Thursday, April 05, 2018

#lilac18 keynote: Ola Pilerot

Welcome to day 2 of the LILAC conference where I’ll be live-blogging presentations and workshops. Expecting another packed and stimulating day! First session today is a keynote from Ola Pilerot entitled “Putting theory to work in practice: unpacking information literacy with a conceptual toolbox  from library and information science”.  Ola took a reflective perspective on his career as a librarian in  both public and academic libraries to frame the connection between research and practice, and the potential of research to impact on practice. Ola conducted a small bibliometric study into connections between research and practice, and reflected on the development of IL as presented in the 10th anniversary edition of the Journal of Information Literacy. There are different ways of using the concept of IL: as a label for a field of research and practice, a political construct to emphasise its importance to society, as an empirical concept that can be observed in people’s activities and behaviour, and with an analytical/theoretical lens. It is dangerous to work with pre-defined notions of information literacy, it is important to examine what is actually happening, and look closely at what people do in different situations.

When we go out in the world with our notions of IL we bring a westernised view of information use. We want to be involved in the “information literacy movement”, as a goal for educational activities, a goal for politics and a study object. It is a little dangerous to go out with a normative view of IL which says what is right and what is wrong.

Ola talked about how he doesn’t “teach” information literacy, he teaches about things people do with information. It is really positive for librarians to engage in action research, and research their own teaching practice. It is also necessary to engage with the LIS literature, which is something Ola had learnt when doing his masters study, to engage in a structured way with literature. Ola presented a range of models of information behaviour and information literacy from the literature including Tom Wilson’s nested model of IL and IB. Kuhlthau’s model of the information search process, Foster’s nonlinear model of information seeking behaviour, and Bate’s information seeking modes. It is useful to talk about models with students, and also to think about information searching from different perspectives. Sundin looked at the way that IL is taught using online tutorials and developed a model of approaches to teaching IL. Interestingly this model also features in the presentation I will be giving later today (jointly developed with Sheila!) as one of the ways we encourage students to become critically reflective  IL educators.

Ola then presented a summary of his most recent research into the IL of students from nursing and from product engineering design. Both groups of students had similar activities and goals, and had taken part in a credit bearing IL module. Ola looked at the references in the students’ theses, and found that nursing students used far more, and more varied sources than the engineering students. He used sociocultural perspectives to view the two groups of students as communities of practice, with different epistemological assumptions of information use in their discipline. The data indicates that IL is different for these two settings, rather than that IL is “lacking” in the engineering students. Learning objects that are too general may hinder certain groups of students to develop IL, and IL teachers need to be aware of this when designing teaching.  We need to be careful to not have a normative view of IL, to understand that IL is different in different situations.

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