This is something that I struggle with myself. As a librarian, I constantly talk about teaching information literacy skills and in my head, these are the skills of research which include supporting the research process through:-
knowing and understanding how to use the school library
how to create a question so you know what you are looking for
how to access and use academic online resources and internet searching
evaluating your resources
creating a product to share your findings be it a presentation, essay or poster etc
The new definition from CILIP also describes what we do although rather more broadly.
“Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society.”
I suppose my question is this:-
Do others see information literacy differently in this model of inquiry?
Is information literacy really only the research bit and the parts that lead up and from it the wider inquiry? Or are we talking about information literacy and the inquiry process one and the same?
Or should we take information literacy out of this process and leave it in the library world and decide that it is not required in the school library and education environment.
This is a very impotant distinction that we absolutley have to get right, and one that I have been wrestling with since my journey from a framework of information literacy skills to a framework of inquiry skills first began.
At the level of definition (see Glossary), inquiry is an approach to learning, and by extension teaching, that aims at students increasing their understanding.
By contrast, information literacy appears to be central to a number of literacies, such as digital literacy, that enable inquiry.
From my perspective, the distinction between inquiry and information literacy is very important because inquiry is an approach to learning. Teachers are under a lot of pressure to deliver their own subjects and may feel (often correctly) judged on how their students’ understanding of their subject has increased during their course. This means that when we talk about information literacy it is often seen as ‘our’ subject as librarians – and for classroom teachers may fall into the ‘nice but not essential’ category. Which is why it often gets squeezed into the ‘something fun to do after exams’ slot, for example, and why we sometimes feel we are needing to beg for bits and pieces of time here and there to deliver ‘our’ subject.
Inquiry is not information literacy under another name, it is genuinely a different way of teaching, with intellectual curiosity at its heart and the construction of new understanding as its goal. Of course, information literacy skills are fundamental to this, but because the focus is firmly on developing (subject specific) understanding, the teacher and librarian are now working together, using their different skill sets, to achieve the same goal – we aren’t using access to our resources as a bargaining chip to buy a bit of time to teach information literacy (which may be a caricature, but that is how it felt sometimes!).
As an example, have a look at the topic in the Inquiry and Resource Design Forum on Essay Planners. Joe recognised the value of FOSIL as a mind-set and asked for my help to use it to help his A-Level Politics students plan their essays more effectively – no ‘research’ or resources involved at all, but definitely a fruitful teacher-librarian collaboration and an excellent use of the cycle of inquiry as a tool for thinking with. I don’t believe this would have happened if we had still been talking about and focussed on information literacy.
Librarians are information literacy experts – and that remains a vital part of the process – but we need to become experts in inquiry more broadly too if we want realise our true potential and step up to take our place as co-educators alongside our classroom colleagues.
Thanks for your great explanation Jenny! Are we are saying that the inquiry process (FOSIL) is what brings the teacher and librarian together whilst our areas of expertise are ‘knowledge’ of the subject for the teachers and ‘information literacy’ for the school librarian are still essential?
I can see very clearly how at A’Level a librarians role is important as the students are thinking of their outcome, which is their essay. I have found that lower down the school there seems to be less thought on the final outcome especially in primary school. I have to add here that this is more on observation rather than any great knowledge or conversations. How do we begin the conversation with teachers about being in the classroom to support the Connect and Wonder stage? I tend to find that I am in the classroom to help with the ‘finding’ the information part although I have managed to do a few ‘how to create a good question’ lessons but like you say Jenny I do feel like I am being parachuted in to tick a box. Although this particular box was not really thought about until I mentioned it.
Teachers always seem to need to rush onto the next topic to fit everything in. Has anyone got any suggestions on how we approach these conversations.