How to make an information literacy framework work for you by @elizabethutch

What is an information literacy framework and why do schools need one?

An information literacy framework is the building block of skills that every student needs to become competent in todays world of information overload. It is the set of skills that ensures that every student becomes independent learners and critical thinkers. So why do we not already have one in every school? Is it a lack of understanding of what information literacy is? Is it because we think that Google can answer everything? Is it because we believe that all students can already do this? I truly have no idea, but over the last few years it has become apparent that although students are very competent at using technology their ability to research has not changed from the time that we only had books and if anything it has become worse.

Many school librarians are asked to run research lessons for various classes across many schools. This tends to look very similar whether it is a junior class or secondary class. We help them to think of keywords and to use the library catalogue to find books and curated websites. Depending on their age we may continue to show them how to use the other online resources that are available. This lesson seems to tick the box for many teachers, however, I would suspect that after this lesson the chances of students using the library catalogue or online resources in a lesson again is very slim.

In some schools that I have worked in I have been asked to show students as young as 7 and 8 to evaluate websites. This unrealistic expectation of what primary students should be able to do is difficult. The pressure teachers are under to ensure their students become independent is huge and the two seem to be linked. Many teachers seem to be under the impression that a research project is not good enough if their students only use the library and online resources and not the internet. This is why an information literacy framework is so important.

SLS Guernsey use one that we call CWICER (Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express, Reflect), it was adapted from Empire States Information Fluency Continuum, New York by Darry Toerien and with his help we have adapted to work for us here in Guernsey. What it has allowed us to do is have sensible conversation with teachers who ask for unrealistic research lessons. We are able to show them what their students should be able to do by the time they are that age and if they are not capable of that we can also show them the building blocks to get there.

As a librarian I am very happy to co-teach these lessons but like many school librarians it is not possible for me to be in every class that is doing a research project. I work towards up skilling teachers and students so that I can support other classes whilst they embed what I taught. A framework will ensure that this is happening. If it is embedded into the school curriculum headteachers will be aware of it and expect to see it being taught in lessons once they know I have been in a class.

It is also important in secondary schools that teachers know when these skills are being taught and allow students to use them in their lessons too. For instance, if a Geography teacher has worked with the librarian to use Brittanica in yr 7 then every subject that is running a research lesson across the school should be making sure their students are practicing using this resource within their lessons too. This is only possible if all the teachers know that this is happening and that teachers have an understanding of the resources themselves.

How to use an information literacy framework when it is not embedded in the curriculum
Find an information literacy framework that you are comfortable with. Find time to know what it is all about, the more you talk about it the more confident you become in using it. Once you are happy that you understand what you are offering start using it with teachers who are already working with you.

Here’s an example of how to use it.

A year 3 teacher asks me to do a research lesson with their students and they really want an internet lesson. I would firstly show them the lessons that we offer, based on our framework, for year 3. You can find our primary lessons here. We have added learning objectives (LO) and success criteria (SC) so teachers can see how it fits into what they are teaching anyway. Our main research lesson for year 3 looks like this :-

Lesson 2

Recognises that ‘I wonder’ questions can be answered by finding information
Selects and uses appropriate sources with guidance including books, on-line encyclopaedias and recommended on-line resources.
Students can give more than one example of somewhere they could find information to answer a question.
Students can select a useful source of information from the options given.
Students can, with guidance, find the answer to their question using their selected resource.

I would explain to the teacher that a lesson like this would support their students journey onto the internet as using quality resources is essential for good research. If students can learn to select these resources first before going to the internet their research will be much stronger.

By sharing and using your information literacy framework before it is embedded in the curriculum is really important. It will help you become confident in what you teach and how your framework works. Our students deserve the right to be taught how to do this properly and now is the time to show schools, headteachers and administrators how a school librarians skills set can be used effectively.

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About Elizabethutch 10 Articles
Elizabeth Hutchinson is a Chartered Librarian and Fellow of CILIP. She worked for the Guernsey Schools’ Library Service from 2003 and was appointed Head of Service in 2014. She is now a trainer and Adviser for school libraries and an advocate for FOSIL- Inquiry-based Learning. She was awarded the BEM for services to libraries in 2020, is an international speaker, blogger and author of a number of published articles. She is the founder of an online CPD forum for school library staff and teachers called #LibraryStaffLoveLearning.
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