Information literacy education in the South African Classroom: Reflections from teachers' Journals in the Western Cape province

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 4
  • Abstract:

    This qualitative study reports on teachers in the Western Cape as they attempt to embed information literacy in their classrooms. It explores how teachers come to understand information literacy and the extent to which they change their beliefs about guiding research projects in a more concerted way. The research questions were: (1) how do teachers understand information literacy education? (2) how do teachers make their information literacy explicit in the classroom? and (3) at what level are teachers' web knowledge and skills? The teachers, who were part of an information literacy education course, formed a purposive sample. The data for this study emanated from solicited, reflective journals which participants kept over a period of eight to 10 weeks. Information seeking and use theory and an inquiry-based approach to learning frame this research. Motivation for the study is rooted in a curriculum which embodies information literacy characteristics. Traditionally, information literacy has been the domain of the school librarian. Only 16.82% of South African schools have a stocked library. With so few school libraries and no official position in schools for a qualified school librarian, the onus for teaching information literacy thus rests on the teacher. This article provides the context for South African education and a review of the information literacy literature with an emphasis on South Africa and teachers' information literacy. The results show that, despite many obstacles in these teachers' paths, they express a fairly sound understanding of information literacy education by the end of the journaling exercise. However, fewer teachers can competently mediate information literacy in the classroom. One of the major barriers to information literacy is the teachers' slow adoption of the World Wide Web. Recommendations for further study include examining teacher education programmes for their inclusion of information literacy education; for awareness of plagiarism and the ethics of information use in the school environment; and the effect of information and communication technology on learners' information literacy.