This is the last day of the ECIL2017 conference and this morning I'm live blogging a panel session on "theorising information literacy" hosted by Bill Johnston, Honorary research fellow at University of Strathclyde, and featuring contributions from Information Literacy Weblog owner Sheila Webber and Olivier Le Deuff, assistant professor in information science and communication studies at University of Bordeaux Montaigne.
All panel members have long experience of information literacy, and have a strong nterest in pedagogy and education. Sheila spoke about Information Literacy as a discipline, and the benefits this has as a field of study for PhD researchers, as this provides common touchpoints, language, understandings etc. If we are to consolidate research and move forwards as a discipline people need to be able to identify each other and work together. The evidence for identifying information literacy as a discipline is compelling, for example the existence of dedicated journals, associations and conferences, graduate research and an international community. Sheila cited Trowler 2014 who has written a definition of what is a discipline in the 21st century. Perhaps what IL lacks is a specific university department, however in looking at this conference, we could say that it is an organisational form.
Olivier then looked at discipline from a Foucaultian perspective, and likened IL to telling people to "eat your spinach" (because it is good for you) but we need to explore more how to cook the spinach, or how it is grown. Information literacy is spoken about as being school-based in France, delivered by school librarians, and there have been efforts to develop IL as a new discipline in schools. Frisch 2003. Research is taking place into pedagogy for IL and cultures of information. It is more complex than simply identifying a set of skills and teaching those. IL is closely linked to library and information science, and is seen to be a scientific concept. Others related disciplines are education studies, media studies, communication studies, "documentology" the science of documents.
In the second half of the session the panel addressed the question of theory within the discipline of information literacy. Pupils can access information easily but struggle with evaluating and understanding, and there is limited time for teaching these complex abilities. Over the last 10 years Olivier feels they have been successful in developing a scientific curriculum for IL, but there is still work to do in convincing politicians to devote time in the school timetable for IL.
Sheila spoke about different models and theories of IL and the need to use and discuss these with learners. Sheila introduced Theories in Information Behaviour" published in 2005, however there is still debate about the existence of theory in information science. Sheila then asserted that there is theory development in information literacy, before going on to introduce phenomenography research method as a way to work towards the generation of theory. Sheila is beginning a meta analysis of phenomenographic of studies of adults' conceptions of IL, and introduced a range of conceptions of IL drawn from 6 phenomenographic studies, and suggested that these conceptions would be present in any adult population. Is is possible to move to a discussion of why these conceptions are present?
It was a stimulating panel, and provided much food for thought- many thanks to Sheila, Bill and Olivier!