Teaching information skills to large groups with limited time and resources” (abstract + PDF) is an article from British educational researchers, published in the new June 2009 issue of Journal of Information Literacy. You have to wade through some educational psychology cruft in the early pages. But there is the interesting early snippet that…

“students training to be teachers are more receptive to the lecture based interactive teaching methods than students studying Arts and Humanities subjects.”

After the early sections it’s an interesting read — it asks how best to give practical lessons in search literacy to UK undergraduates, when (as seems usual in the UK) the only real opportunity for…

“librarians to engage with students will be to large groups in lecture theatres […] containing over 200 students.”

Search literacy is vital at this stage because U.K. schools and further education colleges turn out large numbers of people who don’t even know simple search techniques such as… “find a phrase” -spam.

Now, I can understand university management thinking: “the F.E. colleges must have drilled search literacy into the students, so they only need a quick refresher and an outline of the library resources”. But in my experience they’re wrong — and delivery of one or two 60 minute lectures, in a packed and sweaty lecture theatre, must send a subliminal message to students that these are matters that are not deemed to be overly important. The students think: “I wasn’t taught this in F.E. college, it only gets a couple of mass induction lectures at the start of university — so it can’t be that important, right?” And such a thought is no doubt compounded by the fact that they know how to navigate their little bits of the web very well indeed.

Universities shouldn’t have to mop up the mess left by schools and F.E. colleges, but let’s assume they do in this case. I’m thinking that one option would be to have a 6-week online ‘summer school’ course in search literacy, the passing of which would be a pre-requisite for entry into the first year.

   Related on JURN: Students’ Use of Research Content in Teaching and Learning.