International Students: a collaborative approach to teaching information literacy skills
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At Plymouth University international student numbers are rising. Basic library skills sessions were offered to small groups before pre-enrolment into a standard degree programme. For Library staff this was time intensive and became increasingly unsustainable. They were unconvinced that this approach was effective either, in part, due to cultural and language barriers, but also because there was no opportunity no build up a relationship. It was also difficult to ascertain whether the students acquired any real IL skills. ‘Teaching the teachers’ was devised to try and bridge this gap and to better utilise the professional skills of the international students’ tutors. They see their students regularly, and can build up a relationship based on an individual’s language skills, confidence and personality. We wished to harness this and empower the tutors with the basic skills and knowledge to teach their students. Managers overseeing the induction of international students were supportive and enthusiastic to this suggested approach. A range of online tutorials and short quizzes were devised. After a training session tutors were happy cascading this information and had time to skill themselves before the international students arrived. Various forms of feedback were requested. Some positive outcomes included freeing up librarians’ time to produce relevant interactive materials that could be used by experienced tutors in a timely and effective manner. A negative aspect was the difficulty to gauge how successful this approach had been. Were tutors using the materials or bringing students to the Library? There is also quite a leap of faith by expecting non library professionals to teach library skills effectively! The future is to continue with this approach but to incorporate the comments and ideas received into improving our support materials. We need to continue ‘road testing’, using international students input wherever possible.
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