Emma Marya Coonan
Information literacy as learner agency.

Author: Emma Marya Coonan, Cambridge University Library.

Title: Information literacy as learner agency”


Information literacy – the theory and practice of how learners encounter, validate, judge and use information appropriate to a given context – is undergoing a quiet revolution. Traditionally the preserve of the library, information literacy has often been conflated reductively with bibliographic instruction, database usage or ICT skills. Within the discourse of academic practice it has been assigned the status of a low-level, bolt-on skillset, often associated with a remedial approach, and prone to inherently transmissive teaching. Secker and Coonan’s 2011 New Curriculum for Information Literacy (ANCIL) research outlines such a framework for the higher education context, within a wider theoretical perspective that situates information literacy as a fundamental element of lifelong learning at every level. It demonstrates that IL goes far beyond a mandated set of skills or competencies: rather, it inheres in the individual’s on-going ability to generate contextually appropriate strategies for encountering new information environments and goals. The ANCIL curriculum therefore presents information literacy learning as the development of a metacognitive framework which enables individual learners to create and refine these strategies throughout his or her life. This intensive 10-week project took a dual methodological approach, combining a modified Delphi study with a wide-ranging review of existing models and literature. The expert panel was drawn from the library, information, and education fields. A group of trainee teachers was also observed and interviewed. Survey and interview data were analysed qualitatively, using a coding frame which generated the categories that ultimately comprise ANCIL’s ten strands of information literacy. A mapping of these facets to existing IL models was carried out as part of the literature review. The ANCIL research offers a new, learner-centred definition and framework through which to view information literacy, offering an alternative to prescriptive, competency-based models. It therefore has wide-ranging implications for how learning, pedagogy, and identity are perceived and performed in higher education. In addition, it opens the way to a greater awareness and understanding of the intersection between information and learner identity. The ANCIL research has led to a redefinition, and perhaps shows the way towards rehabilitation, of information literacy as a crucial element in all educational contexts.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación