Sunday, 22 September 2013

Information Literacy - looking beyond the skills

 For teacher librarians the skills of an information literate learner - the ability to access, process, organise, create and present information in a variety of ways for the construction of meaning and personal understanding are commonly agreed upon skills (ASLA/ALIA, 2009), (ALA, 2013). The development of these skills is inherent in inquiry based models such as Guided Inquiry (Kuhlthau), The Big6 (Eisenberg and Berkowitz 1990), The NSW DET model (NSW DET 2007), The Plus model (Herring 2004). Each model has processes and stages for the development of information skills. 

However, just as a person who is considered ‘literate’ possesses more attributes than just the skills of decoding text and chunking sounds, so too should an ‘information literate’ person possess more than just a set of information skills.
In its Statement on Information Literacy (ASLA, 2009) The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) defines information literate learners as being able to not only find and analyse information, but also evaluate and use information ethically, for a given purpose, in a variety of formats. The America Library Association (ALA) in its document 'Standards for the 21st century Learner', states that learners not only need to learn information literacy skills, but to then use those skills to make informed decisions, participate ethically and productively within a democratic society and pursue personal and aesthetic growth. (ALA, 2009).  The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, 2000) states that ‘information literacy is a key component of, and contributor to, lifelong learning. Information literacy competency extends beyond formal classroom settings’. So, whilst there is no one key definition of information literacy, these statements indicate that more than just skill development is required to be an information literate person. 

What ‘more than’ is there beyond the ‘information skills’? 

Information skill processes that include reflection, assessment and evaluation as a key component of developing information literate learners, understand that it is about more that just the skills. Kuhlthau (2004) states that 'through reflection we seek connections between our actions and the results. In this way, we achieve a deep understanding that is transferable to a range of situations. Transference is the ultimate objective of education.' Herring & Tarter (2006), state that information literate learners not only know how to apply a range of information skills, but can also reflect on the way they apply those skills, thereby transferring those skills beyond the classroom. The Australian Curriculum states that reflecting on critical and creative thinking and processes involves 'students reflecting on actions and processes and transferring knowledge into new contexts to create alternatives or open up possibilities.' (ACARA, 2012)

From these statements, it could be reasoned that

  • being an information literate person, requires metacognition: knowing what is known and knowing how to use information skills or strategies for learning or problem solving.
  • being information literate is about the development of behaviours and attitudes towards seeking out information, that show an understanding of the need to be critical of the information gathered and creative with how the information is used and transferred to new situations.
  • being information literate means that not only has one been taught how to reflect, assess and evaluate, but the very act of reflection, assessment and evaluation is a natural and inherent aspect of how one accesses, analyses and uses information in a variety of situations.
  • being information literate should provide a springboard from which new skills, new strategies, new ways of knowing can be sought out, assessed and reflected on.

In a 21st century world, where information is abundant and accessible beyond measure, information literacy HAS to be about more than the development of a set of skills. It has to be about creating a platform for lifelong learning as engaged, thoughtful and active members of society.

ACARA (2012) The Australian Curriculum v5.1 Critical and creative thinking – Critical and creative thinking across the curriculum in The Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from (

ACRL (2000). Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. In Retrieved from
ALA (2009). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. In American Library Association. Retrieved from Document ID: d592b8fe-80c1-2f84-6564-7b2756cf52fb
ALIA, ASLA (2009) Statement on Information Literacy in Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from

Eisenberg, Berkowitz (1990). Information problem-solving: the Big Six Skills approach to library and information skills instruction. Norwood, New Jersey. Ablex Publishing Corp.

Herring (2004). The Plus Model. Retrieved from

Herring, Tarter (2006). Progress in developing information literacy in a secondary school using the PLUS model. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Learning as a process. In Seeking meaning : a process approach to library and information services (2nd ed.) (pp. 13-27). Westport, Connecticut : Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C.C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. 16(1), 17-28

NSW DET (2007). Information in schools in Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS). Retrieved from

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