Using Evidence Based Practice in LIS Education: Results of a Test of a Communities of Practice Model
AbstractObjective - This study investigated the use of a communities of practice (CoP) model for blended learning in library and information science (LIS) graduate courses. The purposes were to: (1) test the model’s efficacy in supporting student growth related to core LIS concepts, practices, professional identity, and leadership skills, and (2) develop methods for formative and summative assessment using the model.
Methods - Using design-based research principles to guide the formative and summative assessments, pre-, mid-, and post-course questionnaires were constructed to test the model and administered to students in three LIS courses taught by the author. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. A total of 34 students completed the three courses; response rate for the questionnaires ranged from 47% to 95%. The pre-course questionnaire addressed attitudes toward technology and the use of technology for learning. The mid-course questionnaire addressed strengths and weaknesses of the course and suggestions for improvement. The post-course questionnaire addressed what students valued about their learning and any changes in attitude toward technology for learning. Data were analyzed on three levels. Micro-level analysis addressed technological factors related to usability and participant skills and attitudes. Meso-level analysis addressed social and pedagogical factors influencing community learning. Macro-level analysis addressed CoP learning outcomes, namely, knowledge of core concepts and practices, and the development of professional identity and leadership skills.
Results - The students can be characterized as adult learners who were neither early nor late adopters of technology. At the micro-level, responses indicate that the online tools met high standards of usability and effectively supported online communication and learning. Moreover, the increase in positive attitudes toward the use of technology for learning at the end of the course may indicate that an effective balance between face-to-face and online media was achieved. At the meso-level, students valued learning in community for developing mutual respect, confidence building, risk taking, deeper and more varied learning, learning with and from their peers, and greater enjoyment in the classes. Students found that the online environments were useful for organizing the class objectives and subject matter, “staying connected” between classes, sharing ideas, keeping track of their work, and preparing them for future work in blended environments. At the macro-level, the findings of the effects on student growth related to core LIS concepts, practices, professional identity and leadership skills were inconclusive. However, students’ expressed a high regard for the value of collaboration, and there were indications that the model supported differentiated learning of professional knowledge and skills.
Conclusion - The findings strongly suggest that the use of the CoP model had positive effects on the learning process. Students’ high regard for the value of collaboration appears to be a clear effect of using the CoP model. The assessment methods were sufficient for testing the efficacy of most aspects of the model under the limited conditions of this study. Student responses led to refinements in both the model and methods. This study contributes to social constructivist learning approaches and LIS curricular development by presenting an innovative model for supporting professional growth among adult learners, as well as a conceptual framework to guide evidence -based practice. Further testing and refinement of the model in other contexts and by other educators are needed to ensure that the model is robust and broadly applicable.
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