When I first started as a school librarian I was, if not 100% opposed to the idea of doing a stand-alone information literacy class, at least 93% opposed. I believed, in the way only someone fresh from a grad school program can believe, that the only really, truly effective way to teach information literacy skills was through collaboration with classroom teachers.
And I still believe that that is a GREAT way to teach information literacy. I just no longer believe it is the only way, and in my particular case I'm no longer convinced it is the best way.
I'm going to say what's obvious to any librarian working alone without a clerk--trying to collaborate with 40 different teachers in multiple subjects with various levels of expertise and interest is hard. Finding the time to really plan collaboratively is challenging, and doing that planning is difficult when the teacher you're working with isn't familiar with the skills/concepts you're trying to teach. And yes, I want my teachers to know and understand what I do, but when we only have an hour to plan it's hard to decide between teaching the teacher and planning the unit.
The other time difficulty is in scheduling classes; if Ms. X wants to bring in her A-block class during the first week of November, great. Well, until Mr. Y also wants to bring his A-block class during the first week of November. We're on a modular schedule this year, which I love for lots of reasons, but it makes shifting projects a week here or there very difficult, if not impossible. Shifting a project means shortening the time allotted to it, which means radically altering the project--and often short-changing the process.
And let's not even get into the issue of trying to make sure you're reaching all students using this approach. Depending on class schedules and teachers and courses of study, it's not uncommon for a student to either miss a skill completely, or get a double (or triple) dose of it. And while I suppose it's not awful for students to be taught the same skill twice, it's frustrating for them, and it makes it hard to hold their attention and focus (even when I try and give them more advanced skills to practice, they have a hard time differentiating those skills from the ones they see their classmates doing, and when I'm working one-on-one with students practicing these skills for the first time it's hard to find the time to get over to the student who may have been in the library learning this just last week. And they often know enough to be bored, but not enough to be able to help their peers. Frustrating). What I'm concerned about is students who somehow never get these lessons. The senior who claims they've never done in-text citation before. The junior whose website evaluation consists entirely of the words "it looks legit." The student who has never used a database for research. The student who "knows" never to use Wikipedia because "anyone can edit it" who then cites Yahoo! Answers in their research paper. Everyone's moving at a different pace and in a million different directions, and there is no way for me to keep track of it.
And then there's what is, really the biggest issue for me. Much like the "everything in one book" syndrome, it's the "everything in one project" syndrome. Students need to develop search strategies, find and evaluate information, organize, take notes, cite AND often learn new information related to their core course, synthesize it and create a paper/presentation. It's a lot to ask of one project. It's too much.
Many students are so overwhelmed by the idea of the final product of a research paper that they can't properly focus on the process. The product is, for them, what matters, and the process is what's standing in between them and that product. And while I offer to (and beg and plead with) teachers to grade different components of the research process, not many take me up on it, and ultimately I have no say over how different parts of the process are weighted and graded.
In one of the latest projects I worked on with a class, I asked a student to close her laptop while I was giving a brief overview of the resources that would be helpful for this project. She scoffed, "I'm writing the paper." For an assignment that had been given the day before, and on which she'd done no research. I asked another student how he was doing with finding and citing sources, as I'd noticed that he hadn't entered any information into NoodleTools. He told me that he was going to do what he always did--write the paper (on a fairly nuanced and detailed topic) and then find some sources that he could plug in. For those students--and many others--the product was the point; the process was an afterthought (at best).
And so, all that (which was was way more than I intended) being said, I have gone to the powers that be at my school with a proposal to teach a stand-alone information literacy course. And gotten a very enthusiastic response. It's very early in the process, but I'm excited about the possibilities. You'll definitely be hearing more about this as planning moves forward.
Do any of you school librarians out there teach a stand-alone information literacy class? What do you love/like/hate about it? Things I should keep in mind as I start planning?