Perceptions of the ‘find-it-out-yourself method’: Developing self-efficacy and students as ‘tourists’ in academic communities of practice - Heather Lincoln & Tiffany Chiu
Perceptions of the ‘find-it-out-yourself method’:
Developing self-efficacy and students as ‘tourists’ in
academic communities of practice
Heather Lincoln, Liaison Librarian
Tiffany Chiu, Senior Teaching Fellow in Educational Development,
Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship
• Imperial College is a research focused
• 2,000 business students mostly PG
studying for 1 year
• Team of four librarians teaching
databases, reference management,
avoiding plagiarism and search skills
• Library has Information Literacy CoP
• Library staff taking PG Cert, PG Dip &
MEd in University Learning and
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Rationale for research
• What are students’ experiences of IL learning? I have anecdotal evidence,
formative feedback and gather teaching evaluation form feedback, but the
research was an actual opportunity to ask students themselves.
• Limited literature on this group of students and how practical and relevant
they feel information literacy is and how it fits into their overall university
• Results of research used to input into Business School's PG curriculum
review and develop the teaching offered to these students
• What are the IL learning experiences of business PG students?
• What effect does standalone one-off teaching sessions have on
• What do students think about the librarian-as-teacher?
Research Methodology & Methods
• Qualitative research
• Structured approach to analysing
Focus Group Format No of participants
Specialised MSc suite focus group In-person 2 participants
MBA suite focus group In-person 2 participants
Finance MSc suite focus group Online 3 participants
Finance MSc suite focus group Online 2 participants
Specialised MSc suite focus group Online 3 participants
Specialised MSc suite focus group Online 2 participants
• 14 postgraduate Masters (MSc
& MBA) students in the
• 6 focus groups up to 1 hour
Transcribed focus group data (c. 22,600 words)
Transcripts anonymised and pseudonyms used for participants
names (e.g., Liam, FG3)
Thematic analysis (Savin-Baden & Howell Major, 2013) with
deductive approach drawing on theories such as Communities of
Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991)
Transcripts coded creating first order codes and statements ->
key themes -> theoretical categories
The find it out yourself
perceptions of IL learning
1. IL learning and self-efficacy
• Students were aware of
their diverse student
• IL teaching viewed as part
of the programme offered
at Imperial but
‘I did a Masters previously and they had no
sort of information sessions like that, so I
think that even the fact it's included as part
of the programme is really commendable’
‘I think Imperial is pretty good, in the sense
that my previous studies I didn’t quite have
any of this…I had to just learn through my
friends or discover it, the kind of find out
yourself method. So yeah, Imperial has done
quite a lot for me personally.’ (Liam, FG3).
1. IL learning and self-efficacy, cont’d
• Students don’t know what they don’t
know? How does this affect their self-
• Students have a focus on assessment
rather than on wider IL and non-core
curriculum, learning experiences?
• Students have an awareness of the
cultural capital of learning experiences.
‘Usually, the students try to
undermine the benefits of these
information skills, but I think it’s
actually very, very important and
students, usually even more my
peers, usually try to overlook it
they somehow feel that, ah, this is
something that I have known, so I
don’t attend the session, but in
fact there are many things we
generally don’t know.’ (Yu-Tung,
1. The ‘find-it-out-yourself’ method...
• Induction sessions most recalled by
students than other IL sessions.
• Presumption that students have a
high level of self-efficacy and that
students are proactive asking
librarians for help. This is in contrast
with student expectations where
more tailored guidance and focused
help was anticipated.
• Standalone sessions don’t always
allow for this focused and tailored
learning? 1-1s have to be requested
by the student.
‘If I remember correctly, we just had that
one initially thing [IL session] and then
after that it was just like figure stuff out
for yourself. Which was fine, but it was
quite time consuming. So, it would have
been nice if there was a bit more
integration’ (Chris, FG5).
‘I think that the British education system,
it makes you aware of the resources, but
it doesn’t teach you how to use them,
unless you really want it’ (Natalie, FG3).
2. Students’ perceptions of standalone IL teaching
• Many students thought one-off
sessions fitted their needs.
• Full timetables mean students
learning outside the core-
• IL teaching from librarian part of
academic CoP and available only to
• Access to follow-up materials and
the facility to speak to a librarian
afterwards is an important part of IL
teaching. But are we still expecting
students to do this independently?
How much self-efficacy do students
‘I think in the beginning you are
really trying to manage, like it’s all
overwhelming…so if it’s not
compulsory, it probably, you
probably won’t go to it… and it’s
just natural just trying to cope, but
I do think it's beneficial and like in
retrospect I feel quite like sad that
I didn’t take advantage of these
things more’ (Sophie, FG5).
2. Students’ perceptions of standalone IL teaching,
• However, students were aware there are
issues with standalone teaching sessions.
• Business School’s Careers and Global
Skills teams teaching sessions suggested
as being more integrated throughout the
year that library IL teaching...
• Students notice lower attendance at IL
sessions and perceive lower importance
within their peer group and lower
‘The current way definitely doesn’t
push you into attending all these
lectures and learn those skills…They
[IL sessions] were outside of the main
curriculum, erm, and I found that
that made us not really bother with
them since we are so busy with other
things, it’s kind of hard to actually
say, I am going to attend this lecture,
even though it might actually be very
useful' (Sanvi, FG6).
Please share ideas from your own experience for enhancing
student engagement in IL learning
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Communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991)
• Communities of practice have shared ‘engagement, enterprise and
repertoire’ (Wenger, 1998).
• Engagement in a community of practice starts as legitimately peripheral
and ‘increases gradually in engagement and complexity’ (Lave & Wenger,
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Landscape of Practice (Hudson, 2020)
Might a landscape of practice be present where each community is
relevant to students? Students’ trajectory might not be a straightforward
journey from periphery to centre?
Multi-membership and visitors to CoP
Tourists: identified as having ‘low levels of participation engaging in only superficial
ways with local practices; their identities are hardly changed by the experience and
the academic world remains a foreign country to them’
(Fenton-O’Creavy et. al., 2014, p. 44)
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Tourists' information resource use
• Students were appreciative of the
vast range of resources available.
• But, availability to these resources
doesn’t necessarily correlate to
their use. Students have time
pressures and perceive they
already have the IL skills to find
information (Fowler, Thomas &
• Information resources significant
as ‘artifacts’ that make up CoP
(Lave & Wenger, 1991).
• Information resources have high
cultural capital value
‘I would say that the resources are really,
really impressive…there are definitely a
lot at our disposal’ (David, FG5).
‘I still don’t use the tools. I don’t know if
they actually make your life easier.
[laughter and nods]. I’m sure they do.
It’s just there is a reasonably high start-up
cost and don’t have time to sink
on figuring out how they work’ (Chris,
Boundary objects (Hudson, 2020)
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‘…. in retrospect I feel quite like sad
that I didn’t take advantage of these
things more, especially like hearing
David got a one-on-one session
[provided by the librarian] on
Bloomberg, I’m just like, can I go back
and do that?’ (Sophie, FG5)
• A way to engage
students in learning
‘Some teams had someone in
the team who was really
familiar with the database and
he could easily extract… I think
from Bloomberg, and it was a
huge advantage compared to
some teams where we don’t
know where to find data.’
Tourists’ and plagiarism avoidance
• Some students seemed less
engaged with learning about
plagiarism whereas some
more anxious about being
• Avoiding plagiarism part of
and firmly rooted in
• Plagiarism avoidance and
referencing rules may seem
arbitrary in the workplace
We had, a…tutorial on Harvard citations, which
it wasn’t the same one I was using in my home
country…so I had to re-train myself to do it
again (Juan, FG1).
There is always the little presentation on
how to not plagiarise, buy you don’t really
listen to that (Ryan, FG6).
Tourists and plagiarism avoidance
‘I came from [X country], the problems with
the university in [X country]…we didn’t
bother so much about plagiarism because
most of the assignments doesn’t go
through plagiarism checks and people
seem to be not so much bothered about, as
long as the assignments is done, they are
generally happy with it. So, when I came to
Imperial that something was an eye-
opener.’ (Yu-Tung, FG4)
Maybe keeping that in mind, that not
everybody… you know we don’t do this in [x
country] for instance so, keeping in mind
that’s a UK centric way of doing things and
not assuming every students gonna know it
already (Ryan, FG6).
• Half of the groups directly
mentioned TurnitIn software
when discussing plagiarism and
were concerned about ‘passing’
TurnitIn. This may also seem
rooted in the academic CoP?
• Different expectations in
academic writing conventions
observed from students across
the diverse cohort.
CoP as tourist’s engagement with IL Learning:
information resource use & plagiarism avoidance
Plagiarism avoidance Focus Group
There is that talk
you don’t really
listen to that
(adapted from Fenton-O’Creevy et. al. 2014).
I still don’t use
the tools (Chris,
• Lesson plan and teaching session design should
include all materials and follow up information. By
doing this we are still considering students to have
• Look at best practice from other departments that
teach outside the core-curriculum, e.g., Careers etc.
in terms of how the market and organise teaching
• Databases which have workplace use, like
Bloomberg, could be used to engage students and
bridge the gap between workplace and academic
• Focus teaching on ‘tools and how they can make
your life easier’ rather than access to resources in IL
Discussion and reflection
• Have you experienced low or high student engagement in your teaching context?
• Is student engagement dependant on the format of teaching? Is your teaching
mostly as standalone, one-off sessions or is IL more integrated into the core-
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• Braun, V. & Clark, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology. 3 (2)
77-101. Available from: https://doi/abs/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa [Accessed 16th November 2020].
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boundary: Tourists and sojourners in practice-based education. In: Wenger-Trayner, E. et al. (Ed.) Learning
in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity and Knowledgeability in Practice Based Learning.
• Fowler, K; Thomas, V. & Saenger, C. (2019) Enhancing students’ marketing information literacy, Marketing
Education Review, 29:1, 52-64 Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/10528008.2018.1461570 [Accessed
25th March 2021].
• Hodson, N. (2020) Landscapes of practice in medical education. Medical Education. 54. 504-509. Available
from: https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.14061 [Accessed 30th July 2021].
• Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University
• Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice. Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge
• Savin-Baden, M. & Howell Major, C.(2013) Qualitative research: the essential guide to theory and practice.
Imperial College London
Senior Teaching Fellow
Imperial College London