LOEX 2021: day 3

Well – this will be a shorter blog post than the previous one. Due to a holiday here in Norway (Ascension Day – kind of weird that we have a day off here on Ascension Day, seeing as Norway is one of the most secular countries in the world, but anyway..) I couldn’t spend all evening at a conference. I did manage to go to one (and a half) session, and I’ll be writing about it here.

Activating the ACRL Framework: Active learning design for library instruction

I have been very interested in the ACRL Framework from the start. We don’t use a framework here in Norway, but I have been writing and talking about this framework as a possible model for a national framework here.

Meghan Kowalski and Catherine Meals from University of the District of Colombia and Faith Rusk from San Fransisco State University talked about how the framework is theoretical and how they wanted to build something more practical from it. The librarians wanted to try something new, even though most of their teaching efforts are performed as one-shots. They decided on building some modules that could be reused and work in a variety of settings. The librarians collaborated in two-hour meetings during six summer weeks when there was less activity in the library, and they had discussions, brain dumps and they made an activity bank for class activity.

The ACRL framework is built around six different frames, and it is conceptual in form. The frames reflect different aspects of information literacy. Some of them are easier to use directly in class than others. The librarians in this session found that students had a very binary outlook on source evaluation; a source is either good or bad in their eyes. The librarians tried to used active learning principles and the Research as Inquiry frame, and by tossing a beach ball between students in the class room they managed to get students to talk about sources. They used the Scholarship as conversation frame to prompt a class discussion on an everyday topic. This discussion was meant to show the students that the academic discourse has many similarities with the everyday discussions in our lives.

The librarians talked about some challenges in this approach, too. It is not always easy to get the faculty onboard, they said. Faculty has limited time with students and they are often only interested in giving a little time to librarians to cover the most basic things, like teaching students to use one particular database etc. Librarians often want to go deeper, to teach more theory, more genre etc. while faculty only want them to give the students a particular piece of information. Another challenge is the constraints of the one-shot. There is no possibility of follow-ups or reflection or process approach to give the students a chance to advance through the levels. The framework is based on threshold concepts and the advancement from novice to expert. How do you do this during a one-shot?

Screen dump from presentation talking about the mismatch on what we want and can do vs what the faculty want, one-shot problems and challenges with level.
[Screen dump from presentation]

The librarians have published an article on their experiences with this project so far.

At San Fransisco State University, they have worked on a toolkit for teaching, the SFSU Toolkit. They hope to be able to measure or see the effect of better training as an argument to better embedded in the institution.

The librarians started a padlet for all of us who participated where we could suggest ideas for teaching activities according to the frames. There were several good ideas there, and I intend to look for more that I can use when I teach (even though we don’t use the framework).

There were many questions for the Q&A, and I cannot remember half of them, but there was an interesting discussion on bias, and how we need to focus more on this issue. I felt that it was interesting seeing as I have spent more time on this in class, particularly with seniors, these last couple of years.

Writing and research are inseparable: helping instructors integrate research in writing instruction across the curriculum course planning

I only got to see half this session, so apologies if it makes less sense than the other session abstracts here. Two librarians and a writing instructor from UCLA talked about their efforts to make the Writing and research integration planner. The planner was made as a scaffold to develop writing and research throughout the curriculum, particularly in writing intensive courses. They shared the planner here. They have activity suggestions for writing, searching etc., and they used backwards planning to make it.

[Screen dump from presentation]

The presenters use the planner for writing courses, and they have made a video that is used as a flipped classroom activity to save time in the classroom.

An example of how they work in the writing course: the students are given a question for reflection that they think about. Then the students are given a prompt (below). The students get some information on what the goals of different writing activities are, what to do if they fail etc. They also discuss genre, like what the intention behind a case study is, what makes a good case etc. They train the students in making good problem statements, too. The librarians and faculty collaborate and co-teach, and the video and the planner is used to create structure and collaboration.

Here is an example of a prompt given:

The problematic essay prompt they give to students in class.
[Screen dump from presentation]

Well – that was all I got before I had to go.. I’ll watch the rest when the video is available.

LOEX 2021: day 2

As I stated in my previous post, I have been fortunate enough to gain a seat at LOEX 2021, and I am writing up my notes on my blog, as I almost always do during conferences. This year, the conference is virtual, of course, and the time difference as well as a holiday in the middle of the conference has made me a little less involved than I normally would be. I’ll either edit these posts when I get to see all the videos at a later stage or simply add on new posts.

Anyway.. I got some great input on day 2 of LOEX, and here are my notes and thoughts.

Accepting new realities and accepting changes: collaborative survival in a small community college library

Donovan Reinwald and Wei Cen from Middlesex community college talked about their experiences as a small community college library, and the challenges that face them regarding teaching and collaborations. Reinwald and Cen talked about the term “collaborative survival” to explain how they has sought new collaborations as a way of keeping up services and teaching, even with staff shortage. Small libraries can’t make it on their own, they said. They are now co-teaching and they have made more videos etc. to make content available for all students, not just the ones where their professors have active collaborations with the librarians. Cen showed us an example of a video, and they have a YouTube channel where they post the videos.

Screendump from YouTube channel showing a six videos on the channel.
[Screendump from YouTube]

The librarians have also made a research support site in Blackboard that links to class pages, and a regular newsletter (made with Smore) is sent to faculty where sites and resources are promoted. The librarians are collaborating with several campus partners, eg. the Academic Success Center Tutors, and the aim is to make a more seamless experience for students. ASC Tutors contact the library if they have a student with them that could benefit from a library tutor, and vice versa.

Reinwald and Cen suggested some tips for more and better collaborations:
1. Be proactive and brave (many are afraid to ask for help and collaborations because they don’t want to bother us)
2. Be appreciative and positive
3. We help, and we do not judge (many faculty members may not want us to see their lessons and lesson plans because they are afraid that we might judge)

Screen dump from lecture describing co-teaching information literacy classes, workshops and materials
[Screen dump from lecture.]

Go Go Gadget Google Suite: Using Google Suite Tools to enhance online learning

This session was great! Kristina Bush from UC Berkley, Patricia Hermandez and Emily Metcalf from Texam A&M-Corpus Christi held a smashing session on Google Suite. The three librarians showed examples of how they used Google Docs, Forms and Sites to enhance learning online. They warned us against confusing online pedagogy with the tools we use. [Quick note: I couldn’t afterwords remember who had talked about what, so I’ll be using “the librarians” or “they” for all of the sections. Sorry about that!]

In the example of Google Docs, they showed us how they start the session with students by a short information on traditional databases before they share the online document (open for all who have the link). The assignment the students are working on is a database comparison. The students receive their instructions and write in their joint document. They can comment on each others work, and the librarian can keep track of what is going on. (I’m thinking this is a lot better than using the white board in Zoom, where they cannot bring the white board with them back to the main session.) The students have responded that they sometimes go back to the document later when they need refreshing, too. There is a maximum of 100 users at the time, and it can get a little messy when a lot of people are writing at the same time. The librarians suggested this exercise in smaller classes, maybe up to 30 or 35 students.

[Screendump from presentation]

The librarians used Google forms for worksheets. (It’s not just for quizzes and feedback.) Forms let you separate the content into separate parts (very useful when you want the audience to go to a special page depending on their answer), and the librarians used the separate pages to present tools and worksheets to match. This also works in asynchronous sessions. The downside is that Forms is supposed to be handed in after finishing everything in one go, but the librarians explained a workaround here. They ask the students to send in the form when they need a break or the session is over, save the link to “edit response” and then go back and continue later.

The presenters told us about how they used Google Sites. This is, perhaps, a little less known for many. You use it to make websites (I used it years ago, but honestly I thought it no longer existed..). The librarians got into this because of a request from a teacher. The teacher had inherited a lesson plan from a predecessor, and part of the assignment for the students were to make a Google site. The new teacher had little or no experience with Google sites and asked the librarian to teach the class. The librarian was a little hesitant at first and asked herself if it was her job to step in to teach a tool like Sites, and if such a task was relevant to information literacy. It turned out that many of the previous students in this class had used copyrighted material without proper authorisation, the students barely cited quality sources etc. The librarian therefore said yes to the request and, although she has a part on the technical side to creating a site first, she used most of the class time for information literacy related topics.

Another example of using Sites was that the librarians are using it to build a virtual escape room. They are in the process of building one now, and it is about recognising different sorts of citations etc. We got a preview and a test here. This was really interesting. They hope to be able to use this as part of flipped classroom to save time in class with the students.

I have to say.. this session gave me a lot of new ideas, and so far.. it was the best session. 🙂

Genre pedagogy for the library classroom: Teaching sources rhetorically

Colleen Deel from Bemidji State University (Minnesota) talked about the importance about teaching students genre. (I couldn’t agree more, btw.) She said that students tend to ask questions that cannot easily be answered before one has given the background. The students are given assignments that they are not prepared to solve, and that is where we should start, Deel said. We have to start by giving them more genre information.

Screen dump from presentation about lack of awareness of academic genres and giving the students such awareness.
[Screen dump from presentation]

Deel mentioned John Swales’ “Discourse communities” (communities are clearly defined, that share a common goal, and has an exclusive language), and how this is also a kind of genre knowledge. Librarians can be considered a discourse community. When we teach, we teach according to an acknowledged genre, and the audience has genre expectations. We follow the genre, even though it might not lead to the best for of learning.

Some genres, particularly in academic writing, are well known and defined, e.g. essay, reflection paper, journal article etc., but library genres are not necessarily so well known and defined.

Deel cited Anderson (2009) and the two library genres as 1) The materials housed within information systems (e.g. ebooks, journal articles, newspaper articles etc.) and 2) The information systems themselves (e.g. discovery systems, databases, digital archives etc.)

Deel’s point was that we ask the students to use these genres, but we hardly ever talk about them as genres. We don’t spend enough time on this, and we tend to stop too “early” in the process; we talk about sources and teach students to find it, but we don’t talk about genres. This means that we also don’t talk about the complexity of information and we don’t talk about the information systems themselves. Deel highly praised Burkholder (2010) for addressing this issue.

There is a model for teaching genre, and Deel presented this:

A stair step model of teaching particular genres, teaching genre awareness and teaching genre critique.
[Screen dump from presentation]

The idea is to start with the simplest form, teaching a particular genre and then progressing to the next levels. Teaching a particular genre is usually quite easy, it doesn’t necessarily take long and it can be particularly useful for those who have little or no previous knowledge on the genre and for students with English as a second language. However, genre is contextual and can become meaningless if you teach out of context. Deel gave an example of teaching a genre, when used in a library setting:

[Screen dump from presentation]

When we move on to genre awareness, the idea is not that students should be able to reproduce a technique or a genre, but to make them aware of possibilities and limitations. This also applies within the library setting. Let’s say that the students need genre awareness to be able to decide whether to use the library catalogue or a database in a particular setting. The following example was used:

Screen dump from presentation describing a group activity on reviewing and discussing different search tools.
[Screen dump from presentation]

Deel also cited Amy Devitt (2014) several times. It is written for an academic writing class, but there is much there that can easily be applied to information literacy:

Screen dump on Devitt's critical meta-rhetorical questions to ask students.
[Screen dump from presentation]

Reference:

Burkholder, J. M. (2010). Redefining sources as social acts: Genre theory in information literacy instruction. Library Philosophy and Practice, 2010(AUG), 1-11.

Devitt, A. (2014). Genre pedagogies. A guide to composition pedagogies, 146-162.

PHUH!!

Apologies for the long blog post. But.. Wow, this was a busy day at the conference. I had, of course, had a full day at work before the conference day started (due to the time difference), and I was totally exhausted after these sessions. But oh.. there was so much good content that I felt elated and happy even though I was so tired. What a lovely, lovely conference LOEX is!

LOEX 2019: Collaboration

Those who read this blog on a regular basis or follow me on Twitter know that one of my first interests within teaching in libraries is collaboration with faculty staff. Without having working relationships with teachers and other faculty staff, we do not stand a chance of outreach. Without them, the library remains an island where visitors shove a plank across when they need librarians, and take it with them when they leave. We need our collaborators to make a bridge to the students, and to maintain the bridge when it is in place. Before I am in dager of overusing the metaphor, I will get on with what I learned within this are on LOEX 2019.

Ula Lechtenberg and Zach Claybaugh, Sacred Heart University held an excellent session on “Sharing our compass: Faculty development and information literacy”. (A picture of the compass can be seen in their presentation) The north, east, south and east positions on the compass were substituted with: “Mapping the Quest”, “Packing”, “Unpacking” and “Repacking”. Lechtenberg and Claybaugh used this compass to explain their journey on how they built a new course on information literacy for teachers.

Anyway – Lechtenberg and Claybaugh talked about how their mandatory information literacy course had been cut, and a portion of it had been moved to a first-year seminar. This created some problems. Lechtenberg and Claybaugh, inspired by a similar idea at the University of Arizona, decided to make a new IL course/ workshop for teachers. Teach the teachers!

Lechtenberg and Claybaugh had emphasised interaction in their course, and they used both Round Robin and World Café as methods to get the participants to interact with each other and with librarians. Ahead of the course, learning goals for students were developed. The learning goals were connected to the ACRL Framework, but to avoid all the “tribal language”, librarians had developed learning goals that the participants could understand. For example: “Students will be able to develop creative search strategies to navigate different systems and locate materials relevant to their research assignments”. The course participants could choose three learning goals that they wanted to explore, and they moved around to the tables where their learning goals were discussed. On each table, a librarian facilitated the discussions. The World Café is a similar idea, but the participants were supposed to share ideas, stories etc. that they had from the course, and these were noted on the tablecloth on the tables. These ideas and stories were shared when a new group came to sit down. The topics on each table were connected to the ACRL Framework.

IMG_0620

Claybaugh has made a useful library guide on teaching information literacy for instructors. It is available here.

Several presenters had cited this article from Cowen & Eva (2016). I have saved it, and I am going to get started on it soon.

It is important to find the right partners on campus. Find the ones that have access to students.

IMG_0621

I have been thinking a lot about this session after the conference. I think that we, due to the continual understaffing at the library, the workload and information overload for teachers, that we need to get a better grip on how to deal with collaboration and outreach. I really want to make something along the lines of what Lechtenberg and Claybaugh did here, but I guess I am too much of a realist to be able to imagine having a two-day course here for teachers. I can’t imagine many (or any?) teachers that would make this a priority. I am thinking about other ways to get this done. Maybe in mini or micro sessions? Maybe integrated at staff seminars? Maybe a MOOC?

IMG_0625

Service provider or academic partner: Where to draw the line?

jente sandstrand

Drawing a line?

I have long wanted to write something about the contributions from academic librarians in research projects. First, I wanted to wait until the term was over because I wanted time to think about this, and then I waited because I wanted to find the right words. I wanted to get this right, because this is important to me. Today, I am writing this even though I could have thought some more or found better words.

I have worked in academic libraries for 15 years. During that time, I have changed and the libraries I have worked in has changed along with the institutions they have served. Perhaps even more interesting is that the role of the librarians have changed, too. A few lines of explanation is perhaps needed. (I`ll get to the point, I promise..) I said that I have changed. Yes, I have changed in many ways, but professionally the most significant change has been that I have changed my focus. When I started 15 years ago, my focus was always “Whats in it for my library”. I was very library centric. I wanted a good budget for the library because I wanted freedom to build a good collection, nice furniture etc. (I was a school librarian back then, btw.) After working in a school library, in a ministry library and in a university library, my focus has shifted. I still want the library to have a good budget, but not for the librarys sake – for the patrons. I want a good budget so that we can provide services and academic support to enhance learning and research. I think I have also learned the value of evidence-based practice in libraries. It is important that we have solid research as well as user experience and our own experience and bring this together to build good library practice. It may not seem as a very significant change on paper (or blog), but for me it has changed the way I work. The libraries have changed, too. From being mainly a document provider and a more distant partner (delivery-on-demand) for students, the digitalisation and research support needs have made it possible and necessary to provide new services and to see our roles in a new light.

There are plenty of articles, book chapters etc. that discuss the roles of academic librarians. I am not going to list everything that I have, but see my article on library-faculty collaboration to get an idea (Øvern, 2014). The main point I want to make here and now, though, is that library-faculty collaboration is often problematic because of the skewed power relation between the parties. The librarians know that the route to the students goes via their teachers, and we are desperate to find a way in to the classrooms. Therefore, we usually not only obey our masters` first whistle, but even assume almost doglike admiration for the teachers that see our contributions as something worth “sacrificing valuable class time” (yes, that is a direct quote, but I`ll not give the source) for. (OK. Maybe I exaggerated a little, but then again, maybe I didn`t.) It doesn`t help that we are so trained as service providers, that we find it extremely hard to just say no to people. This way, I think we also often are stuck in unproductive “collaborations”, because we are afraid that if we protest or suggest very different models for teaching, the teachers will stop asking us to contribute all together. But if we never suggest what to us may seem as better ideas, then they will never see our potential as real academic partners either. Librarians generally know more about the faculty than vice versa, an assymetry that both groups are aware of, but only the librarians find problematic (Christiansen, Strombler & Thaxton, 2004, p.117). And as Ekstrand and Seebass (2009) found: librarians are regarded as excellent (service) parners, but that is not the same as seeing them as valuable academic parners (p. 84). Librarians are not integrated in study programmes and often forgotten in planning sessions.

These power relations become even more problematic when it comes to research support. I have several times been asked to help with literature searching etc. in research projects. Once or twice only, have I been told that I will get co-authorship for my efforts. Once or twice. Of course, I wouldn`t dream of demanding co-authorship if my only contribution to the project would be something like suggesting appropriate databases or handing over some search terms that could useful or something like that. But where do I draw the line? When does it become acceptable for me to say, I can do that, but only if I am listed as a co-author?

This is an example (not from reality, but quite close):
Two faculty members, one of whom were also connected to another university, asked me if I could provide support for them for a systematic review. When I asked what kind of support they were looking for it was clear that it is more than just suggesting search strings and doing a few introductory searches in some databases. It was much more than that. Basically, they wanted me to set up tables, do the searches and use a flow chart. In a systematic review, the design of searches, and getting it right in all the databases as well as putting it into tables and flowcharts represents a lot of work. It would be like building the foundation of a house. Yet, I was not offered co-authorship. I asked them a few more questions on their deadlines etc., but before I had received answers and decided to muster up the strength to ask for co-authorship, they informed me that they had found another librarian (from the other university) to do the job.

It seems there is always somebody who is ready to answer when they hear the whistle. Why it was so important for me to get co-authorship? The contribution would have been the same whether my name was on it or not. Yes, but if I could have had my name on it, then I could have sacrificed the very little R&D time I have to my disposal without having to postpone my qualifications programme. If I am to succeed with this, then the little time I have to produce some new knowledge will have to be put to good use. Egotistic? Sure. But for the faculty involved it wouldn`t have mattered as much to share that research point (Norwegian measurement system), but for me it was important. Again – the power relations are not balanced.

So – what should I do? What should WE as a profession do? Is it ok that faculty get a “yes” from somebody else if they get a “no” from me? When should I say no? When should I demand co-authorship? Why is there no guideline for these partnerships?

Where do I draw the line? (Seriously, I`m asking.)


NOTE: This blog entry was not written to, in any way, suggest that faculty is in the habit of exploiting librarians or are trying to belittle me or my contribution. This is not my experience. I have many working collaborations with excellent faculty members that are productive, constructive and interesting. Even in the example I mentioned above, I don`t think that this was done by malice or as an attempt to put me in my place, but rather as a pragmatic way to get the help they wanted as quickly and efficiently as possible. This blog entry was written to emphasise the sometimes problematic situations that arises from the skewed power relations between faculty and librarians, and I have no other agenda than to share my experience with this, and to hope for better guidelines. It is not my intention to offend either faculty or librarians, and I hope therefore that any lack of clarity of thought or words will be forgiven.


References:

Christiansen, L., Stombler, M., & Thaxton, L. (2004). A Report on Librarian-Faculty Relations from a Sociological Perspective. The journal of academic librarianship, 30(2), 116-121. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2004.01.003

Ekstrand, B., Seebass, G. (2009). Integrativ informationskompetens: Diskursöverbryggande samarbete mellan akademi och bibliotek. In B. Hansson, A. Lyngfeldt (Ed.), Pedagogiskt arbete i teori och praktik (pp. 83-101). Lund: BTJ Förlag.

Øvern, K. M. (2014). Faculty-library collaboration: two pedagogical approaches. Journal of Information Literacy, 8(2), 36-55. doi:http://dx.doi.orghttp://dx.doi.org/10.11645/8.2.1910

Workshops for nursing students

Student asking questionIt is that time of the year again – oh, yeah! Bachelor`s mania. It is stressful for us, for the students and for the guidance counsellors, but it is also fun to work with the students on their theses. Most of them are really into it. They all want to get a good grade, of course, and maybe that even is the main reason to work hard for many of them. But many also seem genuinely interested in their subjects, and that kind of motivation is always easier to further encourage, of course.

The nursing students who are writing their bachelor`s theses are organised into groups of 2-4 students. This year there are 75 or 76 groups, I think. A few years ago we decided to offer workshops for nursing students, as they were just too many to handle on individual sessions for our staff. Students who are interested in tutoring from the library can sign up for a workshop at a given time (usually we give them four, two-hour sessions to choose from), and I team up with guidance counsellors from the institute. I use Google Forms for the sign-up forms, and then I divide them into their sessions. The students state their research questions/ purpose when they sign up, and that gives me an opportunity to check out some areas of research beforehand. When the deadline is up, then “the ship has sailed”, and the students who did not sign up will receive no offer of tutor sessions from the library during the work with their bachelor`s thesis. Troubleshooting? – yes. Help with searching strategies etc.? – no. It`s just a survival thing.

This year, 36 groups signed up for the sessions before the deadline. The workshops took place in a computer lab, and there were nine groups per session. I got help from four guidance counsellors, though not all four in every session – usually two helpers in each session. The students sit in groups and search for articles for their thesis, and I work my way through the groups until I have seen them all. Some need help finding search terms, some need a little help with narrowing down their searches, some need help to identify sources, some need a little encouragement, some need some guidance when it comes to methodology and so on. It really is great to meet them this way. I learn a lot, too.

I really find it interesting to work this way, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to do this together with the teachers/ guidance counsellors. We all learn from each other, and I wish we could do the same for all the other students and institutes, too. It is really intense, though, so I went to bed at 9.pm both days, totally exhausted:) Well – thats Bachelor`s mania for you!

LILAC15: day 1

[warning: these blog posts from LILAC are extremely long, but I prefer to write just one post from each day instead of blogging from each session. I think it is easier to see connections between subjects and to reflect on the conference when the sessions are in one post.]

Bridges in Newcastle

Bridges in Newcastle

Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, or LILAC as it is more commonly known, has been my preferred conference since my first encounter with it in Glasgow in 2012. I remember being struck by the wealth of choices of sessions, the quality of the presentations and the lovely atmosphere of the conference. I had a great time last year in Sheffield, too, and this year I went to Newcastle – eager to soak up great ideas and having great discussions with fellow delegates. I was not disappointed. What a great set of people there are at LILAC!

Theories and practice

My first session on my first day was an example of what makes LILAC so special: a panel on the relevance of Information Literacy (IL) theories on practice. (The focus is always on the practical issues of teaching, infused with the theoretical knowledge that exists out there.) Jane Secker, chair of CILIP, led the discussion. She had rounded up a selection of librarians who, in different ways, have worked with theoretical frameworks. Merinda Hensley told us about how the group had worked on the new ACRL framework. A particularly important discussion that they had was about threshold concepts (TC). TC is about how students go from novice to expert within a discipline. Students must understand the research processes before they can understand how they find information. The theory influences the practice and vice versa, said Hensley. Emma Coonan asked how one could use TC in information literacy. “Is IL a discipline in itself, or simply an aspect of other disciplines?” Coonan asked. Secker asked whether teaching librarians should rely most on theoretical knowledge or try their own ways as they go. Almost none of the audience had formal pedagogic training before they started teaching, so for the majority the road to teaching had gone through trying (and failing;) combined with reading up on theory. Hensley said that the way to becoming a reflective teacher is to choose to focus on one small thing for a lesson, performing it and then evaluate it – focussing on how to improve it before the next session. Coonan emphasised the need for collaborating well with teachers, and that we need to align our teaching goals with the overall learning goals/outcomes that the teachers have designed. (This makes me think of Biggs` (1999) “constructive alignment”.) Keynote: Ray Land from Durham University gave the opening keynote. He talked about Threshold Concepts (TC) and “troublesome knowledge”. Land explained that to learn something, we have to step into the unknown, and to let go of old ideas, knowledge and skills. Sometimes we even have to strip away old conceptions before we are ready for new ones. This can be very unsettling and difficult. We do not like to let go of knowledge, Land said, and yet – this is very important to be able to understand new knowledge. Troublesome knowledge is a GOOD thing for us. We should and must get out of our “comfort zone”, because it is outside that zone that we can learn. Shulman (2005) called it “Pedagogy of uncertainty”. If we do not dare to move out of our “comfort zone” our learning will be limited, Land said. There must be something at stake. Thresholds are about this change in perception. It is right on the threshold that learning happens, but it is also where students get stuck. It is our jobs as tutors and teachers to help them make that step up on the threshold and through to the next stage. Why do some students get “stuck”? They haven`t been taught how to cope with failure, Land said, and I remember talking to Alison Head about the same thing at last years LILAC. “Liminality” is a term used to describe the state where everything is hazy and messy for the students. The constant rocking back and forth between “I understood that” to “No, I must have misunderstood” and back again (sometimes also called “oscillation”), is the process where students are most receptive for learning. Most of the time when students cross the threshold, it is not felt as a ”Eureka moment”, Land explained. Most of the time the knowledge is integrated little by little. The new ACRL framework describes six different thresholds. Most of the thresholds are about how information creation is a process, how information has value, that information is contextual and about research as conversation.

Collaborate to innovate

Bethany Logan and Antony Groves from the University of Essex talked about how the library had joined forces with the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) center to create a series of events promoting the use of mobile technologies – called “Mobile technology week”. Previously to this the departments (Library, TEL, IT and careers& employability) had just co-existed without much collaboration, and even after introducing the joint “Skills hub”, a single-entry to the support pages online, the departments carried on as before. “Mobile technology week” changed this. The first run was not successful; very low turnout and technology challenges. They tried a different approach, asking themselves questions like: Do students, staff and researchers struggle with the same issues, and if so what are the common problems? Who are we here to support? How can we meet these needs? Where is this support to be given? Logan and Groves told us about how they had included more people from the departments, and asked them about skills they already had and interests. From this basis they put together a new program, and tried to give the sessions something that would appeal to students and staff, e.g. “App swap breakfast” where people talked about their favourite apps in teaching and learning. The organizers also worked on marketing, using websites, social media, short promo videos, physical signposts and getting teachers to promote the sessions in class. The collaboration was a success, and the event led a new set of users to the library. Logan and Groves gave the following tips for organizing similar events: • Find a theme that works and stick to it • Who has ownership to each part of the program? • Identify who the users are (informal, easy questions to identify their needs) • What expectations do we have? Talking about this makes it easier to have realistic expectations, and it can be useful as a motivator • Keep in touch with other departments/people who can help (e.g. marketing department) • Experiment and play with ideas throughout the week and at other times, too • Don`t give up after the first run. It`s important to evaluate, make changes and try again.

sculpture art installation

Beautiful art installations at campus

Find the gap

Alcock and Rose from Newfoundland University Library talked about how they had analysed syllabi in history and chemistry to see where it would be natural to integrate information literacy skills. Alcock and Rose used Boss and Drabinski`s (2013) study on syllabus analysis as foundation for their own study, and added questions like “Is the library mentioned in the course plan?”, “Are library training sessions scheduled?”, “Do instructors teach information skills themselves?”. Findings from the study are described in the slides used, and I`ll have a closer look at them later to remind myself of the details, but I remember that the history students had much more integrated library skills training and much higher use of library resources and were required to do more independent research than the chemistry students etc. I also found it very interesting to learn more about the methodology itself, and I hope to be able to do something similar here soon. Phuh! These LILAC days are long and action-packed, but what an inspiration! I unfortunately had to give the networking event a miss as I had to go clothes shopping after the airline lost my suitcase.. The missing suitcase became a great conversation starter, though, so I cannot be too mad about it☺

Literature

Biggs, J. (1999) What the student does: teaching for enhanced learning. I: Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1), s. 57-75.

Boss, K. og E. Drabinski (2013) Looking for Information Literacy: Syllabus Analysis for Data-Driven Curriculum Integration. I, Worldwide Commonalities and Challenges in Information Literacy Research and Practice: Springer, s. 352-358.

Shulman, L. S. (2005) Pedagogies. I: Liberal Education, 91(2), s. 18-25.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Girl with appleI am looking into a few journal articles that I was recommended to read on faculty-library collaboration; a subject that has interested me greatly. I have recently written an article about it (in review process now), and when reading these articles I keep coming up against some of the same questions that these authors have asked: Why, when faculty clearly sees the importance of information skills (some studies shows that up to 97 percent of teachers view information skills as very important), are these skills so poorly integrated?

Some authors suggest that faculty find that students should learn information skills by “osmosis” (McGuiness 2006), something that they acquire naturally while being students, instead of skills that needs to be taught. This thought never even occurred to me before reading about it. Interestingly, as Bury (2011) noted, the percentage of faculty who believe that these skills are developed naturally, drops significantly the closer the faculty are to the students (ex. professors vs lecturers). So – I`ve always thought that the reason why information skills are not integrated into the subject contexts/syllabi/course descriptions is that teacher don`t know enough about it or that  they fail to see that it is something that students struggle with, but maybe it is simply a matter of different opinions on how these skills are acquired? I think I need to let this sink in a little..

To be fair, I am in daily contact with dedicated faculty staff that really want to see their students pick up on this and to help the students understand how to find their way through the academic writing jungle. I can respect that we have different opinions on how to do it – but I would really like to be let in on the discussion more.

As DaCosta (2010) wrote: “As with the previous research it was anticipated that  faculty would show a positive response to whether students should be information literate. It is a bit like global warming and energy efficiency: The majority of people feel that we should all do more to “save the planet” but not so many are willing to give up their cars to do so!” (p. 207).

I certainly hope that faculty is not offended by my little epiphany here, but I just had to write up my thoughts here before it all fades away.

 

Literature

Bury, S. (2011) Faculty attitudes, perceptions and experiences of information literacy: a study across multiple disciplines at York University, Canada. I: Journal of Information Literacy, 5(1), s. 45-64.

DaCosta, J. W. (2010) Is there an information literacy skills gap to be bridged? An examination of faculty perceptions and activities relating to information literacy in the United States and England. I: College & Research Libraries, 71(3), s. 203-222.

McGuinness, C. (2006) What faculty think–exploring the barriers to information literacy development in undergraduate education. I: The journal of academic librarianship, 32(6), s. 573-582.

Spring semester thoughts

Well, the undergraduate students at all three faculties have now handed in their theses and the library is almost completely deserted today. Many are cramming for their exams, but I think some are also taking a well-deserved break (Constitution day tomorrow and with Whit coming up this weekend we can enjoy a longer weekend). I am usually very, vey relieved when the bachelor`s theses have been handed in because the weeks leading up to the deadline tend to be crazy busy. Freaked out students everywhere. But this year it was different – still lots of students (and some were very stressed), but most of them were patiently waiting in line to be helped and many only needed a little help to get it right. We (=the library staff) have talked about it several times this spring: When will the tsunami hit this spring? It always comes.. but this year it really didn`t. I think there are several reasons: a.) we arranged group tutor sessions where we had up to seven groups at once in the computer lab (=great success: the students loved it and it saved us a lot of time) b.) some of the students that have been resource-intensive earlier years have had better support in their first and second years and some of their issues on writing might have been solved earlier c.) faculty staff have attended more seminars and we have been working closer together – and I think therefore that some of the students` problems have been solved with their academic supervisor instead of in the library

— and there are probably other reasons as well…

Now, the theses have not been marked yet, so I have no idea on whether it has been a good thing that the tsunami never hit this year or not, but I really do hope that the students are getting more self-reliant and better at academic writing.

I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of the goup of academic supervisors for the nursing students this year. I have been to all of their meetings and have been invited to say something about the progress (seen from the library`s point of view) and have been able to discuss ideas and give my opinions as well as hearing those of the supervisors. It has been really useful to me (and I hope that my input has been valuable to the supervisors as well, of course). I feel like I can get things done and in a much better way when I am integrated in their fellowship, and I hope that I`ll be able to continue this working relationship with them.

In a couple of months this years bachelor`s theses should be registered in our institutional archive (only dissertations marked A, B or C and where the authors have sign a publication agreement can be published..). Lots of interesting subjects, so go on – have a look🙂

Happy Constitution Day/ Whit weekend!

“Engaging first-year students in meaningful library research”

I finally got around to reading “Engaging first-year students in meaningful library research: A practical guide for teaching faculty” by Molly R. Flaspohler last week. Although I found nothing groundbreaking about it, it was a good read. Many of the issues presented in the book were well-known, but there is some comfort in knowing that others struggle with the same things.

Many students enter higher education without basic knowledge, like books have indexes and that there are different levels of academic journals etc. This means that students fall behind from the first day of school. Assignments are seen as something they do just to please the teacher, not as part of a learning process. Many show very little interest in research and learning processes.

Younger students, in the book often referred to as “Millenials” (i.e. “digital natives”, “gen Y” etc.), underestimate how much time it takes to read, evaluate, reflect, and effieciently use information. They do not use library databases, even when specifically asked to do so by their teachers, and they end up doing random Google searches. The library courses do not have the desired effect because students expect research to be quick and easy.

Questions we have often heard in the library:

  • Can you find a couple of sources for my bibliography? I have already written the paper, but I need a couple of sources..
  • Is it OK that all information for my paper was taken from the same website?

The lack of critical thinking abilities becomes a real problem for many. Students need thorough feedback on their texts and it is important that teachers and more advanced learners (like student peers) engage themselves in this process. We have to stop thinking that the new generation students have research skills just because they are tech savvy. (How true!)

Librarians often become the link between the student and the teacher. The students want the librarian to choose a topic for them, interpret assignments and formulate research questions. Teachers must predict the students` research problems – otherwise there will only be frustrations on all parties.  Most students have never been exposed to research before entering higher education. They are used to text books, suggested reading lists and lecture notes. They do not think they need an information seeking strategy, they only have a coping strategy. The students must be exposed to situations were they need these strategies. Practice makes perfect.

The destiny of the academic library depends on faculty staff. Success depends on collaboration. Teachers and librarians have different strenghts and weaknesses, and we need to understand eachothers roles better.

“The information literacy program should be introduced as an enterprise-wide solution to an enterprice-wide problem. To cathch the attention of faculty and academic administrators, information literacy must be a part of the academic effort rather than just a toolbox of skills that students learn in order to use the library” (p. 36)

So – how do we train the next generation of students? How do we get them to make sense of all the data? Students have a hard time asking relevant and fruitful questions, and to know the difference between knowledge, information and meaning. They generally assess information from three criteria: the source is easy to understand, the source is easy to find and the source is available.

Another intersting thing is that students do not see that information skills are important in their lives. They tend to think that everyone below a certain age is born with these skills and that everything can be self-taught.

Flaspohler uses Carol Kuhlthau`s model of the information search process to illustrate how students work with the information gathering, and how the students cognitive, affective and physical processes work during these steps. There is a lot of insecurity during the first steps of the process, and Flaspohler writes that these early stages are perfect for teacher and librarian intervention.

We must give the students assignments that feel relevant and meaningful in the students` lives, but it is hard to do because their backgrounds and previous experiences vary so much.

Flaspohler suggests several different pedagogical approaces to teaching:

  • Cognitive apprenticeships
  • Communities of practice
  • Discovery learning
  • Goal-based scenarios
  • Problem-based learning
  • Situated learning

The main topic of the book, however, is that collaboration between librarians and teachers is crucial to make any sort of impact on student learning when it comes to information skills. We need to form better networks and both formal and informal collaboration arenas.