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What does Information
                     Literacy mean? Some
                     examples from different
                     disciplines
Sheila Webber
University of Sheffield
Department of Information Studies
May 2008

                                    Sheila Webber, May 2008
Outline
• What is IL?
• Findings about disciplinary differences
• Implications of findings




                                 Sheila Webber, May 2008
Information
literacy:
what does it
mean?



        Sheila Webber, May 2008
It means to me:
                 “Information literacy is the
                 adoption of appropriate
                 information behaviour to
Definition by:   identify, through whatever
Johnston &       channel or medium, information
Webber           well fitted to information needs,
                 leading to wise and ethical use
                 of information in society.”

                                   Sheila Webber, May 2008
It means to me:
                 “Alfabetización informacional es
                 la adopción de un
                 comportamiento informativo
                 apropiado para la
Definition by:   identificación, a través de
Johnston &       cualquier canal o medio, la
Webber           información adecuada a las
                 necesidades que nos permita
                 alcanzar un uso inteligente y
                 ético de la información en la
                 sociedad” (translated JJ Álvarez Galán)
                                      Sheila Webber, May 2008
It means in different languages?
•   Informationskompetenz                          Competency?
•   la maîtrise de l’information
•   Informaatiolukutaito                                        Literacy?

•   Informationskompetens                                  Fluency?
•   Las competencias en información
•   La alfabetización informacional

             (with apologies for any linguistic errors!)

                                                       Sheila Webber, May 2008
It means:                               http://www.sconul.ac.uk

     Information
       Literacy
     models and
      standards
  (this is the British
       model for
     universities)
See http://www.sconul.ac.uk/groups/information_literacy/headline_skills.html
for an explanation                                        Sheila Webber, May 2008
It means: a graduate attribute




                      Sheila Webber, May 2008
“4. Demonstrate the core
                                           capabilities and skills of
Characteristics of a                  information literacy, interacting
Sheffield Graduate                    confidently with the nature and
(University of Sheffield              structure of information in their
Learning, Teaching and                      subject and handling
Assessment Strategy)                    information in a professional
                                             and ethical manner;




        See http://www.shef.ac.uk/content/1/c6/04/83/65/lta-strategy2.pdf
                                                              Sheila Webber, May 2008
It means: behaving with
information in an information
       literate manner….

 But what is information?


                       Sheila Webber, May 2008
For someone who teaches marketing
•   News Stories                  •   Statistical data
•   Journal & magazine articles   •   Market research data
•   Books                         •   Google
•   Observation (e.g. observing   •   Article databases e.g.
    how shoppers behave in a          ABI/Inform
    supermarket)                  •   Company websites
•   Colleagues                    •   Company accounts
•   Business organisations        •   Librarians




                                                 Sheila Webber, May 2008
For someone who teaches English

•     Manuscripts                •   Libraries, archives & museums
•     Journal articles           •   Colleagues
•     Books                      •   Websites (e.g. about a writer)
•     Video & sound recordings   •   Artefacts (e.g. rune stones)
•     Performances
•     Newspapers (including
      archives)



                                               Sheila Webber, May 2008
For someone who teaches Civil Engineering

 •   Engineering journals      •   Codes of practice
 •   Books                     •   Colleagues
 •   Web of Science database   •   Land surveys
 •   Google                    •   Geographic Information
 •   Product information       •   Librarians
 •   Manufacturers’ websites   •   Standards and Regulations
 •   Photographs               •   Log books
 •   Data sheets
 •   Design manuals

                                             Sheila Webber, May 2008
Even when sources are the same…
• The Marketing professor needs today’s news and
  articles to keep-up-to date with the business world:
  monitoring and searching are important
• The Chemistry professor needs detailed, regular,
  up-to-date searches on specialist subjects
• The English professor wants to connect her
  research to new developments: browsing and
  linking are important

                                        Sheila Webber, May 2008
Differences
• The information sources differ
• Information behaviour differs
• Information literacy differs
• …so what people want their students to do with
  information differs
• and then … also people are different
• so what motivates them to work with librarians
  differs
                                      Sheila Webber, May 2008
Results from our project:
revealing some differences




                 Sheila Webber, May 2008
• Three-year Arts & Humanities Research Council
  (AHRC) - funded project (Nov 2002- Nov 2005)
  To explore UK academics’ conceptions of,
  and pedagogy for, information literacy

• Sheila Webber; Bill Johnston; Stuart Boon
  (Research Assistant: now lecturing at
  Strathclyde University)

                                    Sheila Webber, May 2008
Key research questions

1. What conceptions of information literacy
   are held by UK academics?
2. What are academics’ conceptions and
   reported practice in educating students for
   information literacy?
3. Do differences in conception correspond
   to differences in discipline?


                                   Sheila Webber, May 2008
• 20 academics from each of 4 disciplines (varied
  sample, 26 different universities)
• Phenomenographic research approach,
  identifying variation in conception
• Phenomenography has been used to investigate
  approaches to teaching, approaches to study,
  conceptions of a subject etc.


                                    Sheila Webber, May 2008
Pure                            Applied
     Contextual imperatives:          Draws on hard knowledge
     each new piece of                domain, applied to practical
     knowledge has its place in       problems
Hard the picture
                                      Outcomes which are often
     quot;Discoveryquot;                      products, techniques
     Chemistry                        Civil Engineering
     Contextual associations:         Draws on soft pure knowledge
     loosely knit clusters of ideas   domain to interpret and
                                      understand situations
     quot;Interpretationsquot;
Soft                                  Outcomes are often
                                      protocols or procedures
       English                        Marketing
                                                Sheila Webber, May 2008
quot;Phenomenography is the empirical
                   study of the differing ways in
                   which people experience,
                   perceive, apprehend, understand,
 Marton (1994)     conceptualise various
                   phenomena in and aspects of the
                   world around us.”

Qualitative research aiming for        insights
                                       Sheila Webber, May 2008
Insights

 Us         Interviewee

                              What is key focus of
                              Interviewee’s conception
                ?             of IL?

       Information Literacy


                                        Sheila Webber, May 2008
Marketing: Information literacy as…
1. Accessing information quickly and easily to be aware of
   what’s going on (focus on providing links, reading lists,
   demonstrations – but perhaps not guidance on evaluation)
2. Using IT to work with information efficiently and effectively
   (e.g. using data mining software to create information out of
   data)
3. Possessing a set of information skills (e.g. “find, sift, sort,
   analyse and disseminate” (MKTG05)* and applying them to the
   task in hand (e.g. an assignment or article) but not
   concentrating on how the skills might be more broadly useful
                                       *interviewee number
                                               Sheila Webber, May 2008
Marketing: Information literacy as…
4. Using information literacy to solve real-world problems (so
   needing information literacy skills, but focusing them on
   problem solving)
5. Becoming critical thinkers “Always thinking, always
   questioning.” (MKTG11)
6. Becoming a confident, independent practitioner e.g. “It
   [information literacy] means I can do my job. Do it effectively.
   I can find the information I am looking for and I know what to
   do with it as well.” (MKTG15)

                                                 Sheila Webber, May 2008
Example of conception1:
“So information is vital. And being up to
date with the information you are gathering
is vital—being on top of events. In
business, nothing remains the same. One
day the sky is blue, the next day it’s green
or red. You’ve always got to be on top of
the news and pulling in information from
every angle.” (Marketing 09)



                              Sheila Webber, May 2008
English: Information literacy as…
1. Accessing and retrieving textual information
2. Using IT to access and retrieve information
3. Possessing basic research skills and knowing how
   and when to use them
4. Becoming confident, autonomous learners and
   critical thinkers



                                     Sheila Webber, May 2008
English and Marketing
• Marketing: using IT to manipulate data
  (geographic, statistical etc.)
• English: using IT to access information – mostly
  text
• Marketing: problem solving, looking forward to using
  information as a professional in the workplace
• English: focus on personal development



                                       Sheila Webber, May 2008
Chemistry: Information literacy as…
1. Accessing and searching chemical
   information
   Traditional published sources: databases of articles and
   chemical structures
2. Mastering a chemist's information skill set
   Includes handling data they have created e.g. in the lab
3. Communicating scientific information
4. An essential part of the constitution/
   construction/ creation of knowledge
   the chemist in the information society!
                                             Sheila Webber, May 2008
English & Chemistry
• Personal (English) vs Professional (Chemistry)
   – cf. Personal vs. group mode of researching
   – Social/civic role vs. role of chemist in society
• Nature of information
   – Unified view of what chemistry information is (building
     blocks of knowledge) vs. in English focus on different
     media
   – Way in which information accessed/ used including role
     of IT
                                                Sheila Webber, May 2008
Civil Engineering: Information literacy as…
1.   Accessing and retrieving data and information e.g. “the
     ability of students to find relevant information to the tasks at
     hand” (CENG15)
2.   Applying and using information e.g. “the ability to
     recognise, sort, manipulate, or make use of the information”
     (CENG09)
3.   Analysis and sense making e.g. “basically it is creative,
     analytical problem-solving” (CENG16)
4.   Creating, and incorporating information into a professional
     knowledge base e.g. “get them to the point that they can be
     literate in their discipline and its wide, wider context….”
     (CENG19)
                                                 Sheila Webber, May 2008
Focus for (and concerns about)
  information literacy also may depend on -

• Specialist field within a subject e.g. 18th century English
  vs. English popular culture
• Teaching context (e.g. what kind of university? Are
  academics encouraged to do more than “lecture”?)
• Level of student (progression in information literacy
  each year!)



                                               Sheila Webber, May 2008
Note that academics’ conceptions do not
all focus on “traditional” search/ find parts
of information literacy
• Reflective thinking, being a practitioner, being
  creative ….
• Keywords from a seminar with academics and
  students at Sheffield earlier this year:
  confidence, curiosity, positive attitude,
  evaluation, synthesis


                                         Sheila Webber, May 2008
Creating relationships
• Understanding and empathy with potential
  partners – listening and learning e.g.
   – Don't just be a quot;toolboxquot; person (relating a toolbox
     of IL skills to specific context, assuming academics
     are deficient in IL…)
• Using knowledge of potential partners for
  Relationship Marketing approach (tailoring
  product, promotion, place, process)


                                            Sheila Webber, May 2008
Creating relationships
• Different strategies likely to appeal to different
  categories e.g.
   – Toolbox and access approaches will not appeal to
     academics with quot;Engaging with students to show
     them the value of information and information
     literacyquot; conception (would want critical thinking &
     lifelong learning approach)
   – A critical thinking approach may not excite an
     academic who wants students to “find chemical
     data and structures for their assignments”
                                            Sheila Webber, May 2008
Opportunities
• Changing structure (e.g. Bologna Process)
• New head of university or department
• Teaching quality audits
• New or changed degree programmes
• New information systems, or educational
  technology
• New library or learning spaces
• New academic staff

                                      Sheila Webber, May 2008
Creating relationships
• Some academics like librarians’
  models and frameworks
• Some will want to adapt the models
• Some academics will only be interested in
  pursuing their conception of information
  literacy: but perhaps they have good reasons!



                                      Sheila Webber, May 2008
Questions to ask
• What kinds of “information” is it important for
  students to be able to deal with?
• What information literacy skills will students need
  after they graduate?
• What conception of information literacy do you
  and colleagues have? If varied, they may be
  complementary!
• What kinds of study and information practice are
  valued e.g. problem solving; finding information;
  critical evaluation
                                         Sheila Webber, May 2008
Sheila Webber
s.webber@shef.ac.uk
http://information-literacy.blogspot.com/




                                            Sheila Webber, May 2008
Bibliography
•   Boon, S., Johnston, B. and Webber, S. (2007) quot;A phenomenographic study of
    English faculty's conceptions of information literacy.quot; Journal of documentation, 63
    (2), 204-228.
•   Webber, S., Boon, S. and Johnston, B. (2005) “A comparison of UK academics’
    conceptions of information literacy in two disciplines: English and Marketing.”
    Library and information research, 29 (93), 4-15.
•   Webber, S., Boon, S. and Johnston, B. (2006) quot;Comparaison des conceptions
    pédagogiques de la maîtrise de l’information chez des universitaires britanniques
    de différentes disciplines.“ [British academics from different disciplines: comparing
    their conceptions of pedagogy for information literacy] Actes des 5èmes
    Rencontres Formist: Lyon: 2005. Lyon: ENSSIB.
    http://babel.enssib.fr/document.php?id=315 (English version at:
    http://dis.shef.ac.uk/sheila/webber-FORMIST.pdf)
•   Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2006) Hacia una universidad alfabetizada en
    información. Boletin de la Asociación Andaluza de Bibliotecarios, 21 984/5), 47-52.
•   Johnston, B. and Webber, S. (2007) “Como podriamos pensar: alfabetización
    informacional como una disciplina de la era de la información.” Anales de
    documentación, 10, 491-504.
                                                                 Sheila Webber, May 2008

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What does Information Literacy mean? Some examples from different disciplines

  • 1. What does Information Literacy mean? Some examples from different disciplines Sheila Webber University of Sheffield Department of Information Studies May 2008 Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 2. Outline • What is IL? • Findings about disciplinary differences • Implications of findings Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 4. It means to me: “Information literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to Definition by: identify, through whatever Johnston & channel or medium, information Webber well fitted to information needs, leading to wise and ethical use of information in society.” Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 5. It means to me: “Alfabetización informacional es la adopción de un comportamiento informativo apropiado para la Definition by: identificación, a través de Johnston & cualquier canal o medio, la Webber información adecuada a las necesidades que nos permita alcanzar un uso inteligente y ético de la información en la sociedad” (translated JJ Álvarez Galán) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 6. It means in different languages? • Informationskompetenz Competency? • la maîtrise de l’information • Informaatiolukutaito Literacy? • Informationskompetens Fluency? • Las competencias en información • La alfabetización informacional (with apologies for any linguistic errors!) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 7. It means: http://www.sconul.ac.uk Information Literacy models and standards (this is the British model for universities) See http://www.sconul.ac.uk/groups/information_literacy/headline_skills.html for an explanation Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 8. It means: a graduate attribute Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 9. “4. Demonstrate the core capabilities and skills of Characteristics of a information literacy, interacting Sheffield Graduate confidently with the nature and (University of Sheffield structure of information in their Learning, Teaching and subject and handling Assessment Strategy) information in a professional and ethical manner; See http://www.shef.ac.uk/content/1/c6/04/83/65/lta-strategy2.pdf Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 10. It means: behaving with information in an information literate manner…. But what is information? Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 11. For someone who teaches marketing • News Stories • Statistical data • Journal & magazine articles • Market research data • Books • Google • Observation (e.g. observing • Article databases e.g. how shoppers behave in a ABI/Inform supermarket) • Company websites • Colleagues • Company accounts • Business organisations • Librarians Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 12. For someone who teaches English • Manuscripts • Libraries, archives & museums • Journal articles • Colleagues • Books • Websites (e.g. about a writer) • Video & sound recordings • Artefacts (e.g. rune stones) • Performances • Newspapers (including archives) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 13. For someone who teaches Civil Engineering • Engineering journals • Codes of practice • Books • Colleagues • Web of Science database • Land surveys • Google • Geographic Information • Product information • Librarians • Manufacturers’ websites • Standards and Regulations • Photographs • Log books • Data sheets • Design manuals Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 14. Even when sources are the same… • The Marketing professor needs today’s news and articles to keep-up-to date with the business world: monitoring and searching are important • The Chemistry professor needs detailed, regular, up-to-date searches on specialist subjects • The English professor wants to connect her research to new developments: browsing and linking are important Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 15. Differences • The information sources differ • Information behaviour differs • Information literacy differs • …so what people want their students to do with information differs • and then … also people are different • so what motivates them to work with librarians differs Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 16. Results from our project: revealing some differences Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 17. • Three-year Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - funded project (Nov 2002- Nov 2005) To explore UK academics’ conceptions of, and pedagogy for, information literacy • Sheila Webber; Bill Johnston; Stuart Boon (Research Assistant: now lecturing at Strathclyde University) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 18. Key research questions 1. What conceptions of information literacy are held by UK academics? 2. What are academics’ conceptions and reported practice in educating students for information literacy? 3. Do differences in conception correspond to differences in discipline? Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 19. • 20 academics from each of 4 disciplines (varied sample, 26 different universities) • Phenomenographic research approach, identifying variation in conception • Phenomenography has been used to investigate approaches to teaching, approaches to study, conceptions of a subject etc. Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 20. Pure Applied Contextual imperatives: Draws on hard knowledge each new piece of domain, applied to practical knowledge has its place in problems Hard the picture Outcomes which are often quot;Discoveryquot; products, techniques Chemistry Civil Engineering Contextual associations: Draws on soft pure knowledge loosely knit clusters of ideas domain to interpret and understand situations quot;Interpretationsquot; Soft Outcomes are often protocols or procedures English Marketing Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 21. quot;Phenomenography is the empirical study of the differing ways in which people experience, perceive, apprehend, understand, Marton (1994) conceptualise various phenomena in and aspects of the world around us.” Qualitative research aiming for insights Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 22. Insights Us Interviewee What is key focus of Interviewee’s conception ? of IL? Information Literacy Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 23. Marketing: Information literacy as… 1. Accessing information quickly and easily to be aware of what’s going on (focus on providing links, reading lists, demonstrations – but perhaps not guidance on evaluation) 2. Using IT to work with information efficiently and effectively (e.g. using data mining software to create information out of data) 3. Possessing a set of information skills (e.g. “find, sift, sort, analyse and disseminate” (MKTG05)* and applying them to the task in hand (e.g. an assignment or article) but not concentrating on how the skills might be more broadly useful *interviewee number Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 24. Marketing: Information literacy as… 4. Using information literacy to solve real-world problems (so needing information literacy skills, but focusing them on problem solving) 5. Becoming critical thinkers “Always thinking, always questioning.” (MKTG11) 6. Becoming a confident, independent practitioner e.g. “It [information literacy] means I can do my job. Do it effectively. I can find the information I am looking for and I know what to do with it as well.” (MKTG15) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 25. Example of conception1: “So information is vital. And being up to date with the information you are gathering is vital—being on top of events. In business, nothing remains the same. One day the sky is blue, the next day it’s green or red. You’ve always got to be on top of the news and pulling in information from every angle.” (Marketing 09) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 26. English: Information literacy as… 1. Accessing and retrieving textual information 2. Using IT to access and retrieve information 3. Possessing basic research skills and knowing how and when to use them 4. Becoming confident, autonomous learners and critical thinkers Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 27. English and Marketing • Marketing: using IT to manipulate data (geographic, statistical etc.) • English: using IT to access information – mostly text • Marketing: problem solving, looking forward to using information as a professional in the workplace • English: focus on personal development Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 28. Chemistry: Information literacy as… 1. Accessing and searching chemical information Traditional published sources: databases of articles and chemical structures 2. Mastering a chemist's information skill set Includes handling data they have created e.g. in the lab 3. Communicating scientific information 4. An essential part of the constitution/ construction/ creation of knowledge the chemist in the information society! Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 29. English & Chemistry • Personal (English) vs Professional (Chemistry) – cf. Personal vs. group mode of researching – Social/civic role vs. role of chemist in society • Nature of information – Unified view of what chemistry information is (building blocks of knowledge) vs. in English focus on different media – Way in which information accessed/ used including role of IT Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 30. Civil Engineering: Information literacy as… 1. Accessing and retrieving data and information e.g. “the ability of students to find relevant information to the tasks at hand” (CENG15) 2. Applying and using information e.g. “the ability to recognise, sort, manipulate, or make use of the information” (CENG09) 3. Analysis and sense making e.g. “basically it is creative, analytical problem-solving” (CENG16) 4. Creating, and incorporating information into a professional knowledge base e.g. “get them to the point that they can be literate in their discipline and its wide, wider context….” (CENG19) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 31. Focus for (and concerns about) information literacy also may depend on - • Specialist field within a subject e.g. 18th century English vs. English popular culture • Teaching context (e.g. what kind of university? Are academics encouraged to do more than “lecture”?) • Level of student (progression in information literacy each year!) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 32. Note that academics’ conceptions do not all focus on “traditional” search/ find parts of information literacy • Reflective thinking, being a practitioner, being creative …. • Keywords from a seminar with academics and students at Sheffield earlier this year: confidence, curiosity, positive attitude, evaluation, synthesis Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 33. Creating relationships • Understanding and empathy with potential partners – listening and learning e.g. – Don't just be a quot;toolboxquot; person (relating a toolbox of IL skills to specific context, assuming academics are deficient in IL…) • Using knowledge of potential partners for Relationship Marketing approach (tailoring product, promotion, place, process) Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 34. Creating relationships • Different strategies likely to appeal to different categories e.g. – Toolbox and access approaches will not appeal to academics with quot;Engaging with students to show them the value of information and information literacyquot; conception (would want critical thinking & lifelong learning approach) – A critical thinking approach may not excite an academic who wants students to “find chemical data and structures for their assignments” Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 35. Opportunities • Changing structure (e.g. Bologna Process) • New head of university or department • Teaching quality audits • New or changed degree programmes • New information systems, or educational technology • New library or learning spaces • New academic staff Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 36. Creating relationships • Some academics like librarians’ models and frameworks • Some will want to adapt the models • Some academics will only be interested in pursuing their conception of information literacy: but perhaps they have good reasons! Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 37. Questions to ask • What kinds of “information” is it important for students to be able to deal with? • What information literacy skills will students need after they graduate? • What conception of information literacy do you and colleagues have? If varied, they may be complementary! • What kinds of study and information practice are valued e.g. problem solving; finding information; critical evaluation Sheila Webber, May 2008
  • 39. Bibliography • Boon, S., Johnston, B. and Webber, S. (2007) quot;A phenomenographic study of English faculty's conceptions of information literacy.quot; Journal of documentation, 63 (2), 204-228. • Webber, S., Boon, S. and Johnston, B. (2005) “A comparison of UK academics’ conceptions of information literacy in two disciplines: English and Marketing.” Library and information research, 29 (93), 4-15. • Webber, S., Boon, S. and Johnston, B. (2006) quot;Comparaison des conceptions pédagogiques de la maîtrise de l’information chez des universitaires britanniques de différentes disciplines.“ [British academics from different disciplines: comparing their conceptions of pedagogy for information literacy] Actes des 5èmes Rencontres Formist: Lyon: 2005. Lyon: ENSSIB. http://babel.enssib.fr/document.php?id=315 (English version at: http://dis.shef.ac.uk/sheila/webber-FORMIST.pdf) • Webber, S. and Johnston, B. (2006) Hacia una universidad alfabetizada en información. Boletin de la Asociación Andaluza de Bibliotecarios, 21 984/5), 47-52. • Johnston, B. and Webber, S. (2007) “Como podriamos pensar: alfabetización informacional como una disciplina de la era de la información.” Anales de documentación, 10, 491-504. Sheila Webber, May 2008