Activity: What is an information agency?
Choose either the opening or closing site from a previous study visit schedule. Think about what makes this site an ‘information agency’ and make notes for yourself. Think also about what we mean when we talk about ‘information’. What information do you think they work with? What type of services do they offer?
For the purpose of this task, I have chosen the information agency AustLit. By its very own definition, AustLit’s mission as an information agency is clear:
To be the definitive information resource and research environment for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures.
AustLit is concerned with providing access to bibliographic information about individual ‘works’ such as fiction, poetry, criticism and reviews, and biographical and travel writing. It also provides information about ‘agents’ which includes individual authors, writing-related organisations, production companies, and arts and cultural organisations, among other things. It is a useful resource for teachers and students.
Access to AustLit is provided through the catalogue of subscribing library institutions such as university libraries, school libraries, and council libraries. There are some resources which are freely available.
Sunday marked the final time that we would engage with our group for the case studies. The task was to discuss this week’s topic in our group space and then post our individual responses into the Module 6 forum. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was no discussion around the case study within our group wiki or blog space, with the group members choosing instead to post directly to the forum.
Upon reflection of our group participation this session, I realise that there did not appear to be any really strong personalities within our group and there was no clear leader within the group. Perhaps, in some ways, we employed a distributed leadership model, but overall, I feel that as a group, we lacked motivation which resulted in almost no discussions around our case studies. Unfortunately, our wiki space became merely a place in which to dump our responses, after which a self-designated member would collate these and pop them onto the module forum. As I had never used a wiki space, this is probably one of the things I was most looking forward to. I was really keen to see how these could be used to facilitate group learning. I do wonder if we were all new to this type of collaborative work and whether this could have impacted the way in which we worked in this space.
While as a group we have not discussed our perceptions of how our group worked together, I am keen to read my fellow group members final blog posts to learn how they felt about the process, and if their thoughts were similar or different to my own. I believe that it could have been a much more meaningful experience if our group members were to engage more fully. However, while my initial response was to feel frustrated, I did come to appreciate that everyone has different time constraints, ways of approaching tasks, experience in these types of learning environments and motivation to participate. I myself am guilty of not initiating conversations to get to know my group better, something I wish I had done.
While this experience was not what I hoped it would be, it was an opportunity to grow my knowledge of leadership styles, interact more closely with my peers, and try my hand at being a leader.
Aaaah, those two dreaded words that no conscientious student wants to hear…group work. While for some people, group work is an easy ticket to get to the other side, for others, it can be a cause of stress and frustration. While the availability of digital tools such as wikis should, in theory, enhance the ability for everyone to contribute equally, it still relies on each individual to have the motivation and inclination to do so.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my experience of online group work has not been as engaging as I had hoped, and instead of being a wonderful opportunity to genuinely connect and grow with other students in my class, I have found it quite cumbersome. Despite that fact that it has not afforded me the opportunity to bounce ideas off my peers in the way that I would have liked, I have found it a useful way to reflect on what leadership skills I possess and where I need to go from here.
For case study 4, I took on the role of of collator, however in hindsight, in ended up being more of a facilitator role. As someone who values communication, I drew heavily on this trait throughout the process. It was my plan that by doing this, I would be drawing on a democratic leadership style whereby all group members had an equal opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas. While Cherry (2019) suggests that democratic leadership can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions, she also warns that it can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects. While we did complete and submit the case study and there was ample opportunity to contribute and discuss, the quality of the work itself was poor and as a group, we didn’t communicate as effectively as we could have.
In addition to the lack of communication between our group members, we once again had one member that did not contribute. I must admit, that if we were engaging in face-to-face group work, I would have drawn on some transactional leadership strategies and brought delicious snacks and coffee as a way to coerce our non-contributing group member to the party, but alas, this is one clear disadvantage of engaging in group work with individuals that you don’t know. Next week, I plan to take a step back and provide my peers with the opportunity to set up the wiki space and discussions. Though this will be a challenge for me, the art of listening to others is a critical leadership skill and one that I need to work on.
Cherry, K. (2019). The democratic style of leadership. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-democratic-leadership-2795315
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