Information Literacy as a graduate attribute: Are employers getting a good deal?
Posted by katiefraser on 24 January, 2012
This event was a University of West London (UWL) event focusing on information literacy and its relationship to graduate attributes. Graduate attributes are qualities that a university aims for graduates to obtain (many universities have explicit lists of these expected qualities) and tend to be linked explicitly to the employability of students. With employability high on the agenda at universities I think most university libraries are keen to make sure that the value of information literate graduates is reflected in such discussions, so we were all eager to find out more.
Transport issues meant that I missed the introductory talks from the University of West London, but arrived in time for Ruth Stubbings’ talk. She got us all thinking about both the small and big picture of information literacy: what it meant to us personally, and then how it should be seen more globally. In the context of this event her broad perspective seemed very relevant, particularly her discussion of who ‘owns’ information literacy: practically I felt this was currently librarians, but the consensus was that this should be much wider, with discussion focusing on how information literacy could be ‘quality assured’ at governmental level.
Next up was Marc Forster, discussing information literacy as a graduate attribute in the context of nursing. Nursing is a profession with a heavy focus on evidence-based practice, with nurses needing to find up-to-date information on health. He had worked on a standalone module in UWL’s virtual learning environment, which is supported by nursing tutors (as first point of help) with Marc advising those tutors. Marc will be evaluating the course as part of his PhD on the experience of information literacy by nurses, the results of which I’m sure will be interesting reading.
Jason Eyre then discussed a project he’d been doing with information literacy in social work (another discipline with a focus on evidence-based practice). Jason had worked with key stakeholders in De Montfort University’s social work course to establish a mediated discussion board, intending to facilitate conversation between students (on placements and thus crossing student and practitioner boundaries), practitioners, the department, and the library. Although the discussion board received limited use, it’s development and evaluation allowed him to gather a whole range of data students’ experience of information behaviours. A particularly interesting finding was that while the academic environment encouraged written, formal and critical information seeking, the practitioner environment used verbal, informal information seeking, with a strong respect for authority. Jason concluded that ‘authentic’ tasks were needed, and that students needed to be supported in developing criticality as a verbal skill, to allow transition of evidence-based practice from the academic to practitioner environment.
The last talk was from Jo Lozinska from the University of West London’s Careers section spoke about trying to help students articulate and communicate the skills that they gained at university. She went through some application forms for graduate jobs, picking out areas where they had to demonstrate information skills, particularly problem solving and decision making skills. It was very interesting to see information literacy discussed in this context and to see someone from the ‘other side’ making these connections.
Finally, we split into groups to discuss whether we needed to reassess our information literacy teaching to make them relevant when students became graduates (short answer: yes!) and some of the issues around this. Key needs identified included making sure that the library, student development and careers gave out a consistent message.
This was a timely session with some highly thought-provoking presentations. I think my strongest resolution is to make more of an effort to think about the employment context that students will be (or, for professional courses, are) experiencing: how the information literacy support I provide will translate into that context, and how I can improve the likelihood of that translation.