Sociocultural Learning Theories and Information Literacy Teaching Activities in Higher Education

By Wang, Li | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Sociocultural Learning Theories and Information Literacy Teaching Activities in Higher Education


Wang, Li, Reference & User Services Quarterly


This article introduces collaborative learning models based on sociocultural learning theories and discusses their potential for developing more effective learning opportunities in information literacy teaching. As described in the research of Vygotsky and other theoreticians, sociocultural learning theories are learner-centered and provide insight into collaborative approaches to student learning. These theories take into account the social and cultural aspects of acquiring knowledge. Collaborative learning, as outlined in the literature review, is an effective means of increasing student achievement and cognitive development. Research also shows that in a community-of-learners, a learner's potential performance level is increased. In the last section of this article, several collaborative learning models are introduced: the jigsaw model, the reciprocal model, and collaborative peer groups, including problem-and resource-based learning. These models are then applied to information literacy teaching to demonstrate how collaborative learning approaches enhance the teaching. At the end, a comparison of the traditional library classroom and the community-of-learners environment is introduced; the article concludes that the information literacy community-of-learners is an effective learning environment to improve student learning.

University libraries have a long history of teaching users to effectively use the library and library resources. Many library classes have been based on behavioral learning theories that focus on transmitting knowledge and skills to students in a well-structured manner. (1) A survey from 272 American colleges and universities indicates that 68 percent of college and university students receive library instruction via the demonstration approach. (2) In this learning environment, the teacher is the authority in the class, and the students do what the teacher instructs; knowledge is transmitted from the teacher to the students. The demonstration approach does not equip students with skills and competencies to function in a rapidly changing world. Students need to develop their critical thinking and lifelong learning skills, and teachers in higher education need to rethink pedagogies in information literacy teaching to support this.

Collaborative learning, based on sociocultural learning theories, provides learners with more effective learning opportunities. Students learn in a community-of-learners environment, where they act as community members. They engage in the class activities, interact with others and solve problems or complete tasks, think and talk about their thinking, and explore answers to the problems or tasks. The teacher acts as a motivator to encourage divergent answers and develop student critical thinking. In this learning environment, students' independent and reflective thinking skills will be improved. (3)

In this article, sociocultural learning theories and collaborative learning based on these theories are introduced. The idea of a community-of-learners in education and Vygotsky's zone of proximal development are then described. Finally, sociocultural learning theories and collaborative learning are applied to information literacy teaching in higher education by using different learning models.

LITERATURE REVIEW--INFORMATION LITERACY TEACHING IN HIGHER EDUCATION

According to Peacock, and Eisenberg, Lowe, and Spitzer, current information literacy teaching in higher education has four main types of approaches. These are intra-curricular, inter-curricular, extra-curricular and the standalone curricular courses: (4)

* Intra-curriculur: Information literacy is integrated into learning outcomes, learning activities, or assessments of an academic course or a teaching program, commonly via collaborative partnerships between academic and library staff. (5)

* Inter-curriculur: Information literacy is provided as an add-in session(s) for an academic course or program by the library in consultation with or at the request of individual academic staff. …

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