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Incorporating information literacy into teacher education.

Abstract

The current focus on information literacy in undergraduate education has direct implications for teacher education. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) 2000 standards specify that candidates preparing to work in schools must be able to integrate information literacy into P-12 cumcula appropriately and effectively to support student learning. This study examines how a faculty member and librarian collaborate to help teacher candidates integrate information literacy into their practice.

Introduction

The current focus on information literacy represents an important shift in teacher education. The American Library Association (ALA) defines information literacy as the ability to recognize when information is needed and to identify, evaluate, and use information effectively (ALA 1989; 1998). New knowledge about teaching and learning supports the premise that even though basic skills are necessary, they are no longer sufficient for students today. Schools are now being asked to prepare students who can demonstrate understanding as well as knowledge and skill (Lieberman & Miller, 2000). Information literacy can be transferred across subject areas, improve research, writing, and critical thinking, and help students interpret and understand the world (Souchek & Meir, 1997). National education associations are recognizing the need to educate students for lifelong learning in a time of exponential growth of information. The Association of College and Research Libraries adopted information literacy standards for college libraries specifying that librarians collaborate frequently with classroom faculty to integrate information literacy into appropriate course work (Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, 2000).

Regrettably, when reporting on the progress of modifying teacher education to include information literacy in March 1998, the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy indicated that no progress had been made (Progress Report on Information Literacy, March 1998). Their recommendations included developing plans for working with teacher education programs and the NCATE "to infuse information literacy requirements into undergraduate and graduate programs of teacher education." Newly revised NCATE standards specify that candidates preparing to work in schools must be "able to appropriately and effectively integrate technology and information literacy in instruction to support student learning. ... "(NCATE 2000 Standards). According to Rader (1995), a major factor necessary for successful integration into the curriculum is faculty and librarians working together in curriculum development.

The Study

This study presents a method of introducing teacher candidates to a model of information literacy that engages them in problem solving directly related to course objectives. The study describes how an education resource librarian and a faculty member collaborate to provide information literacy instruction that goes beyond traditional bibliographic instruction in a lecture format to employ active learning methods and constructivist principles in a required course for upper level teacher candidates in the elementary education program.

Theoretical Framework

Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world in which we live. In constructivist learning environments, students are encouraged to refine or revise their understanding. According to Brooks & Brooks (1999), five overarching principles are evident in constructivist classrooms.

(1) Teachers seek and value their students' point of view;

(2) Classroom activities challenge students' suppositions;

(3) Teachers pose problems of emerging relevance;

(4) Teachers build lessons around primary concepts and `big' ideas

(5) Teachers assess student learning in the context of daily teaching.

These five principles permeate information literacy instruction for teacher education candidates as they seek to evaluate and construct meaning from the sources they encounter. Learning is viewed as an active process during which students construct new ideas or concepts based on past knowledge and develop new cognitive structures (i.e., schema, mental models) that provide meaning and organization to experiences. Bloom's Taxonomy (1956) guides instruction by challenging students to higher order thinking and encouraging them to "go beyond the information given" (Bruner, 1973).

Context and Participants

This study was conducted as a pilot project in the oldest coeducational teacher preparation institution in the nation founded in 1839. It is a state college of 5,500 students in the northeast region of the US, one of nine in the state college system. Approximately 650 students are enrolled in the Early Childhood and Elementary Teacher Education Programs. The setting for information literacy instruction is the Education Resources Center (ERC), located on the mezzanine floor of the college library. The ERC maintains a collection of over 13,000 items including children's literature, curriculum guides, textbooks, tests, children's educational software, compact disks, magazines, kits, games and other multimedia resources. There is a separate viewing room for previewing videos and playing compact disks at one end of the ERC. At the opposite end of the ERC, the electronic classroom serves as a center for information literacy instruction. Twenty computer workstations are provided in the electronic classroom with access to the Internet and over 300 electronic library databases. The participants include an education faculty member, an education resource librarian, and 200 teacher candidates enrolled in required education courses over a period of eight academic semesters from 1997-2001. Contrary to current practice that "much computer related teacher education is stimulated and delivered by persons without an academic background in teacher education" (Collis, 1994), the education librarian has tenure and is a former teacher educator.

Survey of Faculty Goals

Prior to the implementation of the course-integrated information literacy model, a survey was conducted to assess education faculty support for information literacy instruction and their goals for student learning. A total of 34 survey forms, based on a questionnaire developed by O'Hanlon (1988), were distributed to education faculty in the fall of 1997.

Methodology

The researchers used a case study research design based on the qualitative paradigm. Using results of the faculty survey, examination of teacher candidate units, and feedback from cooperating teachers, researchers investigated the information literacy instructional process. The questions guiding this inquiry are:

* What are the attitudes and expectations of education faculty toward teacher candidates' information literacy competency?

* How does the information literacy program contribute to the development of teacher candidates?

Procedure

The information literacy model provides opportunities for teacher candidates to construct their own knowledge in the context of active research connecting course work and field experiences with hands-on information literacy exercises. Information literacy instruction sessions are scheduled at critical points during the semester when candidates are engaged in projects requiring research and support materials. Teacher candidates gather, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. They combine it in new ways and eventually apply it to the elementary field experience classroom. The collaborative nature of the model with on-going consultation between faculty and librarian ensures that information literacy objectives are consistent with education course assignments.

Most teacher candidates enrolled in Education 306: Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, are juniors who participated in a course-related English 101 information literacy instruction session organized by the coordinator of library instruction. The upper level education course-integrated model of information literacy builds on teacher candidates' prior knowledge and experience. Advanced search techniques and subject specific databases are introduced in the context of course goals and assignments. For example, one of the course goals is learning to integrate children's literature into elementary school curriculum. An information literacy session collaboratively designed by the faculty member and librarian is conducted in the Education Resources Center with a 15-20 minute demonstration of children's literature resources, Internet sites, and library databases. Teacher candidates review techniques for finding pertinent children's literature resources in the ERC as well as ways to access community resources. An assignment for the active learning portion of the session requires teacher candidates to explore children's literature resources, evaluate lesson plans that incorporate children's literature, and create a list of resources that prove particularly useful. During the next class session, there is follow-up discussion to reflect on the research process.

One of the main goals for Education 306 teacher candidates is to create a thematic interdisciplinary unit that is both developmentally appropriate and consistent with State curriculum framework standards. During the first half of the semester, the librarian and faculty member coordinate information literacy sessions in the ERC to facilitate handson background research on individual unit topics. Teacher candidates explore and evaluate sources of information and create curriculum designs for their units. After meeting as a class several times in the ERC, teacher candidates often make appointments with the librarian or come by the ERC to investigate additional resources on their own. The faculty member and librarian are available throughout the semester for individual consultation.

Outreach to School Library Media Specialists

Because successful information literacy instruction in the public schools depends on the ability of school library media specialists to work effectively with regular classroom teachers and teacher candidates, workshops were conducted for public school library media specialists. In the spring of 1998, the education librarian conducted a series of three full day workshops for twenty-two public school library media specialists. In September 2000, both the education librarian and the education faculty member offered workshops to all public school library media specialists within the local professional development school network. These workshops focused on guidelines for school library media facilities and personnel, current research on information literacy, effective Internet use, and strategies for collaborating with school-based faculty and teacher candidates.

Results

Faculty Survey

The faculty survey was used to assess the attitudes and expectations of education faculty toward teacher candidate information literacy competency. A total of 34 survey forms were distributed to education faculty and twenty-one were returned for a 62 per cent rate of return. Eighty-five per cent of the faculty who responded to the survey required teacher candidates to conduct research for one or more assigned projects. Lesson plans and thematic interdisciplinary units were the most frequently assigned research projects, closely followed by research papers and then book or journal article reviews. Literature reviews constituted the next most frequently ranked research categories. Over half of the education faculty responding to the survey listed their first priority of the teacher education curriculum to be teaching life-long or independent learning skills as opposed to teaching specific facts, concepts, and methods. When faculty were asked which research skills are essential for future teachers, the ability to synthesize information gathered from many sources received unanimous support.

There was consensus among education faculty that candidates need to be prepared to teach information literacy in P-12 classrooms and that instruction should be shared between the classroom teacher and the librarian. Nearly all faculty surveyed agreed that elementary and secondary teachers are in a better position to help their teacher candidates become information literate when they receive formal instruction themselves during their teacher education program.

Teacher Candidate Survey

Teacher candidates were surveyed to determine the extent of previous computer experience. The survey revealed that 90% had experience in word processing and email but their experience using the library databases was limited. After the ERC librarian demonstrated how to access ERIC and other appropriate databases, candidates were given a worksheet requiring them to locate potentially useful curriculum materials. Worksheets revealed that all of the candidates were able to locate and evaluate teaching resources using library databases.

Course Documents

Analysis of the lines of evidence found in teacher candidate course documents and prepracticum field experience manuals revealed that most candidates had successfully integrated many of the objectives of the information literacy instructional process. Individually designed and implemented thematic interdisciplinary units provided a rich source of data demonstrating the effectiveness of information literacy research. Although some teacher candidates utilized the resources available in the ERC to a greater extent than others, most candidates enrolled in EDUC 306 used children's literature, curriculum guides, and electronic databases that could be directly linked to sources available in the ERC. The quality of the units created by candidates was judged to be superior to those created prior to implementation of the course-integrated model. Internet sites identified by candidates in their bibliographies could be traced to active learning experiences in the information literacy program.

Teacher Candidate A. An example of the effectiveness of the information literacy process is provided by examining a unit on the northeast region of the United States developed by a teacher candidate for third graders. A first step in her planning was to meet with the cooperating teacher to decide on a topic, brainstorm, and develop the unit's conceptual framework and essential questions. Places and Regions of the World found under learning standard eight in the state's curriculum frameworks formed the underpinnings of the unit. During the research phase of her unit planning, the candidate visited the ERC with her education professor who along with the librarian was available to answer question and assist in the search for curriculum materials and other multimedia resources. Applying search techniques learned during information literacy sessions, the candidate located additional material using library databases.

The cooperating teacher's final evaluation highlighted the research aspect of the candidate's unit. The cooperating teacher was impressed with the number of additional instructional resources the candidate had retrieved from the ERC, the Internet, and the school library media center. Faculty evaluation of the unit portfolio using a rubric indicated that the candidate "demonstrated thorough understanding of the curriculum integration process in compliance with the state curriculum frameworks".

Teacher Candidate B. Most teacher candidates were successful locating resources that fit into the thematic category assigned by the cooperating teacher. However, Teacher Candidate B was stumped when asked to do a unit on "quick changes that happen to the earth's surface". He explored possible topics during the information literacy session devoted to searching library databases and narrowed the focus of the unit. A week later when conferencing with his teacher, he was able to propose a unit on earthquakes. "I expressed my concerns to my teacher about covering such a general topic for my unit so we narrowed it down to just earthquakes. We discussed where I wanted to go with the unit. She gave me many good ideas and resources to use".

The teacher candidate also used ERC resources, government websites, and library databases while teaching his unit. He presented a lesson on how earthquakes were measured using the Richter scale. On a United States Government website, he obtained seismographs from recent earthquakes for students to examine. In his reflective journal, the teacher candidate wrote about the children's enthusiasm and interest generated by the unit topic. He wrote, "I saw [children with] books about earthquakes coming out of the library." They were locating and evaluating data sources just as he had done. The cooperating teacher was impressed with the authenticity of the unit lesson on how earthquakes were measured using the richter scale.

Discussion

While campus-wide programs designed to incorporate information literacy instruction in core courses have received considerable research attention, there are few available studies of course-integrated teacher education initiatives. Because this case study is limited to 200 teacher candidates over a period of eight semesters, it cannot be generalized to other programs. However, it demonstrates that teacher education candidates in this situation successfully integrated information literacy into their academic work and student teaching experience. Evaluation by school-based faculty and college faculty indicate that teacher candidates' projects and teaching skills were enhanced by course-integrated information literacy instruction. The collaborative nature of the model also demonstrates how cooperation between college faculty and librarian can enrich candidate experience. The authors concur with Cerise Oberman (2001) that information literacy partnerships have the potential to create an active new theme throughout the K-16 curriculum leading to a more informed citizenry and improved quality of life.

References

American Library Association. (1998) Information literacy standards for student learning. Prepared by the American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Chicago: American Library Association.

American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report, 1989. Chicago: American Library Association, 1-17.

Bloom, B. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York: David McKay.

Brooks, J.G. and Brooks, M.G. (1999). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Virginia: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Bruner, J. (1973). Culture and cognitive growth: The relevance of education. New York: Norton.

Collis, B. (1994). A reflection on the relationship between technology and teacher education: Synergy or separate entities? Information Technology for Teacher Education, 3(1), 7-25.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. (2000). Chicago: IL: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Lieberman, A. and Miller, L. (2000). Teaching and teacher development: A new synthesis for a new century. In R. S. Brandt (Ed.), Education in a New Era. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2002). Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education. Retrieved August 28, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://ncate.org/2000/unit_stnds_2002.pdf.

Oberman, C. (2001). Introduction to Grassian, E.S. and Kaplowitz, J. R., Information literacy instruction: theory and practice. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc.

O'Hanlon, N. (1988). The role of library research in developing teachers' problem solving skills. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(6), 44-49.

A progress report on information literacy: An update on the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final report. (March 1998). Retrieved July 5, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ala.org/acrl/nili/nili.html.

Rader, Hannelore, B. (1995). Information literacy and the undergraduate curriculum, Library Trends, 44(2), 270-78.

Souchek, R. and Meier, M. (1997). Teaching information literacy and scientific process skills: An integrated approach. College Teaching, 45(4), 128-31.
Lolly Templeton, Westfield State College, MA
Signia Warner, Westfiled State College, MA


Dr. Templeton is an Assistant Professor in the Early Childhood & Elementary Teacher Education Programs. Dr. Warner, Librarian, is Head of the Education Resources Center.
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Author:Warner, Signia
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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