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Building resilience and resourcefulness: The evolution of an academic and information literacy strategy for first year social work students

Tricia Jane Bingham (Learning Support Services, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Josie Wirjapranata (Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Allen Bartley (Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to outline the evolution of academic and information literacy (AIL) teaching initiatives in a first-year core social work course at the University of Auckland. It traces the development of AIL teaching, support and assessment activities over a 10-year period as part of a collaborative project involving librarians, learning advisors and an academic staff member. The paper clearly outlines the challenges arising because of the rapidly evolving and complex information environment in which tertiary students find themselves, as well as the student-centred pedagogical approaches which can assist them in navigating this environment and developing resourcefulness and resilience in undertaking research.


The case study presented in this paper outlines the evolution over a 10-year period of AIL teaching and activities taken to specifically develop AIL integration for the first-year core course, Sociology for Human Services, for the degree of Bachelor of Social Work. At its core, this case study demonstrates the application of reflective practice on the part of library staff, academic staff and student learning advisors with a view to implementing AIL initiatives which not only addressed information needs for assignment completion at university but also took a holistic view of students’ lives, recognising the importance of AIL in their civic, social and work lives. Reflection involved challenging key assumptions about the teaching of AIL initiatives and what constituted success and failure; gaining a better understanding of new and developing information environments in which students currently operate; and identifying existing and emerging AIL frameworks which could best equip students to survive and flourish in these environments. The paper focuses on the drivers, challenges, successes and impact of implementing and adapting AIL activities as well as the learning design and pedagogical approaches implemented to scaffold and develop initiatives with the whole three-year degree structure in mind. Special reference is paid to the application of new and emerging AIL frameworks, including the Research Skills Development Framework (Willison and O’Regan, 2006) and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015). The paper also outlines how mapping to graduate attributes, learning outcomes and core practitioner competencies can strengthen AIL and assessment activities.


Application of new and emerging frameworks of research and AIL can enhance both teaching and assessment activities in an undergraduate degree programme. This paper outlines a move away from reliance on teaching of tools and resources to a focus on mastery of threshold concepts and deeper understandings of the importance of information and academic literacy capabilities in study, work and civic life. The approach outlined here fosters the development of informed learners who are resilient and resourceful and who can easily navigate within the complex information environment in which they find themselves. This case study further demonstrates that students appreciate and recognise the value (as well as the transferability) of these capabilities to other areas of their life both at the tertiary level and post academia. In a practice-based course such as this one, the application of key frameworks and an understanding of expected practitioner competencies and graduate attributes can also help address a generally recognised research practice gap common in undergraduate practice-based courses. The paper further outlines the benefits of a collaborative approach to the integration of AIL. Such collaborative initiatives bring the fresh perspectives and deeper understanding; apart from this, they also serve as a springboard to work with other academic staff to develop AIL initiatives at different stages of a degree programme.

Research limitations/implications

This paper focuses on the development of AIL skills in one social work course at the University of Auckland. The information presented here may not be relevant for other disciplines or institutions.

Practical implications

This paper takes both a theoretical and practical approach. Challenges in the development of AIL initiatives are clearly contextualised within relevant pedagogical and AIL theories. Practical solutions for common challenges are clearly outlined. It is hoped that the problem − solution approach outlined in this paper will benefit other information professionals and academic staff who are implementing AIL in the current tertiary environment.

Social implications

Students find themselves in an increasingly complex information environment. Traditional information literacy (IL) skills may no longer meet their needs in this rapidly evolving environment. This paper outlines how application of current research frameworks, practitioner attributes and a focus on mastery of core threshold concepts can build information resilience and resourcefulness and better equip them to access, evaluate and utilise information both for their study and work and life beyond academia.


Demonstrating clear trends in how IL initiatives have developed over the past 10 years, this paper provides practical examples of how new and emerging research and threshold concept frameworks can be applied to the integration of AIL initiatives in undergraduate degree programmes.



Bingham, T.J., Wirjapranata, J. and Bartley, A. (2017), "Building resilience and resourcefulness: The evolution of an academic and information literacy strategy for first year social work students", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 118 No. 7/8, pp. 433-446.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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