ILG funded research projects update

The research projects page has been updated. One project, Information Literacy for Democratic Engagement (IL-DEM), is now completed. The focus of the project was information literacy amongst those involved in hyperlocal democracy in Scotland as community councillors (the equivalent of parish councillors in England). The work of community councillors relates to ascertaining, co-ordinating and expressing the views of their communities to local authorities and taking ‘such action in the interests of [their communities] as appears to be expedient and practicable’. The investigation was undertaken by Professor Hazel Hall, Peter Cruickshank and Dr Bruce Ryan, from the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University. Three key questions were addressed:

  • What are community councillors’ current practices in exploiting information channels for engaging citizens in democratic processes?
  • What are public libraries’ roles in supporting community councillors, particularly around their acquisition of information literacy?
  • What are the relationships between community councillors’ information behaviours and literacies, resources, and knowledge and experience?

The original project proposal and the project summary can be found on the research projects page and the full report will be available soon.

Three new ones have been added. These are:

  • Investigating the IL of Scotland’s Teenagers to Inform Teaching Practice
    With the ever-increasing importance of the Internet for many information needs, the ability to search for, understand, evaluate and synthesise information represents a critical contemporary skill. Many governments and local authorities increasingly offer their services, sometimes exclusively, through online means. While this may lead to a number of benefits, there is concern about the expectation this places on people’s Information Literacy. Although many will benefit from this, others will struggle to find and use the services they need and may feel increasingly disconnected from society. While such skills are clearly important in all aspects of life, this is particularly so in education as many school tasks necessitate use of these skills.Although existing research has given us insights into the information behaviour of young people, these insights generally come from only a small sample of participants and come from asking people to evaluate their own skills, rather than actually measuring them. We therefore propose that a more thorough understanding of secondary school-aged children’s information behaviour, including how they feel when performing tasks, would help to develop better teaching practice. We will ask participants (in this case a large sample of around 100 secondary school pupils from schools in Edinburgh, Scotland) to perform a number of pre-defined search tasks, for which the correct answers (relevant documents) are known. Students will use a basic search system to collect a small set of relevant documents for a chosen topic over a time-constrained period of between 15 minutes and half an hour. All interactions with the system will be recorded, yielding large volumes of precise data about the participants’ information behaviour and performance. This data will then be used to evaluate where difficulties arise and which groups are most likely to make poor decisions, leading to concrete recommendations for teaching IL.
  • Public library digital participation programmes – the impact on employability
    This research will build on the work of a digital participation project called IT & Me, investigating its impact on the employability of both library users and volunteers.  IT & Me was a joint project between Stirling and Clackmannanshire Libraries, funded by the Scottish Library and Information Council for 18 months.A body of Digital Champion volunteers has been recruited, classes and computer clubs for the public are underway and staff training is ongoing.  Volunteers receive a high level of support and training and Stirling Libraries and Archives recently had our respected Investing in Volunteers accreditation renewed for the next three years.  Funding for IT & Me ran out in March 2017 but the post of Digital Inclusion Officer has been extended for a further three months during which the postholder will work full-time in Stirling Libraries.In Stirling we have identified an impact on employability which we would like to investigate through action research.  We would like the IT & Me Digital Inclusion Officer to extend and research work begun with unemployed and benefit claimants through DWP surgeries, CAB job clubs, CV and job-seeking workshops and advice drop-ins. We offer help with these partner-run activities hosted in libraries and critically, we offer ongoing support to the independent users thereafter. We build both digital and information literacy skills to enable jobseeking and income maximisation, identifying the hook that highlights the benefits of digital participation to each individual.  This might include making savings online, navigating fuel comparison sites, finding out what benefits they are due, exploring internet safety or discovering how to evaluate the glut of information available online.A second strand of our research would concern volunteers.  Several of our volunteers have gone on to find full-time work, some after long periods of searching. Specialised training and volunteering to enhance digital participation has taken their employability to a new level and we would like to explore this further.  Their circumstances and skill levels would be very different from the majority of jobseekers attending our organised activities but if they have not been in full-time work regularly for one reason or another, volunteers can still face barriers to successfully securing employment themselves.  Some volunteers have experienced physical or mental health difficulties and volunteering is a first step towards employment for them.
  • Improving transition into HE for engineering students
    Staff at Aston University Library Services in collaboration with Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA) will take part in a three year-long study to investigate how information literacy skills teaching affects the transition from school to higher education among Year 12 and Year 13 students. The study will be supported by a member of academic staff at the School of Engineering and Applied Science who are also part of the Aston STEM Education Centre (ASEC) and a member of staff at the Learning Development Centre (LDC).Building on feedback from a workshop delivered to Year 12 students in March 2016, this longitudinal study will conclude in mid-2019.  The research will involve Year 12 and Year 13 students attending workshops delivered by Information Specialist staff from Aston University Library Services during which they will be supported in developing their Information Literacy skills.  In order to find out how this impacts the students’ approach to learning, evidence will be gathered from teachers as well as student assignment results.  In addition to this data will be gathered using online surveys, focus groups and interviews to follow-up on their progress and how they feel their information literacy skills have developed from year 12 to their first year of a degree course or degree apprenticeship programme.  Due to their close relationships with the pupils AUEA staff will help to recruit students to the study using their existing communication channels and relationships with students.  Small incentives (vouchers) will be offered to the students for completing the survey, attending a focus group and follow-up interview.  The aim of the project is to examine the impact of information literacy interventions with Year 12 and Year 13 students and how they develop their skills over the period of transition to Higher Education.

Project proposals can be downloaded from the research projects page. If you’re inspired by these fantastic projects, why not apply for ILG funding? Full details can be found on the ILG’s research bursaries page.

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