Teaching. Each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to design instructional programs based on learning principles and theories.
Teaching goes hand-in-hand with librarianship. “Libraries have an inherent obligation to provide information service to support the educational, recreational, personal and economic endeavors of the members of their respective communities, as appropriate to the libraries’ individual missions,” RUSA emphasizes in the Guidelines for Information Services. “The library should provide instruction in the effective use of its resources. Such instruction, for example, can include the individual explanation of information resources or the creation of guides in appropriate formats, formal assistance through tours and presentations designed to provide guidance, and direction in the pursuit of information” (Reference and User Services Association, 2000).
Information literacy instruction: Theoretical framework
The process of learning in the library context has been an important consideration for library instruction services, in particular as it relates to the information literacy (IL) instruction. The IL field grounds its practices in the theoretical framework shaped by several learning theories, including the sociocultural learning theory (Vygotskii & Cole, 1978), the multiple intelligences theory (Gardner, 1983), the relational model of information literacy (Bruce, 1997), the constructivism-based approach of guided inquiry (Kuhlthau, Caspari, & Maniotes, 2007), and the contact zone theory (Pratt, 1991; Elmborg, 2006)—these are the theories that speak to me the most as I think of my future role in information literacy instruction.
Vygotskii’s sociocultural learning theory focuses on the social aspects of learning, viewing learning as a social process. The author argues that social interaction is a cornerstone of cognitive development. The sociocultural learning occurs on two levels: (1) through interaction with others, and (2) through a zone of proximal development. “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological),” Vygotskii maintains. “This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts” (1978, p. 57). Information literacy instructors use Vygotskii’s zone of proximal development when designing cooperative learning and problem-solving activities in library programs.
In his theory of multiple intelligences, Howard Gardner posits that there are eight main types of human intelligence, each representing different ways of processing information: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, naturalistic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal (1983). In the context of teaching information literacy, Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory helps librarians in adapting the instruction strategy to various learning styles and individual preferences of participants in the learning process, including both the instructor and the students. “Creating instruction that appeals to various learning styles”, as Grassian and Kaplowitz point out, “with its mix of methods and techniques tends to result in a more dynamic and interesting experience for both the learner and the teacher” (2009, p. 42).
The relational model of information literacy views information literacy through the seven different angles of information use: information technology, information sources, information process, information control, knowledge construction, knowledge extension, and wisdom (Bruce, 1997). “Many of these ways of seeing information literacy involve recognizing interdependency between groups and individuals in the information literacy experience,” Bruce points out. “Learning to be information literate, in this model, involves becoming aware of different ways of experiencing information use through engaging in relevant information practices and reflection” (2004, p. 4).
Based on the constructivist learning theory (cognitive constructivism), grounded in the works of Piaget, Dewey, Bruner, Kelly, and Vygotsky, and Kuhlthau’s six-stage Information Search Process model, which is discussed in detail in the Competency J of this e-portfolio, Kuhlthau, Caspari, and Maniotes developed a guided inquiry approach as a dynamic, innovative way of fostering information literacy. In the constructivist approach to learning, students are involved in active encounters with information and ideas. “Students learn by constructing their own understanding of these encounters and by building on what they already know to form a personal perspective of the world,” the authors explain. “Construction is an active, ongoing process of learning that continues throughout life” (Kuhlthau, Caspari, & Maniotes, 2007, p. 14). Designed in eight stages—open, immerse, explore, identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate—the guided inquiry approach has been found instrumental in helping librarians fulfill their essential role: building students’ capacity for information literacy in action, in particular, in the digital information environment.
Elmborg and Pratt’s theory of contact zone as a social space “where cultures, meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power” (Pratt, 1991, p.34) is of immediate relevance to the new, pedagogical role of reference librarians. In their own take on the community concept, Pratt and Elmborg depart from the utopian hypothesis of a unified and homogenous community grounded in the assumption that principles of cooperation and shared understanding are normally in effect, shifting their focus onto the new model of the community grounded in the socioculturological complexities of today’s world (Pratt, 1991; Elmborg, 2006). This approach is valuable especially as it applies to the library efforts in designing instructional programs to diverse learning communities.
Information literacy instruction guidelines
Libraries design instructional programs under the guidance of the American Association of School Librarians and the Association of College and Research Libraries:
- Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action (American Association of School Librarians, 2009)
- Guidelines for Instructional Programs in Academic Libraries (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2011)
- Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2000).
The information literacy competencies students receive in the K-12 system, for example, “represent the important lifelong-learning skills that students will need to succeed at higher levels of education, in the workplace, and as productive members of society,” the AASL maintains (American Association of School Librarians, 2009, p. 37).
Information literacy survey results, however, prove otherwise. The 2013 Project Information Literacy Research Report found that majority of freshmen lack academic research skills nationwide: “Many freshmen, who assumed everything they needed to know was just a Google search away, soon discovered they were unprepared to deal with the enormous amount of information they were expected to find and process for college research assignments. This transition from completing high school assignments to doing college-level research is one of the most formidable challenges that incoming freshmen face” (Head, 2013, p. 2). These findings illustrate the critical need for information literacy instruction in the post-K-12 environment―the training that is vital not only for the library users’ successful transition from high school to college, but also for their sustainable self-actualization and life-long learning.
To support my skills in this competency, I present the following examples of my work:
- The Reference Interview: Theories and Strategies discussion post from LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services)
- The Contact Zone Theory in Library Reference discussion post from LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services)
- The Instructional Unit Proposal assignment from INFO 250 (Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals)
- The Open Broadcaster Software video tutorial from INFO 250 (Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals)
LIBR 210 The Reference Interview: Theories and Strategies discussion
The first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is a Reference Interview: Theories and Strategies discussion post from LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services). In this discussion, I explore the strategies for successful reference interactions grounded in two theoretical constructs, Doherty’s reference dialogue theory (Doherty, 2006) and Dervin and Dewdney’s neutral questioning approach (Dervin & Dewdney, 1986). In my analysis, I approach these strategies through a wider theoretical prism, including the sociocultural learning discourse and the critical education theory. In summary, I find direct correlation between Doherty’s reference dialogue theory and Dervin and Dewdney’s neutral questioning approach, in that both are grounded in the dual construction of shared knowledge, as it relates to the social interaction aspect of the sociocultural learning theory.
This piece of evidence showcases my understanding of contemporary theories of human learning and their practical value for library reference service.
LIBR 210 Contact Zone Theory in Library Reference discussion
The second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is a Contact Zone Theory in Library Reference discussion post from LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services). In this discussion, I review Pratt and Elmborg’s contact zone theory (Pratt, 1991; Elmborg, 2006) and reflect on its usefulness in the library setting. While working on this assignment, I have found that at the time when library communities become increasingly diverse, the contact zone theory helps reference librarians recognize the diverse needs of their library users. Put into reference practice, the contact zone theory helps not only librarians to break down the barriers and engage themselves in their work as literacy educators, but also students—to see the library as an accessible and approachable place of shared learning.
This piece of evidence demonstrates my understanding of the ways in which a sociocultural theory can be put into practice in the field of reference librarianship.
INFO 250 Instructional Unit Proposal assignment
The third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is an Instructional Unit Proposal assignment from INFO 250 (Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals). In this paper, I present a proposal of an academic library instructional unit, WorldCat Basics for College Freshmen. This instructional unit is designed to teach first-year undergraduate university students how to use WorldCat—the world’s largest catalog of library collections that enables users to search for information resources in various formats, including books, journals, government publications, video, music, and more.
Instruction presented in this unit provides students with the information literacy skills set forth in the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Knowing how to use the world’s largest library catalog will help them locate information resources beyond their local library.
The instruction is intended to be delivered via a self-paced online video tutorial; the class size is virtually unlimited. Upon completion of this unit, students will be able to:
- Create a WorldCat account
- Perform Basic and Advanced Search
- Locate the found items in a library
- Create and save lists, bibliographies, and reviews—in their account; and
- Use “Ask a Librarian” feature.
From this assignment, I learned to design instructional unit proposals for information literacy programs accommodating multiple learning styles of academic library users.
INFO 250 Open Broadcaster Software video tutorial
The fourth piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is a screencast software tutorial assignment from INFO 250 (Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals). In this project, I worked to identify, evaluate, and practice a screen casting tool appropriate for the instructional unit proposal described in the Evidence 3 above.
The tutorial I produced teaches how to use the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)—a free open source software for video recording and live streaming. The OBS provides real-time source and device capture, scene composition, encoding, recording, and broadcasting.
During my work on this assignment, I gained knowledge about current screen casting technologies, practiced a new software, and produced an instructional video on the use of the screen casting program for my fellow MLIS students.
“With the increasing use of technologies in both the classroom and the media center, there is a clear need to teach students how to locate and evaluate information,” Rubin maintains. “Although students born after 1990 (Generation Z) tend to be technology savvy because they grew up with Web browsers, wireless access, video games, and multitasking cell phones, this does not mean that they know how to critically evaluate information or access it efficiently” (2010, p. 195). Other age groups of library users have information literacy challenges of their own. All library audiences will continue to benefit from the information literacy instruction, teaching them how to orient themselves in the new information landscape and retrieve information most effectively and efficiently, using the new technologies—on the way to becoming life-long learners.
American Association of School Librarians. (2009). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action. Retrieved March 6, 2016 from http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/ebooks/Standards%20In%20Action_9780838986424.pdf
Association of College & Research Libraries. (2011). Guidelines for Instructional Programs in Academic Libraries. Approved by the ACRL Board of Directors, June 2003. Revised October 2011. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/guidelinesinstruction
Association of College & Research Libraries. (2000, January 18). Information Literacy
Competency Standards for Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency#ildef
Bruce, C. (2004). Information Literacy as a Catalyst for Educational Change. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/4977/1/4977_1.pdf
Dervin, D. & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral questioning: A new approach to the reference interview. RQ, 25(4), 506-513.
Doherty, J. (2006). Reference interview or reference dialogue? Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 11(3), 97-109.
Elmborg, J. K. (2006). Libraries in the contact zone: On the creation of educational space. Reference User and Services Association Quarterly, 46(1), 56-64.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Grassian, E. S., & Kaplowitz, J. R. (2009). Information literacy instruction: Theory and practice. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Kuhlthau, C. C., Caspari, A. K., & Maniotes, L. K. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.
Head, A.J. (2013, December 5). Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College. Project Information Literacy Report. Retrieved from http://projectinfolit.org/images/pdfs/pil_2013_freshmenstudy_fullreport.pdf
Pratt, M. L. (1991). Arts of the contact zone. Profession, 91, 33-40.
Reference and User Services Association. (2000). Guidelines for Information Services. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=reference&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=26884
Rubin, R. E. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman.
Vygotskii, L. S., & Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.