DEC Scan Journal : August 2011
Scan Vol 30 No 3 August 2011 19 Definitions by Doyle (1994), Abilock (2004) and Kuhlthau (2004) refer to information literacy as encompassing ways of thinking, attitudes and skills, as opposed to a set of skills which students learn and implement step by step. This author defines information literacy as a critical and reflective ability to exploit the current informa- tion environment, and to adapt to new information environments, and as a practice. This definition includes the aspect of transferring abilities from one context to another, which earlier definitions have not addressed. Information literacy practice In the workplace context, Lloyd (2010, p. 249) argued that, using Schatzki’s (2002) theories, information literacy may be viewed as a dispersed practice that hangs together as a bundle of information focused activities that are constituted within larger integrative practices. Information literacy practices by school students constitute the infor- mation related activities in which students are reflectively engaged both in school and outside school. Thus, the term information literacy practice, in the lives of school students, does not merely represent students engaging in activities such as Web searching or information evaluation; rather, it implies that the students actively reflect on the use of these activities (for example, by selecting particular search strategies and rejecting others). This focus on infor- mation literacy practice views infor- mation literacy as more than a set of skills or a process to be followed. Lloyd (2010) argues that in schools, information literacy is often viewed as set of skills or steps to be followed, and the use of information literacy skills models such as the NSW Department of Education and Training model (2007) may reinforce this view. By using the term information literacy practice, teacher librarians and teachers will still be teaching students skills and techniques such as concept mapping, question formulation and note taking, but these will be seen in the context of students being taught to take a wider view of information literacy. Students who are practitioners will reflect on the use of skills and techniques and will be more likely to transfer their practices across subjects. Information literacy research There is a plethora of literature relating to aspects of information literacy in schools, but many of the articles are practice-based and often lack an empirical research base. In schools, the key researcher in informa- tion literacy in recent times has been Kuhlthau (2004; 2007) whose research broke new ground by empha- sising affective aspects, such as students’ thoughts and feelings when engaged in information seeking. A second key influence is Limberg (2006; 2008) who urged teacher librarians and teachers to focus on meaningful learning, and not just information seeking. Research into the use of information literacy skills models was carried out by Wolf et al (2003) on the Big 6 model, and by Herring (2006) on the PLUS model, and showed that most students valued the use of a model, although some students found that the model being researched did not suit their learning style. Information literacy research has also focused on information seeking (Myers et al, 2006; Bilal et al, 2008), question formulation (Herring, 2009), and plagiarism (Williamson et al, 2007). One aspect of information literacy that has not had much attention is the question of whether students might transfer information literacy practices across subjects and time. Herring and Hurst (2006) explored aspects of transfer in a primary school, and Herring and Bush (2009) examined factors which might lead to the creation of a culture of transfer, in relation to information literacy. Transfer In the field of education, the issue of transfer has been researched and debated for over a century, but there is no agreed definition of transfer. Royer, Mestre and Dufresne (2005) defined transfer as a term that describes a situation where information learned at one point in time influences performance on information encountered at a later point in time, with influences being a key term, that is, transfer is not merely the repetition of behaviour. There are many types of transfer identified (Haskell, 2001), with near transfer (relating to similar situations) and far transfer (different situations) being the most common. Haskell (2001), Fogarty and Pete (2004) and Royer et al (2005), argue that transfer should be studied in context, and should encompass environmental, cognitive and sociocultural perspectives on transfer. The present study took a sociocultural view of transfer, and Royer et al (2005) took a similar view, arguing that transfer studies should take account of the influence of the wider environment (e.g. places and people). Haskell (2001) argued that unless a culture of transfer existed in an educational context, then transfer was unlikely to happen. Methodology This study’s theoretical perspective is sociocultural. This perspective (Lloyd, 2007) studies learners within their environment, and recognises that social and cultural factors will impact on how learners construct knowledge. Limberg (2010, p.84) argued that Researchers adopting a sociocultural ... information literacy...more than a set of skills or a process to be followed. ...focus on meaningful learning, and not just information seeking.