Monday, June 27, 2016

Instructor perceptions of student information literacy

Next discussion: Thursday 21 July, 12-1pm BST

Article: Sandercock, P. (2016). Instructor perceptions of student information literacy: comparing international IL models to reality. Journal of Information Literacy, 10(1), 3–29.

Thank you to Pat for writing this introductory blog post and joining in our discussion. 
Pat Sandercock is the Instructional and Reference Librarian at the College of the North Atlantic-Qatar.  She teaches more than 400 students each year in classes that range from 6-12 students per class.  A librarian for almost 30 years, Pat joined the College 2 years ago on a 3 year contract.  The survey being discussed on July 21st was undertaken in the Fall semester of 2015 and written up for submission in November and December 2015 before it was published in the most recent issue of JIL.

How does this discussion work? 
Anyone can join this discussion!  Participants aim to read at least some of the article in advance, then come along at 12 noon BST and join in the discussion by adding comments to this blog post. You can see how this works by looking at previous discussions (just scroll down the blog for previous posts). 

On a campus with a revolving door of instructors, most ‘from industry’ rather than academic backgrounds, and a curriculum that implicitly favours one-shot information literacy classes, librarians at CNA-Q were facing an uphill battle.  The College of the North Atlantic-Qatar is a branch campus of a Canadian College located in Newfoundland, Canada’s eastern-most province.  CNA-Q was founded in Qatar just over a decade ago, promising western-style education and diplomas from accredited Canadian programs.  The problem was, that most of our students had never used a library, had never had a library in their public school system and confused us with the campus bookstore. And our one-shot lessons usually were sessions on how to use Ebsco or ProQuest databases….

The library’s target audience is a group of students in ‘Communications’ classes.  These classes are a requirement in all of the four Schools CNA-Q offers. Typically, each student does one written and one oral communication class each year in their program.  The written communication classes in the first year require students to find information about a company using their website and later in the semester a newspaper article about a company. In their second year written communications class, students must find 2 journal articles and one book on a chosen topic and summarize the findings.

But, there are huge hurdles for students in Qatar wanting a Canadian education.  Besides never having been exposed to libraries, websites are generally unreliable and out of date, newspapers are basically reprints of press releases which are riddled with grammatical errors.  Compound this with the small population of the country, there is a lack of both useful and credible information for students to use.

Consequently, none of us in the library were surprised by what we saw in the survey results.  They were entirely consistent with what has been seen in similar studies done in universities in the ‘western’ world.  We had expected the results to be poorer given the fundamental difference between 2-3 year college students and those on an academic path towards academic degrees.  We had also expected low results given that we work in an EFL environment and all our online content is in English.

Perhaps the most telling results were:

86% of instructors felt that students approached research assignments WITHOUT an information strategy.

Do you think you would get the same results at your academic institution?

17% of instructors felt students could not evaluate information for appropriate inclusion in assignments.

Do you think you would get the same results at your academic institution?

We in the library feel that this is a consequence of one-shot instruction (directed by a curriculum that assumes familiarity with libraries and information) and a failure to have a comprehensive ‘Student Success 101’ class with an IL component.

What would you do in this circumstance?

If we are ‘stuck’ with the curriculum we have, what would you do as the Instructional Librarian to affect positive change?

What would you do as the Library Manager to affect positive change?

I didn’t expect the results to be as positive given all the challenges our students face coping with a ‘western’ curriculum and all that encompasses.  Our instructors don’t actually ‘see’ how students choose journal articles like we in the library do.  Were our instructors jaded, un-informed, un-interested or complacent?


  1. The discussion will be beginning shortly. A quick recap on what to do:

    - Refresh the page often, to see the latest conversations

    - Use the "reply" link to reply to a particular comment, or use the "post a comment" box to start a new idea or question.

    We're looking forward to the discussion!

    1. Forgot to introduce myself! I am the Department of Engineering Librarian at the University of Cambridge.

  2. Hello! I teach at the Information School, University of Sheffield, and one of the co-organisers of this club with Niamh, and I'm also looking forward to the discussion starting shortly

  3. Hello. I am currently a Subject Librarian at the University of the West of Scotland. I'm looking forward to joining the discussion!

  4. Hi Paul - looking forward to seeing your questions/ comments.

    1. Thanks, Patricia. It was an interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Hi Pat, thanks for joining us and thanks so much both for your article and your blog post kicking off this discussion!

  5. Hi everyone. I'm Assistant Liaison Librarian at Newcastle University and looking forward to discussion too.

  6. Pat, should we start with the questions you set in your introduction? The first was:

    86% of instructors felt th