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Want your learners to be more independent? – Information Literacy Doing Overtime

Posted by LibeRaCe on May 23, 2012

At the RSC North West ‘Want your learners to be more independent?’ event I felt I had my eyes well and truly opened to the benefits of, and dare I say it, the necessity of embedding information literacy skills into learning provision – whatever form that provision that may take.

Anthony Beal and Hilary Thomas (RSC) asked us to start thinking about what our definition of  ‘Critical Thinking’ and ‘Independent Learner’ might actually be. Cue much head scratching and pen waving, but ultimately many similar ideas from a mixed group of tutors/librarians/learning support officers. Critical thinking suggestions included the ability to analyse, compare, contrast and assess information in a more in-depth way. An independent learner has a myriad of traits – motivated, self directed, responsible, reflective, engaged and (crucially) intrinsically motivated by making progress.

The term Information Literacy itself was queried – are teachers/tutors familiar with this term too – does it have meaning outside of the research or information professional’s toolkit? If you walked into a classroom and asked “hands up anyone who’s information literate”, would you be met with blank stares? And not only because you’re a raving stranger that’s just walked into their classroom……..

Deborah Millar and Joanna Neil from Blackburn College gave great insight into the uses and benefits of social media tools including Pintrest, Tumblr and Scoopit and how these sites help to support their learners to study, expore, research and reflect on the regular feedback they can offer as tutors. But their talk also gave us more to think about regarding the role of a tutor/teacher as ‘expert’ and the understanding of true collaboration within a students learning journey. It set us on the path to question our role titles and how that might affect provision (division of support) and also who ‘owns’ knowledge or information within an institution.

This insight paved the way for a talk by  Jane Secker and Emma Coonan, which was a quickfire but insightful overview of ‘A New Curriculum for Information Literacy ‘ (ANCIL) project, which they had both developed during their secondment to the Arcadia Project  -exploring the role of academic libraries in a digital age. While the main focus of the project was Higher Education, there were significant, transferable conclusions and new ways of thinking about Information Literacy that relate to the Public Library and Schools stream of the Welsh Information Literacy project. The Institution Audit Worksheet especially enabled the group to start discussing and investiagting who currently has responsibility for supporting students develop their IL skills in our organisations, broken down by strands including becoming an independent learner or resource discovery. When you really look at learner support provision in this way, it becomes clear quickly that in many cases several departments/staff groups are involved and not everyone collaborates to make it a seamless experience for learners.

I think this training day was the first opportunity I’ve had to really THINK about Information Literacy and make meaningful connections to help categorise or attempt to lasso all the different approaches in order to spread the word and support our advocacy activities. I feel it’s important to re-visit this question with a new WILP project team and also as we are approaching lots of new stakeholders who are encountering this for the first time.

Is it a concept, an ethos, a skillset, a scheme of learning, a framework? Well, yes to all – but also a pathway, a continuum, a cyclical process of learning, exploring and reflecting to enable people to cope with the demands of whatever information context they find themselves in.  Before we get too metaphysical here, I think the point I’m trying to make is that the question should really be “Am I information literate right now?” – do I have the information skills necessary to help me to be insightful and successful for my challenges today? And to make sure we ask ourselves and ask this question of our learners regularly. There are a set of identifiable skills, yes but potentially infinite levels of skill development – there is no ‘end point’.

We need to move away from thinking about Information Literacy as a set of finite, tick box competancies – definable, yes, measurable, yes but continually evolving. However, when we start talking about accreditation, impact and measurement there is a danger of falling into the trap of “right, you’ve done the test. You’re information literate now, put that in your PDP and off you go”. Embedding information literacy into our services and user/learner support should be about enabling a generation of life long learners – is that happening in your organisation?

You can contact the Welsh Information Literacy Project Team at wilp@llandrillo.ac.uk or on Twitter @welsh_info_lit

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2 Responses to “Want your learners to be more independent? – Information Literacy Doing Overtime”

  1. […] on liberace.wordpress.com Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark […]

  2. […] Project Officer Síona attended the RSC North West training day on Independent learning in Stockport. A great, collaborative day sharing insights and challenges with an enthusiastic group of librarians, learner support staff and tutors. It gave us LOTS to think about and there’s more detail here. […]

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