dinner at Cutler`s Hall Thursday night. Really special place, and I wish I knew more about it. Congratulations, Jane Secker, with the Information Literacy award 2014. So very well deserved!

cutlers hall sheffield dinner

Photosync image of the conference dinner at Cutler`s Hall in Sheffield

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