Conversation and Change: Integrating Information Literacy to Support Learning in the New Zealand Tertiary Context
Dr. Angela Feekery, Massey University
This Participatory Action Research (PAR) project explored ways to support university instructors to embed the development of information literacy (IL) competencies into their pedagogy and curricula to enhance student learning. The key research question was: What factors impact on the successful embedding of information literacy across the four-year Bachelor of Environmental Planning (BEP) programme to support students to be effective learners in higher education? The research highlighted the importance of explicitly focusing on information literacy development in the disciplines. A shift to a learner-focused, process-oriented view of learning guided this research. This shift involved reconceptualising academic literacy concerns as developmental, creating opportunities for formative feedback, and promoting reflective teaching and learning practices.
In conducting the research, I collaborated with five instructors teaching six courses over a four-year degree programme. Data collected was primarily qualitative, and collected via reflective journals, interviews, conversations, focus groups, surveys and document analysis. Active participation in PAR by the participating instructors contributed to significant change in the understanding and development of IL competencies within the programme.
The research highlighted that IL is fundamental to learning, and that academics need to take a more active role in embedding it into curricula and assessment to support students’ IL development. Supporting academics to embed IL required relationship-building, collaboration with librarians, and professional development centred on learner-focused pedagogy and reflective learning.
About my thesis
The thesis outlines a PAR project aimed at embedding information literacy development into a four-year Bachelor of Environmental Planning (BEP) at a New Zealand university. The research suggests enhancing information literacy is an effective strategy to support students’ development of essential academic competencies over the full undergraduate programme. The research took an ‘informed learning’ (Bruce, 2008a) approach (using information to learn), shifting the focus of information literacy development from the library into the academic classroom. PAR allowed a dual focus on both action (to support staff to change pedagogy) and research (to understand the process of change).
The key purpose of this research was to support BEP instructors to identify ways they could embed IL development into their curriculum and assessment to support students’ learning during the transition into and through tertiary study. This involved reconceptualising students’ apparent lack of effective research and writing skills as a developmental concern. Prior to this research, existing information literacy support in the Bachelor of Environmental Planning had an information search and retrieval focus. Furthermore, product-focused assessment did not explicitly engage students in key aspects of the research and writing process.
Therefore, this research took a learner-focused, process-oriented view of learning, and developed a thread of reflective learning throughout the programme. To support quality source selection and use, library workshops were refocused and new formative assessments were created requiring students to justify source selection and reflect on learning. While the interventions proved successful in supporting learning, the research revealed that more in-depth conversation with academics, librarians and students on how information impacts on learning is needed to encourage students to make considered information choices and become informed learners.
The Ako Aotearoa PhD scholarship
The Ako Aotearoa scholarship gave me both the financial support to complete this research, and the support of a collegial network of researchers committed to improving teaching and learning in higher education. The annual research forums provided a safe and supportive environment for presenting my research from the early stages, and gave me confidence to present the research at other conferences in NZ and internationally. The milestones kept me focused and allowed me to make good progress during the three year scholarship term. I look forward to the on-going relationship with Ako Aotearoa.
Feekery, A.J. & Emerson, L. (2013) Embedding information literacy and writing development into the disciplines. TEXT, 21(Special Issue, October). http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue21/content.htm
Feekery, A.J., & Emerson, L. (2011). Promoting information literacy development by assessing the research process in first-year tertiary assessments. In M. Hodis & S. Kaiser (Eds) Proceedings of the Symposium on Assessment and Learner Outcomes. Victoria University, Wellington, NZ
Feekery , A.J (2013). Supporting students to use information to learn. A presentation to the ISANA Regional PD Days, 27 August, 1013. The Centre (Te Waiora), Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Feekery, A.J (2013). What is information, and why should I care? A presentation to the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing Seminar/Research Series, Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ, 15 May, 2013.
Feekery, A.J. (2012) “That’s not my job…”. Supporting academics to develop information literacy skills in their content courses. A presentation to the Georgia International Information Literacy Conference, Savannah, Georgia, 22nd September, 2012.
Feekery, A.J. (2012) What is information and why should I care? A presentation to the Tertiary Writer’s Network Colloquium. 28 November, 2012,Waikato University, NZ.
Feekery, A.J. (2011). Promoting information literacy development by assessing the research process in first-year tertiary assessments. A presentation to the Symposium on Assessment and Learner Outcomes. Victoria University, Wellington, NZ, 1-3 September, 2011.
Feekery, A.J. (2011) Integrating information literacy and discovering academic voice in the NZ tertiary context. A presentation to the AKO Aotearoa Colloquium, Wellington, NZ, 3 May, 2011.
Feekery, A.J. (2011) Integrating information literacy (and writing) in the disciplines. A workshop presentation at Waikato University , NZ, 21 February, 2011.
Feekery, A.J. & Emerson, L. (2010) Embedding information literacy and writing development into the disciplines. A presentation to the Tertiary Writer’s Network Colloquium, 2 December, 2010, Victoria University, NZ.
Feekery, A.J. (2010) Integrating information literacy in the disciplines. A presentation for the Massey University CADeL Lunchbox Sessions, Massey University, NZ, 24 September, 2010.
Feekery, A.J. (2010) Integrating information literacy and discovering voice in the NZ tertiary context. A presentation to the AKO Aotearoa Colloquium, Wellington, NZ, July, 2010
Feekery, A.J. (2009) Integrating information literacy and discovering voice in the NZ tertiary context. A presentation to the TERNZ Conference, Auckland University of Technology, NZ, 23 November, 2009.