Mackey on Partnerships (dissertation)

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Tonja Mackey: Photo courtesy of Texarkana College 

Mackey, Tonja R. Academic Libraries and Writing Programs: Partnering for Student Success, Diss. Texas A&M University. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2013. Web. 28 February 2016.

Using her unique blend of credentials, Tonja Mackey approaches her dissertation as both a librarian and composition instructor at a medium-sized community college in Texas (13), and she argues that writing departments and academic libraries, working in collaboration (she cites theories of Dewey, Bruffee, and Vygotsky, among others, here) could serve as “the portal through which students achieve twenty-first century communication and lifelong learning skills” (4).  To that end, she posits that first-year composition should focus on information literacy as content and provide “seamless integration of research methods into the composition course, not unlike a graduate research methods course, albeit on a lower level” (8).  With that in mind, Mackey carries out her mixed-methods study to garner evidence about information literacy practices and challenges within a population that has been relatively ignored on this subject: community college students, which “pose unique situations because of [their] widespread differences” (58).

Mackey’s methods include the deployment and analysis of student pre-and-post-course surveys and three-to-four-page information literacy narrative essays from Composition I students.  Her study also establishes and analyzes comparison groups of Composition I students, where the experimental group received six separate mini-lessons in information literacy instruction in twenty-to-thirty-minute intervals at predetermined times during the semester, while those in the control group received one, fifty-minute session. To measure the two groups’ successes, Mackey performed a content analysis of sixty-one citation pages, requiring five sources, as part of the research project for which the information literacy instruction aimed to benefit.

To speak directly to the measurement of these tests and tools, interestingly Mackey initially reports measurement on the surveys of only four questions, although the instrument totals thirteen in number.  These four questions, geared toward attitudinal shifts from before instruction to afterwards, are either multiple choice or polar in nature, making them more quantifiable, and she provides statistics to show the calculations.  On the contrary, Mackey does not attempt to code and quantify the remaining nine, short-answer questions, but she weaves some responses throughout her qualitative descriptions. In addition to the survey, Mackey formed a rubric for the information literacy narratives, which can be viewed here.  The rubric for the narratives consists of three levels: beginning, developing, or achieving.  The criteria are fivefold and based on the guidelines of ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards.   Finally with regards to measurement, she measures the citation pages based on type and quality of source.

Collectively, Mackey’s work compares to Shields’ (reviewed earlier this term) with regards to the integration of information literacy instruction modules at High Point University.  The difference, of course, is the population: one being mostly traditional students while Mackey’s population varies from digital natives, to laid-off fifty-year-olds looking to update their skills.  Coming from the community college model myself, Mackey’s study resonates with me; however, while it encourages librarians to move away from tool-based, one-shot instructional sessions and toward iterative and collaborative pedagogy, it does not re-invent the role as much as it could toward writing partner, rather than solely research partner.

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