Three days left to urge ACARA to recognize information literacy

2 08 2011

If you believe that Information Literacy needs to be included as a General Capability, let ACARA know now.

Register and contribute online, or download their survey form and email it to them.  The ICT competence and Critical thinking sections have room for extensive comment and extra statements can be attached.

TLs have gone round and round for many years on information literacy, digital literacy, visual literacy, multiple literacies!  but whatever we call it, IL is about thinking not about using tools. That’s why ICT literacy doesn’t cover IL.  ICT competence is about computer technology end-use, not information search processes or critical thinking, though certainly these cognitive processes may be used through the tools of ICT.

And Critical thinking alone does not recognize the steps in the information and problem solving process. The relationship between the three competencies is well explored in a paper by Dr. Karen McPherson of the University of Canberra, titled “Undergraduate information literacy: A teaching framework” (Australian Academic and Research Libraries; v.35 n.3 p.226-241; September 2004).

The three competences can and do intertwine, but are separate in their conceptualization and intent.  They need to be distinguished clearly in the National Curriculum for teachers to construct effective teaching  frameworks and scaffolds.

What is especially apparent in the subject curricula themselves is the failure to come to terms with these differences.  For example, the term “library skills” probably has not been used in teacher librarianship courses since the 1970s.  Current literature examines the process of achieving information fluency through all sources of information found in libraries these days, in print and digital forms. Distinguishing something called “library skills” from online search skills and the use of databases is a furphy.

ACARA would do well to call upon experts in the information literacy field to better inform its underpinning pedagogy.  Work in the library and TL professions on describing and assessing these skills is ongoing.

IL skills apply to all subject areas.  They form an over-arching framework, and incorporate the use of computers, the internet, search engines, applications, etc. as tools. As Dr. Macpherson states, information retrieval needs critical thinking and analysis to be effective. Critical thinking informs judgements made during the information search process. The process itself, once exploration and initiation (question interpretation) of a search has begun, requires knowledge of sources of information and how to access them (location and search strategy formulation). End-user computing, as she calls it, includes at this stage, the use of spreadsheets and databases for data/information recording and manipulation.  Critical thinking then comes in in formulating answers and new knowledge, and in the stage of presenting information – deciding on written or oral reports, audience and writing style.  These become part of the “wider structure of information literacy” (p.234).

ACARA must better inform educators of current research, models, frameworks and thinking on information literacy (first coined as a term in 1974). The tertiary sector and employers expect IL competence, along with critical thinking and ICT competence.

The incorporation of IL as a general capability would also be a vital precursor to the development of a “discrete national policy statement that defines the importance of digital and information literacy for learning in the 21st century, which can be used as a guide by teachers and principals” as recommended in the Report of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians just released.

Here are some of the sources ACARA could use by some of the experts they should consult:

Do we want something from the budget?? You bet!

28 04 2009

post from G Phillips


Federal budget time looms around the corner on the 12th of May.

Do we have anything to say about it?

You bet we do. Ask your federal member and senator now (then also ask your state member!):


The federal government will still be spending money on building new school libraries.  How about staffing them?

We need to let politicians and the public know how inequitable school library services are in Australia, whether we have nice new “infrastructure” buildings or not. NT remote schools have no TLs.  WA primary schools have no TLs appointed.  Vic and ACT  count TLs as part of teaching staff, may or may not have a teacher deployed in the library and do not require that teacher to be a teacher librarian. Probably one in 10 public primary schools in Vic have TLs. In South Australia in 2002  apart from those very small schools with no teacher librarian entitlement, a third of school libraries around the state were understaffed and/or staffed with unqualified personnel. 

Even in Tas and Qld principals are being forced by inadequate staffing budgets to downgrade staff in school libraries, often to clerical positions. It’s not good enough.

Meanwhile, since the early 70s  NSW primary schools have been staffed with trained teacher librarians.  While too often used for teacher relief planning time, they nevertheless are professionally trained in collection management, literacy support, leadership, collaborative teaching and other unique TL professional standards.  If we are talking about equity, I know we agree that ALL Aus students deserve professional school library services run by professionally trained TLs.


What can the federal government do?

National standards can be written for school library facilities and staffing, especially primary libraries.

Dollars can be allocated to increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.

Federal state school funding can be tied to appropriate school library staffing levels.


The federal government will still be spending money on computers.  How can we make sure students can use them?

MCEETYA (Performance Measurement and Reporting Taskforce, 2005) defines ICT literacy as being able to“access, manage  and evaluate information, develop new understandings, and  communicate with others in order to participate effectively in society” (Statements of Learning for ICT, 2006).

The Council of Australian University Librarians defines information literacy almost identically: “an understanding and set of abilities enabling individuals to recognise when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (CAUL, 2005).  Bringing these literacies (an example matrix) together should be a future aim for MCEETYA. A learning statement on information and ICT literacy should be supported by a national statement on the role of teacher librarians, teachers and principals in creating information literate school communities.


The federal government will still be spending money on a National Schools Assessment and Data Centre.  Will they be collecting appropriate data on school libraries?

Julia Gillard has stated (see letter attached) that it is likely that COAG will be considering the need for better data on teacher librarians. 

We must make sure that separate data is collected on teacher librarian qualifications, library staffing and scheduling and on library funding across all states and territories and all sectors. (See US example.) This must be part of the government’s “transparency and accountability” policy. 


The federal government will still be spending money on improving literacy. The role of teacher librarians and school libraries must be recognized in these efforts.


The federal government could fund programs similar to the US Improving Literacy Through School Libraries grants program. 

The government should fund research into the effect of well-staffed, well-funded school libraries on improving literacy. 1997 was one of the last in Australia! This study indicated that  Extensive use of the school library can increase literacy achievement by as many as 27 points. J. Masters and M. Forster. Mapping Literacy Achievement: Results of the 1996 national School English Literacy Survey. ACER, Melbourne, 1997.

International research speaks strongly.  Teacher librarians give students the opportunity to read by providing materials of interest and books appropriate to each student’s reading level. In addition, school library  programs provide ready access to books. According to Stephen Krashen it is unnecessary to urge young people to read more and understand the importance of reading because, given the chance, they do in fact read quite a bit, and they certainly do understand the importance of reading…. More access to reading results in more reading. 

All literacy programs should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in “student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success” (Ontario  Coalition for School Libraries) .

So let our federal members and senators know we expect to see school libraries targeted in the budget! Attach copies of your letters in comment space below. School libraries make a difference!