In today’s society, inquiry learning is a natural process. However, due to the ominous amounts of information readily available, students lack the necessary skills to be able to locate, select, organise, analyse, and evaluate information. These skills are necessary for students to achieve their learning outcomes. This report outlines how an Information Literacy model utilised in an educational setting can be beneficial for all stakeholders. Teachers and students shape inquiry learning through the use of IL models by various means. There are various Information Literacy (IL) models available for use in the teaching of the research and problem solving process such as Herring’s PLUS Model (2007), the New South Wales Information Skills Process (2007) and Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (2009), all of which provide a clear framework for students to follow to achieve their learning outcomes. However, the IL model chosen must reflect the needs of your school context in order to be successful – not all will suit.
Section 1: Definition and purposes
What is an IL model?
The Australian School Library Association (ASLA 2009) and the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA 2006) have defined information literacy as ‘an information process where students can access, use, organise, create, present and evaluate information.’ Teaching in a 21st century curriculum ‘is no longer a matter of teachers presenting expert information to students so that they can represent the information to show understanding,’ (Wall & Ryan, 2010). Information literacy is about students learning how to use information resources, extracting and then presenting the information. An Information Literacy Model guides students through this process. It is a multi-layered process that actively involves students following steps in an information search process to answer ‘the big question’.
Why is an IL model needed in the present information landscape?
Inquiry skills are used by human beings worldwide in everyday life. As teachers, it is our knowledge of children and how they learn that determines how we teach the acquisition of information and inquiry skills. Information Literacy models are essential in today’s information landscape. As Frey (2007) states, ‘we have transitioned from a time where information was scarce and precious; to today where information is vast and readily available.’ Due to this, students can gain access to a range of resources and without an IL model to guide them; they are just simply ‘cutting and pasting’ information. The understanding and teaching of information literacy skills through the use of an IL model has a positive effect on student learning. Students are able to identify their information needs, gather and assess information more readily and organise and present this information effectively – which are skills used across almost all of the curriculum areas (ALIA & ASLA, 2001).
How is an IL model used by teachers and students to shape inquiry learning in schools?
Information Literacy is the teacher librarian’s specialist subject, but it is a whole school responsibility. Teacher librarians, as collaborative teaching partners, support teaching and learning programs in information literacy, recognising that students need to be inspired, challenged and empowered with new knowledge. Herring (2007) states that, ‘one of the key elements in a library mission statement relates to the development of information literate students.’ It is with guidance from the teacher librarian that students can become competent ‘locaters, selectors, analysers, organisers and users of information’ (Wall, J. & Ryan, S. 2010). The teacher librarian must critically analyse all Information Literacy models to ensure best practice in their school (Bundy, 2004). By utilising an effective IL model that suits the dynamic of the school, all stakeholders can work collegially in implementing the model to guide the student’s inquiry process. The model may be effectively used throughout library sessions or as a whole school literacy process; that is embedded within teaching and learning programs (Eisenberg and Johnson, 1996).
Evaluation/Reflection – How an IL model might be employed in the assignments of your school.
An Information Literacy model is essential in today’s educational setting. Students have access to various multimodal texts that are readily available to them. In a digital age, students need to be given a framework in order to be able to effectively represent the information to show understanding. O’Connell (2012) highlights that, for inquiry learning to be successful and digital literacy to be integrated into real-life problems then constructed into solutions that can make a difference in our world, everyone in the equation must become a researcher. There is a distinct shift away from teacher-led instruction to student-centered approaches. Tying this with a greater focus on formative assessment and perhaps the use of Digital Portfolios provide the data required by some parents and other teachers to buy in to the approach.
Assignments can be challenging for some students and often time consuming, resulting in ‘copying and pasting’ methods to complete the ominous task ahead. The IL model can be used as an assessment tool by integrating it into the overall assessment rubric. Students will need to demonstrate that they can meet the requirements of each stage of the IL model in order to achieve the overall learning outcomes. However, before implementing this approach into assessment rubrics, the model will have to be explicitly taught and explored before independent tasks are formulated.
As stated by Langford (1998), there seems to be a gap in the everyday classroom practice of Information literacy and the theory. Schools are still struggling with the concept, often seeing it as an add-on and not a genuine part of education. By introducing an IL model within the school, information literacy will become a part of the curriculum and will benefit student’s learning achievements. Quality teaching will be inevitable as students will be encouraged to locate, select, analyse, organise and use information effectively.
Section 2: Your two chosen models
The Information Search Process and Guided Inquiry
There are various IL models available for use in the teaching of the research and problem solving process such as Herring’s PLUS Model (2007), the New South Wales Information Skills Process (2007) and Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (2009). The main purpose of all these models is similar; to provide teachers and students with a framework for the development of research skills.
Teacher librarians need to provide their students with practical strategies to then transfer the information and knowledge they have gained to other areas of their learning. This is what makes their learning meaningful to them. Kuhlthau’s (Kuhlthau, 2010) Information Search Process (ISP) model engages students in the learning process by asking them to:
- Define their information needs;
- Locate the information they think they need;
- Select the information that is relevant to them, accurate etc;
- Organise the information;
- Create and share their information and;
- Evaluate the information.
A teacher’s knowledge of the ISP affects student learning outcomes across all year levels and all curriculum areas. Teacher librarians who have this knowledge are able to engage students in meaningful research learning, develop lifelong learning principles in their students, cater for individual students, challenge students to aim for higher goals and incorporate a variety of instructional strategies into their teaching. All of which lead to higher student learning outcomes as students taught by these teachers have a higher retention rate and a clearer understanding of core concepts and information (Hattie, 2003).
Kuhlthau’s model of the Information Search Process is a simple and complex process of searching for information (as defined in Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century). The result of inquiry is only formulated by complex searching that derives from the process followed. Kuhlthau has a seven process model:
- initiation (uncertainty);
- selection (optimism);
- exploration (confusion/frustration/doubt);
- collection (sense of direction/confidence);
- presentation (satisfaction/disappointment) and;
- assessment (sense of accomplishment).
Research suggests that because of the information made readily available on the internet, students’ conceptions of research have changed. Without effort or too much thought, student’s can access information on the given topic with ease and by doing so; they expect to find information quickly without utilising the effective skills and processes outlined in the IL models (Kuhlthau, C., et al 2008). When students feel under pressure, faced with deadlines to complete tasks, they become frustrated and become more focused on completing a task rather than achieving the learning outcome. Student’s information-to-knowledge experiences are vitally important in their educational journey. Therefore it is critical that during these experiences, teachers are able to identify key moments when instructional intervention should occur. Rather than gathering and synthesising information (which is a crucial part of the research process), students are often too focused and driven by the end result. It becomes a matter of ‘quantity rather than quality’ (McGregor and Streitenberger, 2004). As they move through the search process stages of the ISP model and learn more about their topics, their relevance criteria also undergo development and refinement. As they become more competent at selecting relevant information, they develop more specific searches and become more critical of the found information (Kuhlthau, C., et al 2008).
By using the framework as a guide, collecting and compiling information is less important than becoming involved in a critical thought process. They begin to explore ideas more extensively and develop their own deep understanding and analysis of the research; which has been formulated by their own opinion and conclusion of the topic searched. Students avoid missing the critical stages of learning when they are given the extra time to reflect and formulate during the exploration and collection of information. It has become evident that the model and learning is extremely important for teacher and librarians to guide students through this process (Kuhlthau et al. 2007).
Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) define Guided Inquiry (GI) as, “an integrated unit of inquiry planned and guided by an instructional team of a school librarian and teachers, together allowing students to gain deeper understandings of subject area curriculum content and information literacy concepts….” Quite clearly, GI requires school community support and close collaboration with teachers. As discussed by Mitchell (2011) ‘Guided inquiry learning is fast becoming the buzz word of school libraries for the 21st century.’ Schools are moving away from teacher-centered lessons where students learn passively and are adopting a guided inquiry approach to learning with teacher librarians acting as facilitators. ‘This guided inquiry approach helps students to construct meaning, think creatively and solve problems.’(Mitchell, 2011) Teacher librarians need to give students a purpose for their inquiry and should not assume that students know how to search for accurate information without being explicitly taught. It is important to structure learning experiences using a research model and support the stages of the teaching and learning cycle. Teacher librarians need to model strategies, jointly work with students to assist the mastery of research skills and support students to use research skills independently.
A key component of the guided inquiry approach to learning is that knowledge can be personal. It allows students to feel fully engaged, develop ownership and take responsibility for their own learning path whilst being guided. A guided inquiry approach in a classroom consists of students working on specially designed inquiry materials. As there is an increasing demand for customised learning plans the guided learning approach ensures students are working at their own level and at their own pace but with a defined purpose.
The GI process clearly achieves the dual purpose of the TL’s role as both educator and information manager. The TL as educator role, or, “every subject expert” (Michigan School Library Initiative Group, 2009) is evidenced in their curricular knowledge and is reflected by their collaboration with other teachers in the focus of the Guided Inquiry, whether students are investigating the immune system or the history of jazz. The TL as information manager reflects the TL’s capacity to integrate information literacy throughout the school, mentor teachers to ‘push’ technology into the classroom and ensure that traditional and digital resources meet the changing needs of the curriculum to best prepare students for high school and eventually employment. As Herring (2007) suggests, TL’s need to mentally and strategically move away from the notion of the library as just supporting the school, towards the vision of the library as a vital part of the school. As TL’s, we need to embrace our leadership role and be prepared with evidence of the improved student achievement to effectively implement Guided Inquiry in our schools.
The guided inquiry approach to teaching and learning is not a new approach in classroom instruction and is best described as a process-orientated approach. Students are developing their knowledge and skills in order to be successful citizens in our increasingly changing society. As stated by Hansen (2004), ‘Our students need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers to survive.’
Herring’s PLUS Model
Herring’s PLUS model is a simplified approach to information literacy while still including the processes of Kuhlthau’s ISP model (just code named differently). This model of the information skills process aims to integrate the key elements of previous models while adding emphasis on thinking skills and self evaluation. PLUS incorporates the elements of: Purpose, Location, Use and Self-evaluation.
The range of skills included in the PLUS model includes:
- Identifying existing knowledge by brainstorming concepts; that formulate questions; resulting in identifying the information resources relevant to the task (Herring, J. 1996, 1999, 2004).
- Developing skills to assist in locating relevant information by utilising library catalogues, books, journals, CD-ROMs as well as developing IT skills in using electronic sources such as the internet (Herring, J. 1996, 1999, 2004).
- The ability to find relevant information or ideas through skim and scan techniques and understand what is being read, viewed or listened to. This knowledge gained should then be compared and related to existing knowledge.
- Be able to select and evaluate the appropriate information.
- Develop the ability to take notes in a systematic way which relates to understanding and purpose whilst collecting all relevant information and devising a summary of all of the facts and information about a topic and relating this to existing knowledge.
- Most importantly, writing or presentation skills including the ability to use the information and ideas to write a well structured essay, report or project (Herring, J. 1996, 1999, 2004).
- The ability to reflect on the processes involved and to identify areas of improvement in the effective use of information resources in the future (Herring, J. 1996, 1999, 2004).
To teach in a school with a school-wide approach to literacy would reinforce the process to students over time and enable them to transfer information literacy between subjects as well as year levels. This model will effectively engage students in their research tasks as it is a simplified method, which also allows students to memorise the steps by use of the acronym.
Recommended Model – Explanation
Students come to the learning situation with some prior knowledge of the topic and it is the teacher librarian’s role to tap into this prior knowledge, engage with students, stimulate and build upon this knowledge, in order to encourage them to be actively involved in the research process. Within an information process framework it is the teacher librarian’s role to support the student through scaffolding learning tasks and providing tools such as concept mapping or brainstorming tools, graphic organisers, note-taking tools and summarising tools.
The guided inquiry process fosters innovation and creativity and can involve students working in groups where they feel motivated and energised. Students can share knowledge and request clarification from each other. ‘Education as inquiry provides an opportunity for learners to explore topics collaboratively using the perspectives offered. In this way, curriculum becomes a metaphor for the lives we want to live and the people we want to be,’ (Harste, Jerome, 2001).
Technology is continuing to impact on education and teacher librarians must consider the important, central role the internet plays in harvesting current information. With the interactive nature of the web, the guided inquiry approach promotes discovery and the role of the teacher librarian is to help children organise the wealth of information presented to them.
For GI to be successful, the TL must raise the profile of the Library, research, provide evidence and create a whole school approach to information literacy. They must establish and nurture collaboration with all key stakeholders, especially the Principal and teachers. Recognising that these steps must be taken, how does the TL become the champion of information literacy? The answer to this question is intrinsic to the GI approach itself – provide the stakeholders with evidence of the improvements in student achievement, firstly in Library projects, then transferred to the classroom. For example, Kuhlthau et. al, (2007, p.133) reported that a follow-up survey of teachers and librarians who had implemented Guide Inquiry projects found that the resultant student learning was ‘richer and deeper and more personalised over time’.
The diagnostic value of these models seems even more crucial in today’s digital age. Research evidence suggests that students appear to settle for the first related information found. Due to the nature of information today (and it being readily available at the click of a button), students skip the initial stages of exploratory searching and analysing information found and just proceed to collecting information for their project or task. This is all done without considering the implications to their learning and skill development. They complete a task without building background knowledge and formulating essential questions that drive and direct their information seeking. Awareness of the processes outlined in the models is not only valuable for teachers but also for students as it facilitates both their learning process and emotional experience.
Professional literature (Langford, 1999; Spence, 2005) confirms that TLs are the links to producing information literate students. To assist students during the research process TLs use information skills models to scaffold student learning. Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) and Herring’s PLUS provide vocabulary to students, teachers and TLs to describe the steps in the research process, the information skills required and a reference point in the research process. The models encourage students to think at Bloom’s upper levels (evaluate, synthesise) rather than information retrieval. ISP is particularly insightful for TLs and teachers because it highlights students’ feelings (affective domain) during the information seeking process (Kuhlthau, 2007); which may result in attention being devoted to individual students’ needs.
Henri (as cited in La Marca & Manning, 2004, p. 36) believes it is normal for students to feel different emotions during research stages, such as anxiety, whereas previously teachers may mistake these emotions for inattentiveness. A whole-school information literacy continuum that is embedded into the curriculum (and NOT in isolation); and that sequentially develops students’ skills and strategies at each year level; enhances students’ acquisition and the transferability of these skills. Loertscher (2009) supports this notion arguing that separate library curriculum or information skills are inefficient methods of information literacy teaching compared to “just in time instruction about the research process” (Loertscher 2009, p.43).
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