Jamaica Eisner, Research Assistant Educational Research & Evidence Based Practice
Jamaica Eisner, Research Assistant Educational Research & Evidence Based Practice (HETI)
Information literacy and research are part of many graduates’ formal education. The transition from using these skills in an academic environment to a professional context, however, may be daunting. Unfamiliarity with the culture of an organisation may see graduates struggle to recognise opportunities to use their skills.
Information literacy manifests as the product of implicit and explicit social activities that are situated and collective. Organisational information literacy is practised in a context and it’s up to the researcher to understand what it is in a specific setting. Graduates streaming into health education and research may have the necessary skills, but what they require is to be enculturated into the organisation.
Unlike at university, information literacy in workplace settings cannot be seen as a goal in itself but a means of achieving goals and without it, one can feel stuck. One can feel as though the norms and values tied to information literacy are not easily accessible, as they are not systematically made explicit.
Participating in a community of practice, however, begins a process of learning where one can acquire the skills needed for full membership to a community. By working directly in a professional context, you can acquire skills by engaging in knowledge processes.
How this process is approached, however, can impact its success. Lave & Wenger advocate for the legitimate peripheral participation model (LPP), where newcomers begin on the peripheral and occupy an observational lookout post, and gradually become more involved to assemble and absorb the culture of the practice. This occurs naturally for many graduates through the process of coming into the workforce at entry-level and working upwards. Nevertheless, transferring across widely different contexts, such as academic to professional organisations, can be disorienting. From my experience, coming from information management to health education research, there a few things that can benefit the transition:
- Learning the language of a sector
- Learning what the frame of reference and vocabularies used are helps one learn to speak the language of a sector. For example, is it andragogy or adult learning? Medical data or health data? Digital literacy or e-health capabilities?
- Knowing the language allows one to communicate effectively and retrieve information accurately
- Pursue opportunities and experiences that align with your target sector, as suggested by Steven Chang in his presentation, Journeying from health to academic librarianship:
- Join a professional association committee, volunteer, work on projects
- Consider your own experiences and take time to document and be reflective
Starting out in an unfamiliar sector, pursuing opportunities to observe and even participate are immeasurably helpful. In my case, I was working at HETI, which as an organisation, has a commitment to contributing to a community of practice through engagement with health educators, researchers, and with the scholarship of teaching and learning. Let’s Talk Research events run monthly at HETI that give staff opportunities to learn about and engage in conversations about research and evaluation. HETI also provides opportunities for internal and external engagement through online publication, which includes this blog and the eJournal, Health education in practice: journal of research for professional learning. This environment has allowed me to develop my understanding and practice as a researcher gradually, and encouraged me to reflect on the process.
The practice of writing this blog is an example of my gradual interaction with a community of practice, health education research. By engaging with the HETI online blog platform, I was able to map my experience as a newcomer to the sector to relevant literature. The process facilitated and encouraged reflection on the sector, my own practice, and the community of practice. As an exercise, identifying and writing a piece for a research blog allowed me to participation as a way of learning, where I was absorbing and being absorbed into the culture of practice.
This article was based on these readings:
Chang, S. 2017, Journeying from health to academic librarianship. [online] figshare. Available at: https://figshare.com/articles/Journeying_from_health_to_academic_librarianship/5562262 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].
Clarke, S. & Thomas, Z. 2011. Health librarians: developing professional competence through a ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ model. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 28, 326-330.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Lloyd, A. 2011. Trapped between a Rock and a Hard Place: What Counts as Information Literacy in the Workplace and How Is It Conceptualized? Library Trends, 60, 277-296.
Lundh, A. H., Limberg, L. & Lloyd, A. 2013. Swapping settings: researching information literacy in workplace and in educational contexts. Information Research [Online], 18. Available: http://InformationR.net/ir/18-3/colis/paperC05.html.