Three spheres of Information Literacy by Geoff Walton

I introduced the controversial ‘Three spheres of information literacy’ theory at LILAC in 2010 and gave my own interpretation of their relative importance as observed from my research. This year at LILAC I asked delegates who attended my talk (20) to note how they viewed the three spheres see for pics. I then asked lis-infoliteracy subscribers the same question and received 63 responses.  Before I tell you the results I’ll just remind you what the ‘3 spheres’ are and the theory that goes with it (bear with me it is very brief):

These spheres should be viewed as overlapping and interlocking with each becoming become more or less important depending on the context.

The underlying theory is:

Becoming information literate appears to be about an individual completing a task in a given context. This context leads to the interaction with sources (e.g., databases, e-journals, books, e-books, peer and tutors etc) and in so doing brings about the interplay of an individual’s behavioural, cognitive, metacognitive and affective states.  It is this interplay which determines the level of new knowledge learnt (or produced or both) and the degree of changed behaviour (i.e., level of information literacy – the interplay of the 3 spheres: (1) Use/communicate/ produce/, (2) find/access/locate, (3)evaluate/discern) exhibited.

The results

(1)    LILAC presentation (the pilot study)

Delegates were aked to use post-it notes to show their preference (green for most important, amber for second and pink for third) and stick them on a flip chart see pictures by Ruth Stubbings (link above)

  • Evaluate  – most important 13, second 7 and third 1
  • Use – most important 6, second 12, and third 3
  • Find – most important 2, second 2 and third 17

This seems to be a clear indicator that those delegates (entirely self-seleting and unrepresentative) viewed evaluating information as the most important sphere and find the least so.

(2)    Lis-infoliteracy subscribers

In all 63 list members replied (about 4% of all subscribers).  Of those, a total of 61 respondents stated an order of preference.  There were 6 possible permutations from which to choose, I have put the percentages by each.

  • 123 – 34%
  • 132-  5%
  • 231 – 28%
  • 213 – 25%
  • 312 – 5%
  • 321 – 3%

In summary 53% of respondents who stated a preference put 2 (Evaluate) first, 39% stated 1 (Find) first and 8% put 3 (Use) first.

Interestingly, of those who responded before 12 noon on Monday (about half of all respondents), a clear majority (64%) put 2 (Evaluate) first.  After 12 noon Monday this declined to 40%. By Tuesday morning this decreased to 33% in favour of 1 (Find).  What is all that about I wonder?

Those who participated, particularly those who felt they could not state an order, had some very interesting points to make about my ‘survey’, the relationship between the three spheres and other issues regarding IL, especially teaching.

This article was kindly writte for the IL website and infoliteracy discussion list by Geoff Walton, Senior Researcher (0.5) in the Institute for Applied Creative Thinking (I-ACT), Staffordshire University.

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