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Critical Information Literacy and Political Agency


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A presentation for my annual review

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Critical Information Literacy and Political Agency

  1. 1. Critical Information Literacyand Political AgencyAnnual Review: Year OneLauren SmithDepartment of Computer and Information
  2. 2. What‘s Changed• Narrower focus: critical literacy for political participation of young people• Focus on information literacy• Secondary school environment• Approach priorities: critical theory over influencing policy
  3. 3. Research ProblemInformation literacy is presented as―unproblematic, atheoretical and apolitical‖(Kapitzke, 2003). It is hypothesised that gaps existin the structure of information literacy tuition in UKsecondary schools which mean that IL focuses onskills-based technical aspects of informationseeking and does not adequately address criticalthinking skills which enable students to criticallyassess the information they encounter and thestructures in which the information and knowledgeis held.
  4. 4. Can Henry Giroux‘s theory of critical literacy beapplied to information literacy to develop theconcept of critical information literacy in order tocreate a structure with a clear goal of buildingsocial justice in which learners (specifically youngpeople) can develop skills which will enable themto meaningfully participate in political processes?
  5. 5. Context• Decline in political participation• Lack of political knowledge and critical literacy – link to political participation?• Criticisms of lack of critical element in IL
  6. 6. ―B) Fields of Knowledge and Interest to Which thePublic Library Should Devote Its Resources1) Public affairs; citizenshipa) To awaken interest, stimulate reading anddiscussion on crucial problems;b) To improve people‘s ability to participate usefullyin activities in which they are involved as citizens oftheir communities, the United States, and the world;
  7. 7. … c) To help people develop a constructively criticalattitude toward all public issues and to removeignorance regarding them;d) To promote democratic attitudes and values;i.e., sensitivity toward peoples of other backgroundsby knowledge concerning them and by appreciationof the dignity of the individual person; preservation ofthe precious heritage of freedom of expression; andunderstanding of the democratic processes of grouplife.‖ Leigh (1950)
  8. 8. ―If the information society is to be a free and humaneone - especially if we share the Enlightenment goalsof abolishing unnecessary inequality and creating asociety of liberty - then let us take up the challengeof Condorcets vision. Let us contribute to libertythrough advancing citizens knowledge, throughdemocratizing education. Let us design acomprehensive, multi-dimensional and thoughtfulinformation literacy curriculum.‖Shapiro & Huges (1996)
  9. 9. ―The standard model of ILeducation, epitomised by the ACRLdefinitions, contains no requirement within itfor learners to challenge, or even be awareof, the cognitive schema that are ―pushed‖at them by hegemonic interests.‖Whitworth (2011)
  10. 10. Relevance to LIS• Develop more meaningful vision of IL• Provide a real-world example / case study• Position librarians as educators• Address social responsibilities of LIS
  11. 11. Research Questions1. How and through what sources do young people develop critical literacy skills?2. When encountering political information, are young people applying critical thinking/literacy skills? If not, why not? If so, how?3. Is there a link between young people‘s political knowledge, critical literacy skills and political participation?4. 4. Can critical information literacy contribute to the construction of questioning agents who are capable of political participation/dissent/collective action?
  12. 12. Research Issues• Under-researched area of LIS• Wide, interdisciplinary subject matter• Difficulty providing clear definitions• Must not bias fieldwork and analysis, whilst at same time clearly explaining value of critical literacy and critically analysing issues• Difficult to establish causality
  13. 13. Young People as Political AgentsNeed to consider the ―importance ofconsidering young people as political agentsin their own right, rather as citizens-in-the-making who develop into actual politicalactors and engaged citizens only when theyreach adulthood.‖Gordon (2008)
  14. 14. Definitions• Political participation• Information literacy• Critical pedagogy• Critical literacy• Critical information literacy• Politics• Political information
  15. 15. What is political participation?“Traditional” “Critical”(supports establishment) (challenges establishment)• Voting Diemer & Li (2011)• Membership of a political • Seeking out political party/community-based information organisation • Protests/marches/• Contacting representatives demonstrations • Campaigns • Boycotting productsAny political act – ―the assignation of value, theformation of opinion, the making of a decision‖(Whitworth, 2011)
  16. 16. What is information literacy?―no consensus on its theoretical or practicaldimensions has emerged‖ Kapitzke (2003)‗‗an intellectual framework forunderstanding, finding, evaluating, and usinginformation - activities which may be accomplishedin part by fluency with information technology, in partby sound investigative methods, but mostimportant, through critical discernment andreasoning.‖Association of College and Research Libraries(2000)
  17. 17. CILIPs definition of ILInformation literacy is knowing when and why you needinformation, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use andcommunicate it in an ethical manner.This definition implies several skills. We believe that the skills(or competencies) that are required to be information literaterequire an understanding of:• A need for information • How to work with/exploit• The resources available results • Ethics & responsibility of use• How to find information • How to communicate/share• The need to evaluate results your findings • How to manage your findings
  18. 18. Seven Pillars ofInformation LiteracyImage CC Ergonomic on Flickr Image CC SCONUL
  19. 19. Pillar: Evaluate“Can review the research process and compare andevaluate information and dataUnderstands:• The information and data landscape of their learning/research context• Issues of quality, accuracy, relevance, bias, reputation and credibility relating to information and data sources• How information is evaluated and published, to help inform personal evaluation process• The importance of consistency in data collection• The importance of citation in their learning/research context
  20. 20. Is able to:• Distinguish between different information resources and the information they provide• Choose suitable material on their search topic, using appropriate criteria• Assess the quality, accuracy, relevance, bias, reputation and credibility of the information resources found• Assess the credibility of the data gathered• Read critically, identifying key points and arguments• Relate the information found to the original search strategy• Critically appraise and evaluate their own findings and those of others• Know when to stop SCONUL, 2011
  21. 21. What is critical pedagogy?―…an educational movement, guided bypassion and principle, to help students developconsciousness of freedom, recognizeauthoritarian tendencies, and connectknowledge to power and the ability to takeconstructive action.‖ Giroux (2010)
  22. 22. ―Teaching…is often treated simply as a setof strategies and skills to use in order toteach prespecified subject matter. teachingbecomes synonymous with amethod, technique, or the practice of acraft—like skill training.‖ Giroux (2013)
  23. 23. Critical pedagogy ―is concerned withteaching students how not only to thinkbut to come to grips with a sense ofindividual and social responsibility, andwhat it means to be responsible for one’sactions as part of a broader attempt to bean engaged citizen who can expand anddeepen the possibilities of democraticpublic life.‖ Giroux (2013)
  24. 24. Concepts to apply• Alienation • Discourse• Banking education • Emancipation• Conscientization • Empowerment• Critical • Hegemony consciousness • Hidden curriculum• Critical thinking • Praxis• Cultural capital • Resistance• Cultural reproduction • Social justice
  25. 25. What is critical literacy?―the ability to evaluate critically theintellectual, human and social strengths andweaknesses, potentials and limits, benefitsand costs of information technologies.‖Shapiro & Hughes (1996)
  26. 26. Methodology • Background picture of levels of political knowledgeQuestionnaires • Whole year group, voluntary • Sample of student volunteers (c.40-50) Repertory Grids • Structured interviews to get idea of concept frameworks • Recording encounters with political Diaries issues/information, thoughts and sentiments • In-depthFocus Groups / Interviews • Based on content of interviews and diaries
  27. 27. Questionnaires• Based on 1993 UK questionnaire measuring political knowledge• Variety of easy, medium and hard topical and general political questions• Not precise – to give general idea about relative levels of knowledge
  28. 28. Repertory Grid Studies―an effective means of obtaining an individual‘s viewof the various information sources that make up hisinformation space.‖ McKnight (2000)(1) The definition of a set of elements(2) The eliciting of a set of constructs to differentiatebetween those elements.(3) The relating of the elements to the constructsFransella (2005)
  29. 29. Repertory Grid Studies Caldwell & Coshall (2002) McKnight (2000)
  30. 30. Diaries• Two weeks• Will ask participants to record any time they think they‘ve encountered ‗political‘ information, if they looked for information, who they spoke to/asked about ‗political‘ topics• What constitutes ‗political‘ based on how participants define it
  31. 31. Mobile Diaries? • Speech to text • Notes • Photos Sent to private tumblr accounts as submissions
  32. 32. Interviews / Focus Groups• Dependent on how many participants remain / relationships between them• Based on topics of conversation, elements and constructs elicited from repertory grid interviews and diaries• In-depth insight into how participants interact with political information and if/how they use critical literacy skills
  33. 33. Risks• Breakdown in co- operation of school• Lack of participation of students• Timing based around exams and holidays• Communication of research process / requirements
  34. 34. Workplan• February – March: methodology design• April – mid-July: fieldwork• April – June: methodology amendments• April – December: data entry and analysis• October – December: write up findings
  35. 35. OutcomesRecommendations for critical informationliteracy tuition to meet the perceivedneeds of the research participants, whichmay form the beginnings of a potentialwider framework for critical informationliteracy.
  36. 36. ―critical pedagogy is not about an apriori method that simply can be appliedregardless of context. It is the outcome ofparticular struggles and is always related tothe specificity of particularcontexts, students, communities, availableresources, the histories that students bringwith them to the classroom, and the diverseexperiences and identities they inhabit.‖Giroux (2013)
  37. 37. Contribution to Knowledge1. A unique contribution to library and information science, directly applying a well-established academic field of social science to an area of information science that does not yet have a firm academic footing and has not yet engaged in the implications of social and critical theory2. Development of information literacy theory and understanding of the field, thereby adding weight to the academic/intellectual argument about the social value of libraries3. Suggestions for developments to be made to information literacy practice with the specific goal of increasing young people‘s critical literacy skills and political participation for social change
  38. 38. References• Association of College and Research Libraries (2000), ―Introduction to Information Literacy‖ [Online] <>• Caldwell, N. and Coshall, J. (2002), ―Measuring brand associations for museums and galleries using repertory grid analysis,‖ Management Decision, 40 (4), pp. 383–392.• Fransella, F., Bell, R. and Bannister, D. (2004), A Manual for Repertory Grid Technique, 2nd ed., Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.• Giroux, H. (October 27, 2010), "Lessons From Paulo Freire", Chronicle of Higher Education. [Online] <>• Hagan, P. and Rowland, N. (2010), ―Mobile diaries: discovering daily life‖ [Online] <>• Kapitzke, C. (2003), ―(In)formation literacy: A positivist epistemology and a politics of (out)formation,‖ Educational Theory, 53 (1), pp. 37–53.• Leigh, R. (1950), The Public Library in the United States: The general report of the public library inquiry, New York: Columbia University Press.• McKnight, C. (2000), ―The personal construction of information space,‖ Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51 (8), pp. 730–733.
  39. 39. • SCONUL (2011), The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy, [Online] <>• Shapiro, J.J. and Hughes, S.K. (1996), ―Information Literacy as a Liberal Art: Enlightenment proposals for a new curriculum,‖ Educom Review, 31 (2), pp. 1–6. <>• Whitworth, A. (2011), ―Information literacy and noöpolitics,‖ in Walton, G. and Pope, A. (Eds.), Information Literacy: Infiltrating the agenda, challenging minds, Oxford: Chandos Publishing, pp. 187–218.• Images