Embedding information skills in the curriculum
Access to the University of Bedfordshire’s PebblePad site is limited by password to its staff and students.
Type of snapshot
Provision in the curriculum: skills/literacies addressed in topic module
What was the context for this snapshot?
University of Bedfordshire, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Division of Psychology
Levels 1 and 2, Psychology BSc (Hons)
Engaging students in learning information skills
Not specially funded
What kind of learners were involved in accessing this provision or support?
Levels 1 & 2.
The information skills programme has been built into the new curriculum, which was redesigned in 2008. The programme is delivered via face-to-face tutorials and hands-on sessions, and ‘homework’ submitted via the University’s e-portfolio software, PebblePad (via which the students also receive feedback) as well as in tutorial groups.
What skills or literacies were particularly being addressed?
Information literacies. The Psychology dept. and Academic Liaison Librarian have collaborated to devise learning outcomes and a set of skills that students are expected to acquire at each stage of their learning.
Who provided the support? How was support provided?
The Academic Liaison Librarian collaborated with tutors at both levels to develop a programme of information literacy skills to be delivered via one core unit at each level. By placing the course within the unit in this way, it was possible to align the tasks to actual assignment topics so that the students would be more likely to perceive their relevance. The programme included brief presentations, hands-on sessions using workbooks, and tasks for the students to complete, both by presenting the results of their work within their tutorial groups and via PebblePad for comments and feedback. In this way it was hoped that students would be able to reflect on what they had learned and consider where they might need to upgrade their skills.
The work was given to all students in both year groups but not all of them completed the PebbblePad submissions, though most did attend their tutorial group sessions. At Level 1, these were with the tutor only, while at Level 2 the librarian and the tutor took the groups together. The librarian alone assessed the Level 2 online submissions, but copied in the tutors on the feedback that was given to the students.
Impact assessment will be carried out by evaluating the grades and bibliographies of those students who attended and completed the course, both against their own previous grades and against those who did not do the work/attend the tutorials.
Benefits, outcomes, and lessons learned
The exercise was beneficial to the librarian in that it was possible to see what resources students were using for their research, whether or not they had acquired the skills necessary for being able to complete literature searches for their dissertation at Level 3, and so on. The results will be used to inform development and modification of the programme in the future. The feedback given to the students was appreciated by them, as evidenced by email correspondence. Hopefully also they will have learned better information skills as well as understanding the need to acquire them. It was also useful to have been able to embed the programme within a particular unit at each level, as this avoided the possibility of the same students receiving more than one session on the same skill set. Aligning the tasks to actual assignment topics also improved the chances of their engagement.
However, as the online exercises were understood by the students to be voluntary, and it was not possible to enforce completion (just as it was not possible to enforce attendance at tutorials), only a small proportion bothered to submit them. As it is important that students acquire good information literacy skills to enable them to complete good quality assignments, and for their future employment prospects, it would have been useful for the assignments to have had a grade and/or percentage of the marks for that unit attached to them. This is something that will be discussed in future curriculum planning workshops.
It was a little depressing to discover that many students even at level 2 are still relying on Google for their information and that many of them do not see the relevance of information literacy to their studies. As this is a new programme however, it could be that those students had become accustomed to using these methods at Level 1 and the habit had become engrained; hopefully, by receiving instruction from the start of Level 1 and throughout the unit, by Level 2 ‘better’ habits will have taken hold.