VIRAK 2017: Day 1 – parallell sessions

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From the panel debate earlier in the day

[Previous posts on VIRAK 2017: warm-up + Day 1: panel&keynote]

After lunch, it was time for parallell sessions. There were SO many to choose from. The VIRAK committee received over 90 contributions, and with only two days to get everything in.. there were seven parallells: five workshops and two project/paper presentations. I went to number seven: project/paper presentations on teaching (“Undervisning”). There were three presentations in this session.

Anne Brit Løland (BI Norwegian Business School, campus Stavanger)(Best practice presentation):

Løland started by saying that collaboration between library and faculty has been known to enhance student learning, but that there is no “consensus” on how this collaboration should be done. Løland referred to a study by Junisbai, Lowe og Tagge (2016) to support this.

Løland talked about a project that she had in a strategy course at her campus. The teacher in the strategy course felt the need to focus more on referencing and getting the students to use better sources. The teacher reached out to Løland and they decided to team-teach a class. The teacher had a clear goal for the class in mind, and he knew what he wanted them to achieve. The teacher explained his goals to Løland, but did not focus on the details. That was left to Løland. They split the time in class between themselves. The teacher talked about the subject for the tasks, about methodology etc. and Løland had a traditional presentation on searching, applying principles of critical thinking on sources etc. After that the students worked in groups, and some of them presented their findings for the rest of the students. Løland used Padlet to communicate with the students. She and the teacher asked the students to explain their reasons for choosing the sources they had picked etc.

Løland said that one of the success factors behind this was that she is part of a small campus where the staff know each other, and where they know her well. She has lunch with faculty staff every day etc. This makes the threshold very low when it comes to approaching her with ideas on collaboration.

During Lølands presentation I kept thinking that while projects like these are a good way of getting a foot in the door with faculty staff, and to help students in the short run (I have certainly done many such projects), it is time to move this up a level. While the institutions do so little to thoroughly incorporate these kinds of skills in the course plans etc. the teaching of them will always appear rather random. It will only be done in courses where the librarians have a personal relation to the teachers. This way the asymmetry in power relations between librarian and teacher is also maintained. As librarians, we are completely at the mercy of teachers, and us almost begging to be let in the door only further cements this.

Idunn Bøyum, Eystein Gullbekk and Katriina Byström: (Oslo and Akershus University College of applied sciences)(Research paper presentation):

Byström presented a paper (soon to have a Norwegian edition, Bøyum told me on Twitter). The authors have made a model that shows the different levels of integration of the librarian. Byström talked about the variations on how information literacy is perceived, from something generic and transferrable to something context-dependent. This also influences how librarians see their own role, and how it is perceived by faculty staff etc. The model is very interesting. It shows four different approaches to multidisciplinary information literacy. There are two axis: one for participation level and one for integration. This leaves you with the four different approaches: the technique, the problem, the coaching and the negotiation approaches. It`s difficult to explain here without showing the model itself, so I recommend reading the article itself.

The authors believe that the model could be useful in planning teaching activities and in developing librarians` competencies, as well as be used when discussing information literacy and integration with others. I share that opinion:)

Pål Magnus Lykkja (University of Oslo) (Best Practice presentation):

Lykkja described how he had participated in a course on “Samfunnsgeografi” [societal geography], and how he had tried to integrate information skills. The course teachers had seen that students struggled to learn the “lingo” used in the course, and that they needed to do something to help the students recognise the different key concepts within this field.

The teachers had developed an open access text book, and tested more non-traditional teaching methods, like video lectures, flipped classroom etc. Lykkja had met the students in the library, and he took them to special collections and so on to help them get a more tangible sense of the different sources. He also led a workshop where students worked in groups on a particular assignment. It was quite traditional. The students were given research questions and had to build search strings, find literature and to find several (competing) perspectives on the research questions.

Lykkja found that it was difficult to find the right balance between “This is mandatory, and you`ll be graded on this task” and “This is optional, and you should do it because you`ll learn something useful”. He found that if students thought it was something they were being graded on, they became stressed and wouldt leave before it was “perfect”, and that they wouldn`t be bothered to show up for class if it was voluntary. He also said that time and timing was an issue. Two hours is a little too short to get the tasks done and to have meaningful discussions, but three hours is too long and it is work-intensive for the librarian.

This was what I got from the parallell sessions. I think it shows that there are many librarians in Norway who want to try things, who want to make a difference for students and staff, and who are dedicated to their work. It also shows, I think, that we are struggling with many of the same issues – being recognised by the institution, being integrated in course plans, collaboration with teachers, finding time and resources etc.

Day 1 of VIRAK was rounded off with Digital snippets and dinner at BI in Nydalen.

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