6 Feb 2013

Rethinking Information Literacy (Review) - Jane Secker & Emma Coonan (eds)

Although I was not aware of it until now, since discovering the ANCIL model a year or so ago I have been waiting for a book like this to be published. ANCIL is influenced by a body of literature that will be familiar to many, including a weighty nod to Biggs’ concept of constructive alignment (Teaching for quality learning at university should be on everyone’s bookshelf in my view!), and overlaps with well-established standards such as the SCONUL Seven Pillars model. The diagram below best encapsulates the essential structure behind the curriculum itself. Across each strand there are four broad levels through which the learner can progress. The strands also represent a continuum of skills and behaviours around information rather than separate or isolated competencies.

ANCIL, 2011

The model has been previously published and is freely available to access, so you don’t need to buy the book if you just want to see the outline of the curriculum itself. However rather than simply restating the model, the book is constructed around a series of case studies written by leading practitioners who discuss how they deliver and implement the strands of the model in practice. Whilst each chapter makes careful reference to the underlying pedagogic principles and learning outcomes, this is very much a practical book. The reader comes away with a wealth of ideas In terms of teaching, learning and assessment activities, with which to flavour their own instruction.

Sarah Pavey discusses innovative activities to help school-children develop the necessary skills for 3rd level education. Geoff Walton & Jamie Cleland design a module centred on peer-review and feedback to support independent learning and the challenge presented by students who ‘know already’. As a health science librarian, Isla Kuhn’s application of teaching resource discovery to medical students was a personal highlight. Kuhn outlines how she delivers instruction on systematic searching, managing information and keeping current using a constructivist approach. However, those in other disciplines will also gain immense insight from her approach, and no doubt it will be a well-thumbed chapter by the faculty and subject librarians. Elizabeth Tilley discusses the Managing Information strand in the context of delivering Zotero workshops to both undergraduates and postgraduates. The structure of this chapter really draws out the structure behind the ANCIL approach, whereby the specific curriculum content is directly informed by user needs, relevant pedagogical theory (for instance Kolb’s Experiential Learning), and the format and timing of the sessions. Tilley also provides a useful grid template which may help others design and plan their own instructional activities.

After reading the book, I felt I had a toolkit of really practical ideas that I could adapt to my own instructional context and start implementing straight away. The structure of the book also facilitates both detailed reading and quick reference. For instance, you can quickly dip into a relevant chapter for a refresher and some inspiration before delivering a session based around one of the strands. Perhaps one of the most valuable messages in the book however, is the need for information literacy instruction to be truly inter-professional, to the extent that the editors actively recommend passing on the book to teachers, lecturers and policy-makers. Librarians must recognise that they are not the “owners” of information literacy, and instead present it as a shared endeavour of direct relevance to the strategic objectives of the organization. Without such integration it is likely that the efficacy of our information literacy efforts as librarians will remain limited at best. This is just one reason of many why this book is an essential purchase for anyone involved in supporting learning and information skills.

Rethinking Information Literacy is published by Facet, December 2012, £49.95.

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