Assummptions, Information Literacy and Transfer in High Schools
Herring, James, Teacher Librarian
There are many assumptions made by teacher-librarians, teachers, and school management about information literacy and transfer in high schools.
For instance, school staff may assume information literacy is developed across the school. However, the research findings from a study by this author in three Australian high schools challenge the assumptions.
This article examines the assumptions, outlines the research study's aims and methodology; identifies key findings from the study, discusses the findings in relation to the assumption, and provides recommendations for teacher-librarians and teachers.
The term information literacy practices, is used in this article and so requires defining. Lloyd (2007, 2010) argues that information literacy can be viewed as a practice, rather than a set of skills. The term practice in the school context implies that students engage in a range of information-related learning activities, with a focus on gaining new knowledge, and that students are reflective practitioners.
ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT INFORMATION LITERACY IN SCHOOLS
The following assumptions are not held by all teacher-librarians and teachers in all schools, but empirical research and anecdotal evidence from a number of schools identified these assumptions as relatively common.
1. Information literacy is developed across the school
The basis of this assumption is that all students are taught a range of skills, which the teacher-librarian refers to as information literacy skills, while others refer to research skills or study skills. Most teachers will know/assume that students in the first year of high school are taught a range of skills in finding and using information by the teacher-librarian, and they will also know[assume that students are taught how to search for information on Google in separate ICT classes or as part of particular subjects. Teacher-librarians assume (or like to believe) what is being taught in the library is reinforced across the school. That is, information literacy is being developed across the school, for example by history teachers when students complete research-based assignments.
Many teachers may also assume that skills and abilities are reinforced by other teachers or departments. Asked for evidence about this assumption, school staff often point to the fact that most students progress through to the upper levels of the school, and that students could not do this without developing and implementing competencies in information literacy practices such as identifying purpose, evaluating search tools and content of web sites, analyzing and synthesizing information and ideas, and structuring written assignments. On the other hand, many school staff at the same time bemoan students' lack of these same skills or competencies.
2. There is a common understanding in the school of information literacy
In many schools there is another assumption that, because teacher-librarians and teachers believe there is a common set of skills and, in some cases reflective abilities, there is a common understanding across the school of what information literacy might mean, and how it is developed. In informal discussions in schools, this author has posed the question: Who teaches students aspects of information literacy? The answers are often vague, with the teacher-librarian and the English department often named as the primary source. What often becomes clear is that, while teachers may know what they teach students, for example about assignment planning, they do not know what other teachers, particularly in other departments, teach students. The assumption is that, because information literacy is seen as important, particularly in relation to the use of digital learning resources, there must be a common understanding.
3. All students understand the concepts that lie behind information literacy teaching
In all three schools in the research study and from anecdotal evidence from schools in Australia and the United Kingdom, there appears to be a common assumption that, while many students may not put into practice what they are taught by teacher-librarians and teachers about aspects of information literacy practices (e. …