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Research Skills: Bridging the Gap Between High School and Post-Secondary LibGuide

Transitioning from School to Higher Education.

WILU 2011 Workshop for Instruction in Library Use

WILU 2011 "Learning under Living Skies" 
University of Regina, Saskatcehwan  June 1-3, 2011

WILU 2011 Session Papers: 

WILU 2011: Grassroots Collaborations: Bridging the Gap between High School and Post Secondary

Grassroots Collaborations and Beyond: Bridging the Gap Between High School and Post Secondary  

Presenters:  Jennifer Sigalet, Vernon Campus and Instruction Librarian, Okanagan College
                    Sherri Savage, Okanagan College Library and MLIS Student, San Jose State University                       

Grassroots Collaborations:    Powerpoint and Handout and Blog

Grassroots Collaborations: Abstract

Recent surveys indicate there is a widening gap between the information literacy skills of high school students and the information literacy skills expectations post-secondary professors have of first-year university students. In response to this growing concern, a high school teacher-librarian and a college librarian recently collaborated on a joint production of the video Research Skills: Bridging the Gap Between High School & Post-Secondary. The film features interviews of six university professors discussing their research skills expectations of first-year university students. The interviews confirm the results of ongoing studies and reports on information literacy and the significant gap between high school and first-year university student preparedness. 

Since its production (2010), Research Skills: Bridging the Gap Between High School & Post-Secondary has become a powerful tool for creating an awareness of the existing information literacy skills shortfalls of students entering post-secondary education. The film has subsequently been presented to key players in education including high school administrators, teachers, teacher librarians, school boards, and university professors and librarians.

The original goal of the film Research Skills was to create an impactful means of advocating for teacher-librarians in the local school district while reiterating the importance of teaching information literacy skills in high schools in preparation for post secondary education.  The film has subsequently stimulated discussions amongst high school teacher-librarians and post-secondary librarians in a variety of venues as we continue to explore collaborative bridging opportunities within school districts. 

Film become a basis for further investigation
Interview questions and ACRL Information Literacy Standards provided a basis for further investigation into the research skills expectations college professors have of first year students via an institutional survey at Okanagan College.  

Aim of the recent survey
was to carry on the investigation and identify the expectations instructors have of first-year college students’ research skills.

Grassroots Collaborations: What are our goals?

Our goals are to help bridge the gap between high school and post-secondary education by:

• identifying  perceived gaps  in the research skills of students entering  first year university
• involving students in the information literacy process  in preparation for post-secondary
• creating institutional awareness and commitment to transitions opportunities
• creating sustainable collaborations between our schools and  post-secondary institutions
• creating a lobby group in support of funding for teacher-librarians locally and beyond
identifying and working with other groups at our institutions who are focusing on transition

Research Skills Survey: Okanagan College Library, March 2011

Okanagan College faculty were asked this question in a recent survey:
Do you think first-year students transitioning from high school have the research skills needed to 
succeed in first-year university?

73.0%   NO
10.6%   YES
16.2%   Other*    


•       Most students are mature
They may be short of time
Not sure, but expected to have
It's a work in progress
•       They can build what they have to learn

Savage, S.B.,  & Sigalet, J.M. (1 June, 2011).  Library Research Skills Survey Report: What research skills do college professors expect first-year students to have? Kelowna, BC: Okanagan College.

Research Skills Survey: What research skills do Okanagan College faculty expect first year students to have?

Research Skills Survey: Ten Research Skills Expectations

Ranked order

What research skills do you expect students to have when entering first year university?


How to locate and access information            


How to avoid plagiarism and recognize the importance of citing and referencing sources  


How to recognize when information is needed            


How to evaluate the credibility and authority of information                        


How to organize and apply information effectively      


How to differentiate between popular and scholarly sources 


How to differentiate between a primary and secondary source


How to create a research strategy or keep a research journal  


How to synthesize and build on existing information


Other:  expect them to develop these skills

(Savage and Sigalet, 2011)

Embarking on a transition program

Burhanna suggests some key questions one needs to ask before embarking on a transitions program:
• Should you be doing it?
Where do we start? 
• How do we do this as a smaller institutions?
• Who are the key players?
• Who is our target audience?
• What are we hoping to give them?
• Who is going to do it?
• What are the resource requirements?
• What kind of funding is required?
• When are the best times of the year to do this?

Burhanna, K.J. (2007). Instructional outreach to high schools: Should you be doing It? Communications in Information Literacy,  1(2), 74-88.  

Suggested readings

American Association of School Librarians/Association of College and  Research Libraries Task Force on the Educational  Role of Libraries. (2010, Sep 15).  Blueprint  for Collaboration.

Beaudry, R. (2010).  Transition literacy in high schools: a school model.  Treasure Mountain Canada.

Burhanna, K.J. (2007). Instructional outreach to high schools: Should you be doing It? Communications in Information Literacy, 1(2), 74-88.

Burhanna, K.J. (2010, June 26). Yours, mine, and ours: Moving students through the information literacy ladders from high school through community college to the college/university level. Presented at CJCLS for ALA.

Burhanna, K.J., & Jensen, M. (2006). Collaborations for success: high school to college transitions.  Reference Services Review, 34(4), 509-519.  

Burkhardt, J. M., MacDonald, M.C., & Rathemacher, A.J. (2005).  Creating a comprehensive information literacy plan: A How-To-Do- It- manual and CD-ROM for librarians.  No. 150. New York: Neal-Schman.

Cahoy, E.S., &  Moyo, L. (2009).  K-16 outreach: Creating connections that matter.  In: Courtney, N. (Ed.).  Academic library outreach: Beyond the campus walls. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Canovan, B., Gruber, A. M., Knefel, M. A, & McKinlay, M. (2009). Many voices, one goal: Measuring student success through partnerships in the core curriculum.  In Collaborative Information Literacy Assessments (Mackey, T. P. & Jacobson, T., Eds.).  New York: Neal-Schuman.

Hayden, K. A. (2010).  Together we are stronger: K-16 information literacy collaborations.  Treasure Mountain Canada.

Lowe, H., & Cook, A. (2003). Mind the  gap:  Are students prepared for higher education?  Journal of Further and  Higher Education,  27(1),53-76.  

Nichols, J. W.,  Spang, L., & Padron, K. (2005). Building a foundation for collaboration: K-20 partnerships in information literacy. Resource Sharing & Information Networks, 18(1-2), 5-12.

Sanoff, A.P. (2006, Mar 10)  A perception gap over students' preparation. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 52 (27), B9-B14. 

see also Research Skills LibGuide under  “Resources”  tab at

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