Information Management Research Theme: Information Literacy
PROJECT: Untangling Spaghetti? The Complexity of Developing Information Literacy in Secondary School Students
Schools provide increasing opportunities for learners to engage with a wide variety of information environments and in any mixed ability class a number of students will reveal underdeveloped information literacy. The small study reported here investigated the relationship between mediation and effective development of information literacy in secondary school students. The focus of the study was on the approaches and strategies used to develop information literacy by a Support for Learning teacher and the school librarian. The teacher and librarian worked with a small group of Support for Learning students, with moderate but non-specific learning difficulties, who exemplify the underdeveloped information literacy seen in other classes. The study set out to identify the aspects of information-related activities that this particular group of student find challenging and how approaches to the delivery of information skills influence the development of information literacy.
The study took the form of a case study focusing on how the teacher and librarian deliver information skills through an information activity with a small group of students in their second year at secondary school. Data was collected through field notes of lessons observed by the researchers and recorded post-lesson reflective discussions with the teacher and librarian.
The problems students encountered were less related to a lack of specific skills and abilities than the difficulties encountered in making connections between those skills and information literacy as a means of building a knowledge base of both the subject and its information context. The major challenge for the teacher and librarian was their realisation of the complex nature of information literacy (described by the teacher as ‘tangled spaghetti’ of skills, decision-making, cognitive and affective elements) and how this detracted from their ability to teach a pre-defined sequence of skills within the time constraints of the activity. The challenges observed appeared to stem from the teacher/librarian-led, skills-focused, approach which was based on an interpretation of information skills as a set sequence of stages and skills within an overall process of finding and using information. This sequence of planning and defining the information need, gathering information from a variety of resources, organising that information and presenting it to a defined audience, is commonly applied through project work in secondary schools. This approach influenced both the structure of lessons and mediation between teacher or librarian and students.
Project Leader & Funding
Funded by the Scottish Executive Education Department under the sponsored research scheme: January - June 2006.
Williams, D.A. and Wavell, C. (2006) Untangling Spaghetti? The Complexity of Developing Information Literacy in Secondary School Students. Research funded by Scottish Executive Education Department. Aberdeen: The Robert Gordon University.