Question and enquire: taking a critical pathway to understand our users


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Presentation given by Sheila Webber (Sheffield University Information School) on 16 August 2013 in Singapore National Library at the IFLA Satellite meeting on Information Literacy and reference services

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Question and enquire: taking a critical pathway to understand our users

  1. 1. Question and enquire: taking a critical pathway to understand our users Sheila Webber Sheffield University iSchool Centre for Information Literacy Research IFLA Satellite Conference Singapore, August 2013
  2. 2. Things to aim for • Support and challenge students to become lifelong reflective learners with deep critical information behaviour (IB) • Support citizens/ workers as if they were, or aspired to be, lifelong reflective learners with deep critical IB • Reflect on, & develop, our own IB and IL and be willing to challenge assumptions (including our own)
  3. 3. Avoid turning people into strategic and surface dualists who have no inner resources to develop their information literacy through life Dualism – see things as right or wrong, and look for an authority (e.g. teacher) or signal of authority (e.g. that it’s a textbook) to tell him/her which is which Identifying what is required by marker/examiner and focusing on that Memorising, Skim reading Approaches to study Not an intention to understand And to avoid… Marton et al. 1984; Newble and Entwistle, 1986; Perry, 1981.
  4. 4. • Saying “no Wikipedia” or “you‟re using Wikipedia wrongly” rather than having discussions & exercises on how to use, or encouraging people to contribute tips • Encouraging skimming to identify keywords or pick out the relevant bits (the bits that seem to match the task) from an article • Encouraging a strategic focus (do good searching to get a good mark in this class) and expecting students to transfer skills to other contexts Things that do not shout “deep critical”
  5. 5. “What students do naturally is ask awkward questions and actually what happens over a period of time is, is it gets schooled out of them, you don‟t ask those questions, the teacher told you not to do it so you don‟t do it. Why, because teacher knows” (Vice Principal, British Sixth Form College, from our Deep Critical Information project
  6. 6. • As an educator – I see it as my job to support people in becoming committed, and deep learners: this is not easy for educator or learner & I don‟t always succeed …. • In the workplace – employers certainly don‟t want shallow dualists, and their business will thrive more if employees are capable of a deep and committed approach – but creating an environment to develop critical creative workers is not easy! PS But I also know it‟s useful having a strategic approach when you need to!
  7. 7. Obviously, I think information literacy can help you along the pathway
  8. 8. “Information literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to identify, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, leading to wise and ethical use of information in society.” Johnston & Webber (2003) International IL Logo: “Information Behavior is the totality of human behavior in relation to sources and channels of information, including both active and passive information seeking, and information use.” Wilson, 2000
  9. 9. The information literate person is in context past present future
  10. 10. past - knowledge, skills, behaviours, attitudes from previous experience present – different aspects of their lives call for different information literacy: but you can‟t assume transfer between them future – personal, citizen, worker needs
  11. 11. Information literate person Information economy: •Law •Changes in media •Pricing etc Organisational culture: •Mission; Values; Norms •Management style; ways of working •Information strategy Personal goals, relationships, habits, special needs Local & national culture & society Technical changes The information literate person in a changing information culture and society Webber & Johnston, 2013 Based on Webber and Johnston, 2000
  12. 12. Recalling & reviewing past experiences Getting people to make conscious efforts to connect their behaviour in different contexts (different classes, gaming, solving a workplace problem…) Practising and envisioning future needs & roles
  13. 13. Working with individuals so they can identify their own needs • Thinking about changes in your life • Thinking what this means in terms of information/literacy for you and others • Thinking about what might be vital and what is not • Working out what you need to do, what you need others to do, what you need to learn, what you need to change • Underpinning this is my belief that people need to have an awareness of information literacy in their lives, not infolit-hidden-in-something-else
  14. 14. Quotation from interview for research by Dr Shahd Salha
  15. 15. Working with individuals so they understand their information behaviour • Seeing any value in information literacy “tests” as being in how the results are discussed, reflected on and acted on by the participants themselves • Introducing research models of IB as tools for self- diagnosis and discussion of implications e.g. – Ones I use: Erdelez‟ (1999) information encountering; Ellis‟ (1993) model of information seeking; Kuhlthau‟s ISP (1991) – Which animal are you? (exercise at Sheffield Hallam University; Borg et al, 2009) Students recall an information search and identify which of 8 animal /insect types they most resembled e.g. squirrels rely on information they have stored away
  16. 16. Finding out more about people through research e.g. • Studies of students‟ information behaviour: – Ethnographic study in libraries in Egypt, Sharjah, Lebanon and France (Click et al., 2012) – ERIAL project at Illinois,, including ethnographic toolkit for librarians – New Zealand observational study of shelf-browsing (Timpany et al., 2013) – Diaries and interviews of digital/library use (Connaway et al., 2012)
  17. 17. Connections and reflections in undertaking research • “The process itself builds strategic relationships” (with participants and key stakeholders) (Green, 2013) • “I came to understand that if we are less judgmental about our students' desire to dig into their research the way we think they should, and understand what it is they are coping with, we could be much more effective service providers.” Quoting the Head of Reference Services, University of Illinois at Chicago (Green, 2013)
  18. 18. Poster in my flickr stream at Numpty (Scottish) – a person of little sense or intelligence At all stages and ages there are people are using & combining information in all types of channel and media to meet their needs Don‟t just look at digital, ask people about the way they combine and move between channels
  19. 19. Research shows (sensible) patterns of use developing “I don‟t understand what the word means, I‟ll go onto Google and say ok, whatever I first find, read it. Does that make any sense? And gradually my head works quite logically, it starts sifting facts into order. One I think I‟ve got a fair understanding of something I‟ll then check it on Lexis Nexis – go and look for the cases and journal articles” (final year Law student from our Deep Critical Information project) “a tween might consult a peer, who recommends a Web site, which is vetted by a parent, and ultimately they together consult a store professional.” (Myers et al., 2009: 317)
  20. 20. Concluding ideas • Need strategic whole-institution (or whole nation!) change to make messages and approaches consistent for learners (e.g. Bill Johnston‟s & my concept of an Information Literate University) • Still, even if one has limited power in overall teaching approach: focus on questioning, encouraging, challenging (where appropriate), enthusing, giving and facilitating informal feedback • And at the end of the day – we can all reflect, learn and contemplate the stars…..
  21. 21. Sheila Webber Twitter: @sheilayoshikawa Photos and graphics: Sheila Webber. Some taken in the virtual world Second Life (TM Linden Lab)
  22. 22. References • Borg, M. & Stretton, E. 2009. 'My students and other animals. Or a vulture, an orb weaver spider, a giant panda and 900 undergraduate business students...„ 3 (1), 19-30. • Click, A. et al. (2012) “Studying Students across Borders: An Ethnographic Study of Research Behavior.” International journal of library science, 5 (1). • Connaway, L. S., White, D., Lanclos, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2012). “Visitors and residents: what motivates engagement with the digital information environment?” Information Research, 18(1) paper 556. • Ellis D, Cox D and Hall K.(1993) “A comparison of the information seeking researchers in the physical and social sciences.” Journal of Documentation, 49, 356 - 369.
  23. 23. • Erdelez S. (1999) “Information encountering: it's more than just bumping into information.” Bulletin of the American Association for Information Science 25 (3). • Ford, N. (1986) “Psychological determinants of information needs: a small- scale study of higher education students.” Journal of librarianship and information science, 18 (1), 47-62. • Green, D. (2013) “The ERIAL Project: Findings, Ideas, and Tools to Advance Your Library.” Presentation given at the Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference: April 11, 2013. ACRL-FINAL-Presentation-20130411.pdf • Johnston, B. and Webber, S. (2003) “Information literacy in higher education: a review and case study.” Studies in higher education, 28 (3), 335-352. • Kuhlthau, C. (1991) “Inside the Search Process: Information Seeking from the User‟s Perspective.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 361-371. • Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N. (Eds.) (1984) The Experience of learning: implications for teaching and studying in higher education. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.
  24. 24. • Meyers, E. Fisher, K. and Marcoux, E. (2009) “Making sense of an information worlds: the everyday life information behaviour of preteens.” Library Quarterly, 79 (3), 301–341 • Newble, D.I. and Entwistle, N.J. (1986) “Learning styles and approaches: implications for medical education.” Medical education, 20, 162-195. • Perry, W. G. (1981). "Cognitive and Ethical Growth: The Making of Meaning", in: Arthur W. Chickering and Associates, The Modern American College . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp76-116. • Timpany, C. et al. (2013). “Shared browsing and book selection in an academic library.” Paper presented at: Collaborative Information Seeking: Consolidating the Past, Creating the Future: February 24 2013: San Antonio, Texas. • Wilson, T.D. (2000) “Human information behavior.” Informing science, 3 (2), 49-55.
  25. 25. Perry‟s (1981) levels of intellectual development • Dualism – see things as right or wrong, and look for an authority (e.g. teacher) or signal of authority e.g. that it‟s a textbook, to tell him/her which is which • Multiplicity – accepts different perspectives, but thinks all are equally valid • Relativism – realises that not all views are equally valid & you have to evaluate in context, but not yet secure in doing so • Commitment – has developed own perspective and understands ambiguous nature of knowledge
  26. 26. Approaches to study Surface • Memorising • Skim reading • Atomistic approach (finding bits to put together) • Selecting from the material • Intention to reproduce Deep • Meaning making, connecting • Looking at whole texts to understand the author‟s intention • Selecting within the material • Intention to understand Strategic • Identifying what is required by marker/examiner and focusing on that • May or may not involve understanding (depends on what the task is) • Intention to succeed or excel (in an assignment, exam) e.g. Marton et al. 1984; Newble and Entwistle, 1986
  27. 27. Deep critical information behaviour has its rewards