Report on USTLG Spring meeting on Information Literacy Skills,
Aston University Library

Tuesday 9th March 2004

Report from Jane Kaye and Jenny Brook, University of Huddersfield

This was a well-attended meeting, with around 60 attendees. Linda Davies introduced the speakers.

Peer Teaching – an experiment

Amanda Poulton, Aston University

Amanda started by giving a brief outline of her own staff development in teaching, one highlight being attendance at the CILIP Teaching Skills course. She then went on to provide an interesting and enlightening insight into how she had put into practice what she had learned from the CILIP course, particularly in relation to peer teaching.

Amanda has introduced peer teaching to groups of students on 2nd year Pharmacy, Biology and Applied Science courses. She noted that CILIP recommend the use of peer teaching for small groups of students (no more than 20).

The aim of the peer teaching session described was to teach the students the differences between full text and bibliographic databases. The class was divided between two computing labs. One group had a demonstration of a chosen bibliographic database and the other a chosen full text database. Each group then worked through a relevant search example on the assigned database. The two groups were then combined and working in pairs each student showed the other student how to use the respective database he/she had just tested.

The group were then given the task of searching on other databases as a means of testing and re-enforcing the skills they had just learned.

This session was one of 10 two hour information literacy sessions built into the teaching time for the 2nd year students and the learning outcomes are indirectly linked to the students’ assessed coursework.

Amanda based her teaching on well known learning theories, Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, Honey & Mumfords’ Learning Styles and the National Teaching Laboratory’s Learning Pyramid.

She pointed out a few necessary practicalities that need to be considered in order for this method of teaching to work:-

The student feedback was very positive, they felt they had had an opportunity to interact and share what they had learned with their fellow students and hence were engaged with the session in a way that isn’t possible through a demonstration alone.

Introducing an Information Literacy Strategy at the University of Leeds

Angela Newton and Hannah Hough, Leeds University Library

Angela Newton’s description of introducing an Information Literacy Strategy at Leeds University probably mirrored the experiences of quite a few of the attendees at this event.

On the one hand there is some comfort to be gained from knowing that this is a common experience but on the other it is quite depressing that the need for integration of information literacy teaching within the curriculum is still far from being an accepted norm by academic teaching staff in HE.

At the outset Angela pointed out the main underpinning issues for successful integration of information skills teaching and learning. One of these, “IL training must be supported by academic staff” is a key area that the Leeds University faculty librarians are concentrating on to raise awareness of the importance of IL. In addition Leeds University has appointed an Information Literacy Officer, Hannah Hough, who is working with and supporting both academic and library staff to produce and embed IL topics in the curriculum.

Hannah’s talk centred on two crucial aims of the IL strategy “to increase the amount of training provided, tailored to students’ needs, level and subject area” and “develop new methods of delivery, through online modules, skills workshops and a dedicated module” and what they are doing to achieve these aims.

The Information Literacy Group at Leeds have developed a framework of IL skills based mainly on the SCONUL 7 pillars, with additional references to the QCA and ACRL competency standards. These are currently set at two levels, basic and advanced.

Generic IL tutorials have been created to fit the framework using the INFORMS software and have been tested with 2nd year Law students and MSc Colour Chemistry students. Although the tutorials are still in their infancy there is growing acceptance of their value, particularly for large groups of students and distance learners and there are plans for their use as:-

Information literacy: it’s not sexy – but it’s clever

Debbi Boden and Sue Holloway, Imperial College

Debbi and Sue outlined the process they had followed when producing Imperial’s information literacy competency model. Imperial felt they needed a more cohesive information literacy strategy, and started work on a model last May. They also looked at the SCONUL 7 pillars, the Australian and American standards and the results from the big blue project. What the group decided they wanted was ‘a pedagogically sound, linear information literacy teaching programme, delivered by competent information professionals which is assessed, embedded in the curriculum and consistently delivered throughout the college.’

To help achieve this, the ‘oLivia’ (Online virtual information assistant) programme was developed. This is a teaching programme, developed using WebCT, which can be used by students either remotely or in the classroom. The self-contained units can be used either selectively or as a linear programme. A demo was also produced using Viewlet software. New international students, who were still unsure of English, particularly found this useful as it allowed them to go through the material several times. Sue demonstrated oLivia. The programme includes self-tests. As the results are not recorded, students were happy to use these to test themselves.

Using INFORMS to produce interactive database tutorials, the Newcastle experience

Moira Bent, University of Newcastle

(Jenny Campbell, who was originally to do this presentation, was unfortunately ill and could not attend, so Moira ‘stepped into the breach’ and gave a shortened version of the planned presentation)

Moira outlined the reasons for Newcastle beginning to look at different methodologies for their information skills programme, as current methods were becoming unsustainable. Units were easily and quickly produced in INFORMS, and integrated well with Blackboard. The units display as two frames, one on the left, the ‘Guide on the Side’ showing the instructions and tips, and one on the right showing the live information service. They can be used in workshops or as self-directed study. As access is available to units produced elsewhere, work can be shared, and units easily amended for different subjects and situations. The end results look good, without needing technical knowledge to create the units. A demonstration of the INFORMS units was given.

In later questions, Jenny Brook, the Project Director of INFORMS, reported that she is currently carrying out a scoping study for JISC looking at the viability of INFORMS as a national service, and the possible need for a national information skills portal.

Induction – the Cephalonian method

Nigel Morgan – Cardiff University

This was an added extra, due to the previous presentation being shorter than originally planned.

Nigel explained that this was developed to replace the traditional induction method for biological and medical students. Inductions needed revitalising both for students and for the staff presenting them. The new version was to be in an interactive format. The face-to-face element was thought important so that students could meet the staff. Staff wanted the induction to be interesting, lively, informative and entertaining, and enjoyable to deliver.

The inspiration for the new format came from the tourist industry, and in particular a visit to Cephalonia where travel company representatives used this format to give information to the tourists. The session is structured around four sets of differently coloured cards which are handed out to students. For example, red cards relate to services and facilities. The presenter asks for a red question, a student with a red card reads out a question, and the matching Powerpoint slide is then shown with the answer. The order of the presentation varies, and the questions include careful use of humour often based around Miguel, the pet iguana. For example ‘My mum’s emailed me a photo of Miguel, where can I print it?’ The induction is a good ice-breaker, works well with large groups, encourages interaction and discussion in small groups and allows the presenter to be creative. It was certainly enjoyable hearing about the Cephalonian method, and I’m sure quite a few of us would be interested in trying something similar in our own institutions.