Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Teaching and Learning Alternatives: A Global Overview

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Teaching and Learning Alternatives: A Global Overview

Article excerpt

Your communities need your help more than ever, in so many ways--job, healthcare, and college and occupational study applications, workplace research and problem solving, research paper and homework help, and many other community-related issues, like accessing laws and regulations. How do you address these needs when there are so many people needing your help, at any time of the day or night, almost anywhere in the world, but also right in front of you at a physical reference desk? Face-to-face personal help is still invaluable, but reference work has expanded in many ways. It includes, but goes beyond, fact finding. Reference librarians help people learn how to learn so they can participate fully in their societies as informed and knowledgeable citizens. This column takes a look at how librarians and others around the world are identifying what people need to learn for this purpose, and how to help them learn it. This column and the sites listed at the end of it provide ideas and approaches that could be used or adapted to help the people in your communities achieve this goal. Note: I gratefully acknowledge Susan Gardner Archambault (Loyola Marymount University), Dr. Jane Secker (London School of Economics), and Sarah LeMire (Texas A& M University), coeditor of this column, for their very helpful comments and suggestions.--Editor, Esther Grassian

Do you offer online or in-person classes, workshops, or credit courses on topics such as how to use the Internet, how to find credible information, and how to document and present findings? Do you go beyond fact finding in reference interactions by working with users to empower them with information-seeking skills of their own? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are going beyond providing facts and answers to queries by teaching and helping others learn how to learn.

Labels for these kinds of help have varied and evolved over time, dating back many decades. These labels include both basic and more complex terms, such as "library orientation," "library instruction," "library skills," "bibliographic instruction" (BI), "digital literacy," "information literacy" (IL), "media and information literacy" (MIL), "metaliteracy," "critical information literacy," "health information literacy," "workplace information literacy," and "lifelong learning." Regardless of their level of complexity, these labels represent starting points and similar goals.

What are these goals, and why should any of this matter to you? In the current technology-focused environment, helping people learn how to learn at any age or educational level is more important than ever. Information literacy empowers people to make knowledgeable decisions for a lifetime, including personal and political decisions, and equips them to address educational needs. This includes instruction in public libraries, many of which have been focused more on efforts to address "information poverty" by offering access to information, and by helping people learn how to use technologies effectively, an essential prerequisite for informed participation in democratic societies. (1) IL/MIL, even when labeled with other terms such as those listed above, extends these essential skills by helping people learn how to pose critical thinking questions about information and the tools they use to find that information, including social media. (2) These questions include, What is the source of the information? What is its point of view and purpose? Is it designed to educate/inform, sell, or persuade? How accurate, up to date, and complete is the information? How does it compare to other sources on the same or similar topics?

This column outlines a selection of alternative teaching and learning approaches, concepts, and models related to information researching, developed in a number of countries and by national and international organizations. Some were designed for specific groups, such as schoolchildren, while others address teaching and learning for a lifetime. …

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