In this blog post, Marion Kennedy, Academic Support & Liaison Librarian (EBS & Psychology), talks about a QAA Enhancement Theme project on embedding study skills in a Year 3 Business Research Methods course. The project was undertaken in collaboration with Dr Tom Farrington (Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences) and Claudine Salgado (Research Assistant/ PhD student, School of Social Sciences).
As an academic librarian, it is wonderful to be invited along by course leaders to give information sessions for students. In a complex world of information, being able to advise on where and how to find best evidence to base coursework on helps students build a sound understanding of their subjects and extend their knowledge using reliable sources. In an environment where academic integrity is a hot topic, being able to advise on acknowledging sources using good citing and referencing practice helps students avoid plagiarism.
However, these information literacy sessions are usually one-shot classes. While useful, these have been shown to be less pedagogically effective than integration of skills development within course teaching. Embedding skills development within and throughout a course, makes it much more relevant and applicable for students, particularly if aligned with course content, learning outcomes and assignment briefs. Having the librarian embedded in the course via online discussion boards and links for 1-2-1 consultations can also reduce barriers to students seeking advice.
Our project sought to implement this more pedagogically effective approach by embedding information literacy skills in a course and to evaluate the outcome. Responding to a call from the LTA for QAA enhancement themed funded projects (July 2021) our project proposal was accepted, and we secured funding to recruit a Research Assistant to help with data gathering, analysis and reporting. Central to the success of the project was engagement and buy-in from the course leader to enable collaboration and integration of skills content within the course at appropriate points. We used a flipped classroom approach whereby videos and other asynchronous materials were provided in the Canvas course for students to work through in their own time with contact teaching time focusing on consolidating and extending students’ understanding.
A published and validated information literacy self-assessment questionnaire was administered at the start and end of the course to gauge skills levels at each point and hopefully demonstrate improvement.
We completed the project in July this year. Results show statistically significant improvements in students’ mean scores for 26 of the 28 areas covered by the questionnaire. This suggests students felt more confident and competent in a range of information literacy skills (searching for information, locating and accessing resources, assessing and evaluating sources, interpreting and synthesizing information, communication information and in reflecting on their own practices in finding and using information). The two areas where the difference in mean scores was not statistically significant (suggesting no improvement) were in students’ perceived competence in defining the need for information and in preparing a bibliography/reference list (though results asking about ability to create citations and references did suggest improvement).
Outcome and future plans
The hope is that improved information literacy confidence and competence will enable students to get most benefit from their subject studies, be better equipped to undertake assignments and increase potential to get better marks and degree outcomes.
We plan to run the questionnaire in the next iteration of the course running in Semester 2 (starting January 2023) and to review and revise information literacy content to address areas where results suggest no statistically significant improvements were made.
Call to action
This approach has potential to be applied in other courses and across programmes to ensure skills support is interwoven with the students’ subject learning. Find out more about embedding skills support in courses or contact your Academic Support & Liaison Librarian or Effective Learning Adviser. We were delighted to be able to present the project at the LTA’s Learning & Teaching week (6-9th June, 2022) and present a poster at the “From Research to Practice” Improving University Teaching hybrid conference (27-29 July). A proceedings paper has also been submitted for this conference.
Humrickhouse, E. (2021) ‘Flipped classroom pedagogy in an online learning environment: A self-regulated introduction to information literacy threshold concepts’, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 47(2), p. 102327.
Mery, Y., Newby, J. and Peng, K. (2012) ‘Why one-shot information literacy sessions are not the future of instruction: A case for online credit courses’, College & research libraries, 73(4), pp. 366-377.