Report on “Supporting your Sixth Form” event, April 2015

Natasha Skeen, Community Liaison Librarian at the University of Worcester, has kindly provided a report on the “Supporting your Sixth Form” event she hosted at the Hive, Worcester, on 16th April 2015.

This West Midlands-based event attracted mainly Worcestershire school librarians, and the theme of the event was looking at ways that sixth forms can be supported by their school libraries in terms of resources and services.  The Hive, Worcester’s joint university and public library, offers much in terms of information literacy and resource provision to sixth form students; however, it would be impossible to host all of the county’s sixth formers.  Therefore, the focus of the session was on the types of things school librarians can do to assist their students who are preparing to make the transition to HE, though it was stressed that these skills should be viewed as being transferable to the world beyond study.

The session began with a brief look at pedagogy; specifically how in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains librarians should be assisting sixth formers to move toward the top of the pyramid.  The session therefore concentrated on how students could be assisted to analyse and evaluate information more effectively.  Concepts such as reading more widely, supporting opinions with evidence and questioning information resources were explored.

Reading widely

Helping students to decode books by understanding their layout in terms of following references, i.e. notes, references, further reading located at end of chapter vs. end of book.  Using the catalogue to source these items.

Internet Research
  • Using various evaluation acronyms: CRAP, WWW, CRAAPIES, etc.
  • Demonstrating some of Google’s advanced search functions, e.g. filetype:, search within URL, NOT; and making the connection between how subscription databases and online search engines work in essentially the same way
  • Using Virtual Training Suite (which, although no longer updated, still provides a good starting point for locating credible, subject-specific resources)
Using Journals

Journals are an important resource for the transition student.  Even if they don’t make use of them in sixth form, they should be made aware of their importance, as Higher Education academics often make the assumption that students know exactly what journals are and how they should be using them. The following resources were all discussed:

  • DOAJ
  • Access to Research (in some public libraries)
  • Science Direct’s Open Access Journals

Also the idea of introducing sixth formers to journal jargon: abstract, peer-review, volume, issue, etc.

Explaining the drawbacks (less full-text access) and benefits (Cited by function) of Google Scholar.

Using Newspapers

How they can be used as a secondary source of current statistical information – signposting readers to freely-available primary sources.  Comparing articles in different publications to detect bias.  Also using them to hone précis skills.

The librarian as source of help

Schools can often retain an outdated view of the library as a book repository – unaware that it serves other purposes.  The school librarian should take the opportunity to increase the sixth former’s awareness of the role of librarian.  Whether public or academic librarian, they can be consulted to recommend the best resources for a given subject; to undertake reference interviews and help clarify the user’s original query; as they may have knowledge of other libraries and how to access them.  In some cases, the librarian may also be able to assist with study skills issues, such as academic writing and referencing.

The final point made in the session was getting librarians to think about who they can approach and how to approach them in regards to working with sixth-form students.  The head of sixth form and senior management via staff appraisal was suggested, as well as perhaps presenting at an INSET day.

Feedback was received via Padlet and, overall, it appears that the event was appreciated by all who attended.

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