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Information Literacy and the role of the supervisor: a supervisor's perspective


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This was presented by Sheila Webber on 9th May 2011 at the CILIP University Science and Technology Librarians' Group meeting. In it she identifies some of the factors that may affect the way in which a supervisor interacts with and guides the student, which have implications for the way in which teh student may develop information literacy. Additional notes have been added for this Slideshare version (in blue)

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Information Literacy and the role of the supervisor: a supervisor's perspective

  1. 1. Information Literacy and the role of the supervisor: a supervisor‟s perspective Sheila Webber Information School University of Sheffield May 2011 With additional notes for this Slideshare versionSupervisor Examiner
  2. 2. Variations in supervisors • Education/culture “the powerful impact of the supervisor‟s previous experience as a PhD student on how they supervise now.” (Lee, 2008: 268) • Supervisory styles • Discipline • Research approaches “this is your tiny part of the existing project” to spending first year refining your question • Conceptions of research This presentation identifies some ways in which doctoral supervisors • Stage of career may vary. These variations include differences in the way they • Structure of the PhD programme supervise. The differences can affect the information literacy ofSheila Webber, 2011 their students
  3. 3. Underlying this presentation is the view that a supervisor will have a big impact on his or her doctoral student, as it is an influential one to one relationship that lasts several years. The student may model the supervisor‟s behaviour, including information behaviour. I will not be talking further about differences in doctoral programme structure (e.g. in the UK the main focus throughout is on the student‟s original research, in the USA there is more emphasis on taught modules; in the UK the viva is closed, in some other countries it is an open event) Firstly, supervisors‟ experience or conception of research can vary. Brew (2001) identified four ways of experiencing research, as outlined on the next slide. There has not been research in this area, but I would hypothesise that there might be slightly different information behaviour associated with different experiences of research. For example, someone with the “trading” experience may be focused on purposive searching (to complete a paper, or to fulfil the requirements of a project), whereas someone with a “journey” conception may put high value on browsing, encountering and serendipity, as they explore areas around their subject of interest.Sheila Webber, 2011
  4. 4. Conceptions of research (Brew, 2001) • Domino: research as a series of tasks, issues etc.; distinct but linked & to be synthesised • Trading: “What is in the foreground are the products of research: publications, grants, and social networks. These are created and then exchanged in a social situation for money, prestige or simply recognition.” (p277) • Layer: exploring & illuminating existing & new layers of meaning • Journey: “The content or topic of the investigation is less important than the issues or underlying questions posed, or the ways in which they dovetail with the researcher‟s life or career” (p279)Sheila Webber, 2011
  5. 5. The next slide lists the different approaches to doctoral supervision identified by Lee (2008). An experienced and empathetic supervisor may vary their approach depending on the needs and preferences of the student, but the supervisor is likely to have a preferred or default approach. I think that my espoused approach to supervision is “emancipatory”. Again, this is going to have an impact on information approaches and conceptions of information literacy as well. The functional supervisor may be focused on ensuring that the student has just “ticked the boxes” as regards requirements for information literacy training, the supervisor focused on enculturation may encourage the student only to value those information behaviours which are important in the specific discipline, the emancipatory supervisor may put an emphasis on encouraging the student to find their own information style.Sheila Webber, 2011
  6. 6. Approaches to supervision (Lee, 2008) • Functional: project management “I know of places where there is a PhD factory.” (Lee, 2008: 271) • Enculturation into the disciplinary community (supervisor as gatekeeper, coach) • Critical thinking: students questioning their work, supervisor challenging, evaluating • Emancipation: student growing, reflecting; supervisor mentoring “Your job as a supervisor is to get them to the stage of knowing more than you” “I want it to have changed how they see the world” (p274) • Developing a quality relationship (reciprocal) between supervisor and studentSheila Webber, 2011
  7. 7. Eva Hornung Remote location student Librarian working full time in Dublin, Ireland Successful viva in March 2011 Phenomenographic approach Irish solo librarians‟ conceptions of CPD In the Dr Yazdan Mansourian presentation Assisstant Professor, Tarbiat Moallem I presented videoclips of University, Tehran, Iran two of my Graduated successfully 2006 students, Eva and Grounded theory approach Yazdan Information Visibility on the Web and Conceptions of Success and Failure inSheila Webber, 2011 Web Searching
  8. 8. I also quoted from interviews undertaken as part of a three year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council 2001-2005. 80 academics were interviewed, 20 in each of 4 disciplines; from a variety of universities, and a mix of age, gender and responsibilities. The next slides give quotations in which the academics give accounts of their own information behaviour, e.g. when writing a paper. They illustrate the different information behaviours, and the different meanings of information, in different disciplines Academics interviewed for the AHRC- funded project investigating UK academics‟ conceptions of IL and pedagogy for ILSheila Webber, 2011
  9. 9. Discipline CHEMISTRY ACADEMIC 08: “Well, sure, say I‟ve got a paper to write on a chemical structure. The chemist has often written that part, the chemical part of the paper, you know, how it was made. They‟ve given me some of the background information. I would like perhaps to bring it up to date and stuff like that, particularly from my own perspective in structural chemistry, so what I will do is I will read the paper, I will check the references, I will check similar reference on Web of Science, the ISI one, so you can kind of put in a reference and get similar ones to that one or ones who have been cited by or cited in that paper, so then you can sort of by that method you can find similar papers, and you can also search for subject in these databases as well, so I try to get the best set of references out of these journal-kind of databases. Then putting the structural similarity aside, I will use a chemical database, Cambridge crystallographic database.” (Quotation from AHRC-funded research into conceptions of IL)Sheila Webber, 2011
  10. 10. …so developing IL with focus on • Formal search • Collaborative information and writing behaviour • Specific types of information; e.g. textual, chemical structures • Journal article publication, set structure • Current literatureSheila Webber, 2011
  11. 11. ENGLISH ACADEMIC 11: I am usually starting off with a certain set, maybe one, maybe several of I would think of as primary texts, texts which are my primary focus and then on from that, I would be using my prior experience, the virtual bibliography that I have in my head, so to speak, to go to ancillary texts to cover my knowledge and to increase my knowledge of what has already been written, established, argued, about those texts, and then to see if there is a point at which that debate which has been set up, because that is what I take literary criticism to be, a debate or a forum that has been set up about a particular writer, about a particular text, uh, where my point of entrance might be, so, you know, one may get some sort of an idea about it. The start will be there but the next step is to see there is the possibility of—I‟m sliding around on my metaphors here—whether there is the possibility of actually making a contribution in the forum that is already there about that text.Sheila Webber, 2011
  12. 12. ENGLISH ACADEMIC 10: Yeah, a lot of people as sources. And just being plugged into the field, um, and um, and, and, and just reading papers, reading the literature and that kind of thing. I am not sure hand-on-heart that I more than a handful of times went to the MLA databases and typed in a search term to find out material, which might show the limits of my, uh, my own, um, research. I think it‟s more just working with the field and I think that has made a big difference for me, I think, I think in fact… I‟ve never had anybody comment on the fact that I lack that kind of thing, it‟s usually the reverse. Usually people say, „This is very well read in the field,‟ so it‟s small, but it‟s a small field, so… minor XXth Century XX poets, so I‟ve been very, very lucky I think. I get surprised quite… but usually people in the scholarly community talk about things and about what‟s coming out, new books, and you know what‟s coming out and you know what‟s around, because people are always talking about it.Sheila Webber, 2011
  13. 13. …so developing IL with focus on • Relationship with your disciplinary community • Understanding, evaluating etc. the conversations around your texts/field of study • Journals, books or other contributions to the conversation as output • Keeping in touch with current thinkingParticularly if this was combined with an enculturation approach to supervising, itmeans that the information literacy being advocated (explicitly or implicitly) by thesupervisor was going to be very different from discipline to discipline. It also means thatif a student had a “functional” supervisor, who pointed a student towards generic ILeducation, the student might not be well placed to integrate him or herself into theinformation world of his or her discipline. Sheila Webber, 2011
  14. 14. Research approachCIVIL ENGINEERING 17 “… what I have found in my experience is that thosepeople who, who say are in the fields of science, technology and engineeringare usually quite illiterate really in terms of the information in their own discipline,and I think that is primarily because they are always given a research topic, youknow, it‟s usually the result of some of their, you know, some other kind of, youknow, their grant has come specifically to support a certain project, so they comeinto with that question already. And they usually know nothing about it and thenthey go away and find out about it. Whereas those who are doing morequalitative research, say like something, you know, stemmed from somethingmore in themselves, they have a more personal, from before they start theresearch, it comes from an interest within themselves and they are already alittle bit more aware of what is going on in their field and their discipline, so thereare those two aspects, but really what I am trying to do is get them to the pointthat they can be literate in their discipline and its wide, wider context to generatea suitable thesis for research.”Sheila Webber, 2011
  15. 15. “It helped In the previous slide, the academic was identifying different research approaches, me find which to some extent may be related to disciplinary differences. Some PhD students may simply be “given” their research question the main or hypothesis, told what research methods to use, and be part of a larger research project. This requires little exploration of the literature, focal point but rather very purposive and precise searching. In contrast, a student developing their own research question may spend more of my PhD or less the first year in exploring the research literature and the research methods literature to identify a meaningful question or hypothesis. …” In the presentation, I played a videoclip of Yazdan Mansourian describing the iterative process of refining his research question and then returning to the literature.Sheila Webber, 2011
  16. 16. The next slide shows the criteria that someone examining a PhD at Sheffield University uses, when deciding whether or not to award a candidate a PhD, following submission of the written PhD and the viva. As you see, they are very brief (the criteria at other universities where I have examined PhDs are similar). They obviously have to be broad enough to cover PhDs in all specialisms, but they provide a focus on what is really important.Sheila Webber, 2011
  17. 17. Criteria for examining PhD• Is original work which forms an addition to knowledge• Shows evidence of systematic study and of the ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject• Is worthy of publication either in full or in an abridged form• In addition, the form of the thesis should be such that it is demonstrably a coherent body of work, i.e. includes a summary, an introduction, a description of the aims of the research, an analytical discussion of the related findings to date, the main results and conclusions, and sets the total work in context.University of Sheffield Research and Innovation Services. (2011) Guidance Notes forExaminers of research degree programmes . Sheffield: University of Sheffield
  18. 18. Q: What does your PhD mean to you? Here I showed two videoclips in which Eva and Yazdan said “If I had to do it what the PhD meant to them. To me, they illustrate how a good doctoral candidate is not again, I’d do it just concerned about “the piece of paper”, but values the doctoral experience and has a again …” passion for their research beyond the PhD. “.. give “Lifelong ambition” something back …” “An exploratorySheila Webber, 2011 journey”
  19. 19. Researcher Development Framework Although I am not a fan of skill lists, I think the RDF makes a good attempt to capture skills and knowledge In another required, and presentation in think it is good this seminar, that it includes Moira Bent attitudes as well showed how the as behaviours. SCONUL 7 Pillars of information literacy could be aligned with the RDFVitae®, © 2010 Careers Research and AdvisoryCentre (CRAC) Limited. Sheila Webber, 2011
  20. 20. “All Postgraduate Research students will participate in the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP). The DDP will provide research students with a range of skills and competency-based training opportunities orientated both towards their specific programme of study and towards future employment. In particular, as an outcome of engaging with the DDP, during research studies, doctoral graduates will possess advanced skills in inquiry, communication and organisation. They should also be able to reflect critically and take a creative approach to issues in and beyond their field of research expertise.” (p17) University of Sheffield Research and Innovation Service. (2010) Code of Practice for research degree programmes 2010-2011. Sheffield: University of Sheffield.Sheila Webber, 2011
  21. 21. Doctoral Development Programme: Sheffield University This is the structure of the new development programme for doctoral students at Sheffield. I think that it is good that doctoral students have structured frameworks for development (to avoid the horrors of non-supervision that might have been experienced in times gone by) but they also may leave out the creativity, attitudes etc. from the RDF & may convey generic / simplistic notions of information literacy. © University of SheffieldSheila Webber, 2011
  22. 22. Approaches to supervision (Lee, 2008) • Functional: project management • Enculturation into the disciplinary community (supervisor as gatekeeper, coach) • Critical thinking: students questioning their work, supervisor challenging, evaluating • Emancipation: student growing, reflecting; supervisor mentoring “Your job as a supervisor is to get them to the stage of knowing more than you” (p274) • Developing a quality relationship (reciprocal) between supervisor and studentReturning to Lee‟s (2008) categories, essentially, these frameworks embody a “functional”approach to doctoral supervision. I think that having this as part of your approach is essential,but on its own it may not be a very rich experience for the student, nor enable them to exploreand develop their information literacy fully …Sheila Webber, 2011
  23. 23. Chemistry: Information literacy as… 1. Accessing and searching … since it may not chemical information take account of richer conceptions 2. Mastering a chemists information of IL, such as some of those given here skill set (these were the conceptions of IL 3. Communicating scientific discovered from information chemistry academics in our 4. An essential part of the 2002-5 research) … constitution/ construction/ creation of knowledge (Results from AHRC-funded research into conceptions of IL)Sheila Webber, 2011
  24. 24. … nor develop these behaviours and attitudes which the RDF identifies as required for an effective researcher Example 3. Creativity • Behaviour: • Develops new ways of working; has novel ideas 1. Inquiring and realises their potential mind • Identifies new trends; creates new opportunities 2. Intellectual • Develops convincing and persuasive arguments insight to defend research 3. Innovation • Takes intellectual risks; challenges the status quo 4. Argument • Attitude: construction • Takes a creative, imaginative and inquiring 5. Intellectual approach to research risk • Is open to new sources of ideasVitae®, © 2010 Careers Research and AdvisoryCentre (CRAC) Limited. Sheila Webber, 2011
  25. 25. I finish with the next slide, showing the Information Literate University. This is because I feel that this support structure of an ILU is needed to ensure that all students can experience an information literate doctoral journey. The support and development enabled by an ILU (more rounded and creative than that specified by a functional doctoral programme, or the individualities of a supervisor) would be important in the student‟s development of an information literacy of value in his/her discipline, in his/her career, and in his/her life as a citizen.Sheila Webber, 2011
  26. 26. Information literate Information literate staff & managers Curriculum • IL in disciplinary curriculum • IL as discipline Staffdevelopment Information Literate for IL University Information literate students Management for IL •Strategy; Policy; Information •Resourcing; infrastructure; •Knowledge & Records literate research Copyright Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston, 2010
  27. 27. Sheila WebberInformation SchoolUniversity of & Twitter Sheila Yoshikawa Graphics: Sheila Webber unless otherwise stated
  28. 28. References • Brew, A. (2001). “Conceptions of Research: A phenomenographic study.” Studies in Higher Education, 26(3), 271-285. • Lee, A. (2008) “How are doctoral students supervised? Concepts of doctoral research supervision.” Studies in Higher Education, 33(3), 267-281. • Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2010) The Information Literate University. Video of talk presented at Lund University, Sweden, August 2010. d=9d3f3d440b6d4b5f953c08d4594b5424Sheila Webber, 2011