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Article
Publication date: 10 July 2017

Tricia Jane Bingham, Josie Wirjapranata and Allen Bartley

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…

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Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Information and Learning Science, vol. 118 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-5348

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 March 2016

Tricia Jane Bingham, Josie Wirjapranata and Shirley-Ann Chinnery

This paper outlines a teaching and learning collaboration between information literacy (IL) professionals and a social work academic at The University of Auckland. The…

1209

Abstract

Purpose

This paper outlines a teaching and learning collaboration between information literacy (IL) professionals and a social work academic at The University of Auckland. The collaboration was developed for the purpose of introducing evidence-based practice (EBP) and related IL skills to a third-year social work cohort preparing for their first practicum. Embedding the research–practice connection in the minds of students at this level of study is essential, as using evidence in practice is considered to be a fundamental professional objective. Despite this perspective, it is not uncommon for research to be viewed as an ancillary, if not discretionary skill in social work, with the research–practice gap well recognised in the social work literature. EBP offers students a clearly defined, systematic research framework imminently suited to the novice learner which emphasises the importance of research for practice. Research skills, in particular IL and the ability to find, evaluate and apply information, are essential to the development of effective EBP. Apart from the practical skills of being able to find evidence, critical thinking and reflective skills are key skills also inherent to IL processes and practice, and mastery of the evidence-based approach is impossible without mastery of these key IL competencies. Taking a solution-focused frame, theoretically underpinned by a constructivist teaching philosophy, we detail specific EBP and IL teaching practices, challenges and the remedies applied. The paper concludes with key lessons learned and future directions for teaching EBP and IL skills to social work students at The University of Auckland.

Design/methodology/approach

A solution-focused frame is theoretically underpinned by a constructivist teaching philosophy.

Findings

This paper offers insights derived from seven years of teaching EBP and IL skills to social work students and investigates specific teaching challenges and details the remedies applied.

Research limitations/implications

As a case study, this article deals with one instance of EBP and IL teaching. Focusing specifically on EBP in the social sciences, this may not be relevant for other disciplines.

Practical implications

This paper offers insights into methods for merging EBP and IL skills teaching in the social sciences, providing practical examples of activities which can be used in teaching, underpinned by relevant theory.

Social implications

To be effective practitioners, social workers must understand the importance of research to practice, in particular how this can improve their professional knowledge and practice. Forging the research–practice connection aids the development of competent practitioners and enhances the well-being of social work clients.

Originality/value

The authors outline constructivist–connectivist learning activities that can be used to advance students’ IL skills, develop research capacity and enhance the importance of the research-practice connection in social work practice. While much research has been done on EBP and IL connections in the medical and nursing literature, there is limited literature discussing EBP and IL integration in social work.

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