What are Your Students’ Real InfoLit Needs? Does it matter?

LINC Teaching Tip October 2014

Me: I’m preparing an information literacy (IL) session. I have the class assignment but I don’t know the IL level or skills of the class. Does it matter? As long as I explain everything clearly and thoroughly enough, they will absorb anything I tell them. Right?

My Friend: Not so fast. Teaching is more than broadcasting content. You want your students to listen to your message, understand it and act on it. How can you facilitate listening?

Me: Speak slowly and clearly. Wear a microphone to compensate for the room noise.

My Friend: You need to make an emotional connection with them. People listen better to talks when they feel respected. Tailoring your IL session to students’ real needs and interests is one approach. Even better – tell them about themselves. “Many of you chose Google for this exercise. Let’s explore why.”

Me: OK – I am convinced. I will ask the prof what their IL skills are.

My Friend: Faculty usually know what IL skills they want their students to have. However, they don’t usually know if the students have the skills.  (Leckie & Fullerton, 1999).

Me: I’ll ask the prof to ask the students. Self-reporting is ok?

My Friend: Research shows that students (people in general) overestimate their IL skills. (Haglund & Herron, 2008)

Why not test/investigate student knowledge yourself before you meet the class. For example, use the quiz features of LEARN or LibGuides to create:

  • Multiple choice questions to test IL concepts e.g. Here is a research question.  Which of the following is the best search statement for retrieving relevant articles from a research databases? You can adapt similar questions from a Quebec IL study of 1st year students (Mittermeyer & Quirion, 2003) and the website Assessments of Information Literacy  http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/infolitassessments.htm
  • Assign relevant critical thinking tasks before the class e.g. Turn this research question into keywords and explain your keyword choices. Or Find an article on a topic and cite it in APA. How and why did you choose the article?

Me: If you try these or other methods for learning about your student audience, share your results by posting to the LINC Teaching Tips blog. Thanks, Anne

Anne Fullerton, Librarian for Biology, Chemical Eng. and Systems Design Eng.,  University of Waterloo Library.   anne.fullerton@uwaterloo.ca

Haglund, L., and Herron, D. 2008. Students with Non-Proficient Information Seeking Skills Greatly Over-Estimate Their Abilities. Evidence Based Library And Information Practice, 3(2), 48-51. Retrieved from http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/1460

Leckie, G. and A. Fullerton. 1999. Information Literacy in Science and Engineering Undergraduate Education: Faculty Attitudes and Pedagogical Practices. College & Research Libraries, 60 (1), 9 – 29. doi.org/10.5860/crl.60.1.9 

Mittermeyer, D. and D. Quirion. 2003.  Information Literacy: Study of Incoming First-Year Undergraduates in Quebec. Quebec, Working Group on Library Instruction of the Subcommittee on Libraries, CREPUQ http://www.crepuq.qc.ca/documents/bibl/formation/studies_Ang.pdf

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