Targeting Success. An Evaluation of Information Literacy Standards: A Mixed Method Approach Utilizing the Judgments of National Board Certified Teachers
Willer, David B
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Information literacy--the ability to recognize when information is needed and then to locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information--is an essential skill set for 21st century students. In order for students to be prepared for college and career readiness, the component skills of information literacy should be explicit in educational policy documents that establish standards for student learning (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009). Standard statements are guides for developing curriculum and instructional programs for students, and therefore should reflect what is known of cognitive development and must be clearly written so that all stakeholders--including policy makers, teachers, parents, and students--understand what students are being asked to do (Kendall, 2001). This research project sought to establish to what extent information-literacy-related standard statements represent developmentally appropriate grade-level designations. I did this by determining how well the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) standard statements reflect the information problem-solving process as represented by the Big6 model, and to what extent expert, experienced teachers (as represented by National Board Certificated Teachers [NBCTs] in the state of Washington) agree with both the grade-level, developmental appropriateness and the importance of teaching from these standard statements. The research process utilized a mixed-method design, consisting of a content analysis of the standard statements, a quantitative survey of NBCTs, and a series of four focus groups for explanatory feedback on the results of the survey. Standard statements from CCSS and AASL were first sorted into Big6 stages (Task Definition, Information Seeking Strategies, Location and Access, Use of Information, Synthesis, Evaluation) and analyzed for the clarity of writing and the number of tasks involved. The content analysis of the standard statements found that the CCSS emphasized Big6 stage five (synthesis), while lacking three of the Big6 stages of the information problem solving process (task definition, information seeking strategies, and evaluation). The AASL standard statements included all six of the information problem solving stages, but both task definition and evaluation were underrepresented. A survey then was created using the standard statements that represented three Big6 stages. This survey was sent electronically to NBCTs in the state of Washington. Ninety-six NBCTs completed the survey. Volunteers were recruited from the survey respondents to form four focus groups to provide explanations of the survey results from the participants' views. Findings indicate that there is disagreement between NBCTs on the grade level designations assigned in the standard statements. Subjects were able to match 67% of second-grade standard statements as belonging to second grade, but only 49% of fifth-grade standard statements as belonging to fifth grade, and only 29% at eighth grade. However, in the section of the survey where respondents examined the standard statements closest to their own grade level, the NBCTs did tend to agree with both the developmental appropriateness and the importance of teaching from the standard statements. This finding differs with the results of the first half of the survey and points to potential issues with the clarity of the standards and perhaps with teacher professional development. Without having the grade-level context, teachers had difficulty placing standard statements at the grade level intended by the authors of the standard statements. Whether this discrepancy is due to the lack of clarity of the standard statements, the lack of knowledge of the teachers, or perhaps the fact that teachers being given the grade level before the survey predisposes them to think this was an appropriate placement, is unclear and is therefore an area for further research. The major contributions of this work point to the need 1) for the entire information problem-solving process to be explicitly included in national policy documents such as the CCSS and the AASL standards, so that the component skills of information literacy can be consistently reflected in and taught from standards statements for each grade level in increasing complexity; and 2) for greater collaboration between the writers of standards statements and classroom teachers with the aim of creating standard statements that are comprehensible to all stakeholders, including parents and students.
- Information science