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Information literacy

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Article Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Information literacy frameworks
  3. Teaching information literacy
  4. References

Information literacy frameworks

Information literacy as a concept first appeared in the 1970s, and although initially associated with IT, it is now accepted as a separate skill set (Corrall, 1998). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was much research into information seeking behaviour, however there has been less into, say, academic perceptions of the subject or the pedagogy of how to teach it. Hardly surprisingly, the main attempts to examine ; there is less from an academic’s perspective. We shall look at these various frameworks in turn.

Librarian frameworks

The two main frameworks are those by the major librarianship bodies on either side of the Atlantic: the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) of the American Library Association (ALA), and the (British) Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL). Another framework, based on that of ACRL, was developed by Alan Bundy for Australia and New Zealand (Bundy, 2003). The SCONUL model is known as the Seven Pillars of Information Literacy and forms the basis of information literacy training in most UK universities.

All these frameworks have developed standards by which an information literate person can be recognized, together with learning outcomes and examples. Their approach, summarized below, is broadly similar – all emphasize recognition of need, access, evaluation and synthesis, appropriate use and ethics.

Summary of librarians' information-literacy-framework approaches
  ACRL SCONUL Bundy (ANZ)
Definition of need The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed The ability to recognize a need for information. The ability to distinguish ways in which the information "gap" may be addressed The information literate person recognizes the need for information and determines the nature and extent of the information needed
Access The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently The ability to construct strategies for locating information. The ability to locate and access information The information literate person finds needed information effectively and efficiently
Evaluation The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system The ability to compare and evaluate information obtained from different sources The information literate person critically evaluates information and the information seeking process
Use The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose The ability to organize, apply and communicate information to others in ways appropriate The information literate person manages information collected or generated
Synthesis   The ability to synthesize and build on existing information, contributing to the creation of new knowledge The information literate person applies prior and new information to construct new concepts or create new understandings
Ethics The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally   The information literate person uses information with understanding and acknowledges cultural, ethical, economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information

All sets of standards are freely available on the Web, and can be accessed by clicking on the links given below:

The ACRL Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS) includes data literacy in its discipline-related standards, which could equally well be applied to business studies with its use numerical data and quantitative methods (ACRL, 2007). Stephenson and Caravello (2007) describe an initiative at UCLA to link information literacy with data literacy, defined as "the ability to read and interpret data, to think critically about statistics, and use statistics as evidence".

Academic frameworks

Academic studies of information literacy are more likely to emphasize the importance of critical thinking. Back in the 1990s, Shapiro and Hughes sought to reframe information literacy by linking it with critical reflection (Loo and Chung, 2006).

Boon, Johnston and Webber (2006) studied UK English academics’ conceptions of information literacy, and compared them to library frameworks. Using phenomenographic methods, which focus on people’s perceptions of a situation, they found that academics also valued the higher order skills of analytic thought and reflection. Sharkey (2006) describes the information fluency model, created by the (US) Associated Colleges of the South, which blends information literacy with critical thinking skills and technology, with the object of creating students with analytical skills and the ability to navigate a wide range of technologies in their search for information.

Loo and Chung (2006) describe the "Big Six" model, which consists of a number of steps similar to the librarians’ standards:

  1. task definition
  2. information seeking strategies
  3. location and access
  4. use of information
  5. synthesis
  6. evaluation.

However, it integrates these steps with findings from cognitive psychology on how new knowledge is constructed on that which is already known. Mokhtar et al. (2007) link information literacy with learning styles, and draw on the concept of multiple intelligences, whereby there are a number of different forms of intelligence:

  • linguistic-verbal
  • mathematical-logical
  • kinaesthetic
  • visual-spatial
  • musical
  • intra- and interpersonal.

Finally, Andersen (2006) sets information literacy in a social framework by claiming that it is a socio-political, rather than merely technical skill, requiring an understanding of the genres under which information is grouped.