Exploring student learning of information skills in Malaysian higher education
Abdul Karim, Aidah
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In line with the Malaysian Qualification Framework, student learning of information skills in Malaysian higher education is currently integrated into classroom learning as opposed to previous stand-alone programmes run by the university library. However, Malaysian research indicates that there is an ongoing ambiguity with regard to the outcomes of the student learning of information skills in Malaysian universities that seems to suggest there is a conflict between the student learning run in the universities and the western standards for information skills in higher education. Moreover, previous Malaysian studies revealed that the Malaysian cultural context had led to different social roles of teachers, librarians and students which adversely influenced student learning. On the other hand, previous studies indicated that student learning of information skills is influenced by the various personal attributes of university teachers, librarians and students. Therefore, in order to understand student learning of information skills in the context of Malaysian higher education, there is a need to examine the interplay of social and personal factors in the outcomes of student learning of information skills in the light of the unique social and personal influencing factors in Malaysian higher education rather than assuming that western information skills standards are effective and desirable in every context. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine student learning of information skills as experienced and perceived by Malaysian university teachers, librarians and students engaged in student information skills programmes. Using the lens of communities of practice to guide the design of the study, this study explores: (1) features of student learning of information skills; (2) the interplay of social factor in student learning of information; and (3) the interplay of personal and interpersonal factors in student learning of information skills. This study employed a qualitative research design that involved five teachers, four librarians and 22 students in a Malaysian public university and incorporated several methods of data collection: observation of student information skills programmes; examination of documents related to the programmes; and semi- xi structured interviews with the teachers, librarians and students involved in the programmes. The major findings of the study are: (1) Student learning of information skills was about engaging students in knowledge-building activity instead of student learning about information-related skills as was originally assumed; (2) The outcome of the knowledge-building activity was students’ creation of new public knowledge and its mediating artefacts instead of their acquisition of a set of predetermined information-related skills as assumed at the beginning of the study; (3) Classroom learning emerged as the immediate context for the knowledge-building activity instead of the community of student learning of information skills as was assumed at the study’s inception; (4) Through participating in the activity of student learning with information, students engaged in the processes for becoming knowledge creators rather than in a socialization process (becoming full members of the community of student learning of information skills) as was initially assumed; (5) There were multiple influencing factors for students’ engagement in the development processes that were interrelated reciprocally with each other—personal, immediate and multiple external contexts, indicating that the proximal development processes operated within a nested or ecological learning system. In this sense, the findings differed from the original framework that assumed an independent interrelationship between personal, interpersonal and social influencing factors for student learning of information skills. The findings of my research result in an understanding of the processes for developing students into knowledge creators within a nested or ecological system of higher learning and further locating student learning of information skills in the development processes from the viewpoints of Malaysian university teachers, librarians and students who engaged in student information skills programmes, distinguishing the student learning of information skills in other regional or institutional contexts. The research generates possible significant insights for other institutions of learning in Asian countries into developing and integrating student learning of information skills across classroom learning in order to support the processes for developing students into knowledge creators. The findings of this study suggest various communities in higher education—teachers, librarians and students—should be more aware of the role of knowledge-building activities in classroom learning for developing students into knowledge creators. Moreover, they should consider the reciprocal interaction between the multiple layers of higher learning systems in which the development processes operate in order to collaboratively and dialogically create classroom learning that facilitates these development processes.