Information literacy: a SIRG seminar

On Friday 26 January, the social informatics research group hosted a seminar on its research into information literacy. SIRG members were delighted to welcome attendance by members of Edinburgh Napier’s Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement, not least because information literacy goes to the very heart of teaching and learning. 

People with Napier email addresses can access a video of the seminar.

Peter Cruickshank started the discussion with an overview of different models for information literacy (IL), noting that IL is generally seen as a good thing to have. Peter mentioned four models of IL, and noted that his research has tended to use the SCONUL (2011) ‘7 pillars’ model. (See slide 1 below.) He has researched IL of community representatives in Scotland and Sao Paulo. The SCONUL model covers how IL is ‘done’ but does not say much about how information is used and what difference it makes. (See slide 2.)

slide 1

slide 2

Bruce Ryan then talked about the Information Literacy Impact Framework project, which investigated inter alia the success factors behind impactful IL interventions. It was found that impact is generally evaluated in terms in terms of ‘busyness’ and outputs rather than outcomes, for example increased use of library portals rather than what use is made of the information. Also long-term outcomes such as health outcomes are measured rarely. The most surprising success factor (for the project team) was the need for repetition and follow-up to maintain IL skills – this is likely to have a direct bearing on teaching.

Bruce also mentioned the recently completed Information Literacy and Society project. A key finding was that tertiary education was the subject the majority of IL research outputs in this area. IL projects can have indirect impact, e.g. IL education of healthcare professionals may lead to better treatment of patients, but there are missed opportunities for such impact. This is in part because IL is only taught at the tertiary phase of educational journeys.

Drew Feeney described how his PhD research is informed by his work in public libraries. He noted that around a quarter of UK adults do not have adequate digital literacy skills. Older adults are over-represented in this group. His research investigates how older adults determine their IL needs and how they address such needs. He is using a Participatory Action Research approach to directly involve individuals in his research, which is a longitudinal study with a cohort of potentially 40 older adults. (Look out for a future post covering Drew’s later full presentation of his project.)

David Haynes spoke about the relationship between digital literacy and information literacy. He highlighted the problems around definitions, especially across different languages (English and Portuguese). Not all commentators recognize information literacy, with some speaking about information literacy skills being part of digital skills rather than a literacy.

David Brazier noted his work on IL, started in his PhD studies, which focuses on Information seeking, search behaviours and social media literacy. He has worked with different groups of participants. For his PhD, he worked with native and non-native English speakers: 29 participants from all parts of the world. He noted that use of language underpins literacies. He has also worked with Scottish high school students and Argentinian adults. A key topic is PhD students’ own recognition of information needs, so that they can design interventions. Acknowledgement of information literacy is a significant factor in their approaches and strategies. David noted that confidence is not necessarily an indication of performance, and that experiments, observation, surveys, ‘think aloud’ approaches have not worked so well as  participatory design. David has used the Scottish National Information Literacy Framework (developed by former SIRG member Christine Irving with John Crawford).

Collins Ovie spoke about a taxonomy of digital literacy (based on DigComp) that he  is developing. His review has identified five main categories, and the taxonomy diagram goes down several levels of detail. It is Important to make connections between concepts in different parts of the taxonomy, e.g. connection between safety and communication. The core of Collins’ research is online safety.

Marina Milosheva’s research has focused on young people’s career information literacy, defined as the ability to access, use, and evaluate information for the purposes of making career decisions. She differentiates between three lenses on information literacy – workplace, employability, and career – and draws attention to career information literacy as a key competency for the management of career transitions. Her doctoral work uncovered a new IL skill that merits scholarly attention: resilience. This entails persistence in the face of information overload and the challenges associated with everyday life information seeking.

Discussion points

Different models of information literacy were discussed, For example, a new book by Alison Hicks, Annemaree Lloyd and Ola Pilerot covers theory around IL.

Digital literacy is being emphasized in Napier’s teaching: there are several literacies such as AI literacy, media literacy.

Validation of the ILIF success factors may be possible via one of SIRG’s taught modules. There was a caution against sticking to one definition of information literacy. 

The distinction between older old and younger old (who have recent work experience) was noted. ‘Age category’ is often self-defined. 

It was suggested that the current UNESCO IL definition might be a good starting point, and noted that IL is not a stand-alone topic in school curricula. Instead it tends to be embedded in teaching of other subjects, and may be devolved to school librarians.

It was suggested that careers services also need to teach IL skills, so that people can learn to avoid information overload and be skilled at evaluation of information. It may be that IL is a meta-skill, and that the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework lists IL as a skill picked up in other modules rather than as a separate topic.

There was discussion of IL impact and lifelong learning, and a suggestion that Napier might support the latter. It was questioned whether people recognize IL as a necessary skill. It may well be difficult to measure IL impact, because people conflate searching on Google with IL skills.

Many thanks to David Haynes for taking the notes on which this post is based.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.