Is the English Classroom Really the Best Place for Information Literacy Instruction?

Why do we teach information literacy almost exclusively within the realm of English Composition and Language Arts? Have you ever wondered about that?

Consider history and science for a moment. As a part of their disciplinary practice, historians and scientists must identify, analyze and synthesize information across multiple sources on a regular basis. Sounds a whole lot like information literacy to me. Primary sources and reputable scholarly sources are particularly important in both those fields.

Maybe instead of focusing so much on English classrooms, librarians should expand their instructional repertoire into history and science classrooms too. The latter two subjects create new opportunities to situate source evaluation into an area that really matters to the disciplines. Librarians can also focus more on teaching students how to use multiple sources of information to learn something, and less on how that information should be presented in the writing process.

Only when students learn how to learn from multiple sources will they be ready to learn how to synthesize that information into writing. In that way, science and history lessons in information literacy skills can be used to make cross-curricular connections to the critical literacy and writing skills of English and Language Arts.

This article from the American Educational Research Journal helps drive my point: Source Evaluation, Comprehension and Learning in Internet Science Inquiry Tasks (Wiley, Graesser, Sanchez, Ash, & Hemmerich, 2009).

Food for thought.

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4 thoughts on “Is the English Classroom Really the Best Place for Information Literacy Instruction?

    • I think we can learn a lot about the best way to teach information literacy by looking at the research on teaching critical thinking skills (very similar issues). I think that’s what I’ll write about in my next post!

  1. Interesting. I have been primarily partnering with history teachers throughout my 8 year career as an independent school librarian. I also work with English teachers, but history is even more dominant.

    • I think the library/ELA relationship began long before information literacy was a blip on the radar because of the shared goal of promoting reading. In college, Comp courses are where students learn to write research papers. That might seem like an intuitive spot for information literacy except that when students are still learning to write in an academic style, the research part is secondary. That’s why what you’re doing with history teachers makes more sense to me. Also, there are so many opportunities in science for information literacy that go untouched.

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