Sunday, June 12, 2011

EMPATIC report: planning an information literacy (IL) strategy

In this post on the EMPATIC project seminar on Information Literacy (IL) in the Schools Sector, held in Krakow, Poland on 8 June I will summarise a presentation from Serap Kurbanoglu (pictured here; she teaches at Hacettepe University, Turkey) on How to plan and develop an information literacy (IL) strategy in Schools. She had an extensive presentation, which addressed various aspects and stages in planning. Elements that were important included reviewing past performance, determining learners’ needs and preferences, and ensuring that the IL plan was in line with institutional and other library strategies. Firstly, she advocated having a mission statement for the IL programme, making sure it appears in official documents and gets reviewed periodically. From this, specific goals can be identified. An environmental scan, to identify changing conditions, threats, opportunities etc. was important. This could be done using tools such as SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and TOWS (like SWOT but looking externally).
Obviously resources are required, which may involve a team approach to cover teaching, assessment, evaluation and promotion of IL. Kurbanoglu emphasised that staff capacity has to be developed, including planning continuing professional development. Adminstrative and institutional support is essential and Kurbanoglu argued that IL is a learning issue relevant to the whole school. Successful programmes needed adminstrative support in encouraging teachers to collaborate, integrating IL into the school’s mission etc. The librarian needed to examine the curriculum to identify which subjects were the best for integration of IL education, and to enable competencies to be developed through the student’s time at school.
Collaboration was not just with teachers, but also with parents (who are a big source of support in homework etc.) and other staff in the school. There were challenges in developing partnership, since (for example) IL is not at the top of teachers’ busy agenda. Kurbanoglu thought that it was important to create awareness of “what IL is, why it is important and what problem it is solving” and to continually develop this awareness in stakeholders. To interest some teachers, it is valuable to create a connection with critical thinking, lifelong learning and specific problems such as plagiarism. There were some pitfalls to be avoided, such as flooding teachers with too much information about IL standards etc., not paying attention to curriculum constraints or not choosing the right time to approach someone.
In terms of pedagogies, Kurbanoglu mentioned the need to identify learning outcomes and appropriate assessment, supporting different learning styles, acknowledging existing knowledge and “linking information literacy to ongoing coursework and real-life experiences appropriate to program and course level”. Kurbanoglu identified that outreach and promotion was important: to staff, parents and students. There would be a variety of promotional strategies and channels, including IL workshops for staff and parents, one to one advocacy, preparing formal papers, using flyers and notice boards, picking up on opportunities (e.g. if a teacher complains about plagiarism, you can offer to help), using the intranet or virtual learning environment, and having orientation sessions included in the school’s compulsory programme. Evaluation was also essential (she mentioned the WASSAIL program that I blogged about from LILAC), to improve the quality of IL and to demonstrate value.
As an example of best practice, Kurbanoglu gave OSLIS “Bringing information to Oregon students” which was prepared by Oregon School Library Association (USA). They have examples for elementary school and middle & high school .

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