Mind the skills gap: auditing and embedding information literacy skills development across the curriculum by Jackie Skinner and Helen Hathaway

Academic staff acting as Library Representatives for their school or department, other teaching and learning experts, and Library staff came together over lunch recently for their fifth annual Community of Practice meeting. Its theme was skills development within the curriculum and showcased collaborative work in one department to establish information literacy levels required at each undergraduate stage. One definition of information literacy is ‘knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner’ Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Information literacy skills audit: Food case study

Jackie Skinner, Liaison Librarian for Food Studies spoke about a skills audit she Professor Bob Rastall speaking atthe skills audit Community of Practiceundertook in close collaboration with Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme Directors to identify what skills are required or assumed of students at different stages of their academic development and where these were taught (or not). The audit consisted of an online survey which was completed by all module convenors. The results revealed a disparity between academics’ expectations of students’ skills, and the opportunities students had to develop those skills. The first step in addressing this disparity was to develop a skills framework outlining which skills students should have acquired by the end of each Part. Mapping these skills onto individual modules is currently under discussion, along with other means of enhancing student development, such as the use of personal tutorials. Providing a means for students to assess their own skills competencies and confidence is also under investigation.

Study Skills Adviser, Michelle Reid gave some background on the ANCIL framework which formed the basis for the audit. ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy) aims to help undergraduates develop an advanced, reflective level of information literacy which will enable them not just to find information, but to evaluate, analyse and use academic material independently and judiciously. The ANCIL framework is already being used by 12 other UK universities to develop their information literacy skills training.

Professor Bob Rastall added his perspective as Head of Department. This included some interesting insights into some unintended consequences of the audit, such as skills development forming a positive discussion topic with parents at UCAS days.

As well as providing an outline of the audit, the results and subsequent actions, the presentation gave a clear appraisal of the benefits of the process for all participants. It was followed by discussion and questions.

Anyone interested in using the same approach to identify any information literacy skills development gaps in their own areas should contact their subject liaison librarian.

Getting the Community spirit

The annual Library Representatives’ Community of Practice events are arranged by the Helen Hathaway introducing theskills audit Community of Practice - presenters Michelle Reid andJackieSkinnerLibrary’s Helen Hathaway, Head of Academic Liaison and Support to enable cross-faculty discussion, sharing good practice and the exploration of new ideas and solutions to Library issues on an informal level. Departmental Library Representatives are the appointed academic staff who provide a formal channel of communication between their School or Department and the Library.