Developing a shared curriculum in higher education: from theory to practice


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Presentation given at the ALDinHE conference 2014 by Jane Secker, Emma Coonan and Maria Bell

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  • EMMA:Before we talk about who owns learning development, or information literacy, or digital literacies, let’s look at what it is we’re talking about owning.5-minute ‘off the top of your head’ exercise – feel free to discuss with your neighbours! Just pick one of the approaches suggested, or come up with your own way to describe the relationship.
  • EMMAWhen Jane and I carried out the ‘New Curriculum for Information Literacy’ research project in 2011 one of our aims was to map out the landscape of information literacy, and this is when we first started to realise the overlaps, parallels and consonances with other areas such as learning development. But this diagram was just the start of a recognition not only of how fluid and negotiated this landscape is, how nuanced all of these specialist areas are, and how our whole approach and thinking in all these areas – and in fact, our own identity as “belonging” to one or more of these areas - have evolved, and continue to evolve.When we designed this particular representation of the relationship, because of the way that we define information literacy in a very broad, holistic, learner-focused way that involves knowledge creation, not just mere curation, we saw the outer four “literacies” as information subsets or clusters, or as information being used in a particular context or environment – i.e. the academic sphere.But we’re starting to recognise that our labels – whether cognitive or professional - might actually not be helping us express the relationship in the most useful and insightful way. In the academic information sphere the term “digital literacy” (or –cies) has a good deal of both recognition and traction in HEIs, where “info lit” failed to gain the same degree of attention or support. And what Jane and I call “information literacy” is often seen as being subsumed within the overarching concept of digital literacy. For us it’s the other way around – we explictly chose to include “digitalness” within our definition of IL. Similarly we kind of subsumed academic literacies and learning development under our info lit umbrella, whereas I’m guessing a lot of learning developers would choose to see the relationship inversely, with LD being the “larger” or containing concept – what do your diagrams look like?
  • EMMA: everyone’s matryoshka are different : )Evolution of thinking in all three areas - and in employability thinking as well. We’re all coming from different places and start points but all converging towards the same goal: that our students get a seamless experience from all the providers involved in helping them to construct and sensemaking their learning.There’s a significant conceptual shift taking place around what constitutes info literacy, digital literacy and employability. All have tended to be perceived in terms of acquirable tickbox ‘skills’ rather than complex cognitive practices. But now they are all starting to receive some of the acknowledgement they deserve as complex practices that encompass a spectrum of skills, attributes and values. A similar deepening of understanding is happening around learning enhancement, where there’s been a radical shift from an impoverished and often remedial discourse around ‘study skills’ towards a perception of learning development or learning enhancement as a set of socially constructed practices that relate closely to the learner’s identity. 
  • EMMA:In all these professional areas in the last decade or so we have been moving away from a functional, remedial, simplistic enforced or normalised label-hanging approach.In the same way as our thinking about learning development has moved on from study skills – Wingate - so information literacy was once distressingly functional, process-based and the province – and the ‘gift’ - of librarians (we decided who got to be qualified as “information literate”). Now, however, it’s starting to be seen as a crucial ingredient inlearning and in the development of an individual’s identity as a learner, a graduate, an employee and an informed citizen. Zurkowski ECIL keynote 2013 (Istanbul) – IL is about empowering the general population,making it harder for those in authority to fool people. A revolutionary tool. Information can be dangerous, so if IL is not challenging, we are doing it wrong!
  • EMMAIn a similar vein is Beetham & Sharpe’s multi-level model of what they call ‘digital literacies’ which unites access and skills (functional stuff) with more complex, cognitive and metacognitive levels of learning and practice, and recognises that this goes beyond the scope of formal teaching and into the realm of identity and being. This focus on learning in all contexts, plus the four-level continuum, is very similar to the ANCIL approach – they are a very harmonious fit in terms of thinking about and interrogating our practice and our values as professionals, yet they maintain separate but parallel locus of specialism.
  • EMMAHere is ANCIL, with Its ten strands which together encompass not only key skills but also higher-order critical and intellectual thinking abilities.4 learning bands from key skills through application of those skills within the subject context; advanced information practices like synthesis, argument structuring and problem-framing, and reflective understanding of how our information practices affect our identity in academic, socially and in the workplaceIt is LEARNER centred – not a competency framework with externally assigned tickbox skills expressed in universal, monolithic language!Despite the name (“curriculum” – assigned to us by the academic lead) this is not 10 classes or training sessions but rather a way of thinking holistically across all the ingredients needed to use the appropriate information in the most persuasive way in any academic context (and beyond)ANCIL is also designed to offer a way to survey an insitution’s provision across all these strands – across learning developers, library staff, careers advisors and academics. Who’s doing what, and how? Are there gaps? Overlaps? Contradictions? Is the student getting a seamless experience from all the providers involved in helping them to construct and sensemaking their learning?
  • EMMAAnd finally, Hinchliffe & Jolley argue strongly that graduate identity/employability is not “something that is merely a series of attributes that can be enumerated and ticked off”. They suggest that graduate identity should be looked at instead in terms of values, intellect, performance and engagement. This has created the VIPER framework used at UEA.… a journey through different ‘mantles’ and shades of identity – fresher through student through finalist through graduate into … ? Starts *before* you come to university because it’s not about what we are making our students into but about where they’re coming from and what they bring to the context.That’s the theory bit! …Now over to Jane and Maria to look at how this works in practice
  • It’s been a long journey – starting back in July 2011 when I returned to LSE fresh from my Arcadia fellowship with Emma. This is me, staring at the road ahead, wondering what obstacles and road blocks might lie ahead of me, what by roads might distract me, and whether I might be given a green light to storm ahead at any point!
  • We carried out an audit of undergraduate provision in terms of the ANCIL 10 strands. Carried out the study using the methodology devised by Katy Wrathall as part of her Arcadia fellowship – this involved interviews, but also questionnaires for staff and for librarians. We focused on Ugs because they don’t attend optional workshops and although there is a core course they all take which covers some digital and information literacy, it’s not discipline specific. We were also aware that fairly low numbers of Ugs take courses that require them to write a dissertation. But the study was also to inform teaching in the Library and Centre for Learning Technology.10 recommendations and findings that were endorsed by Teaching, Learning and Assessment Committee in Feb 2013. See the report for details.
  • We developed the framework based on ANCIL, but also drawing on the Open University and others – but similarly it has learning outcome and sample activities – positive feedback to date.8 abilities – 1. understand and engage in scholarly practice2. Identify scope and find info and data3 Critically evaluation information data and online tools4 Manage information and data5 Use information and data in an ethical manner6 Present and communicate data and info appropriately7 Collaborate and share data and information8 Apple info and digital literacy practices in new contexts
  • So work has been on-going to embed in the curriculum, which has involved working with academic staff in Sociology and Stats – teaching 3 sessions in ST312 a Stats course.But also interest from other departments in taking forward pilots. The framework can really help to underpin what is done. We are also using it to map all our workshops/
  • Project collaboration – why all of these?Why 2 academic depts chosen? Qualitative & quantitative
  • Student recruitmentWhat we did?Student Union support‘Shout outs’ in classEmail / MoodleApplicationsEffective?IncentivesStatement on HEAR record Amazon vouchers – attendance at workshop and participation in additional activities e.g. Candi, HEA eventsBadges – online badges (Mozilla open badges)
  • EllenShow some of the work doneHow students approach and assignmentOne is stats and one is social PolicyShows tools used and the approachAlso shows how students interweave academic work with their lives – cook and eat, facebook chat, social media
  • EllenRange of different software used – other posters with further toolsStudents shared with us and each other – asked about tolls they didn’t know about and were interested in trying these out.
  • EllenProject not finished – 4 months to go – 1 more workshopChallenge any assumptions and generalisations about students as they are all different and have developed different strategies for studyStudents from different disciplines have different academic practices but there is merit in bringing them togetherStatistics students don’t tend to use library resources, but this was a great way of learning about what their needs are around data, stats help etc.Hard for students to share things. Hard to bring up – not going to bring up Mendeley in the pub on a Friday nightLibrarians find digital tools much more interesting and are likely to share with each other than students do! We are more likely to talk about Mendeley in the pub on a Friday night – MariaSrudents very enthusiastic – want to share and even lead sessions for fellow students – need help facilitating this. The engagement in the workshops has been very high – the students are motivated and want to particpate. There’s been no drop off in attendance and some students have been involved in other activities – Candi (parternship with 6th form college to give a level students flavour of uni and develop research skillls) – and speaking at and HEA event held at LSE in May.
  • MariaSet clear expectations about the role of digital literacy ambassadorsAre the students an ambassador, a champion, a mentor for others?Be prepared for trust to take time to develop – students will open up as they get to know you Workshops need a lot of planning and resources to ensure they are engaging and interactive – plan for plenty of activities and opportunities for you to learn from the students!Early workshops need to be structured – makes students more comfortable. Can get more flexible as project goes on once they gain confidence and get to know us and each otherLearned how to teach Ugs, activities – adapted resources made available as OERs from Adam Edwards, Middlesex and Matt Borg, Sheffield Hallam- Workshop 2 – fuzzy on our aim meant less satisfactory but good input from students still. Made us think and reflect better for 3 and for rest of project objective. and space has an impact on the atmosphere you are creating – if you want informal, then don’t use a board room!
  • Developing a shared curriculum in higher education: from theory to practice

    1. 1. Developing a shared curriculum in higher education: from theory to practice Dr Jane Secker, Dr Emma Coonan and Maria Bell Image: ‘Tulip stair’ by mcginnley, CC BY-SA 2.0
    2. 2. How do you perceive the relationship between learning development, digital literacies and information literacy?
    3. 3. Secker & Coonan, 2011, p.6
    4. 4. Image: ‘Russian Dolls’ by Lachlan Fearnley, CC BY-SA 3.0 Matryoshka metaphor conceived by Florence Dujardin
    5. 5. Bent, 2007, p.62 “they don’t know how to use that database properly so they can’t be information literate” one librarian said to me
    6. 6. Digital literacy (Beetham & Sharpe 2010)
    7. 7. Information literacy (Secker & Coonan 2011)
    8. 8. Graduate identity (Hinchliffe & Jolly 2011)  Values  Intellect  Performance  Engagement  Reflection Image: ‘Vogel’s Pit Viper’ by Bernard Dupont, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    9. 9. ANCIL at LSE …. The story so far
    10. 10. The audit Image cc from
    11. 11. Careers Language Centre Teaching & Learning Centre Language Centre LSE100 Departments Library Library LibraryLibrary Library Centre for Learning Technology Departments LSE100 Teaching & Learning Centre Departments Language Centre Library Teaching & Learning Centre Departments Language Centre Language Centre Teaching & Learning Centre Careers Departments LSE100 Secker & Coonan (2011)
    12. 12. Developing a framework
    13. 13. Embedding in the curriculum
    14. 14. The SADL project • Collaborative Project: Library, Centre for Learning Technology (CLT), Teaching and Learning Centre, Student Union, IT Training • Engagement with 2 academic departments: Statistics and Social Policy • Recruited 20 students to attend 4 workshops
    15. 15. Recruitment and rewards
    16. 16. How do you approach an assignment? Workshop 2: reading and writing in your discipline?
    17. 17. Workshop 3: Managing and sharing information How do you keep up to date, manage, store and cite your information?
    18. 18. Emerging findings and observations • Challenges any assumptions and generalisations about students as they are all different and have developed different strategies for study  Contrasts between disciplines - Statistics students don’t tend to use Library resources - Social Policy students read extensively  Sharing – cautious about where and how  Enthusiasm for engagement / involvement in a support role is boundless – untapped resource
    19. 19. Lessons learnt  Role: requires clear expectations  Developing relationships takes time  Workshops require:  Defined aims and objectives  A lot of preparation time  Appropriate learning space  Platform for students to share ideas?  Expected greater engagement with the blog  Exploring alternatives – Facebook Group, Moodle, Padlet  Increase publicity outside project to academic departments and other students to gain momentum
    20. 20. Thank you! Image: ‘Tulip stair’ by mcginnley, CC BY-SA 2.0
    21. 21. References  Beetham, Helen and Sharpe, Rhona (2010) Digital literacy framework. Available at:  Bell, Maria, Moon, Darren and Secker, Jane (2012) Undergraduate support at LSE: the ANCIL report. The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK. Available at:  Bent, Moira (2008) Perceptions of information literacy in the transition to higher education. National Teaching Fellowship Project Report. Available at:  Hinchliffe, Geoffrey and Jolly, Adrienne (2011) Graduate identity and employability, British Educational Research Journal 37(4), 563-584  Karnad, Arun (2013) Embedding digital and information literacy into undergraduate teaching. Centre for Learning Technology (CLT), London, UK. Available at:  LSE Digital and Information Literacy Framework (2013) Available at:  SADL Project (2014) Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy. Available at:  Secker, Jane and Coonan, Emma. (2011) A New Curriculum for Information Literacy: executive summary. Available at:  Wingate, Ursula (2006) Doing away with study skills, Teaching in Higher Education 11(4), 457-469
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