Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions to Improve Instruction

I finally was able to watch the recording of Lisa Hinchliffe’s Credo webinar, “Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions to Improve Instruction,” in which she provides an overview of the preliminary results of a qualitative study she conducted to determine what librarians believe are first-year students’ misconceptions related to information literacy.

In 2017, Library Journal and Credo Reference conducted a survey to learn how two- and four-year institutions tie information literacy to the first year experience. The survey results, “The First-Year Experience Instruction Survey: Information Literacy in Higher Education,” indicate that students are not well-prepared to conduct academic research, lack experience using libraries, don’t understand that they need to learn research skills, and are overconfident in their abilities. Librarians’ challenges in teaching information literacy include limited contact time with students, having too many outcomes, not having specific assignments to contextualize lessons, and not sharing the same expectations as course instructors. There were over 400 comments related to the findings.

Hinchliffe and her research assistants were curious to know if there are student misconceptions that drive errors in information literacy practice. These misconceptions are plausible inferences based on previous experience. Once we can identify these misconceptions, we can help students unlearn habits and strategies that worked for them in high school but may not serve them as well in college [see Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (2008)]. Hinchliffe and her assistants coded responses to the report that seemed to answer “What is challenging about teaching first-year students?”, removed duplicates, and then synthesized the responses into nine summary misconceptions to form an initial inventory.

Students:

  1. think that they shouldn’t ask for help
  2. don’t see themselves as “scholarly apprentices” (view themselves outside the community of practice)
  3. think of research as a linear process
  4. think of the library as the place to find books
  5. equate relevancy search rankings as a measure of quality vs. relevance to the search statement they enter
  6. conflate achieving access and information quality (don’t understand that finding information isn’t the same as finding “good” information)
  7. believe that free online resources are sufficient
  8. believe that Google is a sufficient search tool
  9. believe they are information literate (Hincliffe later explains that students interpret information literacy as a cross between computer and digital literacy)

In the second phase of this project, Hinchliffe and the research assistants held librarian focus groups online to discuss the misconceptions. The librarians noted other student misconceptions, including:

  • all library resources are credible
  • every question has one right answer (rather than seeing research as an opportunity to explore possible answers)
  • the library is the place to study or work with fellow students (no mention of collections or resources)

As a practicing librarian with a limited five years of full-time experience, I have an anecdote for each of these. While further research needs to be conducted, what strikes me about this is that we can redirect some things we do in the classroom to help dispel some of these misconceptions. Hinchcliffe also reminds us that the best way to do this is to provide students with the opportunity to encounter these misconceptions so they can self-correct their assumptions.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how this research continues to take off and what it might mean for those of us in the front lines. I also think having a discussion around these misconceptions might be particularly good to have with librarian colleagues who teach, as well as course instructors.

Stat Lit & Other Small Writing

Although I finished graduate school six years ago this week, and I have been working as a full-time professional librarian for four years, I’m still a new librarian. However, now that my role is more specific, I feel more confident about spending most of my professional time and energy in instruction and outreach. I actually a couple of small pieces of writing in these areas this year, and I also have another couple of pieces coming out this spring.

I didn’t intend to set and meet any writing goals in 2017, partly because I struggle with selecting topics (the irony is that I help students with this) and partly because I thought that if I even expressed it in my goals statement, I’d jinx myself. But, somehow, I found things to write about on a small scale. Just recently, a colleague from Immersion tweeted a post about writing from The Librarian Parlor. In “‘I Wish I had Known That!’ Advice from the Field, A Librarian Parlor Series,” guest contributor Alison Hicks‘ first bit of advice for reluctant writers is to start small, from book reviews to reporting on professional development activities. Her post was very encouraging, and, if you’re newer to writing like I am, I hope you’ll be inspired by her advice. Starting small has been very liberating for me because it’s low-pressure.

In June, Lynda Kellam (who is awesome and was not at all bothered that a newbie librarian cold emailed to ask for help!) and I published “Keeping Up With…Statistical Literacy.” Keeping Up With… is an ACRL series focused on “trends in academic librarianship and higher education.” Last December, I was doing some reading on statistical literacy while researching lesson plans related to statistics and government information. I hope to one day be able to collaborate with a faculty member to create a lesson on statistical literacy for a class or do some more work in this area. (Um, and the world’s statistical literacy guru actually reached out to us about our little piece. It was super exciting!)

This year, I’m serving as co-convener of ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group. In December, my fellow co-conveners and I published a short bibliography of free and low-cost marketing resources, including our brand-new LibGuide, in College & Research Libraries News. Check out “Marketing for the Beginner: Resources from the ACRL Library marketing and Outreach Interest Group.” The guide is linked in the article. We hope folks will find it useful and continue to contribute to the guide.

College and Research Libraries News

When I was about to transition to my new position at UC Merced, I submitted a chapter proposal for the Library Outreach Cookbook, which is part of a series of bite-sized ideas for librarians. This spring, I learned that my proposal, “Pass Me Smore Books, Please! Promoting New Print Library Books at a Small Community College Library,” was accepted for publication. I submitted the final draft this summer, and the book should be out in February 2018.

I’m also working on reviewing Video Marketing for Libraries: A Practical Guide for Librarians for Public Services Quarterly. It’s due in February.

Video Marketing for Libraries: A Practical Guide for Librarians

I’d like to set some other writing goals for 2018, but I’m pretty pleased to have taken the plunge in 2017.

5 Immersive Things

Hello. It’s been a while. If you recall, in the spring, I found out that I was accepted into ACRL’s Immersion program, which was held at the end of July at Champlain College in beautiful Burlington, Vermont.

The bad: traveling.

I hadn’t ever been to New England before, so I wasn’t quite prepared for traveling here. I had an absolutely crazy experience traveling both to and from VT. It involved switching airports (Dulles to Reagan) and airlines on the way there after a flight cancellation. I ended up sharing a hotel room with a librarian from Oregon State University who happened to be on the same cancelled flight. If I remember correctly, the new flight was also delayed. On the way home, the flight was delayed, which meant I wasn’t going to make my connection. I ended up staying overnight but had some treats with a new librarian friend from American University to help cure my travel woes. I was down to wearing exercise pants and a t-shirt. (I also broke a pair of sandals during my week, too!) With all my extra time, I ended up reading three books. I was so happy when my husband picked me up at the airport in Sacramento.

The good: friends and learning.

I met some new librarian friends, learned new theories and teaching ideas, and then I learned that I know more than I thought, too. I have more to learn from the resources mentioned throughout the program. I haven’t cracked open that binder in a while.

Below are five things Immersion helped cement in my mind, though they aren’t necessarily earth-shattering.

  • We have assumptions about teaching and learning that are counter-productive.
    • Ex: Curricular integration of IL is the gold standard—> we tend to view one-shot workshops as sub-par learning experiences.
      • I never thought about this before. I personally view one-shots as sub-par, but learning can and does happen in single lessons. I’m not sure if this helps, though. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I think of the teaching I do as the one and only opportunity I have to show the value of librarians to students.
      • Pick one place to be “transformational” in.
        • This has to do with the GeST windows model. During Immersion, we were taught not to think of any window as better than another, but my colleagues didn’t necessarily read it that way. I need to do some re-reading.
    • Ex: Teaching is a calling—> we become overly critical.
      • Teaching is hard. Teaching is even harder when you’re a guest teacher. As a librarian, I don’t have the same rapport with students the way the classroom instructor does, and I don’t have the benefit of knowing what has really been done in or out of class to prepare for research instruction.
  • Discussion is not always discussion.
    • Is it really “serial questioning”?
      • Social constructivism: discovery-based, student-focused, authentic, collaborative, cooperation in small groups, etc.
      • This explains why I didn’t enjoy “class discussions” in college. They were never really discussions.
  • Assessment helps you design your class.
    • What do you want students to be able to do? How will they show you?
      • Plan activities accordingly.
  • Activity does not equal active learning.
    • Active learning requires that students apply/reflect.
  • Negotiate for 2-3 measurable learning outcomes.
    • Sometimes faculty can make decisions if you provide a list of suggestions/possibilities.
      • I like this strategy because it shows faculty how much variety exists and that not everything can be accomplished in one session.
      • It really makes me think that instruction menus are more useful as negotiation tools for librarians than as a guide for instructors. I like having a menu as a reference for myself.

I wasn’t quite willing to put this in my list above because I have a lot to mull over about it, but a question I wrote down in my notes is, “What are we asking students to give up?” This hit home to me even more when one of the Immersion instructors asked me why the pre-assignment I was working on for a potential class needed to be in Credo Reference. “If you really want them to do it, why not Wikipedia?” I mean, really, why not? It was pretty liberating. I also brought up this question to my colleagues post-Immersion, and it reminded them of the C&RL News article “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path,” in which the author shares that she started using Google Scholar in instruction sessions. The author uses the term “desire lines”; library folks will quickly see the UX practice here. I really think this is something to think about a little more, and I’d love to do something related to this question of what we’re asking students to give up when we teach research skills and concepts. (If you’re reading this, and you’d like to partner on something, shoot me a message!)

ACRL 2017 Conference

Back at the end of March, I attended ACRL 2017 in Baltimore. I hadn’t attended ACRL before, and I was able to go with two of my colleagues in Access Services. There were a few sessions and events I enjoyed at ACRL, including Roxane Gay’s keynote and hanging out with folks from the Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group, but I found that I was just really tired and couldn’t get myself going in the mornings. I was wiped out by the last day, so much so that I also missed the Librarian of Congress’ closing remarks. I didn’t even look at any posters, which is also very unlike me. (The three-hour time change may have had something to do with it.) A colleague and I were able to visit Ft. McHenry for about an hour or so before grabbing lunch and hitting the airport back home.

Looking back through the conference booklet, there are quite a few sessions, papers, and posters I want to dig into, but here is what I attended:

Find more conference papers here. Find the conference’s complete proceedings (available as a PDF) here.

ACRL Immersion 2017

Back in the fall semester, I applied to ACRL’s Immersion Program, specifically, the Teacher Track. The program is essentially a week-long boot camp for librarians who teach information literacy skills and concepts. In February, I found out that I was selected for the program! The program is taking place at the end of July at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. I’m really looking forward to this action-packed learning experience, and I’m thankful for the support and encouragement from my supervisor.

UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium

My instruction colleagues and I presented a poster at the UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium earlier this month, “Assessing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software.

Assesing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software

Here is our abstract:

In fall 2016, the library created two online exit surveys (Option A and Option B) in Qualtrics, an online survey tool, and used the surveys to collect student feedback after library instruction sessions. Library instructors selected a survey to use after each session. Option B survey questions were designed to elicit responses regarding students’ attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction levels, per Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theory. Option A surveys used similar questions but also asked about students’ comfort level with library instructors. Results from both surveys indicated that students find value in learning about databases and specific search strategies. Option A survey results indicated that over 95 percent of students felt comfortable contacting their library instructor later in the semester. Option B survey results indicated that over 96 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that participating in a library instruction session increased their research confidence. The evidence suggests that library instruction sessions are beneficial for students and that library instructors are approachable.  Though online exit surveys in general and Qualtrics more specifically may present challenges, there are also benefits for educators.  The library offers recommendations for individuals and programs interested in using this lightweight form of assessment.

I served as lead on the project since I crunched the numbers and interpreted the data from this fall’s instruction surveys. Over the summer I had also crunched and interpreted data from the spring surveys. It’s a time-consuming project, but I have come to enjoy working on it. I anticipate crunching the numbers from this spring’s surveys as well.

A special thank you to our Library Communications Coordinator Breanna Wright for designing our poster. I did a rough sketch using columns in Word with the information we needed and provided redacted Excel data, including charts, and she made it beautiful. We got lots of nice compliments on the design.

Committee Work

It’s been a while since I have updated. I’ve basically been reblogging posts I’ve written for the CJCLS blog and a nice post with a shout-out from the Haggerty Library. I think I will work my way backwards to share what I have been up to. Today’s post is all about committee work for ACRL and the UC Merced Library, which seems fitting since ACRL 2017 is next week! (It’s actually going to be my first time attending the ACRL conference.)

In the fall, ACRL’s College Libraries Section (CLS) sent out an urgent email asking for someone to volunteer to serve as editor of the CLS Newsletter. I became a member of the CLS Communications and Membership Committee and am responsible for producing the fall and spring newsletters. Because of the tight timeline in the fall, I used a MS Publisher template from the previous editor. You can find the Fall 2016 CLS Newsletter here. For the spring newsletter, I will be looking to use something else to produce the newsletter. (If you have suggestions, that would be great!)

And, very unexpectedly, I was asked if I could co-chair the CLS Communications and Membership Committee for 2017/2018! My appointment starts after ALA Annual. I’m a continuing member on the committee, so only my role will change. I will have to find a new CLS Newsletter Editor! I do plan to end my time with CLS and the committee once my appointment is done since I work at a research university with graduate programs.

Back in September, I mentioned that I had started my tenure as the incoming co-convener for ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group. I have loved working with Bonnie, Chris, Amy, Mark Aaron, and Jen! Jen and I will be leading the group after ALA Annual, and I am equal parts nervous and excited. Our group has grown significantly (nearly 3k have joined the Facebook group!). This year, our group had a lightning round during our regular meeting time at ALA Midwinter 2017 (sadly, I wasn’t able to attend Midwinter). I am excited to announce that we will have a panel discussion at ALA Annual 2017, “Transforming Our Academic Outreach Practices: Reaching Our Students, Faculty, Staff, & Administrators.”I worked on writing up the proposal, and I am so happy we were able to snag a presentation time outside of our regular meeting time. I am so excited for the members who were able to present at Midwinter, as well as those who have been selected to share about their marketing and outreach work at Annual.

I think I wrote about this previously, but my time with the Community and Junior College Libraries Section (CJCLS) and the CJCLS Communications Committee is coming to a close. I wanted to finish out my term even though I changed institution type. It was a good experience. I just have a few more posts left to write and a couple of administrative tasks.

I’m still serving on the Instruction Section’s Instruction for Diverse Populations Committee, but, to be honest, I haven’t done much with the group this year. I missed our last meeting, and I really need to get on the ball with the group again.

UC librarians have an association called Librarians Association of The University of California (LAUC). For this academic year, I’m serving as the local secretary for LAUC-M, which really only involves some elections later in the spring, but I’ve really enjoyed my time serving on the system-wide Research and Professional Development Committee. We just got done awarding spring project and presentation grants to those who were selected for awards. It has been so interesting to read about the applicants’ research projects. We have also been working on putting together a bibliography of the most interesting projects the Committee has helped fund over the last 37 years for LAUC’s 50th anniversary celebration this year, which will be celebrated at UC Irvine in April during the LAUC Statewide Assembly meeting (I’m not sure if I will be going yet).

At the UC Merced Library, I have also enjoyed being a member of our Student Recognition Committee. I’ve been putting together the award letters and taking photos of our monthly winners. We have great student workers, and I have liked getting to know them. I can’t say too much about it yet, but I am also serving on a committee that is developing a Student Research Award for the next academic year.

I’ll probably have a few other updates over the next few days. Thanks for reading!