LOEX 2019: Motivating students

In this post, I’ll try to gather up what I learned about innovative teaching methods, pedagogy and other bits and bobs on how we use and convey our information litearcy content. See also my other posts from the LOEX Conference: LOEX 2019 and LOEX 2019: ACRL Framework.

Sarah E. Fancher, Ozarks Tech CC and Jamie L. Emery, Saint Louis University talked about the need to get the students to change their research behaviours. 78 to 84 percent of students use internet resources either exclusively or mostly when they research their papers – even after they have received some form of information literacy instruction. That means that our sessions are not very effective when it comes to changing behaviour.

I first came across Simon Sinek’s books in January this year, and I have just started reading his books, but I seem to come across his name everywhere. Sara Fancher also talked about his principle: “Start with why”. Fancher emphasised that we have to spend more time explaining to students why they they need to have better strategies when they do research for their papers. The end goal must be visible from the start. Fancher suggested that librarians should use more backwards design when they plan their sessions. Start with why, or lift the end goal – it makes it easier and better to get the session together. We start with the end goal and then map out how we plan to get there. (This was also discussed in one of the sessions of LILAC18. Interesting topic!)

Fancher and Emery talked about the Rational Actor Paradigm. If we want the students to change their behaviour, we have to change the incentives so that the students understand why they need to change. People act rationally and from self-interest.

When it comes to discussions on the value of libraries, Fancher and Emery found two different types of librarians: those who see the library as heaven – having an intrinsic value that must be obvious to everyone, and those who see the library as a useful resource – kind of like someone trying to make the students eat their greens. As experts, we (librarians) have a lot of information that is more or less tacit. It is difficult for us to realise that not everyone has the same knowledge. We have expert blind spots. It is important that we are aware of this.

Based on an article by Hinchcliffe, Rand and Collier (2018), Fancer and Emery named some common misconceptions on information literacy:

  • Students believe that everything can be found online
  • Students believe that everything is free
  • First-year students think they have to figure everything out on their own/ that they are not allowed to ask for help
  • Students believe that the library is for locating and checking out books and studying in silence
  • Students believe that everything in the library’s collection is credible
  • Students believe that they can get by with only freely available documents
  • Students believe that Google is enough

misconception on information literacy from Hinchclippe, Rand and Collier

When we start with how, and the mechanics, it is hard to find the time for the deeper meaning of information literacy. It is also very teacher-centered. It is easy to fall into this pitfall when faculty staff ask us to come and tell their students about the library. We spend a lot of time on technical skills when we teach, and we tend to present it like a linear procedure. How long does this stick with the students?

“What can motivate our students to learn?”, Emery and Fancher asked. They alluded to the ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction) model of motivational design, by Keller. We have to persuade the students that learning is in their best interest. We should focus on relevance. What do the students find interesting? What do we find interesting? In the overlap between these two are the relevance.

Emery and Fancher ask their students how large a percentage they estimate that they search via Google. Most students estimate between 80 and 100 percent. In reality Google search approximately four (4) percent. It students believe they can find everything on Google, why learn to use the trickier databases? They won’t. We need to get the message out that Google doesn’t cover everything.

Emery and Fancher recommended Steiner and Rigby (2019) ‘s book on motivating students. It is on my reading list..

In a session with Sheila Stoeckel and Alex Stark from University of Wisconsin – Madison (“Librarians as Threshold Guides: Blazing the Trail with Competency Based Micro-Courses”) I learned more about the usefulness of micro-courses. I decided on adding something from this session to the post on motivation because I felt that maybe this format can motivate students to learn more.

Stoeckel and Stark talked about how the ACRL Framework is modelled on the theory of threshold concepts. One of the problems here, Stoeckel and Stark said, is that many of us mainly do one-shot sessions with students. Over all, we spend little time with each student, and it is unlikely that the students will (notably) pass the threshold in class. (Note: Ray Land (2015) said in his keynote at LILAC15 that passing the thresholds rarely feels like a “eureka moment”, but that the changes in perception comes gradually.) It is important that we collaborate with teachers to help the students pass the thresholds.

graphic describing threshold concepts in ACRL Framework

Stoeckel and Stark explained how they had analysed curricula or lesson plans and found areas that could benefit from competency-based micro-courses to engage students in research. Micro-learning can happen in many different formats; podcasts, videos etc. It needs to be flexible and scalable. The courses that UW Madison made are open access, and they are available here.

Stoeckel and Stark emphasised the need for collaboration with the right campus partners (that can give insight in the real needs of students – do a needs analysis), the importance of delegating the responsibility for updating content and working with people who have access to students.

graphic of process development



Hinchcliffe, L. J., Rand, A. and Collier, J. (2018) Predictable Information Literacy Misconceptions of First-Year College Students, Communications in Information Literacy, 12(1), pp. 4-18.

Land, R. (2015) ‘There could be trouble ahead’. Threshold Concepts, Troublesome Knowledge and Information Literacy – a current debate. Unpublished paper presented at Librarians` Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC). Newcastle.

Steiner, S. K. and Rigby, M. (2019) Motivating students on a time budget : pedagogical frames and lesson plans for in-person and online information literacy instruction. Available at: http://public.eblib.com/choice/PublicFullRecord.aspx?p=5626355.


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