Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Information literacy + Service Learning = Social Change #wlic2014

I've just been in the session organised by the IFLA Social Science Libraries with Women, Information and Libraries Special Interest Group at at the World Library and Information Conference (IFLA) 2014 in Lyon, France, where Tiffini Travis gave a paper (coauthored with Jennifer Gradis) on Information literacy + Service Learning= Social Change. They work at California State University, United States and this presentation was about the information literacy contribution to a service learning course at their university.
Service Learning is a term that doesn't really get used in the UK, but it seems a part of US higher education. Wikipedia says it means "a method of teaching that combines classroom instruction with meaningful community service" (although that article is flagged as having issues, that seems pretty much what service learning means).
Travis started by saying that she connected information literacy with empowerment and it should lead to action. She identified that research and problem solving can be used for social activism. Travis referenced the new proposed ACRL information literacy framework, and saw this teaching intervention as fitting in the "Research as inquiry" frame. She categorised what she was doing as experiential learning, with a cycle of thinking, doing, experiencing and reflecting. In a video, Travis' coauthor described the service learning assignment - the learners have to select an organisation that addresses a socially significant problem, they have to contact it and undertake some service learning, and produce a portfolio including a presentation about the organisation and their own specific contribution. The information resources that the students discover can contribute to learning about the organisation and its impact, and the library's contribution has meant that the students are finding better and more wide ranging materials that help them understand and complete their assignment. Travis gave an example of finding scholarly articles about the problems of homeless pregnant women.
The speakers emphasised the impact, including attitudinal and emotional impact, of this particular course, since students are learning to work with classmates and people in the outside world. The issues they investigate also can have a big impact on the students which the speakers felt "could lead to a positive social change". One of teh messages from the talk's conclusion was that this intervention "allows the reenvisioning of IL to focus on the application of information rather than just the search for information".
The slides will be available at (added 28 August: this is the specific link:
Photo by Sheila Webber: the reception last night at La Saltiere, Lyon

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