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Information Literacy Instruction
in the Library
“Information is Power.”
This phrase has been
bandied about for decades,
but resonated loudly in the
Information Age. Now in
the Knowledge Age a more
accurate truism would be
“The use of information is
power.” Young people,
especially females, may feel powerless so meaningful skills in
knowledgeable decision-making help them feel capable and in
Information literacy is, paradoxically, a “hot” topic and a
misunderstood one. Some people consider it to be a subset of the
more glamorous technology literacy, but a simple example of
gathering data by interviewing face-to-face refutes that claim. Still,
technology has become a cornerstone in information literacy.
As centers of information, librarians see information literacy as
their core curriculum.
DEFINING INFORMATION LITERACY
Dr. Lesley Farmer
California State University
Long BeachLong Beach
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How do students become literate? One of the goals of education
is to help individuals become functionally literate, which involves
a continuum of skills that enables students to be able to do
something: procedural knowledge. Students need to access,
comprehend, and respond to information. In the United States,
reading and writing ability are core competencies in that process.
However, other skills such as numeracy and visual acuity are also
implicated because knowledge can be represented in so many
forms. Increasingly, other countries combine information and
communication literacies under the heading ICT (Information and
The American Associa-
tion of School Librarians
(AASL) lists the following
indicators of information
accurately and creatively
４．seeking information for
and other creative works
６．aiming for excellence in
information seeking and
７．realizing that information is important for a democratic society
Information LiteracyInformation Literacy
New Draft AASL LearningNew Draft AASL Learning
Identify and pursue interests and personal knowledge.Identify and pursue interests and personal knowledge.
Use processes and tools that enable discovery and
attainment of knowledge.g
Transform knowledge into understanding and make
Share knowledge/understandings with others.
Each includes empowering skills, enabling attitudes,
reflective strategies, social responsibility.g p y
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８．dealing with information ethically
９．collaborating in information-seeking and production.
It should be noted that
the standards for informa-
tion literacy do not equate
exactly with the research
process itself. Several
models posit a step-by-step
cognitive approach, which
is more aligned with male
learning tendencies. McKen-
zie suggests a research cycle model. Kuhlthau’s research model
focuses on the affective domain of researching, which resonates
with female information seekers. Pappas and Tepe, who are both
women, developed a non-linear model, contending that students
should have a repertoire of strategies as they engage in
information seeking and use; this approach fits the need of
random access thinkers. In addition, only their model deals with
literature appreciation. In short, researching is just one aspect of
information literacy; the AASL information literacy standards
describe knowledge, skills and dispositions in situ. In that respect,
using a problem-solving construct provides a grounded basis for
１．What is the problem?
２．What are the underlying issues?
３．What are the facts?
４．What are the options?
５．What re the consequences?
６．What is the best outcome?
７．How good was the decision?
McKenzie: cycleMcKenzie: cycle
Pappas & Tepe: non-linear, includes
lit t i tiliterature appreciation
Farmer: elements of engagementFarmer: elements of engagement
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In any case, information literacy transcends academic domains,
aiming for students to successfully function autonomously in
societal settings: as workers, as citizens, and as private individuals.
Moreover, as the concept of a learning society takes hold in the
21st century, the ability of students to learn independently and
interdependently throughout their lives should constitute a core
goal in K-16 education. In this scenario, libraries play a central
role with their organized collection of resources and services, and
with their blend of formal instruction and point-of-need guidance.
Still, some students feel confused in the library, so extra effort is
needed to address their fears even before tackling information
literacy skills. Thus, to optimize this process, rather than limiting
information literacy to teaching one research model to students,
librarians should consider a more inclusive approach by describing
elements of engagement with information, offering some effective
strategies, and then allowing students to discover their own paths
to knowledge. The next part of the presentation details these
“What am I supposed to
do?” “What is the
problem?” These may be
the hardest questions to
answer. Young people
naturally have questions,
but they do not always
know what action to take,
if any, to answer those
questions. In school settings, most questions are imposed by an
What is the question? Whose question?What is the question? Whose question?
-- show example, give context & goalp , g g
What kind of information is needed?
What are the critical factors?What are the critical factors?
-- analyze taskanalyze task
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adult ― with the idea that answering the question will help the
student learn the concept at hand. Unfortunately, students are less
apt to value these questions ― and more likely to plagiarize ―
unless the rationale for them is clearly articulated―and if students
can participate in the questions’ formation. For these imposed
questions, teachers need to have a clear idea what they want their
students to accomplish, and they need to explain their expectations
clearly. The easiest way to define the task or problem is to show
an example of it or to concretize it contextually. While teachers
sometimes object to the question “How long does it have to be?,”
they should realize that students usually are trying to get a handle
on the assignment, defining the parameters. Students should be
encouraged to ask clarifying questions; females, in particular need
to feel safe asking for amplification. Information tasks are also
made more meaningful if students have experience similar
activities before, so they should be encouraged to link the present
project with past learning as a way to find defining connections.
Once students understand the task and have a model or goal
to work for, they can determine what kind of information they
need to complete the task or solve the problem. A simple, yet
often overlooked, preparatory task is to have students list: 1) what
information they know already, and 2) what they do not know.
Another approach is to have students create concept maps of their
existing knowledge base.
In addition, students need to select the critical factors in the
ultimate product in order to guide their thinking about choosing
information sources. As with prior knowledge about content,
students may also differ in their information communication skills.
A project may call for small groups to develop a skit about the
immigration experience. Girls may have more experience working
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in cooperative groups than boys, or they may have an easier time
creating skits. In short, determine information requires that the
teacher help students with those prerequisite skills of analyzing a
task and linking likely sources of information to that task. Thus,
teachers and students need to assess what preliminary content and
information skills need to be taught before the lesson’s main ask
can be accomplished and the problem can be solved.
At this point students