We live in an information rich society. Our world is quickly adapting from industrial to one based upon the creation and dissemination of information. This economic revolution needs a society that is fluent in information literacy. Unfortunately, the education sector is resembling Cinderella with their late arrival to the information literacy ball. Even though the national curriculum was designed with the goal of active and informed citizens, it has failed to meet the task at hand.
Lupton (2014) points out succinctly that there is no information literacy embedded within the Australian curriculum in her analysis. It does seem fairly obvious that inquiry skill strands are the place to look for the elements that then link back to IL. A teacher librarian is ideally the perfect person to identify these elements and create the links due to their knowledge of the curriculum and holistic view of the learning and teaching within a school. Unfortunately, we also know that there are many schools that there is no teacher librarian and thus there is no one to make these links in an effective manner. Consequently, teachers and students are often unable to have a planned learning sequence that builds upon prior knowledge. This inability to construct new knowledge upon prior knowledge, is a direct contradiction to the constructivist theory of guided inquiry.
As Lupton (2014) surmises, there is an inquiry focus within the national curriculum in three KLAs; science, history and geography. Each of these areas addresses inquiry skills with slightly different applications. These mannerisms illustrate the strength and weaknesses of the curriculum to address IL. Unfortunately, these subjects are not equally structured with respect to IL and thus, the embedding of these skills are inconsistent.
This variance between KLA’s has lead to science being the weakest of the three in regards to information literacy. Whilst the research process is vigorous, the data is just gathered with the role of interpretation insufficient. The inquiry skills aspect is aligned only to the experimental procedure and there is limited correlation between the strands. There is also a lack of consideration of the social, cultural, economic context of the investigation. This lack of social context means that the investigation is often difficult for students to apply newly gained information to real world applications which in turn defeats the ‘action’ part of the process.
History KLA has strong IL embedded into its curriculum. The nature of the strands mean that both the questioning and information seeking behaviour are important. The strong dependence on primary and secondary sources means that students are constantly utilising skills in information seeking and using. There is appropriate scaffolding within the curriculum that promotes independent learners. Geography, according to Lupton (2014) has the strongest in IL because; the questioning is stronger and varied, action is required in some form and lastly, it promotes personal and social growth and that the tasks are multidisciplinary. As questioning is the cornerstone of inquiry, the Geography KLA allows for different perspectives of the same question as well as it forces the student to consider the views of the audience. It is clearly the most sophisticated and comprehensive inquiry skills based subject within the curriculum.
The problem with the Australian curriculum is that IL is not embedded within and across the curriculum in all KLAs. Information literacy is cumulative. To have an IL education, sustainable development is required across all years and areas of study. It is should be part of the content, structure and sequence of learning; and definitely not the outcome of a single subject.
Bundy, A. (Ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy.
Lupton, M.(2014) Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum v6, Access, November