Introduction to Information Literacy in the K12 Classroom/Chapter 3

Introduction to Information Literacy in the K12 Classroom/Table of Contents

Introduction to Information Literacy in the K12 Classroom
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Information Literacy Theories


What is information literacy? This ambiguous term can possess a slightly different meaning from one individual to the next. In this chapter we will explain the meaning of information literacy according to two different theories: critical literacy theory and self-determination theory. As you read how each theory relates to information literacy, think about how you employ each, if any, of the theories in your classroom.

Critical Literacy Theory


Critical literacy theory originates from Paolo Freire who threw out the idea that the focus of education should be the transferring of information from one source (e.g. teachers, books, and computers) to the student. Instead, critical literacy theory encourages readers to question the information they come across rather than passively accept it. So, as educators, we need to teach students the tools to read critically and individually.

How does this affect information literacy? In itself, critical literacy theory challenges the status quo of what individuals should do with the information they ingest. In relation to information literacy, critical literacy theory moves the once vague definition toward a brighter and more efficient light. Though, before a solid definition is given, we must clearly define information and literacy as separate entities in the critical literacy theory bubble. Information is the “raw material” we use to solve our problems, and we use it to create individual understandings and identities. Literacy consists of “multiliteracies”, similar to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Each type of literacy is unique to its setting. An example is academic literacy which is “the ability to read, interpret, and produce information valued in academia.” (Elmnorg, 2006) Combining the two, information literacy can be defined as the ability to be a self-sufficient learner who asks questions, and is able to develop a unique interpretation of the given information.

Self-determination Theory


Self-determination theory originates from Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and refers to an intrinsic motivation to do something, in our case to learn, versus extrinsic motivation. An example of being intrinsically motivated would be when students are able to choose what topic their research project will cover. An example of being extrinsically motivated is if the teacher tells the students exactly what topic their research needs to cover, thus not allowing any choice in the project. According to Sherry Crow (2007), intrinsic motivation is the key to productive information literacy because students need to desire searching for and interpreting information. If students are given opportunities of choice, they feel a sense of self-initiation, and thus the need for autonomy are met, and they are more likely to succeed at the task, and learn more along the way.

How does this fit in with information literacy? According to Crow, "The goal is to assist all students in becoming active and creative locators, evaluators, and users of information to solve problems and to satisfy their own curiosity" through the use of “21st century information skills.” The educational mission now lies in developing a way to teach information literacy to our youth rather than figure out its definition.

Comparison Chart

Critical Literacy Theory Self-determination Theory
Originates from Paolo Freire Originates from Edward Deci & Richard Ryan
Focuses on not being passive recipients of information Focuses on intrinsic gratification rather than extrinsic
The purpose:

Question every piece of information you come across.

The purpose:

When given options, people will succeed at a better rate than when required.

Below are supplemental material to emphasize techniques for critical thinking and student discovery. These materials are graphic aids students will utilize for purposes of exploration, analysis, and comprehension. The variety of graphic aids emphasized can be used for all subjects. The examples given are for Mathematics and Science.



Crow, S. R. (2007, March/April). Information Literacy: What’s motivation got to do

with it? Knowledge Quest, 35(4), 48-52. Retrieved June 10, 2008 from Wilson

Elmnorg, J. (2006, March). Critical Information Literacy: Implications for

instructional practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), 192-199.
Retrieved June 10, 2008 from Wilson Web.

Mcdaniel, C. (2004, February). Critical literacy: A questioning stance and the possibility

for change. Reading Teacher, 57(5), 472-481. Retrieved June 16, 2008 from
EBSCO database.

The University of Rochester. (2000). An over-view of self-determination theory.

Retrieved June 16, 2006, from