Collaborative teaching as a strategy for imparting information literacy in students: faculty--librarian perceptions.

Author:Igbo, Harriet Uche


Acquisition of skills in effective use of information is seen as a necessary requirement for students' optimum performance in learning. The availability of diverse and more complicated information resources, occasioned by the advances in information and communication technologies (ICT), has brought about additional challenges on the students, who have to learn how to obtain and effectively use information from these sources for maximum performance. This has necessitated a shift in the method of teaching from the traditional approach to resource-based approach requiring the impartation of information literacy skills in students. Information literacy has been identified as the basic foundation of learning in an environment of abundant information resources occasioned by the advances in technological development. Igbo and Imo (2010), citing Bruce (2002), have observed that the complexities of the information and communication technologies (ICT) have brought about the realization that students need to engage with the information environment as part of their formal learning process. This now entails instructional activities tailored towards helping students to appreciate the rich information resources and learn how to locate, access and effectively utilize these sources.

Conceptually, information literacy has been defined by Zurkowski as the ability to locate, process and use information effectively, which equips individuals to take advantage of opportunities inherent in the global information society (Doyle:1994). Also the American Library Association--ALA (1989) defined information literacy as a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed, evaluate and use effectively needed information. Application of the principles of information literacy in learning would help an individual to have knowledge of what is happening around the world in terms of existing information. It will equally help the individual to identify, evaluate and use required information, develop in the individual the ethics of information use as well as help him to critically analyze and make use of information for his own benefit and the benefit of others. This is implied in Bruce's (2002) four pillars of learning in the context of ICT in a globalized world. These pillars include: learning to live together; learning to know; learning to do and learning to be. As revealed in the above two definitions, an information literate person is described as one who can recognize when information is needed, locate the information where it is stored, evaluate the available information when located, process the information usefully and use the information to accomplish a task or solve pressing educational problems.

It may be difficult for one discipline oriented teacher to impart the above orientation to students, hence the need for collaboration in teaching. Mohktar and Majid (2006) have defined collaboration as a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve results they are more likely to achieve together than alone. Arguing along this line, Ushuel (2007), pointed out that for imparting information literacy skills to students, courses/learning experiences should be organized with cooperation among faculties of education, department of ICT education and instructional technologies, department of information management and university libraries. In the context of this work, imparting information literacy in students through collaborative teaching entails establishing a partnership between the faculty and librarians which will allow the librarian to teach the processes of information access to students as an integral part of the course. This implies that the librarian should be part of the overall teaching process from planning to evaluation of learning outcomes to ensure that information access aspect is reflected in the content. Theoretically this argument could be situated within the embedded librarianship model (Kwanya, Stilwell & Underwood, 2011). This model is loosely used when a librarian is absorbed (as part of an on-campus class) as a member of the teacher-student team, from the start of the semester through to the end. In support of this model Freiburger and Kramer (2009) suggested that the librarian so assigned should have a special understanding of the subject matter of the department or user area in which s/he is embedded. This is important when one considers the pivotal role of the library in promoting scholarship in university education. Driving this point home, Oladele (2010) sees the librarian as the intellectual who by virtue of training and educational advancement has the ability to enter into partnership with the faculty to impart in the students the skills of information literacy and research.

This study therefore, seeks to find out the perception of the faculty and librarians in Nigerian universities about collaborative teaching as a strategy for imparting information literacy to students. It is hoped that the result of the study will help the planners of the academic curriculum of the universities to realize the need to incorporate aspects of information literacy in the overall programme of the university and encourage partnership between the faculty and information professionals in teaching students for better learning outcomes.

Statement of the Problem

The result of studies conducted by Ottong (2005), Igbo (2008) and Igbo & Imo (2008) have revealed that Nigerian students lack information literacy skills. This finding confirms the earlier report of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (2000) and NISER/World Bank (2002), as cited in Ahiazu (2005), which had earlier lamented the lowering competence of Nigerian graduates, which was attributed to lack of skills in information handling.

Collaboration between the teaching faculty and librarians has particularly been identified as a very effective means of enhancing students' skills in the use of information and their overall performance in learning (Ghandi, 2004; Appleton, 2005; Kearns & Thrasher, 2005 and Ojedokun, 2005). Irrespective of the obvious advantage, it has been noted that faculty members show a lot of resistance and resentment about collaborating with librarians in this regard. They have been seen as either apathetic or even deliberately obstructive towards efforts to initiate joint instructional arrangements with librarians. The study of McGuiness (2006) laid much credence to the above assertion. She noted that information professionals, who are eager to collaborate with faculty for imparting information literacy in students, frequently vent their frustration with what has been dubbed the "faculty problem", deeming faculty either apathetic or even deliberately obstructive towards their efforts to initiate joint instructional arrangements. For instance, in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, concerted efforts are being made to prevent the university from integrating the course "Use of the Library and Study Skills" as part of the curriculum to be taught to first year students by librarians. The reason adduced by the General Studies Unit which teaches an infinitesimal part of the course in the Use of English Course is, that librarians are not in a position to teach such a course. This may not be an isolated case.

The above scenario clearly throws some doubts on the faculty's understanding of learning in the present ICT dispensation, including the roles of librarians and the place...

To continue reading