"I Wish Someone Had Taught Me": Information Literacy in a Teacher Education Program

Article excerpt

"I wish someone had taught me how to develop my information literacy skills through resource-based learning in these ways in school. I might not have had such a horrendous time of it when I came to university."

This preservice teacher's wish represents that of others in teacher education programs when they are introduced to concepts and instructional methods related to information literacy. As teacher educators, we recognized that our students were often overwhelmed with and poorly equipped to carry out assignments requiring them to independently find and use information. What we were observing was not unlike what elementary school teachers discover when their students embark on research projects: "Students didn't know the how of research. They didn't seem to understand how to find resources, how to use them effectively, and how to share what they found" (Tower, 2000, p. 555). Like their teachers before them, we assumed our preservice teachers had acquired the skills and strategies necessary for accessing, evaluating, organizing and communicating information.

Teacher education students are not the only ones struggling in today's complex sea of information and information technologies, as evidenced by the proliferation of instructional programs offered by academic and public libraries. Clearly, the problem will worsen if new teachers don't learn how to teach information literacy to schoolchildren. In this article, we share our experiences over three years as we developed ways of integrating information literacy pedagogy into the literacy curriculum of a large teacher education program in Canada. We first outline our search for a framework for our project; second, explain how we revised part of a language arts methods course to include information literacy instruction; and third, describe what our students learned from these experiences. We conclude with suggestions for teacher-librarians as they assist teacher educators in preparing new teachers to incorporate information literacy into their teaching.

Constructing a framework of information literacy pedagogy: Models and methods from the literacy and library literature

As literacy educators, we began constructing our framework by reflecting on current educational goals in general, and trends in literacy theory particularly. We discovered a common theme throughout: the importance of "the critical literacies of information use" (International Reading Association, 2001) for today's schools.

A review of the educational reform literature revealed a major focus on the importance of lifelong learning skills. The message here is that schools face the moral imperative of developing students' intellectual capital, or abilities to use information technologies to communicate and create knowledge (Fullan, 1999). The educational reform literature emphasizes the urgent need for the instruction of these skills not only to support knowledge development during formal schooling, but more importantly, to lay the foundation for lifelong learning. As Linda Darling-Hammond asserts: "Never before has the success, perhaps even the survival, of nations and people been so tightly tied to their ability to learn" (1997, p. 2).

Similarly, literacy theorists view the multi-literacies of accessing, gaining, transforming and transmitting information as essential to keeping up with knowledge growth, the key factor in a country's economic, social and cultural advancement. In this light, information literacy is central to economic development. "Like it or not the workplace is competitive, and the key to competitiveness will be gaining, transforming, and generating knowledge ... future workplaces will require the full range of multi-literacies--most especially, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of multiple pieces and forms of information" (Kibby, 2000, p. 381).

National literacy standards now include students' ability to "use a variety of technological and informational resources to gather and synthesize information to create and communicate knowledge" (National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association, 1996). …