“From school to work and from work to school: Information environments and transferring information literacy practices” James E. Herring
Synopsis and core statement-Adrienne
In his article, “From School to Work and From Work to School: Information Environments and Transferring Information Literacy Practices,” James E. Herring utilizes a constructivist approach to evaluate the transfer of information literacy practices from school to the workplace among 14 year-old students in Scotland. Rather than identifying a set of research questions, the author employs grounded theory techniques in the study to explore the transfer of information literacy practices from school to the workplace.
The author reviews the literature related to information literacy practices and the transfer of this knowledge from one learning environment to the other. The literature review ultimately reveals the unique nature of the study in that it focuses on literacy practices of students completing work experience versus those that do not emphasize transfer to the workplace. The study examines the views of students and guidance teachers concerning the respective information environments. Herring explains his findings in the interviews of the participants prior to and during their workplace experience, the technology and formats of information utilized, and the contexts and environments in which they were used. Finally, the author reveals the results of the post-placement interviews and whether or not information literacy skills were transferred from the workplace to the school according to the methodological approach utilized and ultimate conclusions drawn.
As mentioned above, this study employed a constructivist approach to explore and develop interview questions. Based on his observations and scientific studies, Herring used knowledge, data collection, and analysis being learned by the individual to interpret the reality of the individual’s experience. The participants in this study were in their 10th year of secondary school. Ten students were selected out of eighty students who were going on work experience. Four guidance counselors were included in this study in order to have a balance of information environments; in this case both the school perspective and workplace perspective. Part of the method was to also have an element of stratified sampling, which the teachers selected students with experience in the work experience placement, small couturier business, large engineering firm, law courts, center for the elderly, and a veterinary practice. Part of their data collection was to conduct interviews with the students and counselors before and after the work experience. The researcher used initial and focused coding to analyze and interpret the data, and clearly discovered definite differences between the workplace and school environment for this sample of students.
Herring found that students perceived distinct differences in the information environments in the workplace versus those in their school. Some particular instances included person-to-person information gathering (more prevalent in the workplace), email usage (more prevalent in the workplace and the Internet (more prevalent in schools by students.) There were also questions that lingered in regards to the transfer of the skills learned. The guidance teachers diverged in their ability to discern if the skills learned were sustainable or short lived. It also seemed that initially the teachers did not completely understand the idea of an “information environment.” The study itself opened up their views on information environments and they agreed that focusing on information environments, specifically, in future studies would bolster the observations the students would be attuned to make during their work experience. Developing search skills were part of a larger discussion in which teachers thought would be an opportunity of focus in future work exchange opportunities.
Herring’s study found that the teens took the idea of information literacy for granted. It seems that people tend to view this idea as an ubiquitous and unfocused object. People, in general, seem to view information as necessary, but do not generally consider how they access, assess, transfer, understand or engage in information gathering practices. This article definitely opens up a larger discussion regarding how information should be perceived as well as explained to student populations that may be gathering information for various reasons.
Questions and future research-Mia
How do students from various demographic arenas compare/contrast with this small study of 10 Scottish students, and what impact does information literacy have upon their long term success?
How would the employees assess their own, as well as the students’ information literacy skills before and after the internship?
Do students universally think less of information literacy outside of school and in the work environment?
Is this a result of their lack of exposure and experiences, or simply due to their immaturity?
Is this an information literacy “problem” that begs correction? If so, how best to correct?
Who is responsible for teaching these skills when teachers are overburdened?
Is it up to the teacher librarian to recruit both teachers and students for lessons on information literacy? If so, how might this best be accomplished?
How is a beginner – average – and advanced user of information defined?
Do students with more advanced information literacy skills have an advantage over others?
“Future research in this area could replicate this study in a number of schools… Implications for the library and information sector are that teacher librarians might focus more on developing students’ ability to create effective search strategies” (Herring 17). It would be interesting to note what this ultimately means for the student and his/her academic and professional future based on the questions above.
In order to gain a more comprehensive view of students’ information literacy skills within the workplace, students from all demographics should be studied. A study used to research a larger number of students would yield more accurate results. I believe that students’ lack of knowledge regarding the importance of information skills is a universal issue. Students who have been taught information literacy skills regularly will see more of an importance for these skills. Without these vital skills, students will not be able to find the information they are looking for.
Further research must be done to prove how information literacy skills directly affects students in the workforce, however, teacher librarians, working collaboratively with K-12 instructors, offer critical skills that help students evaluate and synthesize information from multiple sources into a coherent piece of work. This research will make a case for consistent information literacy instruction throughout a student’s academic and professional career. With consistent instruction and practice, students, regardless of their demographic, will be prepared for college and career.