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                Glasgow Caledonian U...
Christine M Irving                                                MSc Research Project



             Acknowledgements


...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



             Abstract

     ...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



             over reliance o...
Christine M Irving                                                                                 MSc Research Project


...
Christine M Irving                                                                         MSc Research Project



Chapter...
Christine M Irving                                                                             MSc Research Project



5.4...
Christine M Irving                                                      MSc Research Project



        Chapter 1       In...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        The main finding commo...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        This new strand ties i...
Christine M Irving                                                     MSc Research Project



                 contributi...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



        Chapter 2            ...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        It is understandable t...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



        2.2.1 Employability ...
Christine M Irving                                                 MSc Research Project



                 free, and wher...
Christine M Irving                                                 MSc Research Project



        There is as Bierema and...
Christine M Irving                                                 MSc Research Project



        According to Keep and R...
Christine M Irving                                                       MSc Research Project



        workplace, policy...
Christine M Irving                                                      MSc Research Project



        2.4   Learning The...
Christine M Irving                                                     MSc Research Project



        2005a, p.2). This r...
Christine M Irving                                                      MSc Research Project



             3. communitie...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        From the findings of a...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        2.4.2 Learning Styles
...
Christine M Irving                                                MSc Research Project



        Honey and Mumford (1992)...
Christine M Irving                                               MSc Research Project



        theorists and pragmatists...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



        2.5      Information...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



        2.5.2 Information lit...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



        2.5.3 Information li...
Christine M Irving                                                     MSc Research Project



        This ‗iterative con...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project




        Chartered Institute...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



                 further and ...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



        be employed to streng...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        This link‘ she believe...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



             1. unable to dete...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        purpose‘ (p.129). Robi...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



        Although Bruce and C...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



                 developing in...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



                 professiona...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



                 develop the ...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



                organisation‘s...
Christine M Irving                                                MSc Research Project



        use different methods of...
Christine M Irving                                                MSc Research Project



        The interviews took plac...
Christine M Irving                                                    MSc Research Project



        answered but allowed...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



                        o Bri...
Christine M Irving                                                  MSc Research Project



        The research will inve...
Christine M Irving                                                   MSc Research Project



        to use the informatio...
Christine M Irving                                                 MSc Research Project



        implications for inform...
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda
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The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda

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The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda, Christine M Irving, April 2007.
Glasgow Caledonian University
Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning
MSc Lifelong Learning and Development

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The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda

  1. 1. . . . . . . . . . Glasgow Caledonian University Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning MSc Lifelong Learning and Development . . . . . . . . . . The role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda By Christine M Irving April 2007 Work Based Learning Project: Stage 1 & 2 MSc in Lifelong Learning and Development Module Code: GAPWM04 Module Abreviations: GAP: LLMM20 Matriculation No. 200520429 Word Count: 18,300
  2. 2. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Acknowledgements This research was made possible through the working relationship I have with Dr John Crawford and the wealth of knowledge and research experience we have shared and developed over the last two and a half years that I have worked with him. My thanks also to Vince Mills and Sabina Siebert for their tutelage and guidance in the world of lifelong learning and work based learning, their suggestions and assistance in the recruitment of interviewees for this research project. Finally my gratitude and appreciation to all the interviewees who responded to email requests, telephone calls, and participated in the research interviews, without your assistance, the research could not have been carried out. April 2007 1
  3. 3. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Abstract The purpose of this research was to investigate information literacy as part of the lifelong learning agenda in particular to gain an understanding of the role of information literacy in the workplace and to gauge if possible levels of information literacy skills and competencies and consider how these vary in different working environments. In order to do this six semi-structured exploratory interviews were carried out over a two month period (February to April) in 2006 on a one to one basis with individuals in a spread of occupations and interests. While the study was small and of an exploratory nature it has highlighted an indication that although the term information literacy is not recognised within the workplace, the associated skills and competencies are recognised by individuals as important in the workplace and that employers implicitly expect people to have these skills and competencies particularly for professional roles. Using the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professional) definition the individuals in the study felt that they have these skills and competencies although there was an indication that for some their evaluation skills particularly of Internet resources could be improved upon. As the Internet is one of the main information resources organisations provide for their employees this suggests an area that workplaces need to tackle with learning geared towards the skills and competencies individuals need to evaluate Internet resources rather than rely on attendance at an Internet Explorer course. Given that the Internet was in many cases the most used information resource, it was not surprising to learn that this is the way most organisations use to satisfy their information needs. However the research identified that employers are at risk of an April 2007 2
  4. 4. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project over reliance on technology‘s capacity to hold ever increasing amounts of information especially the organisation‘s Intranet and the world wide web and underestimating their employees‘ skills in managing, accessing and evaluating the information they find without suffering from information overload or only utilising the sources of information they are familiar with or find easy to use. Further research is required to look at linking information literacy to a key business competency or problem such as information overload and then linking it to either existing or newly created information literacy workplace learning programmes. The research also suggests that a person‘s profession plays a key role of their view of and relationship with information and subsequently the level of information literacy skills and competencies required. This is demonstrated by the quantity surveyor who saw the skills and competencies of information literacy as ―essential tools‖ for his job and expressed the view that ―an employee with higher information literacy skills is more useful to an employer than one who hasn‘t‖. As quantity surveyors are involved in costing information this may provide an opportunity for further research exploring the costs to businesses if employees lack information literacy skills. April 2007 3
  5. 5. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Contents Table Acknowledgements ..................................................................1 Abstract ......................................................................................2 Chapter 1 Introduction ............................................................7 1.1 Background to the research project ........................... 7 1.2 Research Aims and Objectives .................................. 9 1.3 Report Structure ....................................................... 10 Chapter 2 Literature Review ................................................11 2.1 Introduction .............................................................. 11 2.2 Lifelong learning ....................................................... 11 2.2.1 Employability in today‘s global economy .................. 13 2.3 Learning Organisations ............................................ 13 2.4 Learning Theories and Styles ................................... 18 2.4.1 Learning Theories .................................................... 18 2.4.2 Learning Styles ........................................................ 22 2.5 Information skills and Information literacy ................ 25 2.5.1 Information Skills ...................................................... 25 2.5.2 Information literacy ................................................... 26 2.5.3 Information literacy definitions .................................. 27 2.5.4 Information literacy in the workplace ........................ 30 2.5.5 Information literacy and the lifelong learning agenda ... …………………………………………………………………...35 2.6 Knowledge Management.......................................... 37 April 2007 4
  6. 6. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Chapter 3 Methodology.........................................................39 3.1 Research methodologies.......................................... 39 3.2 Research .................................................................. 40 3.3 Rationale for the chosen method ............................. 41 3.3.1 Interviews ................................................................. 41 3.3.2 Semi structured Interviews ....................................... 41 3.3.3 Exploratory Interviews .............................................. 42 3.4 Interview questions .................................................. 42 3.4.1 Rationale for interview questions ............................. 43 3.5 Piloting of questions ................................................. 46 3.6 Selection of sample .................................................. 46 3.7 Limitations ................................................................ 47 3.8 Analysing the results ................................................ 49 Chapter 4 Analysis of Data Findings..................................49 4.1 The skills employers are looking for .............................. 50 4.2 Learning in the workplace ........................................ 50 4.3 Information skills ...................................................... 52 4.4 Information Literacy .................................................. 54 4.5 Knowledge Management.......................................... 56 4.5.1 How their organisation satisfies their information needs ……………………………………………………………………56 4.6 Research Limitations ................................................ 57 Chapter 5 Discussion of Results ........................................58 5.1 The skills employers are looking for ......................... 59 5.2 Learning in the workplace ........................................ 59 5.3 Information skills / Information Literacy .................... 62 April 2007 5
  7. 7. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 5.4 Knowledge Management.......................................... 64 5.4.1 How their organisation satisfies their information needs ………. ..................................................................... 65 Chapter 6 Conclusions.........................................................67 A better understanding of the role of information literacy in the workplace and the attitudes of employers to information literacy .............................................................. 68 Levels of information literacy skills and competencies, how this varies in different working environments and does information literacy have a direct value to employers and employees which can be calculated? .................................. 69 How skills imparted in education extend to the workplace .. 70 Information literacy research in relation to the workplace and lifelong learning ............................................................ 71 Further Research ................................................................ 71 The relevance of the findings to the student‘s own professional context ............................................................ 72 References ...............................................................................74 Appendix A: Information literacy: the skills........................81 Appendix B: Semi structured interview questions ............85 April 2007 6
  8. 8. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Chapter 1 Introduction 1.1 Background to the research project The Department of Learner Support at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has a substantial background in survey, research and evaluation work (Crawford, 2004). More recently this work has focused on the information literacy agenda as a result of the evaluation of the usage of electronic information services by staff and students at GCU (Crawford, 2003; Crawford, 2004) and as a result of the Drumchapel Project (McLelland & Crawford, 2004). The original aim of the Drumchapel Project was to evaluate the ICT (information communication and technology) skills of pupils there but the outcomes suggested the need for a strong focus on information literacy skills training among secondary school pupils. In other words their ability to: know when and why they need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. This definition by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Information Literacy Group implies several skills (or competencies) are required if an individual is to be information literate. They are an understanding of: a need for information the resources available how to find information the need to evaluate results how to work with or exploit results ethics and responsibility of use how to communicate or share your findings how to manage your findings. CILIP (2006) April 2007 7
  9. 9. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project The main finding common to all three studies was the strong emergence of an information literacy agenda and the need to develop strategies to manage and develop it. However what was equally clear was the need for a holistic vision. Much of the work being done in the HE (higher education) sector is focused exclusively on the undergraduate but it is clear that what is needed is a strategy which links the secondary and the tertiary sectors and recognises the lifetime of work to come, an information literacy lifelong learning agenda in other words. This intimate link between information literacy and lifelong learning is recognised in the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations), 2003 statement, ‘Information Literacy for lifelong learning. The result of all this research has been to focus attention on an information literacy strategy which links secondary and tertiary education and encourages the secondary and tertiary sectors to work together. The Information literacy skills – the link between secondary and tertiary education project is an innovative national pilot to develop an information literacy framework with secondary and tertiary partners which, at the end of the project, can be rolled out to other participants. It will aim to produce secondary school leavers with a skill set which further and higher education can recognise and develop or which can be applied to the world of work directly (Glasgow Caledonian University, 2005). As a result of the current Information literacy skills – the link between secondary and tertiary education project, a new strand has emerged the need to recognise the lifelong learning agenda. It is necessary to look beyond education and research how the information literacy agenda is carried over into the world of work (Irving & Crawford, 2006, p.39). April 2007 8
  10. 10. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project This new strand ties in with similar research questions identified by Crawford (2006, p43) We need to know more about how the skills we impart extend to the workplace and how these skills may be refined to benefit the future employee. We need to know more about the workplace and attitudes of employers. Some employers are clearly more sympathetic to the information literacy agenda than others. What factors predispose them one way or another? Does information literacy have a direct value to employers and employees which can be calculated? The result of these research questions has prompted the basis of this research project. 1.2 Research Aims and Objectives Whilst it is not feasible for this small based exploratory study to answer all of the above questions hopefully it will provide some answers plus contribute and facilitate further research in this area. The aim of this research is to look at the role of information literacy in addressing a specific strand of lifelong learning: the work agenda. Specific objectives to gain a better understanding of: o the role of information literacy in the workplace and o the attitudes of employers to information literacy to gauge levels of information literacy skills and competencies and consider how this varies in different working environments. Outcomes: contribution towards information literacy research in relation to the workplace and lifelong learning contribution towards how the skills imparted in education extend to the workplace April 2007 9
  11. 11. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project contribution towards the question of ‗Does information literacy have a direct value to employers and employees which can be calculated? 1.3 Report Structure The report is composed of six sections. 1. An introduction looking at the background to the study and specifying the research project and its objectives. 2. A critical evaluation of the relevant theoretical debates, literature and research which locates the research in the wider literature context of current academic and professional discourse. 3. The methodology chosen for the research and a rationale for the method chosen including any potential limitations plus how the questions were developed and the sample selected. 4. Analysis of the data findings, 5. Discussion of the results and how they relate to the wider issues discussed in the literature review. 6. Conclusions which will look at how far the objectives were met, what new insights are offered, how these relate to prior work and what the implications are for the overall success of the research or project and for further research. April 2007 10
  12. 12. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Chapter 2 Literature Review 2.1 Introduction The literature review is composed of the following five sections: 1. lifelong learning specifically skills and employability 2. the learning organisation 3. learning theories and styles 4. information skills and information literacy including the role information literacy plays in the workplace and the lifelong learning agenda 5. knowledge management. 2.2 Lifelong learning Whilst lifelong learning would suggest cradle to the grave for all learning whether formal, informal or non formal, the term is commonly used in relation to learning that takes place in post sixteen education and adult education (Brookes, 2006) particularly in relation to employability skills undertaken on a formal basis within educational institutions and learning centres. An emerging strand of lifelong learning is the learning that takes place in the workplace. As Watts (2000 cited in Onnismaa) states Workplaces are engines of learning as well as of production, and more and more jobs require ―multiskilling‖. Learning no longer precedes work rather learning is interwoven with work, on a lifelong basis (p.34 -35). The recognition of learning often informal or non-formal and non credited learning that is taking place in the workplace may be the result of several factors including the need to keep employment skills current and recognisable whether due to CPD (continuing professional development), annual appraisals or simply to keep employed. April 2007 11
  13. 13. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project It is understandable therefore that the focus of lifelong learning is seen in regard to employment as learning and education has traditionally been in preparation for the world of work. Brookes (2006, p.39) however points out that ‗as the 21st century continues education should become a process through which people acquire the capacity to meet the challenges of living and working in an increasingly diverse world.‘ In other words we need to learn how to learn and be equipped with generic skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and evaluation so that we can deal with any new situation that arises. Harrison et al. (2002, p.1) makes the same point encompassing the cradle to the grave concept Learning as a preparation for life has been displaced by learning as an essential strategy for successful negotiation of the life course, as conditions in which we live and work are subject to ever more rapid change. In contemporary conditions learning becomes not only ‗lifelong‘, suggesting learning as relevant throughout the life course, but also ‗life-wide‘, suggesting learning as an essential aspect of our whole life experience, not just that which we think of as ‘education‘. This life-wide aspect can be found reflected in the Scottish Executive‘s (2003, p.7) definition that lifelong learning is about ‗personal fulfilment and enterprise; employability and adaptability; active citizenship and social inclusion‘. It also sees lifelong learning as encompassing ‗the whole range of learning: formal and informal learning, workplace learning, and the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that people acquire in day-to-day experiences.‘ Although lifelong learning is not a ‗wonder drug or magic bullet that, on its own, will solve a wide range of educational, social and political ills‘ (Coffield, 2002, p174). We do live and work in a world that is ‗subject to ever more rapid change‘ which requires us to continually learn to ‗obtain and keep employment‘ (Harrison et. al, 2002, p1). April 2007 12
  14. 14. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2.2.1 Employability in today‟s global economy Within the UK there is a consensus of opinion linking lifelong learning to employability and the need for individuals to educate / equip themselves with the skills that employers are seeking from a 21st century workforce to survive and succeed in today‘s economy due to globalisation and technology. Coffield (2002) warns that the elements within this consensus are problematic and ‗offers comforting illusion that for every complex problem there is one simple solution‘ (p183). This is reflected in a recent British government report by the Department for Education and Skills (2005) that highlighted the importance of skills both for the individual and businesses: Skills are fundamental to achieving our ambitions, as individuals, for our families and for our communities. They help businesses create wealth and they help people realise their potential. So they serve the twin goals of social justice and economic success. (p. 1) As many of these skills are technology led and technology is growing exponentially, it is not surprising that learning has become life long as no business or individual can afford to stand still for if they do they find themselves no longer able to provide the services or products required and are subsequently left behind. Within the workplace the organisation has a role to play in their employees learning where employees do not have the required skills. The organisation‘s actions in relation to any learning required determine whether they are a ‗learning organisation‘. 2.3 Learning Organisations Senge (1990 cited in Keep and Rainbird 2002 p.65) defined a learning organisation as where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set April 2007 13
  15. 15. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project free, and where people are continually learning to learn together. Although Keep and Rainbird (2002, p.65) see the concept offered as an idealised model that is at ‗odds with the product market strategies of many organizations and weak in its conceptualisation of power relations in the workplace‘. They do however feel it provides a broad strategic framework for skills, training and development policies to be located enabling learning to become ‗the chief organizational principle around which business strategy and competitive advantage can be developed‘. For businesses to be highly competitive and have economic success in today‘s global market requires employees with the right skills at the right time to deliver the right product or service. Training employees to have the right skills takes time and money and employers generally look for a return on any investment they make in their employee/s. Given that businesses are there to make money it is not surprising that some employers take the above human capital point of view and assume economic rationality (Schuller and Field, 2002) with regard to their employees‘ skills. Businesses therefore tend to prefer to employ employees with the right skills rather than outlay the training costs themselves and face the possibility of another employer benefiting from their outlay. Although the more enlightened employer recognises that they will benefit from an increase in the skills level of their employees the power over what training, if any, is offered to the employee or learning achieved in the workplace lies with the employer and managers. As Hager (2004, p.23) points out ‗there is no doubt that many contemporary work arrangements discourage learning, let alone lifelong learning‘. April 2007 14
  16. 16. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project There is as Bierema and Eraut (2004) highlight a ‗prevailing assumption‘ that ‗learning and work are separate activities‘ and whilst ‗this may be sometimes true … very often learning and working occur at the same time and sometimes, as in problem solving, they are identical‘(p.5). Within the workplace learning agenda, a new player has emerged - trade unions and their partners are now encouraged to ‗assist learning in its widest sense‘ (STUC 2002 cited in Glasgow Caledonian University. Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning 2005b, p.7). The Trade Union movement Union Learning Representatives are ‗responsible for promoting learning and offering advice and guidance to fellow workers‘ (ibid). At Glasgow Caledonian University this has resulted in cleaning staff having the opportunity to undertake ICT (information communication and technology) skills training at a time that suits them early in the morning. Eraut et al. (2002, p.107) identifies that the learning within an organisation was either ‗facilitated by or constrained by (a) the organisation and allocation of work and (b) the social climate of the work environment‘. In addition a major factor affecting a person‘s learning at work is the personality, interpersonal skills, knowledge and learning orientation of their manager. While approaches to management development normally emphasise motivation, productivity and appraisal, comparatively little attention is given to supporting the learning of subordinates, allocating and organising work, and creating a climate that promotes informal learning. Felstead et al. (2005) also supports this position and reported evidence of the importance of line management support for learning in the data they collected. April 2007 15
  17. 17. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project According to Keep and Rainbird (2002, p.66) the learning that takes place within a learning organisation can be identified in three different states: 1. Individuals within an organization learning things 2. organizational learning – where the organization as an entity starts to develop ways in which it can learn lessons collectively 3. the learning organization – where the central organizational goal is systematic learning. The factors discussed above all add to the complexities of learning in the workplace and in turn lifelong learning. However how a person learns also needs to be taken into consideration. The other consideration as Gerber (1998) states is that ‗the importance of understanding how people learn in their work is a recent phenomenon in professional and workplace learning‘ and proposes that ‗workers may use more than one way of learning in their work depending on the circumstances of their learning experience‘ (p.171). He reports eleven different ways, which are: 1. by making mistakes and learning not to repeat the mistake 2. through self-education on and off the job 3. through practising one‘s personal values 4. by applying theory and practising skills 5. through solving problems 6. through interacting with others 7. through open lateral planning 8. by being an advocate for colleagues 9. through offering leadership to others 10. through formal training; and 11. through practising quality assurance. By ‗understanding how the workers in their context learn …managers may be able to develop programmes that are relevant to the April 2007 16
  18. 18. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project workplace, policy requirements and to the workers‘ learning style‘ (Gerber, 1998, p.175). More recently data collected by Felstead et al. (2005) on how ‗individual employees rated various activities in terms of their helpfulness in enhancing work capabilities‘ (p368) showed that: Over half (51.8%) reported that simply doing the job had helped them learn most about how to improve. 32.9% reporting it was quite a lot of help. Almost nine out of ten respondents said that their job required them to learn new things and pass on tips to colleagues, and a similar proportion agreed that they had picked up most of their skills through on-the-job experience. Not all work activities proved to be as helpful. The use of the Internet, for example, to download materials, participate in e- learning and seek out information was regarded as being of no help at all to almost half the sample (49.7%). Activities more closely associated with the workplace—such as doing the job, being shown things, engaging in self-reflection and keeping one‘s eyes and ears open, i.e. facets associated with learning as participation—were reckoned to provide more helpful insights into how to do the job better. All of these factors were rated as more helpful sources of learning than attending training courses or acquiring qualifications. (ibid). A quarter (25.3%) reported that reading books, manuals and work-related magazines helped quite a lot. Using skills and abilities acquired outside of work was reported by 19% as a great deal of help and quite a lot of help by 29.4%. These findings have implications for learning in the workplace, lifelong learning and information literacy programmes. April 2007 17
  19. 19. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2.4 Learning Theories and Styles The area of learning, learning theories and styles is complex and highly contested. Hall & Mosely (2005) state that While the skills and understandings underpinning lifelong learning are widely assumed by policy-makers and practitioners to be well delineated, generic and transferable, our review of the field of learning styles [carried out by Coffield et al] indicated that there is still a great deal of difference between theorists about the component elements of learning and learning styles (p248). 2.4.1 Learning Theories Although there are different learning theories, most of them rely on stimulus but also calling for engagement in learning through either new knowledge or with the learner‘s own environment (Rogers, 2002). Among the theories that have been influential over the last half century are: learning as behaviour learning as understanding learning as knowledge construction learning as emancipation learning as social practice Of interest to this research are learning as understanding, learning as knowledge construction, learning as social practice. Whilst learning as understanding is linked to ‗processing information and internalising it as knowledge‘ there is the risk that ‗learners will leave with the experience of ‗knowing that‘ but not ‗knowing how‘. Learning through constructing one‘s own knowledge enhances the ‗personal experiences and understanding‘ could therefore lead to achieving both the ‗knowing that‘ and ‗knowing how‘ (Glasgow Caledonian University. Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning, April 2007 18
  20. 20. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2005a, p.2). This resonates with some of the discussions surrounding generic and transferable skills and learning to learn, the later a term which as Hall and Moseley (2005, p253 citing Pumphrey and Slater, 2002) identify is increasingly promoted as an alternative to specific skills -based initiatives, in particular in terms of satisfying employers‘ demands for workers with generic and transferable skills: organization, interpersonal skills, flexibility and self-motivation. Learning as a social practice rather than an individual activity is a view held by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. Wenger (2002) points out that Since the beginning of history, human beings have formed communities that share cultural practices reflecting their collective learning; from a tribe around a cave fire, to a medieval guild, to a group of nurses in a ward, to a street gang, to a community of engineers interested in brake design. Participating in these ‗communities of practice‘ is essential to our learning. It is at the core of what makes us human beings capable of meaningful knowing (p163). According to Wenger (1998, cited in Wenger 2002, p163 - 164) there are three elements that define a community of practice: 1. members are bound together by their collectively developed understanding of what their community is about and they hold each other accountable to this sense of joint enterprise 2. members build their community through mutual engagement. They interact with one another, establishing norms and relationships of mutuality that reflect these interactions. To be competent is to be able to engage with the community and be trusted as a partner in these interactions. April 2007 19
  21. 21. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 3. communities of practice have produced a shared repertoire of communal resources … to be competent is to have access to this repertoire and be able to use it appropriately. Within recent years there has been an increase in the use of the term with the creation of professional online discussion lists and subject networks being called ‗communities of practice‘. An example of this is the Scottish Further Education Unit‘s Communities of Practice (SFEU, 2007) who describe a Community of Practice as: a group of people who share the same profession, situation or vocation. These communities facilitate professional exchange, allowing members to establish a bond of common experience or challenges (SFEU, 2007a). Whilst the above community of practice could be said to have the three elements that Wenger uses to define a community of practice (see above) they do not generally have a shared task which is the basis of Lave and Wenger conception of a community of practice. In addition to community of practices working on a joint enterprise, colleagues learn from each other (Eraut, 2004, Harrison et. al, 2002 also identified that we learn from friends, parents and children) and use each other as an informal source of information, knowledge and support (this view of people as an information resource ties in with information literacy beliefs and practices). It also reflects the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) communities which are described as ‗an evolving space for members to share and learn from each other‘ (CILIP Communities, 2006a). April 2007 20
  22. 22. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project From the findings of a study of the mid-career learning of professionals, technicians and managers in health, engineering and business sectors Eraut (2004, p2) identified that the most common form of learning from other people takes the form of consultation and collaboration within the immediate working group: this may include teamwork, ongoing mutual consultation and support or observations of others in action. Beyond the immediate work environment, people sought information and advice from other people in their organisation, from customers or suppliers or from wider professional networks. This was often done on a reciprocal basis. He describes this type of network in relation to learning as building networks of contacts for: finding out how to get things done getting advice on the culture and micro-politics of the department … (p21). Learning from experience was also highlighted as a principle finding of the above study as most of the learning was non-formal, neither clearly specified nor planned. It arose naturally out of the demands and challenges of work-solving problems, improving quality and/or productivity, or coping with challenge – and out of social interactions in the workplace with colleagues, customers or clients. Much learning at work derives its purpose and direction from the goals of the work, which are normally achieved by a combination of thinking, trying things out and talking to other people (p1). This reflects the work of Gerber (1998) discussed earlier. April 2007 21
  23. 23. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2.4.2 Learning Styles The way in which we learn or prefer to learn can be linked to a particular learning style. For some this is by experiencing information through sight, hearing, feeling or touch whilst for others the experience is more abstract in that they have to have a visual or mental picture. This is then followed up by either doing something with the information or by thinking about it. Kolb identified these learning activities as perception and processing and produced a learning cycle incorporating the four activities referred to above. April 2007 22
  24. 24. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Honey and Mumford (1992) subsequently adapted Kolb‘s original cycle: They identified that in relation to the different stages of the cycle people learn / prefer to learn in four different ways: activists who tend to ask ‗how‘ reflectors who tend to ask ‗why‘ theorists who tend to ask ‗what‘ and pragmatists who tend to ask ‗what if‘ (Glasgow Caledonian University. Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning, 2005a). Whilst Kolb focuses on ‗the process of experience and variety in learning‘ Honey and Mumford, ‗emphasize the diagnostic elements of the learning cycle in terms of finding and building upon strengths‘ (Hall & Mosely, 2005, p248). Coffield et al (2004) however raises questions about learning styles (71 learning style models published between 1902 and 2002 were identified) analysing some of the major models in depth (including Honey and Mumford‘s labels for learners as activities, reflectors, April 2007 23
  25. 25. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project theorists and pragmatists) and assessing their reliability and validity. The outcome was to show that there are a multitude of things that impact on someone‘s learning and it is unwise to rely on just one particular theory or style as important aspects necessary for effective learning may be missed. Hall and Moseley (2005, p254) report that they ‗hope that having a single learning style will cease to be the fashion, given the limits that this can place on the learner‘s ambitions and other‘s expectations of them‘. In practice learners use a range of learning styles to suit their preferences, experiences and situation and some may use them all at some time or other‘ (Rogers, 2002). In his investigations Gerber (1998) emphasises the point that ‗people in workplaces should value all of these ways of learning and not prize one or two‘ (p.171). He identified eleven ways of learning in the workplace (they are listed at the end of the learning organisation section). Whilst this research project does not explore the interviewees‘ learning styles this section of the literature review does provide useful background information into the discussion of the relevant theoretical debates, literature and research in this area which will inform the research in this small based exploratory study to be undertaken. However as Hall and Moseley (2005, p254) suggest ‗the outcome of engaging with style should be strategy‘ and for any future potential research / development work in developing information literacy learning strategies within the workplace a more comprehensive literature review would be required to unravel the complexities of learning strategies including learning and motivation (Bostrom & Lassen, 2006). April 2007 24
  26. 26. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2.5 Information skills and Information literacy Information literacy has been known by many different names: library orientation; bibliographic instruction; user education; information skills training. Each has built on the other. Information skills training and finally information literacy concentrates on cognitive and transferable skills, such as problem solving, evaluation and communication skills. CSG Information Literacy Group (2006) Although the term information literacy has evolved from information skills training as outlined above. The term information skills is still in common usage as some library and information professionals believe it is a more user friendly term. 2.5.1 Information Skills Sutton (1998) describes information skills as: skills that will help you search, find, evaluate and present information. In short, they will allow to you to use information … [and] may be explained by the following diagram: The diagram is particularly useful as it demonstrates the information process as cyclical and iterative rather than linear, which the written definition on its own may imply. JISC (Joint Information System Committee) also emphasis this cyclical and iterative process in their i-skills model for students and staff. This model is looked at later within the section on definitions. April 2007 25
  27. 27. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2.5.2 Information literacy The literature identifies that the development and need for information literacy was brought about by the changing world in particular that brought about by technology. As Andretta (2005) states: rapid technological changes together with the proliferation of information sources that have initiated the shift from library instruction to information literacy p10). the literature clearly illustrates, information literacy has developed to address the requirements generated by phenomena such as information overload caused by the rapid developments in digital technologies, by the needs of the information society for competent information consumers, and to meet the requirements of the knowledge economy for a responsive workforce (p2). Within her book Information Literacy: A Practitioner’s Guide (Andretta, 2005) she covers ‗environmental factors in the shift to information literacy‘ (p10) and highlights the following: The ALA‘s (American Library Association) progress report in 1989: To respond effectively to an ever-changing environment, people need more than just a knowledge base, they also need techniques for exploring it, connecting to other knowledge bases, and making practical use of it. In other words the landscape upon which we used to stand has been transformed, and we are being forced to establish a new foundation called information literacy. (Owusu-Ansah, 2004: 4) The ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) Information Literacy Competency Standards for HE (ACRL, 2000): Because of escalating complexity of this [digital] environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices – in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives … increasingly information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity and reliability. In addition, information is available through multiple media, including graphical, aural, and textual, and these pose new challenges for individuals in evaluating and understanding it. (Lichtenstein, 2000:25) April 2007 26
  28. 28. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 2.5.3 Information literacy definitions Although as Webb and Powis (2004) state ‗the meaning of information literacy itself can be rather difficult to pin down‘ there are many definitions of information literacy to be found within the literature, most of them originating within the field of education. They all however have some common features. For the purpose of this research definitions that are not exclusively focused on student education are given below. The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) ‗Information Literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.‘ ACRL (2006) On their website they refer to the ‗explosion of information output and information sources‘ and that It has become increasingly clear that students cannot learn everything they need to know in their field of study in a few years of college. Information literacy equips them with the critical skills necessary to become independent lifelong learners. They also highlight that information literacy: is not just for college students but all of us, as professionals, in the workplace and in our personal lives. Being information literate ultimately improves our quality of life as we make informed decisions when buying a house, choosing a school, hiring staff, making an investment, voting for our representatives, and so much more. ACRL (2006) The Joint Information Services Committee (JISC) JISC uses the term i-skills to describe information literacy and IT skills, which they define as: the ability to identify, assess, retrieve, evaluate, adapt, organise and communicate information within an iterative context of review and reflection April 2007 27
  29. 29. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project This ‗iterative context‘ is demonstrated in their i-skills cycle diagram. (JISC 2005) The JISC i-skills formula was designed as a tool for staff development, although it followed from The Big Blue project (Manchester Metropolitan University Library & Leeds University Library, 2002) which had examined the development of student information skills. ‗It became apparent that there was an equally strong argument to investigate the development of staff use of i-skills within the workplace‘ (JISC 2005). The term i-skills is used to encompass terms such as information skills, e-literacy, information literacy, knowledge management and research skills. They highlight that: Working in a rapidly growing and complex digital environment has increased our dependency on information. But there is increasing evidence that our information skills are not keeping pace in any systematic fashion. We all need help to develop the techniques we use, often unconsciously, to handle information in our daily lives – our i-skills. i-Skills are needed at every stage of the information cycle and you may have a varying level of involvement at different stages, depending on your role. In some areas you may be required to have an expert level of i-skills. In others you will only need a working knowledge and may depend on other colleagues for specialist help. (JISC 2005) April 2007 28
  30. 30. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) CILIP define Information literacy as: knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. This definition implies several skills. We believe that the skills (or competencies) that are required to be information literate require an understanding of: a need for information the resources available how to find information the need to evaluate results how to work with or exploit results ethics and responsibility of use how to communicate or share your findings how to manage your findings. CILIP (2004) See Appendix A for a more detailed explanation of the above skills. The definition that this research uses in their discussions with the interviewees is the above CILIP definition as it has been used for other research undertaken by the author with HE students and sixth year pupils (Irving, 2006) and enables comparisons to be made. In addition the author is a member of this profession and this particular research undertaken within the workplace was seen as an ideal opportunity to test the definition and CIILP‘s claim that: We have tried to encapsulate the important elements simply, and in plain English, so that the definition can serve as a base- line interpretation of information literacy for all communities in the UK. The skills serve to explain in greater detail what it means to be information literate. Finally, we acknowledge that IL [information literacy] will mean slightly different things to different communities; it may also require a greater degree of skill or understanding by some communities than others. IL is relevant (and an important skill to be learned and used) in primary and secondary schools, in April 2007 29
  31. 31. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project further and higher education, in business, and in leisure. CILIP (2006) 2.5.4 Information literacy in the workplace Although this is a little studied area compared to information literacy within education (Crawford 2006; Cheuk 2000) particularly in relation to higher education students, the literature review revealed a number of research projects undertaken. Reasons for the lack of activity or awareness of information literacy in the workplace is highlighted by Bruce (1999) who identified that in the workplace, employers and managers have perhaps attended more to the need of computer and information technology skills. As information technology becomes more seamless and user-friendly, it is likely that attention will shift more clearly to questions of how people are actually interacting with, and using, the information which technology makes available. .. . the perennial need to make decisions, problem- solve and research, also suggests the need for employees to be able to deal with information per se as being of primary importance. (p33) Whilst it is generally individuals that are referred to in relation to being or becoming information literate, Drucker (1992 cited in Bruce, 1999) discusses the ‗need for organisations to become information literate‘ and suggests that they ‗need to learn to ask questions such as: What information do we need in this company? When do we need it? In what form? How do we get it?‘ (p34). The question of why information literacy is not given the same priority as ‗information technology and computer literacy‘ is also raised. Bruce goes on to answer this question and cites the term itself as not clearly ‗communicating its meaning‘ and of its association with education and libraries and confusion with computer and information technology. However despite these limitations she cities Much who asserted the potential importance of information literacy to business and ‗how the concept might be employed within the business field. Much suggests that an emphasis on knowledge, and the making of meaning, should April 2007 30
  32. 32. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project be employed to strengthen the value of the concept, particularly in relation to the notion of the ‗learning organisations.‘ (Bruce, ibid) Bruce had previously identified Seven faces of information literacy in the workplace through her research of four types of professionals, mainly from Australian Universities. 1. information literacy is experienced as using information technology for information awareness and communication 2. information literacy is experienced as finding information from appropriate sources 3. information literacy is experienced as executing a process 4. information literacy is experienced as controlling information 5. information literacy is experienced as building up a personal knowledge base in a new area of interest 6. information literacy is experienced as working with knowledge and personal perspectives adopted in such a way that novel insights are gained 7. information literacy is experienced as using information wisely for the benefit of others. ‗More than sixty individuals contributed to her study; sixteen through semi-structured interviews and the rest by supplying written data‘. They all fell into the category of ‗knowledge workers‘ and the different experience of information literacy encountered … reveal[ed] a distinctive picture of the phenomenon that is characterised by: Varying emphases on technology Emphasis on the capacity to engage in broad professional responsibilities, rather than specific skills; Social collaboration or interdependence between colleagues, rather than an emphasis on individual capacity; Need for the partnership of information intermediaries; Emphasis on intellectual manipulation of information rather than technical skills with IT. (Bruce, 1999, p35) As a result of the above research Bruce determined that ‗The relationship between workplace processes and the seven faces also firmly establish information literacy as an important part of the character of ‗learning organisations‘, as well as of ‗life-long learners‘. April 2007 31
  33. 33. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project This link‘ she believed was ‗supported by the descriptions of information literacy which reveal the importance attributed to the phenomenon, by participants, for maintaining currency, networking, problem-solving and maintaining a client orientation.‘ (Bruce, 1999, p43) Although Abell & Skelton (2005) report that ‗in the workplace, it is hard to gain acceptance of information literacy now as it once was of knowledge management‘ they believe that ‗the answer appears to be to link IL [information literacy] to a key business competency or a key business problem‘ (p44). They feel this is not difficult to do and that ‗this direct link provides the opportunity to demonstrate real benefits to individuals and the organisation‘ (p45). They state that: Organisations need people who can both collect and connect – information literate people operating in a knowledge management environment. and Business leaders who have recognised the value of KM [knowledge management] should not have a difficulty in ‗joining the dots‘ with IL. The demands of the modern organisation call for a workforce where IL is fostered, encouraged and recognised. In an age of information overload, IL skills are as essential as basic literacy and numeracy. Earlier research by Cheuk (2002) conducted across the commercial sector agreed with the above findings and in addition identified the impact that poor skills can have on workplace effectiveness: There is a continuous cycle in the creation and use of information in the work settings. Employees create information and share it with other colleagues. Employees access information to add value to their own work. Yet, in the process of going through this cycle, we see a lot of inefficiencies, partly due to employees‘ lack of information literacy skills (p5). This lack of information literacy skills are illustrated by nine real-life examples tied into the following inabilities: April 2007 32
  34. 34. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project 1. unable to determine the nature and extent of the information needed 2. unable to retrieve information effectively from information systems 3. not aware of the full range of resources available instead tending to use the resources they are familiar with even though they are not the best choice for their research purposes 4. unable to evaluate and filter information 5. information and electronic mailbox overload 6. unable to exploit technology to manage information 7. unable to relate information creation and use to a broader context 8. unethical use of information 9. unable to evaluate the costs and benefits of information management (p.3-5) Cheuk (ibid) believes that these examples ‗also tell us that people are drowning in a sea of information, they are not sure how to tackle these problems‘ and that ‗many members of the existing workforce have not fully equipped themselves with the necessary information literacy skills, and they have limited opportunities to be trained in this area‘. This lack of recognition according to Mackenzie and Makin (2003) is possibly informed by misplaced confidence in the notion that technology now makes the need for information skills training redundant. The results of the project demonstrate otherwise. The need for training is all the more imperative today, if staff are to equipped with the appropriate skills to use information effectively and apply those skills within an increasingly diverse environment (p.129). However before we try to develop or enhance these skills it is ‗important to know how individuals learn throughout their working life, how they … [participate] in learning through work and on what basis … [this is] exercised‘ (Billett & Pavlova 2005, p196). Mackenzie and Makin (2003) in their study within further and higher education institutions found that ‗staff use very few of the ranges of resources available to them, relying instead upon those that they are most familiar with, or comfortable using, irrespective of their fitness for April 2007 33
  35. 35. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project purpose‘ (p.129). Robinson and Lawson (2005) show further insight into individuals thinking following an evaluation of an information skills training programme in the health sector: 7% of course participants also stated that they had not used their information skills because they were not currently needed. There seems to be a strong impression that these skills [information skills] are to be used for research purposes rather than for everyday use and this idea can be hard to overcome (p.64). On the positive side Crawford (2006) in his study of alumni students identified that ‗The relationship of work activity to information literacy was found to be central‘ they ‗saw it as a tool to support their work, something which gave them a chance to exercise initiative and even have an advantage over their colleagues. It is also a promotion skill. Some even said that they could not do their work without it whilst others saw it as a shared skill / learning experience with colleagues‘ p.42-43). As Cheuk (2002) states It is important to be information literate in the work settings because the workplace of the present and future demands a new kind of worker, who have to access, manage and use the vast amount of information delivered to them through multiple channels (e.g. phone, Internet, e-mail, printed documents, Web-casts) and in a wide variety of formats (e.g. video, printed, electronic text) (p2). However although Cheuk identifies best practices that have been adopted to promote information in the workplace she also states that these are ‗not widely adopted in business organizations. Most companies are still in the infancy stage of promoting information literacy‘ (p9) and that ‘more applied research should be conducted in the workplace settings to qualitatively and quantitatively demonstrate the costs to business if the employees lack information literacy skills‘ (p10). April 2007 34
  36. 36. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project Although Bruce and Cheuk are writing in respect of Australia and the USA the research is equally valid for the UK in today‘s global economy. 2.5.5 Information literacy and the lifelong learning agenda In today‘s global economy the industrial society has been replaced by the information society and as the Prague Declaration: towards an information literate society states Information Literacy encompasses knowledge of one‘s information concerns and needs, and the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organize and effectively create, use and communicate information to address issues or problems at hand; it is a prerequisite for participating effectively in the Information Society, and is part of the basic human right of life long learning. (Brevik, 2003) Although this has been declared a basic right the assumption made is that information literacy is either taught in schools or learnt through osmosis. The reality is that any learning that has taken place has been implicit rather than explicit and either patchy or non existent resulting in poor or inadequate level of information literacy skills (McLelland & Crawford, 2004; Irving & Crawford, 2006; Andretta, 2005). The life-wide importance of information literacy is clearly highlighted by Lupton (2004 cited in Lloyd, 2005, p.83) Information literacy is not just about finding and presenting information it is about higher order analysis, synthesis, critical thinking and problem solving. It involves seeking and using information for independent learning, lifelong learning, participative citizenship and social responsibility. Lloyd (2005, p.85) argues that information literacy should be ‗considered as a critical element of learning‘ as it can be ‗seen as a transformative agent, which, in the workplace, enables transformation from novice to expert and from individual worker to team member‘ and that: April 2007 35
  37. 37. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project developing information literacy is viewed as contributing to social capital by investing in the development of human capital through ‗enlarging an individual‘s skills or knowledge base‘ (Karner, 2000: 2637) through access to a special kind of resource, i.e. information. (p.86) Although the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC, 2000) reported that many UK employers consider information literacy as a key core skill for their staff within the UK‘s knowledge based economy this viewpoint is not supported by the recent British government report (Great Britain. Department for Education and Skills, 2005), Skills: Getting on in business, getting on at work. Whilst this report specifically mentions ICT skills there is no direct mention of information literacy skills. However a recent interim report by HM Inspectors of Education (HMIe) in Scotland on the Integration of Information and Communication Technology specifically mentions information literacy and its importance and points out this lack of application. The report identifies that ‗Few schools had systematic approaches to developing information literacy to ensure that all pupils acquired this set of skills progressively as part of their passport of core and life skills‘. The report‘s conclusions, relating to curricular planning, states that: Schools should ensure that: pupils ultimately achieve a cohesive ICT skills set, to prepare them for the world of tertiary education or work including information literacy skills. (HM Inspectors of Education, 2005, 4.14) Further insight into the situation within schools is provided by a recent study (Williams, 2006) which reports that ‗teachers understood information literacy to be important for lifelong learning but do not feel able to effectively support the development of information literacy within their current curriculum environment‘ (p.i). They also recognised the complexity of the subject and several [of the participants in the study] suggested that implementation of information literacy skills development would require additional April 2007 36
  38. 38. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project professional training both in schools and at pre-service levels (p.38) The input from the learner themselves should however not be forgotten or overlooked as Eisenburg et al. (2004 cited in Agosto, 2005) points out that: Our ability to be information literate depends on our willingness to be lifelong learners as we are challenged to master new, and as yet unknown, technologies that will surely alter the landscape of information in the future (p.177). From a higher education point of view Martin & Rader (2003) state in their introduction to Information and IT Literacy – enabling learning in the 21st century Notions of key skills and employability underline the linkage between what is learned in educational contexts and the use to which it is put in employment or in everyday life. What we give to our students is not just intended to make them better students, but to make them more effective employees, and to enable them to live more fulfilling lives. (xiii) Llyod (2003, p87) stresses that ‗the lack of evidence-based research into the transfer of information literacy from an educational context to a workplace context has implications for our understanding of the process and as such, for the effective teaching of information literacy programmes that are professionally and vocationally relevant‘. She also raise the question of ‗how much transfer of skill occurs between the school and the workplace? Especially when the formal school environment is linear and systematic and the work environment is complex, messy and often difficult for the individual to navigate and map out mentally‘ (p88). 2.6 Knowledge Management Linked to organisational learning and information literacy is knowledge management, as Rowley (2001) argues learning and knowledge are closely intertwined and that effective knowledge management needs to embrace and April 2007 37
  39. 39. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project develop the achievements that have been associated with the implementation of the concept of the learning organisation (p.228). Kelleher and Levene (2001) define knowledge management as the capabilities by which communities within an organisation capture the knowledge critical to them, constantly improve it and make it available in the most effective manner to those people who need it, so that they can exploit it creatively to add value as a normal part of their work (p.15). The activities within this description tie in with organisational learning and collective learning and with the main aspects of the learning theories regarding stimulus and engagement in learning through either new knowledge or with the learner‘s own environment. However in order for any learning to take place or knowledge developed, information and the skills associated with information (information literacy) must be engaged first, as Lloyd (2005, p.85) states ‗without this connection, knowing and learning remain incomplete‘. Cheuk (2002) and Abell and Skelton (2005) identify the relationship between information literacy and knowledge management. Whilst Cheuk highlights the challenges that knowledge-organisations face are information literacy related. Abell and Skellton believe that ‗workplace information literacy (IL) as a term and a concept is following a very similar path in organisations to that of knowledge management (KM)‘ and that there are many significant areas of similarity between KM and IL‘ as follows: 1. Both are inextricably linked in the minds of many people with learning – lifelong learning in the case of the individual, the learning organisation in the case of the organisation. 2. The arguments for developing IL and KM capability within the workplace / organisation are indisputable. Very few senior managers deny the benefits of managing and using the April 2007 38
  40. 40. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project organisation‘s knowledge effectively and most acknowledge their organisation‘s need to improve its knowledge flow. Both KM and IL underpin the way organisations work and develop. Both such acceptance has not necessarily brought action. 3. Both are difficult concepts to ‗sell‘ in terms of business value and outcomes. Both can be perceived as ‗nice to have‘ or ‗common sense‘ rather than a key organisational capability. 4. Both have had a problem with their label. Except for those in the know, the terms do not immediately conjure up a clear picture of what they mean (p44). Whilst it would have been interesting to look at the literature on the subject of knowledge and the different types of knowledge (e.g. tacit, implicit) it is the relationship between information literacy and knowledge management identified above that this research is interested in. Chapter 3 Methodology 3.1 Research methodologies There are a number of different research methodologies available; Bell (1999, p.7) highlights that ‗different styles, traditions or approaches April 2007 39
  41. 41. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project use different methods of collecting data‘. Depending on the data to be collected the researcher can use either quantitative or qualitative methods. Quantitative methods are used where the research data can be quantified and general conclusions can be drawn from the analysis of the data. If however the data to be collected cannot be easily quantified particularly where the researcher is trying to gain an insight into people‘s feelings, beliefs or experiences then qualitative methods are used. These include interviews, focus groups and observation. Babbie (1992, p.89) identifies that there are ‗two major aspects of research design. First, you must specify precisely what you want to find out. Second, you must determine the best way to do that‘ and ‗usually the best study design is one that uses more than one research method, taking advantage of their different strengths‘. 3.2 Research The purpose of the research was to investigate information literacy in the work place as part of the lifelong learning agenda. In order to do this six exploratory interviews where carried out over a two month period (middle of February to the middle of April 2006) on a one to one basis with individuals in a spread of occupations and interests as detailed below: Quantity Surveyor* – Local Authority Development Officer Everyday Skills – Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) Mechanical Design Engineer* – Small Medium Enterprise Senior Executive Creative Futures Team – Scottish Enterprise (Local Enterprise Company) Training Advisor - Local Authority Human Resource Staff Development Manager* – University April 2007 40
  42. 42. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project The interviews took place at a time and place that was convenient for them. Only one of the interviews (STUC) took place in the interviewees own place of work and three of the interviews (those marked with an *) were carried out in the interviewees own time. 3.3 Rationale for the chosen method 3.3.1 Interviews Interviews have been chosen as the preferred methodology, primarily as Denscombe (2003, p.164) states researchers can use interviews to gain ‗more of an in-depth insight into the topic, drawing on information provided by fewer informants‘. In addition as Babbie (1998, p.264) points out interviews can: ‗serve as a guard against confusing questionnaire items‘ as the interviewer can ‗clarify matters, thereby obtaining relevant responses‘ through their presence also ‗generally decrease the number of ―don‘t knows‖ and ―no answers‖ and probe for answers or follow up on statements made‘ the interviewer can also ‗observe respondents as well as ask questions‘. Observations can provide valuable non-verbal information to the research interview / process and should be noted and /or followed up. It also allows the generation of a repertoire of issues which can inform more qualitative based research. 3.3.2 Semi structured Interviews Semi-structured interviews as opposed to structured or unstructured were selected as this enabled the set list of questions to be asked and April 2007 41
  43. 43. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project answered but allowed for flexibility in the order the areas are covered and as Denscombe (2003, p.167) points out: perhaps more significantly, to let the interviewee develop ideas and speak more widely on the issues raised by the researcher. The answers are open-ended, and there is more emphasis on the interviewee elaborating points of interest. 3.3.3 Exploratory Interviews As the interviews are what Oppenheim (1997, p65) identifies as exploratory whose purpose is: essentially heuristic: to develop ideas and research hypotheses rather than to gather facts and statistics. It is concerned with trying to understand how ordinary people think and feel about the topic of concern to the research. The findings therefore will not be generalisable but instead provide further research questions to be drawn from the interviews. 3.4 Interview questions The interview questions (see Appendix B) were designed to investigate the role of information literacy in the workplace and to gauge levels of information literacy skills and competencies. The questions were also designed to investigate the importance of these skills and competencies and to see whether they were included in the skills employer‘s where looking for in their workforce or providing training for. As knowledge management is linked to both information literacy and lifelong learning a small section on this was included. The questions were divided into the following areas: Background information o The person‘s job title April 2007 42
  44. 44. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project o Brief description in interviewees‘ own words of the work they do, their experience and qualifications and how they acquired the capability to do what they do. o The skills employers are looking for Learning in the workplace Information skills Information Literacy Knowledge Management. Although there is an opinion that ‗it should not be necessary to ask at interview for background information‘ (Gorman & Clayton, 2005, p.129) it was felt that it would put the interviewee at ease to talk a little about themselves and the work they do plus provide an opportunity for seeking clarification or expansion on any points they raised 3.4.1 Rationale for interview questions Section A - Skills needed today for work: 1. What skills employers are looking for 2. Are they looking for people to have these skills prior to being employed 3. Where they expected people to learn / acquire these skills. Research Objectives Although the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC, 2000) reported that many UK employers consider information literacy as a key core skill for their staff within the UK‘s knowledge based economy this viewpoint is not supported by the recent British government report (Great Britain. Department for Education and Skills, 2005), Skills: Getting on in business, getting on at work. Whilst this report specifically mentions ICT skills there is no direct mention of information literacy skills. April 2007 43
  45. 45. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project The research will investigate this situation and ascertain what skills employers are looking for and whether these include information literacy or not. Section B - Learning in the workplace: 1. Type of learning offered in the workplace 2. Organisation supportive of learning in the workplace 3. Manager supportive of learning in the workplace. Research Objectives To investigate learning in the workplace, this needed to be explored to establish what learning if any took place, if so what it covered and in what form it took (formal, informal or nonformal) and in what circumstances. In addition to determine whether any information literacy training or learning is taking place, in any shape or form. Section C - Information skills / Information Literacy skills: 1. Description of information task 2. How they went about this task 3. Training received to assist in the use of resources 4. Self rating of information retrieval skills 5. Planning information tasks 6. Assessment of the quality of information found 7. Use of information 8. Organisation of information 9. Review of search procedures 10. Copyright and plagiarism understanding Research Objectives To investigate the skills and competencies people use to carry out information tasks related to their employment, how they rate their own information retrieval skills and whether they had received any training April 2007 44
  46. 46. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project to use the information resources available to them. Questions from a similar exercise with students and senior pupils in a focus group (Irving & Crawford 2006, Irving 2006) were used in addition to questions from Mackenzie and Makin‘s (2003) survey of further and higher education staff. Section D - Information Literacy: 1. Understanding of the term information literacy 2. The extent to which they have these skills and competencies 3. Level of these skills and competencies 4. Importance of these skills and competencies 5. Improvement of these skills and competencies through work 6. Importance of information literacy at work 7. Employers looking for these skills and competencies Research Objectives To investigate knowledge of the term information literacy and to investigate how the interviewees rated their information literacy skills and competencies as defined by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP 2004, CILIP 2004a) and where they had learnt these skills. Subsequent questions were devised to investigate the importance of these skills in the workplace and whether employers were looking for these skills explicitly or implicitly. Section E – Knowledge Management: 1. Understanding of the term knowledge management 2. Use of knowledge management in the workplace 3. How information / knowledge is shared in the workplace 4. How organisations satisfy their information needs Research Objectives To explore whether the term knowledge management is known and used by the interviewee‘s place of work and whether that gives any April 2007 45
  47. 47. Christine M Irving MSc Research Project implications for information literacy skills and competencies as Cheuk (2002) and Abell and Skelton (2005) believe. Also how organisations satisfy their information needs. 3.5 Piloting of questions All the questions used were based on something the research needed to know and were reviewed by the research director then piloted with an individual that fitted the characteristics of the sample. The pilot went well and whilst none of the questions required amending, white postcards were printed up to be handed out to make it easier for the interviewee to respond to definitions and assessment ratings. These cards had the added benefit of providing the interviewee with information that they could take away for future reference, thus furthering the term information literacy and the associated skills and competencies. 3.6 Selection of sample As a small number of interviews were to be undertaken (six to ten) with representatives from specific populations that had ‗a range of characteristics relevant to the research‘ (Gorman & Clayton, 2005 p.128) the sample was purposive. The selected populations and their characteristics included: 1. former students contacted through the University‘s alumni office, as further research to a recent qualitative study by Crawford (2006) of alumni student which highlighted the importance of information literacy in the workplace 2. trade union learning representatives contacts provided by the Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning as individuals who would have knowledge of workplace learning and the skills employers were looking for April 2007 46

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