Sunday, July 5, 2020

Information Literacy as a Product of Self Reflection

Information literacy is the ability to thoughtfully consider new information to make knowledgable decisions. It is a foundation for a self awareness that evolves as we continually explore new ideas. An information literate individual is one who continually seeks new information that clarifies multi-faceted ideas to help one develop new understanding. Information literacy is the backbone for lifelong learning and it is the role of every information professional to nurture it in those who examine their collections, seek their advice, or listen to their teaching. 

Information literacy does not just inform our understanding; Our understanding (or sense of self) also effects our information literacy. One must be open-minded to be information literate, willing to accept that new information may alter our understanding of complex issues. If one is not open to change, one will not be affected by any new information that comes our way. If one is not willing to be affected by new information, one is not willing to seek it. So, it is a further goal of the information professional to enhance the self awareness of a student or patron, encouraging them to reflect on their personal history, beliefs, and relationship with knowledge. Our goal is to help individuals seek new ideas that enhance understanding of self and the surrounding world; our goal is not to change opinions, but to help individuals leave room for that possibility.

One of the prime components of a lesson on information literacy must be self reflection. Students must examine what they learned and how it adds to the knowledge base they already possess. Neglecting an opportunity for reflection is a lost chance to make sure the foundation of information literacy that we are building is strong. Powering through research to reach an end-product must be followed by a chance to slow down and reflect on how the process itself built greater understanding of not just the subject, but of how we as individuals think about the world around us.

Lonnie Bunch of the Smithsonian Museum was interviewed by the New York Times this week and presents some thoughtful ideas about the role of museums in reflection. "History often teaches us to embrace ambiguity, to understand there aren't simple answers to complex questions, and Americans tend to like simple answers to complex questions. So the challenge is to use history to help the public feel comfortable with nuance and complexity." Within a school setting, the role of information literacy is the same. Thoughtful people should examine all information -- whether it is historical, scientific, or literary -- with a goal of understanding the intricacies of human ideas. 

person, man, boy, sunset, twilight, nature, water, water pool, mirror, reflection, mirroring
Photo from Pikist

In a year end reflection on a major biology research project, one student at my school wrote a very thoughtful response. He said, at first, he thought the methods we used to teach research skills were "overdoing it." Later the student realized that thinking through information using keywords and questioning was extremely beneficial. The biology student used his new found skills in other projects in other classes and said that he was "proud" to have the ability to convey thoughts based on facts and to come to a conversation through a place of understanding and not emotion. This student said what he learned enabled him to focus on main ideas with better comprehension of what is important to him and with more confidence in his knowledge about it based on thorough research. The reflection allowed the student to define his information proficiency in a way that will encourage him to use those information skills again. This  is what every information professional should hope to develop in our students, patrons, and visitors.