The role of information literacy in service learning


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Service Learning is a quickly growing movement within higher education that empowers students to utilize classroom knowledge to solve a problem or effect a change within their local community. Information Literacy is critical for getting students to understand the “why” and “how” that should ground all service learning projects.

This presentation will begin with an overview of the service learning movement. Next, I will present a case study of my experiences as an embedded librarian in an Environmental Studies Senior Seminar. The presentation will conclude with a summary of emerging best practices for incorporating information literacy into service learning courses.

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  • My backgroundDecade in a variety of librariesService-learning is one of the most effective ways to teach information literacy
  • “For the first two-thirds of the twentieth century a powerful tide bore Americans into ever deeper engagement in the life of their communities, but a few decades ago–silently, without warning–that tide reversed and we were overtaken by a treacherous rip current. Without at first noticing, we have been pulled apart from one another and from our communities over the last third of the century.”
  • A Nation at Risk: “Our Nation is at risk… the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people… A high level of shared education is essential to a free, democratic society and to the fostering of a common culture, especially in a country that prides itself on pluralism and individual freedom”. Campus Compact: The mission of Campus Compact is to “advance the public purposes of colleges and universities by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.” Today, more than 1,100 colleges and universities, representing 6 million students
  • “Research universities and leaders from all levels of our institutions need to rise to the occasion of our challenge as a democracy on the edge of a new millennium. We need to help catalyze and lead a national campaign or movement that reinvigorates the public purposes and civic mission of our great research universities and higher education broadly. We need to renew for the next century the idea that our institutions of higher education are, in a vital sense, both agents and architects of a flourishing democracy, bridges between individuals’ work and the larger world” (1999).Identifies 10 high-impact educational practices: All of these could be applied to service-learning courses, but, the two that are most relevant to this presentation are “Service Learning” and “Undergraduate Research”
  • Kolb summarized his experiential learning cycle as follows: “Immediate concrete experience is the basis for observations and reflection. An individual uses these observations to build an idea, generalization or ‘theory’ from which new implications for action can be deduced. The implications or hypotheses then serve as guides in acting to create new experiences” (1981, p. 235).
  • “It would seem that opportunities exist, and have existed for some time, for scholars in both service learning and information literacy to recognize a common ground, perhaps join their efforts to demonstrate the efficacy of these pedagogies. Yet, one can examine separately the library and information science and the service learning scholarly literature and barely find a mention…of the impact of service learning on library services, information literacy, information-seeking behavior, or critical thinking” (p.71). “Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, 1989.) IFLA: The Alexandria Proclamation (2005)“Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals… Lifelong learning enables individuals, communities and nations to attain their goals and to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the evolving global environment for shared benefit. It assists them and their institutions to meet technological, economic and social challenges, to redress disadvantage and to advance the well being of all.”
  • “teams of faculty are asked to submit proposals for curricular initiatives that would focus upon developing, implementing and assessing the consequences on faculty work of a variety of ‘high-impact’ pedagogical practices”
  • “…identify a specific environmental project, find a community partner interested in the project, design [a] project in consultation with the community partner, conduct the research, and offer policy proposals” (syllabus).
  • Maureen Barry speaking about her experiences embedding in a composition course at Wright State University writes, “It was, without a doubt, the most positive and extensive interaction I have experienced with undergraduates aside from those in my own IL courses” (2011, p.9). Nancy Herther has said of her work with service-learning classes at the University of Minnesota that they have“…allowed for deeper, more personal, ongoing contact with students…Making this type of connection with undergraduates is rare in academic libraries” (2008, p. 387).
  • The role of information literacy in service learning

    1. 1. The Role of Information Literacy in Service Learning Courses: A Case Study and Best Practices CHRIS SWEET ILLINOIS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY LOEX ANNUAL CONFERENCE COLUMBUS, OH 5/4/2012
    2. 2. The Big Picture
    3. 3. Service Learning Experiences? How many are aware of service-learning courses on your campus? Of these, do you know of any that seek library support? Of these, who has personally worked with a service- learning course? If you were in an elevator for 1 minute with a faculty member who teaches a service-learning course could you make a good case for integrating information literacy?
    4. 4. Where we’re headed Defining Service-Learning History of Service-Learning in Higher Education Pedagogical and Theoretical Foundations Service-Learning and Information Literacy Environmental Studies Seminar Case Study Emerging Best Practices Final Thoughts and Questions
    5. 5. Definitions A 1990 review of the service-learning literature found 147 different terms and definitions related to service-learning (Kendall, 1990). “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” (National Service-Learning Clearinghouse)
    6. 6. Definitions The basic principle: “Service, combined with learning, adds value to each and transforms both” (Honnet & Poulsen, 1996). My contention: “Service-Learning, combined with information literacy, adds value to each and transforms both.” Alternative terms: action research, community-based learning Service-learning is not: an internship, community service, or volunteerism
    7. 7. Andrew Furco Diagram
    8. 8. An Example Cleaning up a riverbank is SERVICE Sitting in a science classroom looking at water samples under a microscope is LEARNING Science students taking samples from local water sources, then analyzing the samples, documenting the results and presenting the scientific information to a pollution control agency is SERVICE- LEARNING (National Youth Leadership Council)
    9. 9. Characteristics of Service-Learning Connects with and reinforces the academic subject material of a course Addresses a problem or contributes to the betterment of the local community or a specific group Demonstrates reciprocity between students and groups being served Teaches civic and social responsibility Requires critical reflection and analysis from students
    10. 10. Brief History of Service-Learning and Educational Reform Movements Understanding these contexts is essential if you are advocating for service-learning 1960’s: social turmoil, activism, civil rights, formation of Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) 1970’s: Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Nat’l student volunteer program 1980’s: A Nation at Risk, formation of Campus Compact, Wingspread Conference
    11. 11. Brief History of Service-Learning and Educational Reform Movements 1999:Wingspread Declaration of Renewing the Civic Mission of the American Research University 2008: Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) releases a report on High- Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter.
    12. 12. Pedagogical and Theoretical Foundations Service-learning relies heavily on constructivist educational theories. Constructivist theorists contend that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences Experiential / active learning are common constructivist pedagogies.
    13. 13. The Other Dewey John Dewey (1859-1952) is generally recognized as the founding father of constructivism. Dewey’s educational philosophy is largely based on three principles:  Education must lead to personal growth  Education must contribute to humane conditions  Education must engage citizens in association with one another  (Hatcher, 1997)
    14. 14. Pedagogical and Theoretical Foundations Paulo Freire (1921-1997) Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) Education should develop “Critical Consciousness”- the ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against the oppressive elements of society.  Power Awareness (understanding social history)  Critical literacy (analytically reading, writing and discussing social matters)  Desocialization (examining the internalized myths and values of mass culture)  Self-education (taking initiative in ongoing social change)
    15. 15. Pedagogical and Theoretical Foundations Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle  Concrete Experience (or “DO”)  Reflective Observation (or “OBSERVE”)  Abstract Conceptualization (or “THINK”)  Active Experimentation (or “PLAN”)
    16. 16. Service-Learning and Information Literacy “Where’s the Library in Service Learning?” John Riddle, 2003. ALA Information Literacy Definition IFLA Alexandria Proclamation
    17. 17. Service-Learning and Information Literacy Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning? Eyler and Giles, 1999. National survey of 1500 students in service-learning classes.  Conclusions related to Info Lit:  Service Learning students talked more about the need to gather information and define issues regarding community problem solving  Service learning students are better able to apply subject concepts, authorities, and information to new problems (Riddle, 2003, p. 73).
    18. 18. Service-Learning and Information Literacy 2011 ACRL strategic plan: ACRL Plan for Excellence “Librarians transform student learning, pedagogy, and instructional practices through creative and innovative collaborations” Library support of service-learning courses is one way to do this Embedded librarianship is another important trend among instruction librarians The simplest reason for combining service-learning and information literacy is to assist students with understanding the “why” and “how” behind a service- learning project.
    19. 19. Libraries and Service-Learning In 1907 at the Illinois Library School at the University of Illinois in Champaign, upper-level students could add a month of fieldwork in a public library to their coursework. (Roy & Sheldon, 1998). Service-learning courses have been incorporated into many LIS programs In the last 15 years, service-learning has been a major trend in education at all levels, but library support for these courses has been sporadic at best
    20. 20. Questions? Any brief questions before the case study?
    21. 21. Case Study Illinois Wesleyan University: private, liberal arts, 2100 students CFP: Teagle Foundation Teaching Grants Environmental Studies Senior Seminar already met criteria for 4 of 10 high-impact practices: service- learning, writing-intensive, undergraduate research and capstone courses.
    22. 22. Case Study ENST Senior Seminar: Creating a Sustainable Society Course Description Major course goal: show students that they could make a real contribution towards sustainability in their own communities
    23. 23. Case Study Fully “embedded” as a co-teacher  Shared responsibilities for grading, leading class sessions, meeting with students, coordinating with community partners Students must work collaboratively with a community partner on their projects Requires a full literature review to provide context for each project Project Examples  LINK cards at farmers markets  Improving Inclusion of Minorities in local Environmental Work  Bringing Back Endangered Barn Owls  Establishing a Campus Eco-House  Documenting the environmental benefits of roadside prairies
    24. 24. My Conclusions The single most meaningful teaching experience in my career as an academic librarian Service-learning is one of the most effective methods for teaching students information literacy skills and concepts  Models how information literacy is used outside academia Co-Teaching (or lead teaching) can be incredibly rewarding and beneficial What about scalability and sustainability?!
    25. 25. Student Evaluations What did your experience conducting research and working on a real world problem teach you? “I learned that it is quite enjoyable researching a topic you’re passionate about. This was my first opportunity to do so in such depth. I also learned what a difference one person can make in making something happen.” What is the most significant outcome you’ve gained from this course? “I am proud that I actually did something meaningful instead of another seemingly pointless class project.”
    26. 26. Student Evaluations How do you feel the class benefitted from having the perspectives of two instructors? “Each instructor has different expertise and can help with different issues. For such a research-intensive course, it makes sense to have a librarian’s help.” Is there anything else you would like your course instructors to know? “I strongly recommend that two instructors be used again. It really helps out with the research component.”
    27. 27. Emerging Best Practices for Library Support of Service-Learning Courses Be able to situate both service-learning and information literacy within pedagogical theory and higher education reform movements When appropriate be able to tie service-learning to institutional and library mission statements and/or strategic plans Identify existing information literacy elements in service- learning courses and explain how they could be strengthened through collaboration with the library Focus on information literacy’s ability to strengthen the contextualizing and reflection portions of service- learning courses
    28. 28. Emerging Best Practices for Library Support of Service-Learning Courses Know your campus organizations and faculty that are involved in service-learning Know your local social service organizations and their needs Monitor listservs that focus on service-learning such as those maintained by Campus Compact and the National Service- Learning Clearinghouse Collaborative, embedded librarian models are one of the best ways to support service-learning, but one-shot research instruction sessions can also be of benefit to service-learning courses Librarian-led courses –particularly information literacy courses- can also benefit when structured around a service- learning model
    29. 29. Final Thoughts “Information Literacy and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis” Heidi Jacobs, 2008 “What I am suggesting is that the dialogues we have surrounding information literacy instruction strive to find a balance in the daily and the visionary, the local and the global, the practices and the theories, the ideal and the possible” p. 258. Combining service-learning and information literacy is one way to resolve these dualisms.
    30. 30. Final Thoughts “Service-Learning, combined with information literacy, adds value to each and transforms both.” Service-learning is challenging for both students and instructors, but it is not an educational fad. To the contrary, it may be one of the best ways to return to a system of education that engages students in the learning process and strengthens civic ties to local communities.
    31. 31. Forthcoming Book Chapter Information Literacy and Service-Learning: Creating Powerful Synergies Forthcoming in: Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis, Library Juice Press, Fall 2012 Questions?
    32. 32. Bibliography Eyler, J., & Giles, D. E., Jr. (1999). Wheres the learning in service-learning? jossey-bass higher and adult education series Hatcher, J. A. (1997). The moral dimensions of john deweys philosophy: Implications for undergraduate education. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 4, 22-29. Honnet, E., & Poulsen, S. (1996). Principles of good practice for combining service and learning. Johnson Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from Combining-Service-and-Learning.pdf Jacobs, H. L. M. (2008). Information literacy and reflective pedagogical praxis. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(3), 256-262. Kendall, J. C., National Society for Internships and Experiential Education (U.S.), Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, & Charles F. Kettering Foundation. (1990). Combining service and learning : A resource book for community and public service. Raleigh, N.C: National Society for Internships and Experiential Education.
    33. 33. Bibliography Kolb, D. (1981). Learning styles and disciplinary differences. In A. W. Chickering (Ed.), The modern american college (pp. 232). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Kuh, G. D., & Schneider, C. G. (2008). High-impact educational practices : What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter Washington, DC : Association of American Colleges and Universities, c2008. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone : The collapse and revival of american community / robert D. putnam New York : Simon & Schuster, c2000. Riddle, J. S. (2003). Where’s the library in service learning?: Models for engaged library instruction. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 29(2), 71-81. Roy, L., & Sheldon, B. E. (1998). Library and information studies education in the united states. London ; Washington, D.C: Mansell.