We all engage in information behaviour! Information behaviour is the umbrella that links information literacies and digital literacies.
being ‘information literate’. SCONUL (2011) defines it as:
“Information literate people will demonstrate an awareness of how they gather, use, manage, synthesise and create information and data in an ethical manner and will have the information skills to do so effectively.”
I liked the definition by Bruce (1995) who stated that an information literate person is one who, among other criteria, ‘engages in self-directed learning, approaches information critically and has a personal information style’. It is still relevant.
Generally then, it includes the ability to understand and use information from a variety of sources and formats. It involves critical thinking and retrieval skills and having the ability to apply different strategies based on an information need, and to develop personal information management skills. Information behavior is complex! Daily, we move between simple, informal information use to complex and formal ‘information seeking’ interactions. For the former, it may be without conscious thought beyond meeting an immediate, personal need, for example finding a recipe on the Internet for dinner that night, or locating a local health practitioner. For our students it could be related to their on-line social needs, developing and sustaining communities of practice to extend their knowledge.
For the latter, it involves more complex and formal situations such as locating relevant scholarly articles for INF530, and critically evaluating and using that information for professional purposes.
These interactions are tied up with the environment and personal contexts ‘which affect their needs, watns, goals and perceptions and thus their information behaviour’ (Robson & Robinson, 2013, 186). They can be oral communications, or digital, part of one’s Personal Learning Network (PLN) either socially or professionally. Information behaviour is connected to the real world – it is active, personal and networked.
My own professional background and knowledge as a teacher librarian is connected to teaching information literacy skills. I am very aware that while students are information seekers and often involved in ‘spontaneous, informal learning’ through their personal environments, they also require explicit instruction in the development of skills and strategies to support their inquiries. As Ewan McIntosh noted “the end games is getting the kids thinking for themselves” (podcast, March 10, 2014).
After over 20 years in teaching, I still feel that I am learning and building on my knowledge base. My own personal knowledge gaps are not so much the what or why for my elementary students, but ensuring that I ‘step sideways’ so that my students can learn new skills and strategies, but more importantly to give them the learning opportunities to ‘critique, evaluate, develop and share thinking or knowledge’ (Starkey, 2011) – to explore themselves and then come back and share.
I have previously used the NSW Information Skills Process
, Kath Murdoch
‘s Inquiry and Carol Kulthau’s Information Search Process & Guided Inquiry
. I think the importance with any particular model is that it should be seen as a cyclical model rather than linear and that it can be applied to any context/environment. I do like using Kath Murdoch’s inquiry language of ‘tuning in, finding out, sorting out, going further, making conclusions, taking action’ which is appropriate for the elementary/primary student group that I work with. I believe that students need to be taught that there are different models that will help them with their information seeking and inquiries. Certainly, it is easier to adopt one particular model in the younger years. As students progress though I am not so sure that we need to dictate one over another? As students become independent learners these scaffolds can be left behind. They have achieved their purpose and have become internalised.
Bruce, Christine S. (1995) Information literacy : a theoretical framework for higher education. Australian Library Journal, 44, pp. 158-170
Robson, A. & Robinson, L. (2013) “Building on models of information behaviour: linking information seeking and communication”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 69 Iss: 2, pp.169 – 193