Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IL in engineering and physical science

On 9th May I gave a talk at the University Science and Technology Librarians’ Group meeting held at Sheffield University. Unfortunately I was only able to stay for the morning sessions (as I was assessing student presentations in the afternoon). The Group is aiming to have all the Powerpoints on their website in due course. I will do three blog posts, to cover my own talk and some other contributions.
Firstly, Evi Tramantza, University of Surrey, talked about Research skills teaching across the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. She seems to have achieved a lot in a rather short time (including getting nominated for teaching awards), and she gave her advice on how to succeed. Her key headings were:
- Confidence. She was not afraid to say to academics “you’re not doing it right” and stressed what other Departments were doing, to encourage a competitive spirit between academic departments!
- Colleagues. She had independence to develop her role, but also supportive colleagues and managers.
- Getting connected. She got help and inspiration from other libraries, attending LILAC, joining CILIP groups etc.
- Finding common ground with academics e.g. on concerns about student completion, progression, plagiarism.
- Language. When initially academics said “Information Literacy, what’s that?”, rather than backing off, Evi produced a two page sheet with definitions on one side and, on the other, a list of the things the library offered to develop IL. This proved popular with academics.
- Using meetings. Evi has managed to get a place in many Departmental and Faculty committees, and she finds them important to keep abreast of developments, but also as venues to remind and inform academics about what she does. It was important to “be present and communicative”.
- Showcase what you can do e.g. via a high profile pilot programme.
- Adopt a “Yes we can” attitude. In her first year she has said yes to more or less anything, and has therefore built up a lot of good will and some influential champions. She is now in a better position to negotiate what she does.
- Being involved. This means attending internal events (e.g. student fairs, exhibits of student work) so that you are seen as an insider.
- Being flexible when asked to do things.
- Gathering evidence about the impact of what you are doing (e.g. pre- and post- teaching questionnaires)
- Letting your success stories talk for you (and, obviously, gathering up the success stories)
- Using a platform, namely their website. They have a portal page for each subject, and a learning skills portal.
- Developing strategies for dealing with problems e.g. knowing when to persist and when to back away.
Evi is now in a position of having an information literacy contribution to each subject, and she now has an opportunity to get embedded in modules at a deeper level, since the university is moving to 15 credit modules, which means a lot of restructuring. She has developed learning outcomes for information literacy at various levels of study, which are being incorporated into student handbooks. It was evident that she was very energetic and dedicated, and it showed what a firm and positive attitude can achieve.
Photo by Sheila Webber: cherry blossom, April 2011.

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