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Two librarians working with journalism students in higher education institutions in Ireland and Canada designed a comparative research study which surveyed graduates about the information resources they used to accomplish key communications tasks in their professional roles. The aim of the study was to (a) identify resources being used in practice and (b) harness that knowledge to improve both the content of information skills programmes and the pedagogical approach for teaching those skills. We were curious about the resources graduates actually used at work, both in traditional journalism positions and more broadly in other fields of communications.
An analysis of current professional journalism standards (Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 2012; National Council for the Training of Journalists 2012, 2014) and recent articles on information use by journalists (Machill & Bieller 2009; Wenger & Owens 2013) shows a disconnect between what journalists are expected to use and what they really use in daily practice. Literature on information literacy instruction for journalism students is quite descriptive about the resources we teach students in these programs but this is not always connected to what they might use in practice, in particular as they often have access to different resources than those provided by institutional subscriptions. Missing from the literature entirely is the consideration of journalists working in other communications roles.
Drawing on their prior work and other major studies, the authors will present recommendations for refining classroom practice to foster greater transfer of information literacy skills. We will present data from the survey and discuss the challenges the results present both in terms of what and how we teach in information literacy sessions for professional programs. Participants will be invited to complete a predictive version of the survey to compare what they think these professionals said with our results. This will be the basis for a discussion not only of our results, but also of our process, and how it might inform similar projects.
Although the focus of this study relates to employability skills in the field of journalism and communications, we will discuss the transferability of our findings and how our approach enables implications to be drawn for programmes that prepare students for future careers in other disciplines. Participants will be encouraged to generate questions they could use in similar surveys of graduates in other programs. Both librarians already work closely with faculty on existing journalism programmes; this paper will discuss how the insights gained from the study have been shared with colleagues to improve programmes for future students.