IFLA SL Newsletter

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Connecting Librarians to Forge Information Literacy Partnerships: The Case of a Teacher-Librarian/University Team in Ontario

By Corinne Laverty,
Head, Education Library, Queen’s University


What do new teachers need to know about information literacy?

New Ontario teachers are surprised to learn that students are expected to explore information finding tools from an early age. Consider one of the inquiry skills for a grade four student studying the middle ages:

“Use primary and secondary sources to locate information about medieval civilization (e.g. primary sources: artifacts, field trips; secondary sources: atlases, encyclopedias and other print materials, illustrations, videos, CD-ROMs, Internet sites).” (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-6: Social Studies, 2004, p. 28)

We might ask how well most high school students could meet this expectation. Are new teachers prepared to meet the hundreds of formal inquiry objectives in The Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines for kindergarten to grade 12?

A recent study at Queen’s University Education Library surveyed 522 teacher candidates who were exiting the B.Ed. program to reveal some startling results about their information literacy abilities (Lee, Reed, Laverty, 2005). Teacher candidates stated that:

  • They do not understand the concept of information literacy.
  • Information literacy concepts are not dealt with in the program.
  • They are not prepared t teach information literacy skills.
  • Their use of the school library involves limited information literacy instruction.
  • They do not call on teacher-librarians for teaching collaboration.
  • They prefer to search the web to find information than use the education-specific resources provided at the university.
  • They did not acquire the skills they need for continuing professional development.
  • They did not have opportunities to develop their research skills.

The good news is that they also noted that they would like to learn more about information literacy skills and how to cultivate them in their future students!

How can librarians help?

This information literacy study prompted the Queen’s Education librarians to re-think how they build teacher candidate awareness of the role of librarians and information literacy. Several new initiatives resulted. A new teaching series – INSPIRED Teaching – was designed to address misconceptions about inquiry skills and the role teachers and librarians play in the development of these abilities. The series is designed for participants from the perspective of them as future teacher and includes five sessions:

  • Best Classroom Resources: An exploration of resource examples along with the methods for finding them (primary sources, picture books, award-winning literature, textbooks and teacher’s guides, videos, kits, posters, teaching books, etc.)
  • Assignments Already?: Hands-on searching for journal articles on teaching issues that can be further investigated as action research projects in the classroom.
  • Be a Subject Expert: Each session addresses key tools for educators in specific subject areas, from teaching guides, lesson plans, multimedia, picture books, fiction/non-fiction, discipline-specific journals; to Canadian websites and beyond.
  • When YOU Teach Research: Overview of a model and methods for teaching the research process in your own classroom.
  • Out-Google Your Students: Tips on surfing that our web savvy students probably don’t know about.

In 2005, 1469 students attended these workshops over 66 classes.

A second outcome of the study was the establishment of liaison methods with teacher-librarians in our local community. A group of about 20 librarians meet twice a year to exchange best practices for teaching information literacy and to participate in professional development opportunities together. Our shared teaching materials are accessible at http://library.queensu.ca/webedu/guides/tl/ and include advocacy and teaching resources that can be downloaded in their entirety. The secondary school librarians draw on these materials to offer a library orientation for teacher candidates and new teachers and to reaffirm the role of the school library in their school. In sharing ideas about our teaching practice, we’ve discussed how to support adolescent information literacy by creating “authentic” research topics; putting googling in the context of a “research strategy”; teaching best methods for web searching; and discouraging plagiarism by personalizing assignments that track the information gathering process.

The third outcome of the study was the inauguration of an “alternative practicum” experience for teacher candidates in libraries – public, school, and academic. Teacher candidates at Queen’s University select a 3-week alternative teaching placement each spring that is associated with the Focus course they are taking. The Education librarians offer a Focus course on Resource-based Teaching and Learning and a number of students now spend one practicum to engage with librarians in a variety of learning pursuits.

In uniting our forces, librarians offer new teachers guided passage on the sea of information, an experience they can in turn give their own students. Please consider hosting a teacher-candidate at your library soon!

Lee, E., Reed, B., & Laverty, C. (2005). Report to the Dean of Education on

TEACH Grant 2004/05 # 014-518-xx-66: Information literacy, teacher-candidates and the school library: Information literacy in a B.Ed. program. Queen’s University, Faculty of Education.

Cory is Head of the Education Library at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She began her teaching career in a high school music classroom but today serves as a librarian with teacher candidates, graduate students and faculty at the Faculty of Education. She teaches courses and workshops on information literacy and resource-based learning using her research on how children develop information literacy skills to inform her classroom methods. She is currently researching how teacher-candidates develop their inquiry skills and preparing two case studies that provide a video documentary of inquiry projects in local classrooms. Cory holds a B.Music (Queen’s University), B.Ed. (University of London, England), Masters in Music (University of Western Ontario), MLIS (University of Western Ontario), Ph.D. (Information Science, University of Wales, U.K.).

Corinne Laverty, Head, Education Library, Queen’s University

Corinne Laverty B.Ed., M.L.S., Ph.D.
Librarian & Assistant Professor
Head, Education Library
Queen’s University, Kingston ON
Canada K7L 3N6

January 14, 2007 - Posted by | 4. Issue 43, 5. Theme 43: Information Literacy, Canada


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