Librarians as Teachers Conference – Part 1

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Librarians as Teachers conference, organised by CILIP West Midlands and the ARLG West Midlands Committee. This post is a sort of mini write up of each of the sessions from the day, along with some of my own thoughts on the presentations. You can find part two with the post-lunch presentations here.


IL101 – A good grounding

Trudi Pledger and Helen Ryba from Birmingham City University talked about the changes they had made to their information literacy teaching sessions, moving from a 2 hour lecture, to a somewhat traditional workbook that students fill in with support from library and academic staff, as well as student mentors.

In addition to anecdotal evidence of improved marks, Trudi and Helen reported that students liked having a printed workbook that they could take away and refer back to, and that many of the students who had attended one of these sessions would come to the enquiry desk with their workbooks, and have much more specific questions than previously. There were some negatives to the workbooks; firstly printing is very expensive, Trudi and Helen were able to secure funding from the faculty to pay for the printing of their workbooks, but they recognised that the cost could be prohibitive.  Furthermore, the session ran early on in the module, well before the students actually needed to do any literature searching, so students weren’t using the skills immediately and cementing their knowledge.

I have to admit, when I first saw this on the programme for the conference I was a little surprised; the idea of a workbook just seemed rather outdated to me. However, after hearing about the positive response that the workbook had from academic staff and students alike, and anecdotal evidence of improved marks, it’s certainly something I would consider trying.

You can view the slides from this presentation here.


Do you have a vision of information skills?

Sarah Pavey, who was a secondary school librarian and is now a consultant/trainer, spoke about ways of using visual literacy to teach information literacy. To be perfectly frank I was a little confused when she first started talk, but as soon as she demonstrated the activities everything made perfect sense. Sarah uses one or two of these activities in a session as a bit of an ice breaker, and a way to introduce a concept to students.

My favourite activity was one aimed at getting students to question information that is presented to them. Sarah said that we don’t really teach 11-18 year olds to question information, they are taught to accept information in textbooks and such as fact. The exercise was a way of showing students that they shouldn’t just accept information that is presented to them as true, they need to question it to assess whether it is reliable.

For this activity we looked at a series of seemingly implausible photographs, Sarah asked the room if we thought the image was real or not. She’d then ask a few people to explain their reasoning. One of the photos was an image of a man on top of a tall building in New York (that was supposed to be one of the World Trade Centre towers) with a very low flying plane in the background, and it was date stamped 9th September 2001. We quickly assessed that it was not real, citing various reasons: the camera wouldn’t have survived, the plane was flying in the wrong direction, we would have seen the image before.

I really liked the activities Sarah demonstrated, it was rather a lot to take in in one chunk, but I can see how one of these activities at the start of a lesson would get learners thinking and potentially give them a better understanding of the concepts you are going to discuss.

You can view the slides (and the rest of the activities Sarah demonstrated) from this presentation here.


IL and Learning – a symbiotic relationship to improve teaching practice

Adam Lancaster, an Assistant Headteacher, and Literacy, Libraries and Reading Consultant, spoke about the work they had been doing at his school on embedding information literacy skills into teaching and learning, rather than teaching information literacy separately. Previously at his school many of the teachers had set homework because they were required to do so, rather than seeing a specific purpose to it. The school had moved toward a model of flipped learning, where rather than homework being used to practice/test learning from the previous lesson, it was used to research concepts before the next one. Not only were the students constantly practicing research skills, but teachers were effectively getting more time in the classroom as students came to classes equipped with knowledge of the topic to be covered.

Adam strongly advocated for information literacy teaching in the classroom, by the student’s normal teachers, and as a part of their normal lessons. By including information literacy in teaching and learning students will see it as an integral part of classroom learning, rather than a separate skill set that has little application. So how do you achieve this? Adam said that teachers buying in to this idea was the most important thing, far more important in fact than getting the senior leadership team on board. I’ve read countless studies that say embedding information literacy if far more effective than teaching it separately so this has definitely given me some food for thought!

You can view the slides from this presentation here.


From 1 to 1000, delivering information literacy training to the masses via a MOOC

Michelle Maden spoke about the MOOC she is currently developing, aimed at NHS librarians, although it will be open to anyone. Part of a health librarian’s job is to conduct literature searches for NHS staff, but Michelle explained that many librarians come to the job without any prior experience of the health sector. The purpose of the MOOC she has developed is to provide a free CPD opportunity to health librarians, where they are able to improve their literature searching skills, right from the start of the process with the reference interview, to the delivery of the results of the literature search to the user.

Michelle’s talk was fascinating to me for a number of reasons, partly because health librarianship is not something I am terribly knowledgeable about. Moreover, Michelle talked to us about the actual process of designing and creating the MOOC, so we were able to consider how we might deliver online learning. Within FE there is much buzz around the FELTAG report, which recommends that 10% of learning should take place online. Equally with the constraints already placed on teaching hours, any time library staff can spend with learners is limited and precious. Exploring engaging ways to place some of the content we need to deliver online can only be a good thing.

You can view the slides from this presentation here.


Librarians at Teachers Conference – Part 2

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