Thursday, April 05, 2018

#lilac18 emotional intelligence and information literacy: how cognitive bias interferes with motivation and skills development

Alexis Smith Macklin, Dean of Purdue university library spoke about why she is in favour of the ACRL framework, because it leads to educational reform. Knowledge practices and dispositions are both covered in the framework, and both of these are important for student learning. The role that emotion plays in information processing has been a research area since the 1970s, but hasn’t been a research area for information literacy. We know that past experiences, personal beliefs and motivation all affect information literacy learning. Fake news has been around for along time, but it has suddenly become prominent, and triggers an emotional response in students, and can be used to encourage students to engage with information literacy. Students at Purdue come from conservative Christian families, that require financial aid, they often work full time while studying, and are slightly older than traditional students. Alexis paid her students to participate in the study, and to learn on her IL course, so that she could get valuable feedback on the course.

Cognitive bias affects how students evaluate and use information. These include poor memory, (limited) availability of information, the anchoring effect of previous experiences, and belief bias. These affect evaluation of fake news, but also affects how students evaluate scholarly material. Alexis encourages her students to engage with their biases. She then discussed the differences between constructivist, behaviourist and cognitive teaching, and expressed the view that much IL teaching is not truly constructivist, even if we would like it to be. It’s ok to focus on skills, and build towards developing understanding.

Alexis gave students controversial images and asked students to rate their emotional response to them. Then gave them lots of information sources related to the issue raised in the image, presenting a variety of opinions. She tested her students’ information literacy using the SAILS test, and found that most had low skills levels.  She also asked students to take an emotional intelligence test. She asked students to keep a research diary, and record their emotional response to the debate, and how their opinion had changed over time. Students made quite superficial evaluations, particularly if the source aligned with their previously held beliefs, and struggled to cope with ambiguous information.

Emotional intelligence helps us look at students’ thought processes, and material that provokes an emotional response can be useful to help address cognitive bias.

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