Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

A blog about librarianship in Further Education

Delivering information literacy in FE

Posted by andrewey on January 29, 2009

Sharon Markless, Kings College London, delivered a thought provoking session on developing a strategic approach to delivering information literacy at a North Wales Libraries Training Group event (at Coleg Llandrillo on 28 January).

Sharon started her session by defining what we mean by Information Literacy (IL) and discussing ways of selling this concept to senior managers or academics. This included what we in FE would normally describe as information literacy ie finding, evaluating and comparing information sources. Sharon also defined IL as critical thinking and metacognition (enabling independent study).

Sharon hghlighted some important common failings of IL delivery in FE and HE:

  • Emphasis on searching (rather than evaluation)
  • About promoting library resources rather than meeting the user’s needs
  • About  ‘how to do’ rather than engaging in critical thinking

Sharon dispelled some common notions of IL delivery such as the idea of generic or transferable IL skills. Sharon highlighted research which has shown that IL mush be contextualised in order for students to learn the skills and to see their relevance/application. In order to achieve this it was  argued that IL resources and sessions should not be sequential but rather should allow users to select elements that were relevant to them.

In terms of practical delivery it was suggested that demonstrations (of software) should be given after the student has had hands-on experience or undertaken an activity, as that is a better method of reinforcing learning, rather than at the start of the session. In order to produce ‘constructive learning’ IL sessions the following techniques were suggested:

  • Encourage discussion to share ideas
  • Set ‘real world’ tasks
  • Provide support material in a variety of formats (including videos and podcasts)
  • Enable ‘focused feedback’ 
  • Encourage reflective practice

Sharon also made some suggestions as to how Web 2.0 tools can be used in delivering IL:

  • Wiki subject guides
  • Student created podcasts to guide others
  • Genre based social networks
  • Tagging to personalise searching
  • Virtual Tutorials (using Second Life)
  • Use of video/photo sharing

Finally the importance of collecting evidence to demonstrate the success of IL delivery was discussed. These were divided into quantitative outputs and qualitative impacts. Both of which avoided the ‘busyness’ (ie usage) type statistics usually favoured by libraries:

  • Evidence from student work/assignments
  • Focus groups with tutors and students identifying qualitative benefits (we have used the MLA’s ILFA framework to good effect in this context)
  • Activities/tests undertaken as a result of the IL sessions to gauge competency
  • Evidence of engagement with the curriculum eg take-up
  • Change in nature of student enquiries
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One Response to “Delivering information literacy in FE”

  1. […] of delivery methods when running information skills to cater for different learning styles (see my post on Sharon Markless’ recent “Developinging information literacy strategies” event […]

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