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Students' university experience and information literacy. Cochrane

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Presented at LILAC 2007

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Students' university experience and information literacy. Cochrane

  1. 1. Students’ university experience and information literacy Clive Cochrane Associate Director of Education School of Management & Economics Queen’s University Belfast
  2. 2. Introduction  Superficial level – as far as the lecturer is concerned the students in a class appear to be similar – same module and level of study  In reality student diversity is now the norm  Students taking a particular module present a diverse range of characteristics  Different schools / faculties, degree pathways, periods of study, cultures etc.
  3. 3. Introduction  Recent years – initiatives to promote information literacy;  Ideally there should be evidence of progression as students move from their first to their final year;  Often there is a gap between rhetoric and reality;  Although a group of students in a class may study the same module this may be one of the few things they have in common.
  4. 4. How does a student’s experience of university influence competence in and attitudes to information literacy?
  5. 5. Approach adopted  Case study – small class of 13 students taking a semester 1 level 3 module  Information collected in two ways:  Details of all students obtained from their online transcripts;  Personalised questionnaires distributed at the end of the teaching period;  Each questionnaire listed all modules the student enrolled for during the degree.
  6. 6. Approach adopted  For each module a student indicated whether they agreed with the following statements:  During the module:  Library staff delivered a session on IL  Lecturer delivered a session on IL  Lecturer provided IL resources on QOL  Student developed IL by undertaking activities  Assignments formally assessed IL  Covered - explicit learner support, opportunity to practise, assessment;  Five open-ended questions.
  7. 7. Findings
  8. 8. Diversity in the cohort  12 local, 1 international student  8 female, 5 male  1 registered with disability service  Enrolled on 5 different degree programmes:  Business Economics, Management & French, Management & Spanish, Management & Information Systems, Business Information Technology  Studies embraced 5 academic years – Sept 2002 to June 2007  1 began in 2002, 5 began in 2003 and 7 began in 20004  At time of survey 51 different modules studied by the students  By end of 2006-07 64 different modules studied by the students
  9. 9. Diversity of the cohort Degree Began 02 Began 03 Began 04 Grad 07 BSc Bus Econ 1 1 BSc Mgt + French 1 – intermit. 1 BSc Mgt + Hispanic Stud 1 - intermit 1 BSc Mgt + Info Systems 6 – 1 transfer 1 internat. 6 BSc Business IT 1- place. 0405, BEI 3 place. 0506 4 Total 1 5 7 13
  10. 10. Students’ experience of information literacy  Interpreting the ‘map’ (see handout)  22 modules - none of the five elements of learner support included  21 modules – 2 or more of the five elements of learner support included  8 modules – 1 element of learner support included  Some evidence to suggest that learner support changed from one year to the next  Students taking Computer Science and Economics modules less likely to be exposed to IL than Management modules
  11. 11. Students’ experience of information literacy  Remember – students’ memories are fallible, consequently the ‘map’ created by their responses provides a general impression than an accurate picture;  Nevertheless – as far as the case study group is concerned only 21 out of 51 modules (41%), completed at the time of the survey, embraced two or more of the five elements of information literacy support.
  12. 12. Other issues emerging from the questionnaire  Lack of explicit learner support from librarians embedded in modules – perhaps lecturers did not ask for this;  Limited explicit learner support from lecturers – perhaps they assume this is someone else’s responsibility or students are competent;  Minority of lecturers use Queen’s Online to provide explicit learner support – perhaps assume that students use library web site;  >50% of students in the case study claim that about half of the modules required them to undertake; information literacy tasks – IL does not have to be a required element of every module;  Students completing certain degrees have greater exposure to information literacy than students taking other degrees.
  13. 13. Students’ views  Statement 1  As I developed information literacy at school / college I encountered no difficulties during my first year at university when undertaking information literacy tasks for seminars / tutorials and assignments.  The majority did not agree with the statement. Some evidence that students developed information literacy at school – responses indicate that they were not adequately prepared for university.
  14. 14. Statement 1 – students’ views  I didn’t know how to reference. Had never heard of journals before, never had used them and didn’t know how to use databases.  At school I studied ‘A’ level IT. As a result I have some IT skills which assisted me when using online databases etc. However, things such as Harvard referencing and information quality were new to me…
  15. 15. Students’ views  Statement 2  During my first year at university all lecturers stressed the importance of developing by information literacy.  The majority of students disagreed with this statement. There was some evidence that lecturers in a few modules provided support for learners in a variety of ways.
  16. 16. Statement 2 – students’ views  At level 1 only two lecturers really placed any emphasis on information literacy…The other modules, particularly statistics and economics, to my recollection did not make any reference to information literacy, perhaps because they were 100% exam assessed.  …the other three modules required a lot of outside information so lecturers stressed that in order to get better marks sources other than the lecture notes were required.  …although journals might have been listed on reading lists I didn’t know how to access.
  17. 17. Students’ views  Statement 3  During my second year at university I was given the opportunity to develop my information literacy in a variety of ways.  The responses show that the majority of students had the opportunity to develop their information literacy during level 2. This was largely due to the more challenging nature of assignments.
  18. 18. Statement 3 – students’ views  Marketing offered the opportunity to practice information search and evaluation as did Business Strategy – assignment topics required detailed research and stipulated a set number of references.  I was required to write more researched essays and shown how to use the library’s electronic sources.  However in one degree pathway:  Compared to first year my information literacy skills did not appear to develop in any new way.
  19. 19. Students’ views  Statement 4  As I am an information literate student completing course work and assignments during my final year poses no problems for me.  Students’ responses indicate that although they may not regard themselves as information literate, they feel their skills have progressed and are improving.
  20. 20. Statement 4 – students’ views  I feel that now I am in my final year I am well aware and capable of knowing when and why I need information and how to use and evaluate it. Also, after completing an assignment for ‘Developing People for the Future’ I am more confident with doing this.  It’s easier looking up databases and referencing is not difficult any more.  However  …I still find the Harvard system difficult to grasp.
  21. 21. Students’ views  Statement 5  By July 2007 I will be an ‘information literate’ graduate, so it will not be necessary to develop these skills further in the workplace.  All students in the case study disagree with this statement. Their comments indicate that they appreciate the skills they have developed, but recognize the importance of continuous learning.
  22. 22. Statement 5 – students’ views  I feel that by July 2007 I will certainly be a much more information literate person than I was when I began my university career. However, I still feel there are areas that I could improve upon such as using a wider range of sources.  When I came to university three years ago I thought I was information literate. I discovered that I wasn’t completely aware of some aspects. I feel it may be the same when I move to the workplace. Information literacy can be constantly developed throughout life.
  23. 23. Away from the university  Six students spent a period away from the university  Study in another institution, period of placement  Little evidence to suggest that these experiences contributed to the overall information literacy of the students  One student’s comment:  My Business Law module, along with International Business, required me to carry out extensive research and use information literacy skills. The BEI project and presentation used these skills.
  24. 24. Conclusions  Although a small-scale study a number of tentative conclusions can be draw:  General:  There is great diversity in the student community and this impacts on students’ university experiences and their overall learning;  It is likely that learning support mechanisms will vary greatly between universities, degree pathways and modules.
  25. 25. Conclusions  Information literacy  The attitudes of academics and librarians to information literacy have an impact on students’ attitudes;  Ensuring that all students become ‘information literate’ is difficult to achieve;  Students’ attitudes to and competence in information literacy depend on a complex range of variables;  Case study highlights the difficulties of ensuring progression;  Evidence suggests that by the time many students graduate they are more ‘information literate’ than they were on entering university.
  26. 26. Thank you

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