The project used a phenomenographic approach to understand secondary school teachers’ conceptions of school students’ information literacy.

Teachers described information literacy as:

  • Finding information – with an emphasis on gathering information, mainly facts, using technology and the school library, and the need for students to be able to navigate different sources, such as websites, books, and the library.
  • Linguistic understanding – basic comprehension of textual or verbal information, including instructions for a particular activity, relying to an extent on general knowledge and prior experiences in similar activities.
  • Making meaning – cognitive processes, for example summarising, ?synthesising, interpreting, decision-making, which make sense of, or derive meaning from, information in different sources and formats within the context of the specific subject under consideration.
  • Skills – practical ability to apply effectively a wide variety of skills, techniques and strategies required for handling information, including traditional library and information skills and more cognitive skills required for making meaning and evaluating and reflecting on decisions.
  • Critical awareness of sources – focusing on the need to evaluate sources, recognise bias, determine the quality of the information and check the authority of a website.
  • Independent learning – the ability to confidently make decisions in order to assess, select and apply relevant skills and strategies for current purpose in and in a variety of situations, in order to learning independently, with less reliance on teacher input.

Conceptions of Information Literacy Diagram

In comparison with existing models and frameworks, these conceptions tend to give more emphasis to basic linguistic understanding and making meaning from new information. Other IL models tend to place more emphasis on defining the information need, and some also emphasise building and disseminating new knowledge and ethical issues associated with information literacy.

View the Project report (PDF 1Mb)


Williams, D and Wavell, C.  Secondary school teachers’ conceptions of student information literacy. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 39 (4), December 2007, pp 199-212

Project Team

Professor Dorothy Williams

Caroline Wavell