‘Information literacy is more than a set of skills’.
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. It is a multi-layered process that actively involves students following steps in an information search process to answer ‘the big question’.
There are various information skills 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.
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.
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. The information search process models engage 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
- Evaluate the information
In a school setting where there is no information literacy policy in place it may seem difficult to implement across the whole school so my advice is….. ‘Just get started!’ Choose a model you think will suit a particular group of students. Start off with something simple if the students have never used a research model before. Lead by example! Use the model as a framework to build the students’ skills and thinking strategies necessary to work with information. Use each step of the model to guide the students and support them in their research process so they can start to control their own learning. Hopefully over time the understandings and skills that inform information literacy will start to become embedded into the classroom practices of other teachers across the school and become part of the general curriculum in the school.
A teacher’s knowledge of the information search process 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).
The understanding and teaching of information literacy skills 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; Lange, Magee, & Montgomery, 2003). ‘A well-resourced school library that has a strong library program focused on teaching information literacy by a highly qualified teacher librarian increases student achievement’, (Everhart 2006, Hartzell 2003 & Spence 2006).
As stated by Langford (1998), there seems to be a gap in the theory of information literacy and the everyday classroom practice. Schools are still grappling with the concept, often seeing it as an add-on and not a genuine part of the business of education. So……..TLs let’s get started! Let’s lead the way in information literacy in our schools!
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2009)
Herring,J.(2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S.Ferguson (Ed) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp27-42)
Kuhlthau, C. (1991). Inside the search process: Information seeking from the user’s perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 361-371.
Kuhlthau, C. (1993). Implementing a process approach to information skills: A study identifying indicators… School Library Media Quarterly, 22(1), 11-18.
Kuhlthau, C. (2009). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Paper presented at the IASL School libraries in the picture: preparing pupils and students for the future.
Kuhlthau, C., & Maniotes, L. (2010). Building guided inquiry teams for 21st-century learners. School Library Monthly, 26(5).
Langford, L. (1998). Information Literacy: A Clarification
Mitchell, P. & Spence,S. (2009) Inquiry into Guided Inquiry. Vol.23, No.4, Nov 2009.
Upton,M. (2013) Inquiry Learning vs Information Literacy. ASLA Conference 2013.
Wall, J. & Ryan, S. (2010) Resourcing for Curriculum Innovation: Learning in a Changing World