Models and theories

Many models and theories of information literacy – a term incorporating aspects of information searching, use and evaluation – have been developed. All have their critiques, but here are three of particular relevance to Higher Education. These will be discussed in more depth on the theories forum. Please take part.

ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy)

Developed by Secker and Coonan (2011), ANCIL grew from a research project based at Wolfson College, Cambridge University. The curriculum contains 10 strands.

  1. Transition from school to higher education
  2. Becoming an independent learner
  3. Developing academic literacies
  4. Mapping and evaluating the information landscape
  5. Resource discovery in your discipline
  6. Managing information
  7. Ethical dimension of information
  8. Presenting and communicating knowledge
  9. Synthesising information and creating new knowledge
  10. Social dimension of information literacy (Secker & Coonan 2011)

They recommend that no-one necessarily ‘owns’ this curriculum, but that the experience of a student in Higher Education should include each of these areas.

Information landscapes

This approach argues that information literacy is linked to the situation in which a person and the information is placed: that knowledge is socially constructed and is not just text-based. Therefore an information literate person understands how knowledge has been created, and how it is valued, in a particular situation. This may differ from landscape to landscape and will involve a number of agents or types of information source (Lloyd 2017). So, in Higher Education, we should also seek to ensure that we acknowledge the landscapes from which our students come, where they will be going, and how information use in Higher Education is particular to that setting.

Critical information literacy

Like the landscapes theory, critical information literacy takes issue with the idea that being information literate can be reducible to a set of skills. Instead, as Elmborg (2012) argues, information literacy in Higher Education should involve the student being an active agent in the (re)search process, and linking their experiences of the complexities of information search and evaluation with the power relations behind resource creation and publication: it is linked to political and social justice.

  • Elmborg, J. (2012) Critical information literacy: definitions and challenges. In: Wetzel Wilkinson, C. and Bruch, C. eds. Transforming information literacy programs: intersecting frontiers of self, library culture, and campus community. Chicago, Association of College and Research Libraries, pp.75-95.
  • Lloyd, A. (2017) Information literacy and literacies of information: a mid-range theory and model. Journal of information literacy, 11(1), pp.91-105.
  • Secker, J. and Coonan, E. (2011) A new curriculum for information literacy: curriculum and supporting documents. Cambridge, University of Cambridge.

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