Information literacy in the classroom : secondary school teachers' conceptions
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WILLIAMS, Dorothy and WAVELL, Caroline. Information literacy in the classroom : secondary school teachers' conceptions. Final report on research funded by Society for Educational Studies. Research Report 15, Department of Information Management, Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University, 2006.
The study reported here was designed to investigate how secondary school teachers describe their students’ information literacy. It sought to identify how information literacy is interpreted by teachers in relation to the learning tasks they design, monitor and assess, and the issues related to its integration into the curriculum. In addition the researchers were interested in whether teachers’ conceptions changed after a period of reflection and discussion with colleagues and how teachers’ and information professionals’ understanding and interpretation of information literacy compare. Data was collected in three stages. Teachers’ initial conceptions of information literacy were gathered from free-flowing group discussions. Teachers were invited to reflect on their practice, to observe their students working with information and consider this in relation to information literacy models, frameworks and research currently available. A second round of group discussions and interviews were conducted after this period of reflection. Teachers were invited to discuss quite freely how information literacy is incorporated into classroom activities, what it contributes to learning and how it might be tracked over time. The two sets of group discussions were recorded and transcribed, and these formed the basis of data for qualitative analysis using a phenomenographic approach to establish a structure of conceptions and key elements associated with them. The results identify six conceptions of students’ information literacy: finding; linguistic understanding; making connections; practical skills; critical awareness of sources; and independent learning. These conceptions were influenced by: affective, cognitive and skills understanding and experiences students brought with them to a learning situation; the focus of individual activities; the priorities and sense of control teachers experience in the classroom; and external pressures experienced by teachers. While sharing similarities with frameworks proposed by the information profession, they also reveal distinct differences. Teachers’ conceptions of student information literacy did not change significantly between the two group discussions but the manner in which individual teachers reacted to their own observations and current research reflected personal characteristics and experience. The results of the study indicate that teachers understood information literacy to be important for lifelong learning but do not feel able to effectively support the development of information literacy in their students within their current curriculum environments. The study identified issues for consideration when establishing effective collaborative partnerships within schools.