Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Application for Sabbatical

Purpose of Activity: State the purpose of the proposed activity to be conducted during the educational leave.

According to results of testing of information literacy skills, whatever we are doing now to teach these essential skills to our students just is not working. Even though educators and librarians have tried a wide variety of ways to teach these skills-from lectures and tutorials, hands-on workshops, librarian-teacher partnerships, and more-students continue to fail. Even when they are able to do well on tests of skills, usually immediately following instruction, they are not able to apply these skills nor do they seem to be able to take these skills with them as they continue to progress in the university.

This educational leave will allow me to plan a study of what we are doing now in the university to foster students' acquisition of 21st century information literacy skills. Using what is learned from this study, I then plan to see where we might be able to intervene-and how we might best do this. I believe that a just-in-time model of teaching and learning, using newly available technologies, might be one way of better helping our students to acquire these essential skills in a way that will move with them beyond the first-year classes where these skills are usually taught.

This Educational Leave will allow me to:

  1. Design a study to be piloted at Georgia Southern University beginning Fall 2009.
  2. Complete necessary IRB training and approval forms.
  3. Compose and submit article to peer-reviewed journal.

After the initial pilot study in Fall 2009, I hope to revise the research protocols as necessary to develop a national longitudinal study. In addition, as part of the LILAC Group (Learning Information Literacy Across the Curriculum) and co-host (with Bede Mitchell, Dean of the Zach S. Henderson Library at Georgia Southern University) of the annual Conference on Information Literacy , I hope to work with faculty as well as librarians, media specialists, and computer programmers to develop or contribute to development of tools that can be used to apply a just-in-time education model to information literacy education.

Expected Outcome(s) with Assessments: State the expected outcome(s) of the proposed project. Identify what is to be accomplished during the educational leave. State how theexpected outcome(s) will be assessed. Identify how you will know the outcomes have been accomplished.

Outcome 1: Design a study to be piloted beginning Fall 2009.

Assessment: Identify at least two first-year composition faculty members at Georgia Southern University to participate in pilot study. Faculty will review study for any suggested revisions; faculty will sign off on study design by agreeing to participate in pilot test.

Outcome 2: Complete necessary IRB training and approval forms.

Assessment: Successful submission of IRB application(s).

Outcome 3: Compose and submit article to peer-reviewed journal.

Assessment: Article submitted.

Significance of Project: Identify the significance of the project. Describe how the proposed project addresses the university's, college's and/or department's strategic plan and mission. Discuss the potential impact of the project.

Preliminary findings from the Educational Testing Service's (ETS) 2006 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy Assessment testing of almost 4000 college and high-school students accuse an appalling 87% of students of being information illiterate (Foster). While there seems to be general agreement that there is an urgent need for us to be information literate, there doesn't seem to be the same agreement on how to define what exactly that means. And yet, whether or not we know what information literacy is, we continue to administer tests to determine if students have "it." And of course, we continue to debate ways to teach information literacy skills.

ETS notes that these "bleak" results "show us that institutions need to consider how to better integrate ICT literacy skills into and across the curricula" ("College Students"). Betsy Barefoot, Co-Director for the Policy Center on the First Year of College and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Brevard College, agrees; she argues that we need to make library instruction "an integral part of courses across the curriculum" through "continuing and creative collaboration between librarians and professors."

In their important book, Information Literacy: Essential skills for the Information Age, Michael B. Eisenberg, Carrie A. Lowe, and Kathleen L. Spitzer stress that "information literacy extends into the realms of critical thinking and ethical usage of information" (6). That is, it is not enough to be able to search for information in the library-or even within a library database; it is not enough even to be able to formulate an effective search string in Google: "[W]e must also be skilled in other literacies: visual, media, network, and, of course, basic literacy" (6-7).

The LILAC Group defines essential information literacy skills as the ability to recognize

  1. when information is needed,
  2. what kind of information is needed,
  3. where to go to locate that information,
  4. how to evaluate what we find,
  5. how to integrate the information we discover with our own ideas and with those of others,
  6. and, finally, how to adequately cite information, ideas, words, pictures, and other borrowings.

We believe that using a just-in-time learning model can help integrate the teaching (and learning) of these essential skills into the reading-and-writing model in a way that is more useful, more readily transferable, and more appropriate for the information age than current, more traditionally based models of instruction, moving from "a supplier-driven system that works efficiently for the teacher to a consumer-driven system that works effectively for students" ( "Just-in-Time Education").

In Datacloud, Johndan Johnson-Eilola argues that "because the pace of work has accelerated, the information space has flattened, with users increasingly unlikely to look outside their immediate interface for assistance on using the computer" (51). While Johnson-Eilola's book deals with software/computer interfaces, it is also directly applicable to instruction-not just instruction in acquiring technological skills, but, I would argue, most any instruction. Many of the components to inaugurate a just-in-time learning process are already in place at many universities, in writing labs, library Web sites, online courses, tutorials, handouts. However, we believe that there is much more that can be done, by providing students (and other researchers) with instruction at the point of need. That is, by using components such as text or voice messaging, blogs, pop-ups, podcasting, etc., in a layered structure, we can provide what one member of the LILAC Group so aptly terms "in your face" access to learning information literacy.

This study will help us to identify how and when we can best intervene in facilitating student acquisition of these essential skills.

Time Frame: Outline a time frame for the project, indicating dates for the accomplishment of specific outcomes.


  • Begin IRB training
  • Begin review of literature


  • Continue review of literature
  • Post summaries of literature to LILAC blog
  • Begin drafting questions for study
  • Begin draft of article


  • Identify possible faculty partners
  • Post draft of questions to LILAC blog for review
  • Revise questions based on reviews
  • Continue working on article; post to partners for feedback Identify possible venues for publication


  • Finalize questions
  • Determine possible scenarios for collecting responses from study participants
  • Draft necessary permissions and letters to prospective participants
  • Submit necessary materials for IRB approval
  • Revise article and prepare to submit


  • Make any necessary revisions for IRB
  • Finalize study materials
  • Submit article to peer-reviewed journal.
  • Prepare for submission to international conferences (Georgia Conference on Information Literacy, National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], Conference on College Composition and Communication [CCCC] and/or the Computers and Writing Conference [C&W].

Reporting Mechanism: Specify how the results of the project will be reported to the department and college. Identify the time frame for reporting. Please note that the results of an educational leave will be included in the faculty member's annual evaluation.

By the end of May, I will compose a memo to the department chair and the Dean of the college outlining the work that has been completed. Copies of IRB forms, study questions, study scenario, and draft of the article will be posted to the LILAC group blog for department and college review, as well as for discussion among interested researchers, teachers, and others in the field.


  1. Looks great! I'd love to assist in any way I can.

  2. Thanks! I'll keep you posted, or, in other words: "Watch this space!" :)