Factors that Impact the Relevance of Information Literacy to College Students: The Kaleidoscope Effect #LILAC22


I’m catching up with my final LILAC conference session post - my laptop battery gave out at the start of the session (my one LILAC grouse - not enough power points (as opposed to powerpoints) in the lecture rooms!) Therefore I had to resort to taking manual notes and photos of slides. Karen Kaufmann was presenting on Factors that Impact the Relevance of Information Literacy to College Students: The Kaleidoscope Effect.Kaufmann summarised findings from her doctoral work:
Kaufmann, Karen F. (2018) Sociocognitive relevance of information literacy: The impact on student academic work. (PhD thesis). Queensland University of Technology. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/123999/
She also gave examples of how it influenced her own practice and gave us the opportunity to reflect on how her work might influence how we engaged with learners.
The aim of her research was to explore how learners perceived the relevance of information literacy to their academic work, using both quantiative and qualitative methods. First, she tested and administered a questionnaire, in which she was asking learners about the usefulness of information literacy (how valuable IL was in completing assignments) and about the meaningfulness of IL (when IL competencies are useful in completing assignments).
The respondents (there were 134) were asked to relate their answers to 10 competencies: these competencies were ones identified in the old ACRL Standards and/or the new ACRL Framework (which was just being launched at the point when the research was done). A key thing to emerge from this part of the research was that the obvious demographic factors - like gender and discipline - were not statistically significant, and so didn’t account for why learners’ perceptions varied.

This “why” question was addressed in student focus groups. After analysing the data, Kaufmann identified one "uber" overarching factor affecting the students' relationship with information literacy, which was their existing knowledge base. Then there were 9 key factors, and 11 dimensional factors which interacted to affect the learners' perception of the value and relevance of IL.
The nine Key factors identified were (see first screenshot): "(a) Digital Literacy, (b) Academic Discipline, (c) ILC [information literacy competencies] Awareness, (d) Acquiring New Knowledge, (e) Real World Application, (f) Research Process, (g) Critical Thinking, (h) Scholarly Conversation, and (i) Curiosity/Passion/Motivation."
The 11 dimensional factors were: "(a) User-Friendliness in Digital Environments, (b) User Experience in Digital Environments, (c) Current Information, (d) Authoritative Sources, (e) ILC Articulated, (f) ILC Integration, (g) ILC Instruction, (h) Personal Relevance, (i) Professional Relevance, (j) Organizing Information, and (k) Comprehension."
Kaufmann's research identified that these factors interact and are intertwined - thus she described her model as a kaleidoscope. Kaufmann gave some examples from her own teaching: for example having a session where (1) She asks the learners to think about the meaning of literacy and information (2) She gives them information literacy definitions (3) She asks them to think about examples from their everyday life e.g. apps on their phones (4) Discussing IL and its relevance in the academic context. She talked about "asset-based" pedagogy - working from what the students already have.
Kaufmann also talked about the importance of metacognition and how she interprets and explains threshold concepts (the 2nd screenshot). At this point Kaufmann showed us a few minutes of a kaleidoscope video - not this one but here’s an example there you could watch for a few minutes like we did. She likened this to the way in which people experience learning and how the elements interact:


After watching this in Kaufmann's session it struck me that it was also like learning in that it can be engaging and enchanting, but also sometimes unexpected and make you look at things in different ways - which can be challenging.
Following on from this Kaufmann asked us to discuss how these ideas related to our own teaching of IL and there was very active discussion in small groups. In fact I got so caught up that I didn't take notes on this part! I do remember a lot of interest in the ideas that had been presented, and discussion about how it was difficult to approach the complexity of IL in short and limited sessions.
Kaufmann's model does illustrate how important it is to help students discover "where they are" in relation to IL, so you can help them move forward. As Pam already reported, Kaufmann also identifies IL as a discipline, which students have to understand.