Thursday, August 15, 2013

Academics' research capacity and pedagogic skills and fostering critical thinkinglearners

Next liveblog from the first day of the IFLA Satellite meeting on Information Literacy and reference services . Mark Hepworth presented Is there a connection between building academics' research capacity and pedagogic skills and fostering information literate, critical thinking independent learners? (Coauthored with Siobhan Duvigneau). The aim of the research was to investigate whether an institutional strategy for information literacy could be developed at the University of Botswana, University of Zambia and Mzuzu University (three universities with different levels of resourcing). They were identifying the current vision for developing IL, the expected outcomes and impact and the current challenges and solutions. It was exploratory research, and they interviewed staff in Zambia and Malawi, and had a workshop with staff in Botswana. Mark presented a few key findings: academics and librarians identified students as lacking information literacy and passive learners, and it was felt that efforts to improve literacy had so far not been very successful. There were various challenges, including lack of funding, not enough staff, the mode of schooling before they came to university, lack of local (in terms of language or focus) information resources, and the teachers' current pedagogic approaches.
However, there were some positive findings too. Some teachers did find ways to develop the students' learning and when students were (e.g.) asked to do "real world" research as part of their work there was evidence of enthusiasm and hard work.
It seemed that when staff were themselves involved in research, this made it more likely they would actively engage students in interesting research problems. Senior staff thought that some lecturers lacked information literacy. A conclusion was that the ideal academic needs the pedagogic skills and research ability, and also needs access to appropriate information resources and support to develop the appropriate skills e.g. an "Information and Research capabilities and pedagogic capacity unit". Such a unit would support a number of capacities and skills (research methods, pedagogy, data and knowledge management, project magagement). Universities may have units which support these various activities and skills, but it is not normally all together in one unit. Mark proposed a Theory of Change model (which I'm afraid I didn't capture) to bring about the development of information literate, critical thinking students, including the involvement of such a unit. A relevant report (which I think I already blogged) is

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