Information literacy: a catalyst for educational change. Keynote speech delivered at the Seminar on Information Literacy, Consortium of National University Libraries (CONUL), 2 February 2006, Dublin, Ireland
Information Literacy, a catalyst for
Senior Lecturer in Information Management
London Metropolitan University
Information literacy: a definition
To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize
when information is needed and have the ability to locate,
evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. [... ]
Ultimately, information literate people are those who have
learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they
know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and
how to use information in such a way that others can learn from
them. (ALA, 1989)
Overview of information literacy
Our ability to think and to select and use the information at our
disposal will be the critical determinant of future success of the
Information Society in Ireland (CONUL, 2004: 1)
Catalyst for educational change - addressing the challenges
(Candy, 2002; Bruce, 2002; Lupton, 2004)
Empowering the learner and the educator (Bundy, 2004; Andretta,
2005a; Information literacy: challenges of implementation, Italics, 5(1), January
Lifelong learning requirements (OECD, 1996)
The knowledge-based economy is characterised by the need
for continuous learning of both codified information and the
competencies to use this information. […] Capabilities for
selecting relevant information, recognising patterns in
information, interpreting and decoding information as well as
learning new and forgetting old skills are in increasing
demand. (O’Sullivan, 2002: 8)
The creation of a learning culture which produces graduates
with a capacity and desire for lifelong learning in a rapidly
changing, complex, and information abundant environment,
requires a major shift in the educational paradigm.
From prescribed reading to the excitement or the burden of
choice. (Leon, 2004)
ICT-driven learning and teaching strategies:
e-learning (DfES, 2003)
• The creation of a professional workforce and fulfilled
citizens through the mastery of self-directed lifelong
• The development of innovative provision geared to
address the needs of a global knowledge society and
the offering of a more flexible education system that
responds to the needs of learners irrespective of their
Content and Competency Pedagogical Frames (Bruce et al)
Culture of prescribed knowledge-acquisition
Preferred by HEIs - indicators of students’ retention, progression
Preferred by faculty staff - the sage on the stage approach
Preferred by students - “what do I do now?” syndrome (Andretta
and Cutting, 2003)
[Learning is] a qualitative change in a person’s way of seeing,
experiencing, understanding, conceptualising something in the real
world - rather than a change in the amount of knowledge which
someone possesses.(Bruce, 1997: 60)
Diverse student population and learning needs
Low information literacy skills and dependent attitude (Stern,
2003; Andretta and Cutting, 2003)
Problems of plagiarism (Brine and Stubbings, 2003)
General lack of engagement beyond the assessment-
driven approach - low motivation (Andretta 2005a).
Need to adopt a more flexible approach to learning and a more
dynamic/critical investigation of the disciplines
(Bruce et al; Whitworth)
Information literacy in Ireland
Report of the CONUL Working Group on Information Skills
1. Arrive at shared terminology, assumptions,
expectations and best practice (4.1: 8)
2. Promote a common Information Literacy framework
(IST initiatives: 11)
3. Develop a policy of implementation (capitalise on
current information literacy practices)
Exploring the terminology
How would you describe you view of learning, teaching and
information literacy? (extract from Bruce et al)
1. In my view learning is
2. In my view teaching is
3. I see information literacy as
4. My colleagues see information literacy as
5. Our students see information literacy as
Handouts collected for analysis. Feedback after this event.
Information literacy as a catalyst
Empowering the learner by fostering an independent
Taking responsibility for own learning (Andretta, 2005a)
Experiencing variation in learning (Bruce et al; Lantz et al;
Stubbings et al)
Developing motivation through relevance to subject and
personal requirements (Lantz et al; Hepworth et al)
Developing own voice, advocacy (Williams; Stubbings et al)
Developing active citizenship (Whitworth; Lantz et al)
Information literacy as a catalyst
Empowering the librarian by claiming the facilitator’s role
[…] a librarian should be more than a keeper of books; he should be an
educator [….] All that is taught in college amounts to very little; but if we
can send students out self-reliant in their investigations, we have
accomplished very much. (Robinson, 1876: 129)
Librarians as information literacy educators:
Resistance from faculty staff and students (Stubbings et al UK)
Institutional acceptance and integration of information literacy
education in civic and health literacies programmes (Lantz et al,
Opportunities for CPD and knowledge transfer (Hepworth et al,
Information literacy as a catalyst
Clear strategy of collaboration between faculty, library and
administrative staff to ensure flexible provision
Embedded approach (ACRL, 2000; Bundy, 2004)
Top-down & Bottom-up (Lantz et al, Stubbings et al)
Learning and teaching institutional strategies
Critical and reflective pedagogy (Lantz et al, Whitworth,
Hepworth et al)
Learning and teaching provision by staff
Learning outcomes (Stubbings et al)
Prevention of plagiarism (ibid.)
Real- world assessment (Lantz et al)
Information Literacy Education
• Pedagogical framework suitable for lifelong learning
• Emancipation of learners and staff
• National and institutional competitiveness
From prescribed reading to the excitement of choice.
ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) (2000) Information Literacy Competency
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at the LILAC Conference, 4 -6 April 2005, Imperial College, London.
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Science, and the National Forum on Information Literacy, for use at the Information Literacy,
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Frankfurt Scientific Symposium, Germany, 4 October 2004.
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Standards and Practice, 2nd
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(Accessed 7 April 2004).
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