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Exploring people’s conceptions and experience of information literacy using phenomenographic & case study approaches


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Keynote presentation given by Sheila Webber at the ReDMIL doctoral summer school, UCLouvain, Louvain la Neuve, Belgium, on 14 September 2018

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Exploring people’s conceptions and experience of information literacy using phenomenographic & case study approaches

  1. 1. Sheila Webber ReDMIL2018 Exploring people’s conceptions and experience of information literacy using phenomenographic & case study approaches
  2. 2. Outline • Snippets from my past • Disciplinary background & view of the world • Definitions • Two research approaches: phenomenography and case study Sheila Webber, 2018
  3. 3. Snippets from my past • Practitioner, marketing and training in the very early day of online information services and videotex (working with The British Library 1980-1992), specialising in health information and then business information • Academic from 1992, regular posts to the web from 1995, identifying what I was interested in as “information literacy” from about 1997 “So - practitioners - I am aware of my own journey from being a practitioner, then gradually feeling (for quite a long time) I was neither researcher/academic nor practitioner, and now feeling comfortable that I am a researcher. However, I still position myself as a researcher who has BEEN a practitioner” (2016 , reflection for a collaborative autoethnography (Grace et al, 2018) Sheila Webber, 2018
  4. 4. Disciplinary background • Information Science (an ex-discipline in the UK…) • Information behaviour (major IS research field: focus on people engaging with, or not engaging with, information) • Information Literacy Heavily involved in the Institute of Information Scientists (Webber, 2003) Sheffield iSchool history of IB research (e.g. Wilson, Ellis, Ford) In Johnston & Webber (2003) & Webber & Johnston (2017) argued case for IL as a discipline Sheila Webber, 2018
  5. 5. Disciplines: a contemporary definition “Reservoirs of knowledge resources shaping regularized behavioural practices, sets of discourses, ways of thinking, procedures, emotional responses and motivations. These provide structured dispositions for disciplinary practitioners who reshape them in different practice clusters into localised repertoires. While alternative recurrent practices may be in competition within a single discipline, there is common background knowledge about key figures, conflicts and achievements. Disciplines take organizational form, have internal hierarchies and bestow power differentially, conferring advantage and disadvantage” (Trowler, 2014, 9) Sheila Webber, 2018
  6. 6. Overlapping and invisible cities Using John Potter’s metaphor from Wednesday*…. I think you can create your own map of the city, but you need to connect it to other people’s, and be open to treading new paths Sheila Webber, 2018 Of China Miéville’s: two cities in the same place, with citizens ignoring each other (The City & the City)
  7. 7. Non-dualist approach • Influenced by phenomenography • That there is not a mind/body nor a person/world split/opposition • We exist as part of the world and phenomena in the world, related to it through our conceptions and experience of the world “being located neither in [the research] subject nor in the world, being neither psychological nor physical, being neither mind nor matter, experiences comprise an internal relationship between the subject and the world, and that is their fundamental characteristic: experience is of its essence nondualistic” (Marton and Booth, 1997, 122) Sheila Webber, 2018
  8. 8. Variations in experiences of being at a conference meal Sheila Webber, 2018 The ReDMIL conference meal, Louvain la Neuve, September 2018 We experienced the world socially, but there was also physical stuff
  9. 9. Pondering possible connection with posthumanism “To simplify, posthuman involves us in making an ontological shift from understanding “the human” as an individuated separate entity separate from and observant of the world and its (human and non-human) inhabitants, to one which is inextricably connected to the world and only conceivable as emergent with and through it” (Bayne, 2018) Sheila Webber, 2018
  10. 10. Conception of information Bates’ (2006) definition is “the pattern of organization of matter and energy” (Bates 2006, my emphasis): with this typology: • Genetic information • Experienced information “the feeling of being in life” - includes memories • Enacted information “the pattern of organization of actions of an animal in, and interacting with, its environment” • Expressed information (communicated through gestures, scents, language) • Exosomatic information (information stored externally to the body) • Embedded information “the pattern of organization of the enduring effects of the presence of animals on the earth” (deliberate or not) • Recorded information “Communicatory or memorial information preserved in a durable medium” • Residue Sheila Webber, 2018
  11. 11. (on the right) Screenshot from the cat game Neko Atsume (TM of HitPoint). In understanding this screen we may be drawing on our memory of what different icons etc. mean (e.g. what the numbers denote, the name and toy preferences of each cat) or memories of similar games. Thus the same screenshot may contain varying amounts of information depending on factors such as whether you have played the game, previous experience of Japanese popular culture SheilaWebber,2018 In experiencing the conference meal we are probably engaging with information of all these types (e.g. reading the name of a dish, memories of how the dish tasted, which we share verbally with someone who never tasted it)
  12. 12. Information Literacy "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) This is a definition that we use as a “marker” in our publications, since we have been writing about information literacy for some time “Appropriate” means – appropriate to your context e.g. knowing whether your information need is more appropriately served by asking a friend, looking on Youtube, searching Google, doing a systematic review, consulting a medical expert etc. An information literate person has situated awareness of their needs and of the options open to them to meet their needs (or to choose to ignore the need) Sheila Webber, 2018
  13. 13. Two research approaches • Research approaches – i.e. affecting whole research design • Phenomenography – because it was whilst working on a phenomenographic project I first felt like a real researcher • Case study – a useful and flexible approach that can be followed in different ways, and which can be used together with other theories and methods • Will mostly give examples from my PhD students Sheila Webber, 2018
  14. 14. Phenomenography Sheila Webber, May 2016
  15. 15. "Phenomenography is the empirical study of the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, conceptualise various phenomena in and aspects of the world around us.” Marton (1994) Sheila Webber, 2018 Marton at the SIG Phenomenography conference in 2016
  16. 16. The research question will be in the form of: What are the qualitatively different ways in which [the population] conceive of/ experience [the phenomenon] Started with investigating learning, but wide variety of phenomena have been investigated in different disciplinary contexts (e.g. the operating theatre; the environment; solubility; research; healthy aging; e- assessment) Sheila Webber, 2018
  17. 17. Phenomenon ? Interviewee Interviewer Interviewees chosen purposively, usually to maximise potential variation The interview circles around the central question: discovering the key focus of Interviewee’s conception of the phenomenon Interviewers empathetic, and aiming to bracket their own views Sheila Webber, 2018
  18. 18. Categories Pool of interview transcripts Analysis e.g. describing different ways of experiencing the phenomenon A descriptive ‘snapshot’ + Outcome Space (structure) Holistic view Variation not communality Not looking for causal relationships Focus only on transcripts Sheila Webber, 2018
  19. 19. Analysis has to reveal... • Referential aspect (what is being experienced; what it means): Categories of description, each category describing one experience/ conception • Structural aspect (how the phenomenon is experienced): Outcome space showing how the categories are related, including the dimensions of variation that link and separate the conceptions • Also other aspects, notably the internal and external horizon Sheila Webber, 2018
  20. 20. 3 criteria for categories • They must be qualitatively distinctive • They should be structurally linked (possibly hierarchically) • There should be the minimum number of categories that can capture the variations in experience or conception (Marton and Booth, 1997, 125) Also: one person may hold more than one conception; how many people hold a conception (i.e. one or many) does not signify importance Sheila Webber, 2018
  21. 21. Wheeler & McKinney (2015) Example: Categories from Emily Wheeler’s Masters research into librarians’ conceptions of themselves as teachers of information literacy (6 participants: academic librarians in the UK) Sheila Webber, 2018 Dimensions of variation are: identity (teacher/ not a teacher) and perception of practice (I teach/ do not teach)
  22. 22. Dr Joseph Essel’s research Research Question: What are the qualitatively different ways in which teacher trainees in Ghana conceive of the Information Literate Teacher? Site: University of Education Winneba, Ghana, dedicated to teacher training. Sample: 25 2nd year students, varied as regards age, gender, teaching experience, subject of teaching Sheila Webber, 2018
  23. 23. Categories Being an information literate teacher is conceived as: A. Linguistic competency (knowing & using English) B. ICT and information retrieval C. Critical awareness (quality and relevance of sources) D. Knowledge building (for self and others) E. Professional growth (using information to extend professional capacity) Sheila Webber, 2018
  24. 24. Dr Shahd Salha’s research • Research questions: • What are the varying ways in which Syrian school librarians conceive of information literacy? • To what extent would participating in an IL programme change those conceptions of IL? • Site: Syria (pre 2010) • Sample:10 qualified librarians and 10 who had been teachers and assumed the job of school librarian: varied in age, gender, economic status of area • Design: Phenomenographic interviews/analysis; Intervention; (after about 6 months) 2nd round of interviews/ analysis Sheila Webber, 2018 Shahd Salha (l) & Eva Hornung
  25. 25. The 2nd phase findings (Salha, 2011) SheilaWebber,2018 Dimensions of Variation
  26. 26. Salha (2011)
  27. 27. Combinations? • Can’t have research with just “a phenomenographic texture” • Data collected using some other approach may sometimes be suitable for phenomenographic analysis • Depending on the sample, might be able combine with another approach e.g. ethnography, case study: very likely to need to collect more data, and at some point will have to do specifically phenomenographic analysis Sheila Webber, 2018
  28. 28. Applications of phenomenographic research • Variation theory: having identified how learners’ conceive of a subject, you design learning that enables them to experience the variations • Workplace training & education e.g. – Masters students at the Sheffield iSchool use Wheeler’s framework when reflecting on their own development as teachers of information literacy – Medical staff having a better understanding of how their patients experience an illness Sheila Webber, 2018
  29. 29. Case Study Sheila Webber, 2018
  30. 30. A definition “Case studies are analyses of persons, events, decisions, periods, projects, policies, institutions, or other systems that are studied holistically by one or more methods. The case that is the subject of the inquiry will be an instance of a class of phenomena that provides an analytical frame – an object – within which the study is conducted and which the case illuminates and explicates” (Thomas, 2011b, 513) See also Thomas (2011a) Sheila Webber, 2018
  31. 31. Characteristics • Investigating a “bounded context” i.e. you can tell whether something is inside or outside the context you are focusing on • In order to “study holistically” you normally collect multiple sources of evidence to get different perspectives on the problem; would also expect holistic insights • Prominent case study scholars have different epistemological positions (e.g. Yin more positivist, Merriam constructivist, see Yazan, 2015) Sheila Webber, 2018
  32. 32. • Sometimes a casually or ambiguously used term e.g. – just describes an example or anecdote – medical case – appears in article title but never mentioned again – not clear from description of findings in what way it is a case study Sheila Webber, 2018 Some poor practices in the research literature
  33. 33. Dr Phussadee Dokphrom Dokphrom (2013) Research questions: • What is the perception of information literacy (IL) among academics, students and librarians in the Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University, Thailand ? • What is the existing state of IL education in the Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University, Thailand? “System” = the faculty “Object” = IL (with existing frameworks as a starting point) Sheila Webber, 2018
  34. 34. Embedded case study with four units of analysis Documents 10 Librarians Focus groups IL of Undergraduate Students: Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University Academic Lecturers 4th year Students Documents Department of Modern Eastern Languages Department of Thai Department of History Department of Geography Central Library 23 interviewed in total 35 in total, using focus groups Sheila Webber, 2018
  35. 35. “An active, self-directed learner who is knowledgeable and regularly acquires new information with understanding, as well as having the ability to research and use information with an awareness of a variety of formats” An information literate person: Sheila Webber, 2018
  36. 36. Personal attributes of the information literate student • As identified by staff and students, categorised into –attitude –research skills –generic skills (including English language) –knowledge Dokphrom also developed a model of IL for undergraduate students Sheila Webber, 2018
  37. 37. Attitudes • Attitude towards obtaining information – Enthusiasm – Current awareness – Being observant and curious – Reading attitude – Determination – Open-mindedness • Attitude towards creating knowledge – Well-versed attitude – Interdisciplinary approach “IL refers to a person who knows different people and can exchange information liberally and diversely with them” (MEL student 1) Sheila Webber, 2018
  38. 38. “If you are interested in this history, you watch a TV programme or documentary about it and then you notice if there are any interesting issues. So you can search for more details from the internet or books. For example, when we watch a documentary, if you are not observant, you may watch it as a whole, if you are observant, we can observe that there are a lot of minor issues.” (History student 6) “Being enthusiastic about learning is most important, if you are willing to know, you will make an effort, if you want to know from whatever medium, you will learn how to use them, like if you want to know about this, you will try every way to get the information.” (Geography Lecturer 2) “For example, I have to submit coursework; I have to be enthusiastic in searching for information, learning and doing it. Otherwise, I won’t have any work to submit.” (Thai Student 2) SheilaWebber,2018
  39. 39. Case study is “commonly used in combination with a considerable number of other research designs*. These combined uses both strengthen the appeal of case study and make clear its robustness as a research design” (Tight, 2017, 94, my emphasis) * or other theories or epistemologies May be integrated or sequential Sheila Webber, 2018
  40. 40. Tight (2017) gives examples of .. • CS + action research • CS + critical realism • CS + content analysis • CS + Grounded Theory • CS + evaluation (etc.) Sheila Webber, 2018
  41. 41. Dr Syeda Hina Batool • “System”: primary schools in Lahore, Pakistan • “Object”: information literacy, including its relationship to the Pakistani curriculum and to relevant IL frameworks See: Shahid (2016); Batool & Webber (2017) Sheila Webber, 2018 Photographer:unknownUoSgraduate Syeda Hina Batool (l) and Sheila Webber
  42. 42. Key objectives • To explore IL classroom practices in the selected primary schools of Lahore, Pakistan • To seek teachers teaching methodology in terms of IL instruction • To analyze the students’ information behavior and IL skills • To inspect the problems in the implementation of IL instruction program in the selected schools • To propose an IL model based on findings Sheila Webber, 2018
  43. 43. Interviews with teachers Focus groups with children Observation, photos and field notes Curriculum documents, handouts etc. Each case = 1 school 6 schools, purposive sample of different types Material produced by children in focus groups Data analysis Also: description of the state of education in Pakistan, and an analysis of the Pakistani school curriculum, using James Herring’s PLUS model (Purpose, Location, Use, Self-Evaluation) SheilaWebber,2018
  44. 44. CS + Situational analysis • Case summary & cross case analysis for themes such as teaching methods, children’s practices • Proposed framework for information literacy in Lahore primary schools • Situational analysis (Clarke, 2005) decided on once analysis was in progress – Enabled deeper analysis of the case findings in the Pakistani context, surfacing socio-cultural elements, sites of silence etc. Sheila Webber, 2018
  45. 45. • Dr Jess Elmore: Case Study + Practice Theory + theoretical concept of Information Grounds (investigating information practice of ESOL learners in the ESOL classroom) • Evi Tramantza: Case Study + Action Research (investigating information literacy needs of mechanical engineering students in a Greek and a UK university) Sheila Webber, 2018
  46. 46. but now I think they are really rather exciting I used to think research methods were baffling, Sheila Webber, 2018
  47. 47. Sheila Webber Information School University of Sheffield Twitter & SL: Sheila Yoshikawa Pictures by Sheila Webber taken in Second Life (a trademark of Linden Lab) and the physical world, except for on slide 41
  48. 48. References • Bates, M.(2006). Fundamental forms of information. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(8), 1033-1045. • Batool, S. H. & Webber, S. (2017). Conceptions of school libraries and the role of school librarians: findings from case studies of primary schools in Lahore. Information Research, 22(1), CoLIS paper 1606. • Bayne, S. (2018). Posthumanism: a navigation aid for educators. Journal for Research and Debate, 1(2), 1-7. • Clarke, A. (2005). Situational analysis: grounded theory after the postmodern turn. London: Sage. • Dokphrom, P. (2013). Information literacy of undergraduate students in Thailand: a case of the Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University, Thailand. In M. Hepworth & G. Walton (Eds.). Developing people’s information capabilities. (pp.111-126). Bingley, England: Emerald. • Grace, D., Nunn, E., Chapman, E., Elmore, J., Webber, S. and Andrews, P. (2017) Reflections on Running a critLIS Reading Group. In K.P. Nicholson and M. Seale. The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship. (pp.167-179.) Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press. • Johnston, B. & Webber, S. (2006). As we may think: Information Literacy as a discipline for the information age. Research Strategies, 20(3), 108-121. • Marton, F. (1994). Phenomenography. In T. Husén and T.N. Postlethwaite. (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of education. (2nd ed.). (pp. 4424-4429) Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Sheila Webber, 2018
  49. 49. • Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. • Salha, S. (2011). The variations and the changes in the school librarians' perspectives of information literacy. (Doctoral dissertation). • Shahid, S.B. (2016). Exploring information literacy (IL) practices in primary schools: a case of pakistan. (Doctoral dissertation). • Thomas, G. (2011a). How to do your case study: a guide for students and researchers. London, England: Sage. • Thomas, G. (2011). A typology for the case study in social science following a review of defintion, discourse and structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6), 511-521. • Tight, M. (2017). Understanding case study research. London: Sage. • Trowler, P. (2014). Disciplines and interdisciplinarity: conceptual groundwork. In P. Trowler, M. Saunders & V. Bamber. (Eds.), Tribes and territories in the 21st Century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in Higher Education. (pp.5-29). London: Routledge. • Webber, S. (2003). Information Science in 2003: a critique. Journal of information science, 29 (4), 311-330. • Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2017). Information literacy: conceptions, context and the formation of a discipline. Journal of Information Literacy 11(1) 156-183, . • Wheeler, E. & McKinney, P. (2015). Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching roles. Journal of Information Literacy, 9(2), 111- 128. • Yazan, B. (2015). Three approaches to case study methods in education: Yin, Merriam and Stake. The Qualitative Report, 20(2), 134-152. Sheila Webber, 2018