Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy at the Transition to University

This time last year I was busily trying to finish off my dissertation while preparing to return to work after my maternity leave.  By the time I submitted, although still interested in the topic, I was only delighted never to have to look at that dissertation again. I've now looked again at the finished product, and it's better than I thought at the time! Now that I've officially passed and graduated I've decided to follow the advice of the Faculty Librarian at English and post a summary of my findings along with a link to the dissertation itself.

My original intention was to develop a 'Transition to University' lens for the SCONUL 7 Pillars of Information Literacy but I quickly realised that I wasn't going to be able to put together something that would apply for students across all subject areas and different types of course.  I therefore narrowed my scope to the information skills of new students of English within the university for which I work.

38% of the students starting at English in 2011 completed my diagnostic questionnaire - thank you all so much! The results suggested that students of English at this university have relatively high levels of information literacy in comparison with students surveyed in previous studies. Students are less familiar with sources such as journal articles, for example, and a significant minority have difficulty distinguishing between different types of sources listed on their reading lists.  These findings confirm our anecdotal experiences and are important because they have implications for how easily students can locate the items they are expected to read in their studies.

Future research: finish developing this 'Transition to University' lens! If anyone else is interested in working on developing this I'd love to hear from you!  Think I'll need a little while before I'll actually have time to work on it again though - on Monday I start as Librarian at Cambridge University Engineering Department, so it will be interesting to see just how big a difference there is both in terms of the types of information skills students have on arrival at university and the skills required for academic work in these very different subject areas. 

My full acknowledgements are included in the full dissertation, but huge thanks go to the students who participated, library colleagues from Cambridge and further afield who commented on my initial ideas and on my questionnaire, librarians at Loughborough and the Open University for permission to use their questionnaires as a starting point for my own, my fantastic supervisor (Juanita Foster-Jones at Aberystwyth University) and of course the English Faculty Librarian, Elizabeth Tilley.