Joining Minghao Rostami’s prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant, which started this August and runs for five years, three other professors in the Department of Mathematics—Jani Onninen, Dan Coman and Lixin Shen—were awarded NSF grants for their ongoing work, and two…
Shared Competency Community of Practice Supports Information Literacy and Technological Agility
“We live in an increasingly digital environment and our students need to have a specific set of skills to function in society and to succeed in any career,” says Jian Qin, professor and program director of the master of library and information science in the iSchool. “It’s critical that we think about how we find and acquire information, how information is evaluated and disseminated, and how we can do these things both effectively and ethically.”
That’s why Qin and Kelly Delevan, information literacy librarian at Syracuse University Libraries, are leading the new Information Literacy and Technological Agility (ILTA) Shared Competencies Community of Practice. The group is composed of faculty and staff from across the University to share teaching/learning experiences and create shared learning outcomes for undergraduate students. This community of practice is part of how the University is implementing the Shared Competencies—six institutional learning goals that enhance undergraduate education through an integrated learning approach.
As approved by the University Senate, the framing language for the Information Literacy and Technological Agility Shared Competency outlines the skills that students should be able to demonstrate when they graduate: “Identification, collection, evaluation and responsible use of information. Effective, ethical and critical application of various technologies and media in academic, creative, personal and professional endeavors.”
“As an academic librarian who thinks about information literacy all the time, it’s really exciting to collaborate with faculty across the University to not only look at academic coursework that enhances these skills, but also co-curricular experiences,” says Delevan.
One of the goals of the ILTA Community of Practice is to create ways for faculty to be explicit about what they’re trying to achieve with course assignments. By directly connecting an assignment to a Shared Competency, students have a clearer understanding of why their instructor is assigning a project or exercise and the skills it is meant to enhance. Long term, students can use this knowledge to tell their story to prospective employers and graduate programs; they’re able to draw a road map of what they learned, how they learned it and how they might apply the skill in any given situation.
While it has been challenging to build a community during the pandemic, the ILTA Community of Practice has been mindful about having robust conversations and getting to know each other. One of the first tasks has been to build consensus about what information literacy and technological agility really mean in practice.
“Everybody has a different definition, but we’ve done a number of exercises where faculty from very disparate fields of study could reflect,” Delevan says. “In doing so, we have identified common themes that we want to articulate for our students. We’re building consensus around a set of common outcomes that we are trying to achieve.”
The ILTA Community, which works closely with the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, has already started developing tools to identify and measure student learning outcomes. Delevan and Qin came together and created an “assignment checklist” for information literacy.
“It’s really just a series of prompts that asked faculty in the community of practice to take a look at one of their assignments and evaluate how it addresses information literacy and technological agility. What really surprised us is how useful it was to everyone—from engineers to artists,” Delevan says. “It’s not telling faculty how or what to teach, but it gives them a tool to really think about their learning outcomes. And it’s not a huge investment of time or effort.”
Qin adds, “The checklist helped them recognize that they’re already teaching information literacy and technological agility by giving everyone a common vocabulary for the skills that students need.”
Other Shared Competencies Communities of Practice are in process or being formed to address the remaining five shared competencies. Qin and Delevan encourage faculty to get involved.
“It’s a rare opportunity to be in a group with so many different people who bring different skills to the table,” says Delevan. “We’re not at all competitive, we’re building broad consensus that, at the same time, recognizes how different fields approach a particular set of skills that we want our students to have when they graduate.”
“Our faculty really care about teaching and learning, but they also have a lot of their plates,” Qin says. “I think that this community of practice has demonstrated that there are small, tangible things that they can do without adding more to their to-do lists. There’s really a great deal of flexibility in what we are creating and I hope that we can show that small changes make a big difference, if you just have the right tools.”
Other members of the community of practice are:
- Michelle Blum, Engineering and Computer Science
- Ari Chakraborty, Arts and Sciences
- Shiu-Kai Chin, Engineering and Computer Science
- Larry Davis, Architecture
- Sarah Fuchs, Arts and Sciences
- LaVerne Gray, iSchool
- Butch Hallmark, Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs
- Megan Oakleaf, iSchool
- Mario Perez, School of Education
- Whitney Phillips, Visual and Performing Arts
- Penelope Pooler, Whitman School of Management
- Jane Read, Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Jon Ryan, ITS
- Shane Sanders, Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics
- Amanda Johnson Sanguiliano, Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment
- Kyla Wagner, Newhouse School
- Patrick Williams, Libraries
- Jamie Winders, Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Austin Zwick, Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs