Researchers at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen discovered that trying to "untangle the spaghetti" of information can leave learners bored or confused. And they suggest that "information literacy" is best taught through practical experience rather than in a step-by-step approach.
Dorothy Williams and Caroline Wavell of the university's department of information management carried out the research, which was sponsored by the Scottish Executive Education Department. They focused on the approaches and strategies used to develop information literacy by a support for learning teacher and the school librarian in an Aberdeenshire secondary.
In the study, information literacy is defined as "the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organise, and effectively use information to address issues or problems that face individuals, communities and nations".
It says the introduction of ICT in the workplace, home and school has highlighted the importance of developing information literacy in young people.
The researchers examined how the teacher and librarian worked with a small group of pupils with moderate learning difficulties, who were typical of the under-developed information literacy seen in mixed-ability classrooms.
But, at the end of the study, the researchers said the school staff were left with more questions than answers.
The report comments: "Their observation and reflection had revealed a greater complexity than they had expected, described by the teachers as the 'spaghetti' of infor-mation literacy, that is, the inter-related strands of skills, decision-making, cognitive and affective elements."
They had been using a teacher-led framework which taught information literacy as a set sequence of:
* Planning and defining the information needed;
* Gathering the information from a variety of sources;
* Organising and presenting that information to an audience.
However, by the end of the study, they were not convinced it was the best approach. "The teacher and librarian had concluded that it is more difficult to teach isolated skills than they had originally appreciated,"
the researchers added.
Their report suggests that "rather than 'untangling the spaghetti', there is a need to learn to work within the complexity of information literacy, focusing on helping learners make connections, rather than isolating the individual strands of skills and decision-making".