Asselin, M., & Kymes, A. (2007). A Critical Examination of Information Literacy Instruction During a Grade 9 Research Project. SIMILE: Studies In Media & Information Literacy Education, 7(4), 1-18.
This excellent research article provides a clear, concise overview of the cognitive and critical views of information literacy in addition to a thorough study of the methods and outcomes of a collaborative information literacy approach to a grade 9 research project. This is the first real research-based paper I’ve found on critical information literacy and it is most welcome.
I’d like to share some key quotes from this paper:
“the conventional paradigms of information literacy disable students from engaging in authentic and sustained inquiry and from expanding their development of new literacies, particularly the critical new literacies that enable social change. Information literacy education needs to build on established frameworks to emphasize learning from not just about information processes.”
This last sentence really gets to the heart of things. Information literacy education needs to move away from the traditional skills-based approach that reinforces the idea that learning is all about finding the answers, to an approach that recognizes that the process of finding and selecting information is the most important part of genuine learning.
“In contrast to cognitive views of literacy as skills situated within individuals, a sociocultural view of literacy assumes that literacy practices are shaped by social contexts (Gee, 1991). From this perspective, information literacy is not an autonomous, neutral framework of processes, skills and strategies that can be learned by individuals, but is shaped by school discursive practices around research. Limburg (1999) found that dominant discursive practice in schools constructs research as a fact gathering task, rather than a genuine quest to learn. Other research shows that teaching information literacy is more about directing students through tasks than actually teaching information literacies (Leander, 2007; Limburg, 2005).”
From my experience, this is not, as you might hope or expect, any different in university than it is in the public school system. Actually, I’m amazed at how little importance or emphasis is placed on research at all. In many cases faculty simply provide students with a list of readings due to a perceived lack of time for research. This happens quite frequently in Master of Education courses where typically full term courses are offered in the space of 3-4 weeks.
“a critical perspective on information literacy draws from critical literacy studies and posits that information literacy is “not a framework but a standpoint, a way of being that treats texts … as an object of critical analysis as well as a source of learning and pleasure” (Kapitzke, 2005, p. 34). Learning to treat texts as critical objects of analyses is an urgent pedagogical issue as the majority of youth go online not only for pleasure but for school (Lenhard, Madden, & Hitlin, 2007; Media Awareness Network, 2005) and encounter unprecedented amounts of “unvetted” information. A central ability within this perspective is the deeper level of evaluating information that focuses on uncovering perspectives present and absent and identifying techniques used to influence readers. In accordance with New Literacies Studies, the larger purpose of information literacy in this view is transformative personal and social action and ultimately a means of redressing social inequities (New London Group, 2000).”
This is precisely why critical information and media literacy needs to play a central role in all levels of education. Education that relies on “experts” to provide vetted information to students does nothing to teach students how to think for themselves. Instead, it teaches students that they must rely on those in society who are seen as experts to tell them what is right and wrong, true and untrue.
“A critical perspective of information literacy instruction begins with the premise that a paradigm shift is necessary, not only in the meaning of information literacy but in the meanings of knowledge and pedagogy. In this view, knowledge is a generative process not a product; and knowledge creation entails uncovering and contesting socially powerful texts (Gilbert, 2005). “New pedagogy” means situating learning in authentic, complex and political issues, valuing all forms and modes of literacy and texts, and shifting the complete authority of the teacher to a more collaborative relationship among teacher, learner and text (Kalantzis, Varnava-Skoura & Cope, 2002).”
I’m in complete agreement, but I’m still left with the problem of how to make this a reality in my own teaching. I need to move beyond the one-time information literacy sessions to a course embedded model working in collaboration with faculty. Easier said than done.
“when we asked students why they thought they are learning how to do research their responses indicated vague understandings: “to help us learn” and “get us ready for being adults and having jobs.””
Not surprising really, but still depressing.
“A sociocultural perspective suggests that students in this study operated from a product, content driven view of research (Many, Fyfe, Lewis, & Mitchell, 1996; McGregor, 1995), suggesting a history of experiencing school discursive practices of research as fact gathering. They appeared to view school research as a job to get done and the teacher should smooth and speed that process along.”
“If schools are to prepare students for participating in a knowledge-based society then new ways of instruction in the literacies that are needed for building knowledge are essential (Lankshear & Knoebel, 2003). Expanding literacy instruction to include information literacy will be most empowering for students when it is conceived as a repertoire of flexible social practices and ways of thinking that enable productive lives and lifelong learning. It is particularly urgent that instruction in the new literacies of the Internet are provided for all students as neglecting these literacies perpetuates social inequities (Leu et al., n.d). All educators need to move towards a pedagogy of paradigmatic cases (Knoebel & Lankshear, 2007) of new information literacies and ensure that all students learn both the technical new literacies necessary to participate in a knowledge-based society, and the critical “ethos stuff ” of the how and why of knowledge creation.”