Librarians Partner with Faculty in Assignment Design
by Reba Leiding
Librarians and teaching faculty both have an interest in preparing students to use information intelligently in their academic, professional, and personal lives. JMU Libraries is using this mutual interest as a basis for workshops that pair faculty with librarians in designing resource-based assignments incorporating information literacy concepts.
Librarian Jerry Gill and Glenn Hastedt, Director of the Department of Justice Studies, at work.
Information literacy is defined as the ability to identify an information need, and then to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information, as well as use that information ethically and legally. It provides a foundation for critical thinking, problem solving, and life-long learning. Assignments that require students to find and use high quality information are one of the best ways for students to learn information literacy skills.
This past May, JMU Libraries, in partnership with the Center for Faculty Innovation (CFI), held its third annual Information Literacy Workshop, and the second to focus on courses in the major. Eleven faculty members participated, along with ten librarians. Faculty represented the College of Education, the College of Integrated Science and Technology (Psychology, Health Sciences, Communication Sciences and Disorders), and Arts and Letters (Anthropology, History, Justice Studies, Philosophy and Religion, Political Science, and Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication).
The application process for the workshop was competitive; faculty were asked to submit a personal statement that describing their interest in incorporating information literacy into their course, and to explain what they expected the revised assignment would accomplish for their students and their program. Each faculty member who completed the workshop requirements would receive a $1,000 stipend.
In the workshop, a librarian collaborated with a faculty member (or in one case, two faculty members) to revise the assignment by integrating information literacy concepts into it, plan for library instruction, and work on methods for assessing information literacy outcomes.
Dr. Terry Mech
The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Terry Mech, Director of King’s College in Scranton, PA, a nationally known expert on information literacy in higher education. Dr. Mech has made presentations at numerous workshops on information literacy, including those for the Appalachian College Association, Pennsylvania Library Association, Lehigh Valley Area Independent Colleges, New England Library Network (Nelinet), and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Library Alliance. He served on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Advisory Panel on Information Literacy that prepared the publication Developing Research and Communication Skills: Guidelines for Information Literacy in the Curriculum.
Along with Dr. Mech, workshop participants also heard from Psychology Librarian Lynn Cameron, who provided an overview of information literacy at JMU; and Business Librarian Jason Sokoloff, who demonstrated some possibilities for locating and creating learning objects: online materials that can be linked to in Blackboard, research guides, or used in teaching to support information literacy. Two faculty “alumni” from the 2006 information literacy workshop, Bill Ingham, Professor of Physics, and Theresa Flaherty, Professor of Marketing, also presented assignments they had developed and discussed how they worked for their classes.
Philosophy & Religion Professor Frances Flannery presenting her assignment.
On the workshop’s final day, the participants gave brief presentations on their revised assignments, and the other workshop members had a chance to evaluate and provide immediate feedback. The presentations are posted on the workshop web site, and can serve as models to other instructors seeking ideas on how to include information literacy concepts in their assignments.
After the faculty members have taught their courses using their revised assignments, they will submit one-page evaluations on how effective the revised assignments are in practice. These evaluations will be added on the workshop web site as they become available, and will provide useful information to faculty wanting to design assignments that foster information literacy.
For more information on information literacy in college-level assignments, see the Association for College & Research Libraries’ Information Literacy web site.