Information literacy can be found hidden in every corner of every discipline out there. It’s not always called information literacy and it does not always look the same. In that way, information literacy is very similar to complex reasoning skills. And some would argue that they are in fact the same.
If you think about it, every discipline requires a certain set of reasoning skills. On a broad level, these skills fall under the umbrella of inductive and deductive reasoning. But under that umbrella, you’ll find an enormous subset of reasoning skills. There’s social reasoning, legal reasoning, conditional reasoning, statistical reasoning, creative reasoning, academic reasoning, critical reasoning, historical reasoning, et al… And when you delve into the details of each reasoning skill, what do you find? Something that resembles information literacy. In other words, information literacy is a multifaceted reasoning skill. There are many shades of information literacy.
Take historical reasoning for example. The historical reasoning model could easily serve as a model for information literacy. Here’s what it looks like:
The first time I saw this, I had an AHA moment. This is how information literacy can and should be integrated into a History course. It could also be used more generally in a Composition course focused on primary sources.
If we start viewing information literacy as a multifaceted reasoning skill, it becomes much easier to find a model for it that is tailored to a specific discipline. This is an entirely new perspective that changes the focus from the characteristics of information sources to the information content itself. Characteristics provide clues, but decision making is based on reasoning that is rooted in a specific discipline.
By tackling information literacy through the lens of disciplinary practices, I think we will make greater progress in improving students’ information literacy skills. Even better, it provides new opportunities for librarians to integrate information literacy across the curriculum, and for students to practice those skills within an authentic context.