How Reading Apprenticeships Improve Information Literacy

Reference Desk
In reading apprenticeships, teachers model the way they think about and interpret academic texts in a way that is transparent to students (e.g. think aloud). This helps students transform their understanding of what it means to read within each subject, course or discipline. Students become experts in historical reading or scientific reading or philosophical reading or literary reading, etc…

If librarians apply similar strategies during reference transactions or instructional sessions, students can get an inside look on what it really means to be information literate. In other words, if librarians visibly model the way they think about the research process, students become apprentices to an information literacy way of thinking. Over time, students will adopt those strategies as they come to understand the processes of finding, evaluating and synthesizing information.

However, because information literacy can also be subject or discipline-specific, librarians have the added task of understanding the way information is valued and interpreted within each area. A lack of subject expertise (on the part of the librarian) can be replaced with a strong collaborative relationship between the librarian and classroom instructor.

Here are some reading apprenticeship strategies that can be used in information literacy instruction:

  • Use the Think Aloud protocol to model your thought processes.
  • Draw on students’ background knowledge to help them make connections to the concepts (e.g. using Google to teach database concepts).
  • Use concept mapping to help students plan out the research process.
  • Use graphic organizers to scaffold learning.
  • Create a worked example of the research process for a particular subject area (this is also a scaffolding tool).
  • Use the Think-Pair-Share technique.
    • For example, 1) have students evaluate a source independently, 2) then, pair them up to discuss it, and then 3) have them share their thoughts.
    • Think-Pair-Share works particularly well with clickers (have students vote on the best answer).
    • Think-Pair-Share should be used in conjunction with the Think Aloud protocol.
  • Use the Reciprocal Teaching method. Start by modeling your thinking processes, and then have students do the teaching for the whole class or in small groups.

When teachers use reading apprenticeship strategies, students develop critical literacy skills. When librarians use similar strategies in conjunction with teachers, students develop critical information literacy skills.


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