Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Is this the Golden Key?

This is an important article :

Gross, Melissa and Latham, Don "Attaining information literacy : an investigation of the relationship between skill level, self-estimates of skill, and library anxiety" Library & Information Science Research (2007) 29 332-353.

The authors describe surveys among a sample of fresher students at Florida State University which analyse student self-assessment of their IL skills, their actual skill level, whether this mismatch is greater among the less IL proficient, and whether there is any correlation with Library anxiety theory. Inevitably the article calls for "more research" and is cautious about generalising the findings beyoind the sample. It is not an easy read unless you are a statistical expert! However, I think it is a very significant article which confirms much of IL theory. For example it demonstrates that those who are less IL proficient are likely to overestimate their IL ability, and that they are likely to still overestimate this even after they have done an ability test ; on library anxiety - there is no correlation between those who have the most anxiety over knowledge about the library and being over-confident about their ability.
What does all this mean? There is a disconnect between secondary education and HE, which means that more could be done to prepare students before they come. There was evidence that most students got very inconsistent IL instruction at K-12 level and were usually regarding themselves as self-taught in terms of IL skills. This contributes to "their faulty sense of skill attainment".Much was picked up from friends or classmates but how good was IL competency?
Most interesting from other studies was the view that the common skills-based didactic cure for low-skilled individuals may not always be successful. This implies a search for new ways to intervene helping students to recognise and overcome their IL deficiencies.
Now we come to the reason why I am blogging about this piece of research : could it be that Web 2.0 can offer ways of reaching these students? Certainly I believe that many of the so-called Web generation students are disadvantaged because they think they know how to find information. Putting it simply - they don't know what they don't know. Librarians lecturing to them is not the answer. Making them aware of what is available is only a part of the equation. Carefully crafted assignments which force them to use a variety of resources, and methods which use active learning to engage them will give librarians an opportunity to use Web 2.0 tools.

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