Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LILAC report: Students helping students: a peer-led learning model with an information literacy focus #lilac11

Another post - from the final session at the LILAC conference in London. Students helping students: a peer-led learning model with an information literacy focus was a presentation from Tamsin Bolton and Tina Pugliese (University of Windsor, Canada).
Tamsin said at the start how she has a broad conception of information literacy, and she wants students to think about information literacy in a broader sense, so they can go out as information literate citizens. The involvement started with a conversation with an academic developing a module called Ways of knowing, which was a response to retention issues, with students who find it difficult engaging with academic study. It has student mentors embedded in the classroom, and they have to take a course beforehand, so they can support engagement with learning. The mentors sit in class (in red shirts) and lead discussion sessions.
Librarians worked with individual first year groups the first two years, and then started to see potential problems. One was that the students created communities (including the student mentor), and when the librarians intervened it wasn't having as much impact as the student mentor's input. Therefore it seemed sensible to but more focus on using the student mentors as mentors in information literacy as well (and train them to undertake this role). However the mentors expressed discomfort with the role, feeling they didn't have the right skills. This led to the mentors' preparation course having a strong information literacy component. The three main units are mentorship & leadership; critical thinking & information literacy; and planning & feedback. It is emphasised that information is not just about doing assignments, but has wider citizenship and global dimensions.The mentors do a research paper, critical analysis, and reflective practice (keeping weekly journals).
Tamsin said that whilst, to start with, the emphasis was on the mentored first years, but engagement with the senior group of mentors has also been important, and the mentors also feel that beinga mentor has improved their approach to study and actual marks.
This initiative has grown, so now 2000 incoming students will be working like this with mentors (mostly now in other classes, not in "Ways of Knowing" classes). It means doing work with different departments on developing the teaching, learning and assessment in line with this approach, with more rersearch-based assignments. A key benefit for librarians is getting touch with a wide variety of modules via the mentors, and being seen as a support and expert by the mentors.
Tamsin also mentioned that the original objective, improving student retention, also appears to have been met, with improved statistics.

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