The information process

Information skills

Information skills assist people to satisfy their changing information needs, pursue independent lifelong learning and contribute to the development of an informed society.

There has been an explosion of knowledge and enormous advances in technology into the twenty-first century. As a result, we live in an information environment characterised by:

  • the development of information services as an integral part of the economy
  • an expansion of the range of sources of information
  • the appearance of information specialists and consultants
  • a variety of online information forms and agencies
  • the transient nature of information

It is essential for students to develop skills in using information as part of the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for lifelong learning. People who are aware of information sources and services, who have the confidence to approach them, and the flexibility of thinking to use them, have the basis for a better quality of life than those who are unable to pursue their information needs.

These concerns are already addressed in several NSW Department of Education curriculum documents, and syllabus documents provided by the NESA NSW. Schools need to provide planned opportunities for students to develop information skills.

The Library Policy – Schools, indicates that one purpose of the school library is

to enhance teaching and students’ learning within the total program of the school by … providing opportunities for students to develop information skills and use them confidently and competently.

Information skills in the school, as a support document to the Library Policy, presents a framework for the teaching and learning of information skills across the curriculum in both primary and secondary schools.

When partnered with the Department’s Quality Teaching model, Information skills in the school can inform professional judgements about explicit information skills teaching support for class units of work and cross curriculum priorities, such as literacy and integrating ICT. A guided inquiry approach, and reference to other information process models, may further enrich the development of information literacy skills.

Developing successful information users

People who use information successfully display the following characteristics:

  • they are able to add to their core knowledge and frequently do so
  • they use a variety of information sources and the necessary technology
  • they are able to process the information which surrounds them
  • they are confident in their ability to use information effectively

The school plays an important part in developing these characteristics in students by focusing on specific information-related skills. Such skills are sometimes referred to as inquiry skills or information skills. In this document the term information skills will be used. Information skills development is essential for information literacy in the contemporary environment.

Information skills and attitudes

Information skills fall into two groups:

  • skills concerned with locating information
    • finding information in a variety of forms e.g. online, print, electronic, brochures, pictures, audio, maps
    • finding information from a variety of sources e.g. people, school library, public library, travel agent, home, DVDs
  • skills concerned with understanding and using information:
    • asking questions
    • selecting, evaluating and, if necessary, discarding information
    • combining information from different sources
    • presenting the most relevant information
    • presenting information according to the audience
    • gauging the success of the presentation

Along with skill development the school fosters in students positive information attitudes and values. These include:

  • recognising that learning is lifelong
  • valuing competency in information skills as an instrument in learning
  • valuing creative and critical thinking in the information process
  • valuing truth and the discipline of scholarship
  • recognising that information is needed for personal, cultural, recreational and vocational purposes
  • recognising a personal need to become competent in the information process and to experiment with new techniques and skills as information technology and social institutions change
  • valuing personal performance as an information user with a repertoire of skills and developing independence

To ensure that students grow in confidence and proficiency, the school and the community should value the information process as well as its product.

The information process

The information process is the series of physical and intellectual steps that anyone takes to complete an information task. Each step usually requires the use of several information skills. This process is generally a part of learning and problem-solving inside and outside the school.

View an outline of the steps of the information process, along with some of the key questions that information users can ask themselves as they proceed.

Information skills, expressed as objectives, are also shown for the process steps. They are applicable to all themes and subjects. Activities deriving from these objectives take place in every classroom, whether they are facilitated by the teacher or not.

A guided inquiry approach, and reference to other information process models, may further enrich the development of information literacy skills.

The information process or ISP
Image: The information process

Steps in the process

  • What is my purpose?
  • Why do I need to find this out?
  • What are the key words and ideas of the task?
  • What do I need to do?

Students should be able to:

  • relate the task to their learning
  • clarify the meanings of the words of the task
  • identify and interpret key words and ideas in the task
  • state the task in their own words
  • work out the parts of the task

Steps in the process

  • What do I already know
  • What do I still need to find out?
  • What sources and equipment can I use?

Students should be able to:

  • recall relevant information and skills from previous experience
  • recognise strengths and limitations of current knowledge and decide whether additional information and/or skills are needed
  • limit an investigation to a manageable size
  • identify possible sources (people, organisations, places, print, electronic materials, objects)
  • recognise the relative worth of sources
  • select the best of these sources to use
  • locate sources and appropriate equipment
  • use appropriate equipment
  • record details of sources that are used

Steps in the process

  • What information can I leave out?
  • How relevant is the information I have found?
  • How credible is the information I have found?
  • How will I record the information I need?

Students should be able to:

  • begin to analyse the usefulness of each source
  • use key words to locate potentially useful information within sources
  • skim each source for information
  • identify information that has links with the task
  • assess and respect privacy and ownership of information
  • decide what to do about deficiencies with information
  • decide whether information is closer to fact or opinion
  • identify inconsistency and bias in sources
  • devise a system for recording and synthesising information
  • summarise information
  • record quotations and sources of information

Steps in the process

  • Have I enough information for my purpose?
  • Do I need to use all this information?
  • How can I best combine information from different sources?

Students should be able to:

  • review the purpose of the task
  • combine the information into larger units of information
  • combine the units of information into a structure
  • review the structure in light of the purpose of the task
  • adjust the structure where necessary

Steps in the process

  • What will I do with this information?
  • With whom will I share this information?

Students should be able to:

  • identify the requirements of different forms of presentation
  • consider the nature of the audience for the presentation
  • select a form and style of presentation appropriate to the audience and the content of the material
  • prepare the presentation
  • present the information

Steps in the process

  • Did I fulfil my purpose
  • How did I go - with each step of the information process?
  • How did I go - presenting the information?
  • Where do I go from here?

Students should be able to:

  • review the extent to which the end product meets the requirements of the task
  • assess their use of this process in completing the task
  • examine strengths and weaknesses in specific information skills
  • identify increases in knowledge
  • set personal goals for the further development of information skills

Integrating information skills into the curriculum

The responsibility for integrating information skills into the curriculum rests with the whole school. This responsibility is reinforced by executive supervision of classroom and specialist teachers who are facilitators of the process with students.

Students at any stage, from Kindergarten to Year 12, require opportunities to develop proficiency in using the information process. As students become more skilled in the steps of the process, they are able to complete increasingly sophisticated and difficult tasks. This also applies to the resources they are able to use.

To create a learning environment which fosters the development of information skills, schools should provide a program which allows for teacher and student flexibility in exploring curriculum tasks and problems. Such flexibility would allow:

  • consideration of available resources
  • inclusion of students’ existing knowledge
  • provision for individual differences in skill development and learning styles when information skills are incorporated into student learning
Return to top of page Back to top