As an information literacy librarian, Alexandra Hamlett helps students learn essential research skills, skills that include finding, evaluating, and using multiple information types in order for students to be able to access credible information for their academic and personal information needs. In 2015, she was thrilled to join Guttman College, where an innovative and creative pedagogy is embraced. Guttman’s founders outlined a non-traditional community college and developed a curriculum tied to student success. “I have been privileged to develop an information literacy program where I collaborate closely with faculty to embed information literacy skills across the First-Year Experience and the Programs of Study,” says Professor Hamlett.
Professor Hamlett’s own research interests explore the intersection between information literacy instruction, technology, and student interaction. She is keen to investigate how the rapidly changing culture of our information society is requiring educators to assess information literacy instruction. Information literacy crosses all disciplines; it is essential for librarians and disciplinary faculty to teach students the information-seeking skills that employers desire from new members of the workforce. In order to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and collaborative members of the workforce—abilities that employers increasingly expect from their employees—it is essential for students to gain a facility for information research and acquisition. In today’s technologically-dependent society, educators are being challenged to use innovative pedagogy in order to foster student success.
In 2021, Professor Hamlett co-authored an article“Teaching the Faculty to Teach Information Literacy: The Next Stage of Embedded Librarianship.” The article discussed embedding and teaching information literacy within the context of Guttman courses. According to Professor Hamlett’s observations, when information literacy is taught by disciplinary faculty and scaffolded across a semester, it can have great impact on student success.
In 2018, Professor Hamlett received a Guttman Innovation Grant (GIG) with her librarian colleague Professor Lacy to collaborate with faculty to deepen student engagement with information literacy. Professors Hamlett and Lacy expanded information literacy embedment in courses as well as assisted faculty with the teaching of information literacy. During this professional development workshop, Professors Hamlett and Lacy modeled instruction techniques in a “teach-the-trainer” approach. More specifically, they demonstrated ways that faculty could use the handouts in the Faculy IL Toolkit for the sake of teaching students how to evaluate the authority of a source, create effective keywords, and how to narrow a topic. Professors Hamlett and Lacy used the themes and topics from a course’s content in order to demonstrate how to brainstorm and narrow a topic effectively. They pointed out the many simple ways that faculty can incorporate information literacy instruction across a semester; for example, when assigning readings to students, faculty can have a discussion of resource types by asking students what type of resource it is (“Is this a news article, a scholarly article, a magazine article?” “Who is the author?” Does the author have authority on this topic?” “Why was this article created in the first place—to entertain, to inform, to self-promote?). These small reminders during the context of a course help students to realize that information comes in multiple formats. Moreover, it helps them to see the relevance of information literacy skills in the context of their course, thereby giving them a better understanding of how they can synthesize credible information from different resources to help them satisfy their informational needs, be they academic, personal, and/or professional.
Professor Hamlett is very proud of the information literacy program and teaching materials that she has helped to develop at Guttman. The program and materials have promoted a shared culture of information literacy instruction across the college’s curriculum and disciplines. Faculty and librarians now work together to ensure that information literacy is fully integrated into the curriculum and that students attain the necessary information literacy skills in order to excel in their courses, not to mention later in their academic and professional careers. “I love working with students in one-on-one research consultations,” says Professor Hamlett. “It gives me the opportunity to get to know students better and to deepen the research assistance that I can provide them. I want students to know that they can always come to a librarian for help.” In sessions with students, Professor Hamlett brainstorms with the class about what types of information can serve as credible information for their academic projects and for their own information needs. These discussions offer the opportunity to emphasize to students that authoritative information comes in multiple formats and locations. The sessions, furthermore, help students to realize that they will need to incorporate information from multiple sources in order to solve real-world problems in the workplace and in their personal lives.
Professor Hamlett’s teaching philosophy is motivated by a basic desire for student empowerment. “My teaching aim and curriculum development is anchored in the understanding that students all have different learning styles,” says Professor Hamlett. “So in order to better promote student engagement in the classroom in an equitable and inclusive manner, I employ creative and innovative pedagogical methods such as peer-to-peer teaching, active learning, and problem-based learning.” By encouraging students to ask questions and pursue their curiosity, particularly through access to diverse and reliable sources, she aims to foster skills that will enhance critical thinking. “I tap into students’ own expertise when evaluating resources, information types, and the research process, which empowers them to actively engage with the materials, to understand that they are scholars in their own right, and to grasp learning outcomes that will be of immediate consequence to their lives.” Indeed, the skills that Professor Hamlett passes on to her students will enable them to become leaders in their community, leaders whose own experiences can testify to the importance of life-long learning.