Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LILAC report: Using Cross-Cutting Groups to Enact Information Literacy Strategy #lilac11

This is a report on an afternoon sedssion from the last day of the LILAC (Information Literacy) conference 18-20 April 2011 in London, UK (though the picture is from a workshop on the first day). The session I'm writing about is Using Cross-Cutting Groups to Enact Information Literacy Strategy: A Comparative Case Study of Norway and the UK from Sheila Corrall (University of Sheffield) and Maria-Carme Torras (University of Bergen). This is the abstract. They identified the shift from a focus on operational matters to strategic development of information literacy. It has been shown that it is quite common to use cross-institutional task forces to approach this, but there is little research on this, so they thought it would be useful to compare what happened at the University of Bergen and at Sheffield University. They started by giving some background about both universities.
They were able to draw on an evaluation of Sheffield's Centre for Inquiry based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences project (specifically, an initiative within that, the Information Literacy Network (ILN), were able to use minutes from meetings etc. at Bergen University and engaged in a reflective dialogue. Sheila said a bit more about the ILN (which I was involved in and have blogged about before), which raised awareness of IL in the university. Activities incuded workshops for academic staff (as part of developing learning and teaching strategies), presentations (internal and external) and gathering good practice. We felt that at the end of the CILASS project information literacy became part of university vocabulary, and involving both Information School staff and librarians was valuable. IL is now mentioned in various strategy documents at Sheffield University.
Maria took over to talk about the Library Teaching Group at Bergen. It consists of representatives from each of the seven branch libraries, with both less, and more, experienced staff. This group was focused on embedding IL, working on approaches to teaching and developing materials, identify ways of evaluating teaching and to collaborate with other groups. Continuing Professional Development is also a role of the group.
As a result, the library at Bergen has become more visible as an educational partner (with people outside the library), they have developed a good deal of tailored information literacy education, and also created a community of practice around the changed approach toIL. They also feel they have triggered an organisational change, with a research support group being formed, and a teaching and research support position being created.
In terms of institutional strategy, at Sheffield University IL has been identified as an objective for student learning in the Learning Teaching and Assessment Strategy, and it is one of the graduate attributes. It is also now a key theme in the Library strategic plan, and two departments developed their own plan for IL.
At Bergen, the University stated that integration of IL and ethics should be prioritised, something which is reinforced by recommendations at the national level, although a weakness is that it is not monitored closely. Also they have been involved in consultations on key strategies and institutional plans and policies.
The value of having a dedicated staff member was highlighted (for coordination, keeping momentum, carry out specific initiatives etc.): there had been one at Sheffield (in CILASS), and there will be the new position at Bergen. At Sheffield, strategic alliances with learning support staff, students and "early adopter" academics was important. Maria highlighted collaboration with the University Centre for the Study of the Sciences and Humanities and with the Division of Academic Affairs (particularly around academic integrity). Also they have collaborated with the Teacher Development Programme to develop a course in research ethics for university staff (although funding for this is not yet secure).
In terms of professional development, Sheila mentioned that this included spreading development to IT and paraprofessional staff, not just the subject liaison libarians. At Bergen, there have been continous plans and specific courses.
Enablers at Sheffield included academic endorsement of IL, institutional opportunities, and team working, and restraints include the loss of momentum when the CILASS project finished. At Bergen enablers included the quality of the members, the diversity of membership, support of the library director and restraints included lack of ownership by other staff, the ambiguous status of the group and (as at Sheffield) competing demands on time.
In both cases the groups moved their original mandates. Having regular meetings and someone dedicated to drive things forawrd was valuable. Project funding can also have a disproportionately large effect.

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