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Entries in schools (2)



A really interesting and positive blog post from Amanda Joykin about her project, developing an IL Toolkit. Read more about it below:

It’s been four months since I started work on developing the Information Literacy Toolkit and a good time to provide an update on what’s taken place so far. Putting my Info Lit hat on (which is almost never off, so it was more of an adjustment of said hat) I identified my information need for the project.

I needed to find out how the toolkit could support teaching IL skills to children and young people in schools. I wanted to meet school librarians that were already delivering IL sessions and it was important to find out about the barriers faced with regards to IL delivery in their schools. Meeting and gathering insights from experienced educators and those new to the profession would be very valuable in informing the direction of the toolkit.

Information Gathering

The first step was to send out a survey to schools in Scotland - Primary, Secondary and Additional Support Needs. The aim of the survey was to get a better idea about the state of IL provision. Follow-up visits and phone calls were arranged to find out more about how schools delivered sessions, what challenges they faced, examples of good practice and how the toolkit could support them.

It was a real pleasure visiting school librarians, finding out about the various settings in which they worked and how they promoted reading for pleasure and information literacy skills. There is great work being done and yet there are significant challenges faced by library staff in schools. 

I would like to thank everyone for their insights and for helping the toolkit take shape. The toolkit just wouldn’t be possible without your input – it is being made for you, with you.

Findings & Challenges

Key findings from the survey and visits were focused around themes of resources and communication. School library settings are very varied, and this has had an impact on the way school libraries are run. However, factors like time, budget and training were all mentioned as areas which are having an impact on IL provision.

The relationship with the School Management Team is also key. Could we forge stronger relationships with them if we thought more about the terminology we use? Should we be promoting information literacy skills but with more emphasis on links with the Experiences and Outcomes of the Curriculum for Excellence?

For IL skills to really take root relevance is crucial. It needs to be made clear that it is a lifelong learning skill and not just for research. Research from the 5Rights Foundation has shown that the age of children using mobile devices to access information is getting younger. Should we be looking at starting formal IL instruction at a younger age?

Identified Gaps

IL delivery at the start of young people’s formal learning journey appears to be inconsistent, so it has been difficult to gauge its true extent. Respondents from primary schools indicated that there was either no IL delivery, that they were unaware of whether it was being delivered or that they thought that some teachers were delivering IL. Some responses also indicated that there was a lack of understanding of the term “information literacy” or that it was already taught in schools but not under that specific term. Experiences and Outcomes from the Curriculum of Excellence do align with IL principles which would imply that IL instruction is taking place in an embedded way. All respondents to the survey stated that they thought it was important for there to be IL provision in schools.

Best practice and support are always improved when there is good communication and SLIC has already set-up a School Libraries group on Basecamp to start conversations going. It’s hoped this will lead to further sharing of ideas.

IL as Lifelong Learning Skill

Based on the information gathered about IL sessions in schools, a lot of programmes are focused on library skills and research skills. Sessions are being taught on online safety and privacy, fake news, disinformation, copyright and it would be good practice to use CILIP’s (2018) IL contexts and ensure that a holistic approach is taken when delivering this to young people. For example, including critical thinking, health literacy and digital citizenship, to ensure that students understand the relevance and significance of these lessons to their personal lives.

Aims of the Toolkit

Based on the information gathered a draft Toolkit structure has been created and resources are currently being compiled. These resources will include guidance/tips for staff, examples of good practice, activities, lesson plans, research articles, IL frameworks, videos and ideas for taking different approaches to IL delivery in schools. However, there is still work and research to be done; IL teaching in ASN school settings, IL skills that employers value and bridging the gap between ‘what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications; learning experiences should mirror the complexities and ambiguities of real life.’ (ACEL, 2016).

Posted by Jenny Foreman, Scottish Information Library


Information Literacy Survey of teachers' skills

Staff Information Literacy Survey by Ian McCracken

In late February this year, after reading the draft Royal Society of Edinburgh Report “Spreading the benefits of digital participation”, I was very concerned that Information Literacy had been ignored (despite submissions to the original questionnaire from me and many others). I therefore wanted to provide some evidence that would highlight the importance of IL skills in schools. To that end, I spoke to the Depute Head Teacher of Govan High School, Philip Graham, with whom I had worked on many IL projects over a number of years. (Although I retired as librarian in 2010, I still work in Govan High School as a Volunteer Archivist.) My proposal was to conduct an Information Literacy Survey of teaching staff-as far as I know the first conducted anywhere*. I must give full credit to Christine McKeever for the original idea of a survey. I had contacted Christine after seeing a blog posting about Exploring the information literacy skills of teachers in Northern Ireland which highlighted Christine's PhD focus. 

*If you know of any others, please contact me to let me know

Philip was very supportive on my suggestion, considering that the survey’s results could help the school identify and address challenges and issues-we both knew how pupils’ frustration when searching could have negative effects on behaviour as well as learning. We also both recognised that the questions and options themselves were also a “cunningly disguised” learning tool!

Philip therefore sent a “Survey Monkey” questionnaire to all staff.  Approximately half the staff (16) responded, which Philip said was about average for surveys.

The first question asked people how much IL training they had received in the last five years. More than a third answered “none”. Only one quarter had received more than one day’s training.

The second question asked whose job it was to teach Information Literacy. The overwhelming majority (15 out of 16) said this was everyone’s job-perhaps a surprising answer given the results of the previous question.

In the next question, respondents were asked to complete text boxes. The question was “do you check pupils are searching correctly, and if so how (e g compare with model answers you had prepared previously)”. Perhaps the most surprising outcome of that question was that four people skipped it. Three people answered “yes”, with one adding “by observing the search results and suggesting improvements when required”. Two answered “rarely”, one “no” and another “not applicable”. Overall nine of the sixteen answered in the affirmative.

The fourth question asked how often assignments or homework was set that expected pupils to use IL skills. On this occasion, two people skipped the question; six were “monthly”-the most popular option. “Termly” scored nearly as many – five and  “weekly” two;  neither “daily” nor “twice a week”  attracted any votes.  I would have anticipated that the frequency of tasks requiring IL skills would have been much more frequent, and it might be useful to do further research into this area.

“How many sites would you expect pupils to look at in the course of such assignments” was the next question. Two thirds had “no specific expectations”. Two people selected “two sties” and three “one site”.

In question six, respondents were asked “when using topic material that isn’t your own, how often are essential pre-skills mentioned”. This question was posed because over the years I had seen examples from colleagues in many schools where authors of classroom material (amateur and professional) prepared subject material which assumed pupils would have certain skills, and teachers using the material did not know that particular skills would be necessary-because they were not mentioned.

Again, two people skipped the question. “Unsure” was the top answer with 6 respondents. Next was “sometimes” with four, followed by “never” with three and “always” with one response. Nobody selected the option “Haven’t noticed”

Question seven was similar-it asked if in topic material that wasn’t the teacher’s own, whether the material’s author stated that s/he had checked that relevant material existed on the internet,  Answers were split slightly differently in this question- “sometimes”  had most, with six; equal second were “unsure” and “never”. Two people skipped this question as well.  If one adds those who answered “never” to those who are “unsure”, it shows a considerable failure of responsibility on the part of authors (professional and amateur), who are in many cases clearly assuming that material is available before publishing or distributing their work.  It’s my own feeling that authors have as much responsiblity  to check that questions can be answered as much as it is for them to check the accuracy of the contents of their publications..

Question eight asked “if a pupil’s search had too many results, would you…”followed by a number of options. “Refine your search” was selected by seven teachers, “point out one site as a good place to start” was chosen by six, and “suggest they look at the top answers that appear on a search” attracted two responses. Nobody selected “suggest they look at 4 or 5 sites from first page of results”, nor “not make any suggestions” nor “none of these. One person skipped this particular question.

The penultimate question was another in which respondents were again asked to answer in a text box. The question was: “when you look at pupils’ answers, do you ask how they got there (e g how many sites they looked at”

Six people skipped this question-the highest number for any question. Three people said “no”, one said “n/a”. Other answers were “Yes. All pupils are told which sites to use but much of the homework is from Wikipedia”. Another “I would ask how many sites they looked at and which one they felt was the best and why”.  Another “If they have done well-I would ask them to share their investigation ‘route’ with others”. Another “With senior pupils using sources for reports etc.-yes. Not with others –unless what they have written encourages me to question its reliability”. And finally “if the answer is correct, then I don’t check how they obtained it”.

The last answer concerns me somewhat, as it assumes that the teacher knows the correct answer in advance. Clearly in many instances, that will be the case, but I have “collected” examples from many schools in which wrong answers were not spotted by teachers-for example, a PowerPoint about the Spanish Civil War which included Civil War flags- American Civil War flags! There are many other examples!

The final question was another one where answers in a text box were requested. “Do you apply criteria when recommending a site/sites to help pupils with an assignment – e g the professional status of sites, pupil-friendly appearance, if so please describe”

Five people skipped the question, three answered “no”. Other answers included “Yes. I usually recommend websites e g BBC website”. Another “reputable sites such as BBC, Britannica, etc.”. Another “I give information for pupils to use for searching”. Another “I just check if it is age appropriate and relevant”. And finally, the most comprehensive answer “I always check the sites before I ask pupils to – to ensure that are easily GCC accessible* and that the material is relevant. I would skim and scan for this though, not carefully research”.

*Glasgow City Council like many others restricts access to unsuitable sites; sometimes this also results in educational sites being blocked – e g Home Economics and politics sites often end up blocked. Sometimes “top level domain” web addresses are also blocked.

After reflecting on this survey, I would highlight a couple of things-first of course was the support from staff in completing it; even where text box answers must have taken time to complete. It’s also evident that the questions were answered frankly..

Given the nature of the Curriculum for Excellence, it is a major concern to me that so many teachers have not been afforded opportunities to undertake IL training. My own analyses of all the Experiences and Outcomes demonstrate that IL tasks appear throughout the curriculum. While it is heartening that nearly all the respondents recognised that teaching IL skills is everyone’s responsibility, how this can be achieved without consistent and up to date training provided at national and city level is hard to imagine.

It also seems to me that there is a significant danger that external materials are being accepted at face value by teachers-I am sure this is the case in most schools not only due to huge pressure on teachers’ time, but also because many educational materials look good in appearance and content- and questions appended to them again will look relevant and appropriate. BUT if the materials have not been road tested, then confusion can easily result.  They also make the basic assumption that pupils have been taught how to use and apply keywords-there are often many other pre-skills needed to complete such assignments but very few materials seem to acknowledge this.

In conclusion, I would welcome others’ comments or analyses of this survey-provided of course that you share these via this blog or to me directly: 

I would encourage readers to adapt this survey for use in their own establishment. Also, if anyone would like further information or copies of the IL analyses of Outcomes and Experiences, please contact me and I will be happy to share these.