Information Literacy Education in Asian Developing Countries
Focusing on ILL through the lens of cultural contextually, this paper addresses three questions in relation to ILL in developing countries: How do we define information literacy in a developing country context? How do we best determine the educational objectives of information literacy education in a developing country context? How can cultural awareness improve information literacy education? Keywords Information literacy; Information literacy education; Developing countries; Cultural context; Greet Hefted Introduction Culture, maintains Cutler (2005) is like an onion, multi-layered and increasingly Intense as one peels away each layer.
The outer skin consists of subjective elements such as visible behavior, relationship styles, thinking and surface layer are value systems and norms, shared values and accepted standards of behavior; and at the deepest level are core cultural assumptions, what Cutler terms ‘basic “truths” about human identity and purpose, space, time, social organization, ways of thinking and communicating that, for the most part, groups and their members are wholly unaware of (Cutler 2005, Volvo. 1, p. 76).
In our view this way of visualizing culture is instructive and informative, and in the context of this paper may n fact be the key to what we are seeking to understand – the way in which information literacy education models and techniques appear to be imported from one culture (I. E. , typically ‘developed’ and Western’) to another (I. E. , typically ‘developing’ and ‘Southern’). The onion-image of culture can be applied at many levels: groups, organizations, institutions, regions, nations, etc. But each level tends to anchor its sense of culture at a different layer.
For example, a teaching team culture (or indeed any team’ of individuals) exists primarily at the level of behavior (the utter layer of subjective culture) and much less at the level of core cultural assumptions, whereas ‘national culture often resides less in practices and more in taken-for-granted values and assumptions’ – that is, the inner layer of core cultural assumptions (Cutler 2005, p. 77). Subjective culture Norms and values Core and values Norms cultural assumptions Objective culture Figure 1.
Cutler’s Cultural ‘Onion’ In terms of information literacy education in developing countries these two quite different sets of cultural assumptions may well be setting up educational efforts for 2 failure. A Western-influenced information literacy curriculum, based on Western norms and taught according to Western pedagogical practices, may not succeed when it focuses on behavioral changes (as indeed it must, according to how we currently assess educational results in terms of outcomes).
This is because, beneath the outer layer of visible behavioral styles, and learning and thinking styles, the core cultural assumptions, which may well run counter to the surface changes, remain untouched. And it is these core values which ultimately determine the long-term ‘success’ of any education. In other fields of education – school-level science, for example – this issue has received considerable attention over the years, with a common view being the disparity between science and daily cultures.
This was put most succinctly by Skinhead and Judged (1999, p. 269), citing Maddox (1981), Skinhead (1997) and Judged (1995): One major influence on science education identified by students in developing countries is their feeling that school science is differences between the culture of Western science and their indigenous cultures (Skinhead, 1997; Judged, 1995). Might the same situation hold when we investigate preferences between the culture of what is essentially Western information literacy education and indigenous cultures in developing countries?
And if this is found to be the case, does it not mean that information literacy education so conceived will never be more than superficial in developing countries, focusing on outer behaviors rather than core values? Skinhead and Judged (1999, p. 269) answer this for us when they state that a 21st century priority for educators is ‘… To develop culturally sensitive curricula and teaching methods that reduce the foreignness felt by students’ – note the reference to both curricula and pedagogy.
In our view this issue of cultural influence on information literacy education in particular has received insufficient attention, yet it has major impact on the entire enterprise – from how we define information literacy, to how we seek to structure programmed, and to how we deliver information literacy content. The purpose of this paper is to open dialogue on such issues by raising questions for consideration. Question 1 : How Do We Define Information Literacy in a Developing Country Context?
We begin with the definition which has widest acceptance in Western countries as a standard guide to what is meant by ‘information literacy. As stated by the US Association of College and Research Libraries, the definition focuses on specific skill- based outcomes: ‘a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information’ [our emphasis] (CARL 2000). On a superficial level this definition cannot be faulted – information literacy is indeed a set of abilities, and the whole concept is certainly built around an information need. From a pedagogical standpoint the outcomes could not be clearer: ‘locate’, ‘evaluate’: use’. And yet, like others in recent times, we feel uneasy about this definition because of its inherent limitations and constraints. Simmons (2005), Narrator (2004) and Luke and Keepsake (1999), among others, have recently highlighted what they regard as fatal flaws in this definition.
We tend to agree with Simmons that the definition fails to question some basic assumptions about ‘information’, and instead assumes that it is naturally A Good Thing. In particular, according to Simmons (2005, p. 299), Helping students to examine and question the social, economic, and political context for the production and consumption of information is a vital corollary to teaching the skills of information literacy.
Additionally, facilitating students’ understanding that they can be participants in scholarly conversations encourages them to think of research not as a task of collecting information but instead as a task of constructing meaning. Such questioning and raising of issues is the way in which information becomes knowledge, and is this not the ultimate goal of information literacy? (When we examine Bloom’s taxonomy this will seem to be the case. ) Information does indeed information, and thereby fail to use it effectively in knowledge generation.
Information literacy, despite what many information professionals may believe, is not the simple collection of vast amounts of information – this is akin to the airplane mechanic collecting the various pieces of a Jet engine and placing them in neat rows. This does not make a Jet engine. Rather, it is the constructing of meaning from information that has true value – of learning how to fit the engine pieces together into a workable Jet engine, and this is what information literacy must do if it is to be effective, most especially in developing countries, where information is increasingly consider as a key tool for development.
The alternative view, and one which is fostered by the CARL definition, is that information literacy is explained as a set of measurable skills (locate’, ‘evaluate’, ‘use’) – much like the traditional view of its parent discipline, literacy. ‘Literacy is too often conceived of in normative terms along a deficit model (literacy, of course, being something we “ought” to acquire). In such a model, information literacy can easily be reduced to a neutral, technological skill that is seen as merely functional or formative’ (Narrator 2004, p. 21). Instead of these merely functional skills, we should see information literacy as learning how to integrate and evaluate information in complex situations and within communication structures. Instead of a ‘skill-based paradigm that surely continues to haunt information literacy, we need to conceive information literacy as ‘a procrastinated literacy which puts it ‘in a far better position to communicate its inherent intellectual vitality and larger social and ethical relevance’ (Narrator 2004, p. 21). 4 Luke and Keepsake (1999) carry this criticism into the lair of the supposed ‘experts’ in heir critique of the influential work of Freebie and Gee, Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library (1989). In Luke and Keepsake’s view, Freebie and Gee see knowledge as an external phenomenon, something the learner can reach out and grasp: ‘Seekers of “Truth” can track it down and capture it either in the confines of the library or in a limitless cyberspace’ (Luke and Keepsake (1999, p. 83). Using this approach, information literacy educators manage to avoid the principal concerns regarding knowledge -? the social construction and cultural authority of knowledge, he political economies of knowledge ownership and control, and the development of local communities’ and cultures’ capacities to critique and construct knowledge (Luke and Keepsake 1999, up. 483-484).
Of course, Freebie and Gee are not alone in this narrow, context-neutral, functional view of information literacy, as anyone familiar with current information literacy writing and resources can attest; the evidence ranges from such ‘big business’ approaches as the ‘Big Six’ – take a look at the marketing of this information literacy programmer at – to some of the most recent books on the subject: almost at random, we have N. P. Thomas’ Information Literacy and Information Skills Instruction: Applying Research to Practice in the School Library Media Center, 2nd deed. Libraries Unlimited, 2004), D. Duncan and L. Lockhart, ‘Search for Success (Neal-Schuman, 2005), etc. All well-meaning, but with Luke and Keepsake we would argue that … These emergent information literacy frameworks are part of their avoidance of the central questions facing students, teachers and librarians about: ; the social construction and cultural authority of knowledge ; the political economies of knowledge ownership and control ; the development of local immunities’ and cultures’ capacities to critique and construct knowledge (Luke and Keepsake 1999, up. 83484). In summary, then, in our view there are serious shortcomings with the definition of information literacy when it is applied to developing countries. To begin with, it tends to reduce the process to a group of ‘skill sets’, and more particularly reduces it to a functional technological skill. Further, it does not question the basic assumptions about information, and how it become knowledge, assuming the latter to be some thing external that can be tracked down and captured like small wild animals.
Along with Luke and Keepsake (1999), we believe the corollary to be that an effective, robust definition for developing countries is one that recognizes the social construction and cultural authority of knowledge, and works within this paradigm (wherever it may be). Further, information literacy, or information literate individuals, must become intimately familiar with the political economy of knowledge ownership and control, and this will determine their ability to access and understand information/knowledge throughout life.
And finally, information literacy in developing countries in particular must involve the placement of a capacity within 5 local communities and local cultures to critique existing knowledge found by means of effective information literacy and to construct new knowledge on the basis of this critique.
Thus we are left with this operational definition of information literacy in developing countries: The ability of individuals or groups ; to be aware of why, how and by whom information is created, communicated and controlled, and how it contributes to the construction of knowledge ; to understand when information can be used to improve their daily living or to contribute to the resolution of needs elated to specific situations, such as at work or school ; to know how to locate information and to critique its relevance and appropriateness to their context ; to understand how to integrate relevant and appropriate information with what they already know to new construct knowledge that increases their capacity to improve their daily living or to resolve needs related to specific situations that have arisen.
Question 2: How Do We Best Determine the Educational Objectives of Information Literacy Education in a Developing Country Context? It is widely recognized that Benjamin Bloom’s classic work, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956) is the framework behind, as far as we can determine, nearly all information literacy education programmed. His taxonomy has led to recent derivatives, such as Anderson and Coachwork’s A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing (2001). The characteristic categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy are based on his understanding of the cognitive process, which he and his apostles see as a series of six levels (Figure 2). Bloom’s Cognitive Process 6 Anderson and Coachwork (2001) may use different terms, but the intention remains unchanged.
That is, learning and educational outcomes are achieved in this process through a series of linked steps; one moves from knowing (knowledge of specifics) to understanding (interpreting, extrapolating) to applying to analyzing (elements, relationships) to synthesizing (producing a communication or plan) and, finally, to evaluation Judging the results). We believe that Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) is used as a framework for constructing information literacy education programmed without thought being given to cultural aspects of education. Indeed, according to Anderson 2005, p. 107), the original purpose of Bloom’s taxonomy was to reduce the amount of work involved in preparing annual comprehensive examinations.
The reduction of labor in education was extended through the taxonomy to teaching in general by establishing an heuristic approach for teachers to produce the learning objectives needed for specific curricula, courses or classes, the learning activities required to achieve those objectives, and the forms of assessment/evaluation tasks needed to determine how well the students achieved the learning objectives. The taxonomy and TTS derivatives are, as mentioned earlier, used extensively in information literacy education programmed. We contend that because Bloom’s taxonomy was intended to achieve efficiency of the teacher’s effort in a Western cultural context, ILL programmer designers elsewhere forget to consider the importance of culture. Although later in this paper we will criticism this taxonomy and its deductive-style cognitive process, this is not to say that it lacks value in information literacy education.
Indeed, we wish to emphasis that Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is quite consistent tit the nature of information literacy education and its desired outcomes, and that it provides a valuable foundation (though not necessarily a rigid template) for developing more individualized information literacy educational taxonomies grounded in local cultural understandings. For example, one might use Bloom’s Cognitive Process to create an information literacy education model similar to that in Figure 3. Identify the information need Г? Access information Г? Organism information Г? Construct new understanding Г? Apply new understanding Г? Communicate and reflect on the end product Figure 3.
An ILL Cognitive Process Model Following Bloom’s Taxonomy 7 As clear, orderly and logical as this seems, we detect a number of issues arising from an attempt to impose this sort of structure outside a Western context. In the first instance, it assumes that learners exist in some sort of intellectual and cultural void and that they all learn in the same structured ways (logically and consistently suitably reflective and individualistic in their learning styles (Figure 3, steps 4-6 in particular). Third, such a model fails completely to take account of culturally and socially determined differences, especially between developed and developing Mounties. Fourth, and in agreement with Luke and Keepsake (p. 484), the model represents ‘… Linear-scientific method that [is] being superseded by other modes of inquiry, thinking and analysis currently being invented by, among others, students, researchers and scientists, teachers and librarians’. These culturally and socially determined differences, we must remember, reflect the ways in which people feel, communicate and learn (as Figure 1 highlights). When we ignore these factors, we are forgetting how cultures differentiate and distinguish groups, and seek to impose a single cultural model that fails to account for these differences. Admittedly speaking of international students studying overseas, Shah clearly highlights the stresses among students caused by ‘… Efferent teaching methods, fast-paced class sessions, two-way interaction with professors in the classroom, more student participation in the class, more classroom and group activities, more reading and writing assignments, and more class study (Shah 2002). The same would apply to a Bloom- based information literacy education process that might be used in a developing country – a kind of educational imperialism, or at least a highly insensitive approach o education. The results of such an approach are hallucinated in the literature of education in other disciplines. In their study of science education, for example, Waldron and Taylor (1999, up. 289-290) found that programmed tend to be ‘imported’ without change, and certainly without due consideration for local culture.
The results are what one might expect: there is a ‘school view of the world, or at least the world of a specific discipline or learning style, that is essentially a Western view; students ‘put on’ this view when they are in school and learning, and it has little to do with heir culturally-based worldviews and therefore has little meaning. In effect, this is what I am taught in school, yet this is the way life really is’. In common with other investigators, among them Skinhead and Judged (1999) and Waldron and Taylor (1999), we believe that what occurs in this situation is a downward spiral to educational failure, or rather the failure of classroom learning to become embedded in the learner’s way of life. First, a disparity develops between the learners’ worldviews and their school views; this gives rise to conflicting sets of values, one from within the culture, one imposed from without.
To cope with this, the learners’ compartmentalize their values, as suggested above, with one set for the classroom, and another, real set for the world. Thus ‘real life’ learning fails – and whether we are discussing science education or information literacy education, above all else educators want their programmed to be embedded in ‘real life’ so that understanding becomes part of a lifelong learning process. 8 As this discussion suggests, we believe that a new approach to the structure and delivery of information literacy education in developing countries is imperative. Such n approach needs to incorporate understanding of how people learn in different an ability to contextual information literacy education within the culture and society for which it is intended.
Question 3: How Can Cultural Awareness Improve Information Literacy Education? This, in fact, is the most important question for those of us from developed countries who seek to contribute to the implementation of more robust information infrastructures in developing countries through information literacy and information literacy education. And as information professionals we start with some major strangeness: most of us are neither trained teachers nor anthropologists, yet the skills of both professions are valuable in understanding how cultural awareness can contribute to ‘better’ information literacy education, and the training of information literacy educators in developing countries.
To overcome these inherent weaknesses in our professional capabilities, we must rely on the expertise of colleagues in cognate disciplines. In the last two decades or more, the work of one particular investigator has become increasingly recognized as a valid means of understanding he impact of cultures on behavior (including teaching and learning), on values and on core cultural assumptions – and here it may help to refer again to Figure 1 . The investigator we refer to is Greet Hefted, and his Five Dimensions of Culture as articulated in his seminal works, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values (1980), and Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (1991).
For those who may be unfamiliar with Hypotheses Five Dimensions of Culture, these are: 1 23 4 5 Power Distance Individualism and Collectivism Masculinity Uncertainty Avoidance Long Term Orientation Much of the following is derived from, and explained in detail on, Hypotheses website and in his numerous writings noted in the References. Power Distance (PDP) refers to the degree of equality, or inequality, between people in a society. It is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (for example, the family) accept that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality as defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders.
A high Power Distance ranking or a country or society indicates strong inequalities of 9 power and wealth, whereas a low Power Distance ranking suggests that society places much less emphasis on differences between power and wealth. Individualism (DIVIDE) – with its opposite, collectivism – refers to the degree to which a society reinforces individual or collective achievement and interpersonal relationships. Individualism addresses the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. A high Individualism ranking suggests a society in which the ties between individuals are loose, and everyone is expected to look after his and his family’s needs above all else.
A low Individualism ranking suggests a collectivist approach, with people from birth onwards integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families on the degree to which society reinforces the traditional masculine role model of male achievement, control and power. Masculinity (and its opposite, femininity) reflects the distribution of roles between genders. According to Hefted, (a) women’s values differ less among societies than men’s values; (b) men’s values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive (seen as ‘masculine’), to modest and caring (seen as feminine’). Women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men’s and women’s values.
Thus a high Masculinity ranking suggests a high degree of gender differentiation, with the masculine role model dominating, and low Masculinity ranking indicates a low level of differentiation between the genders. Uncertainty Avoidance (CIA, or ALAI for Uncertainty Avoidance Index) addresses a society tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, and indicates to hat extent a culture programmed its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are ‘novel, unknown, surprising, and uncertainty-avoiding cultures seek to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and by maintaining that there can only be one Truth and we have it’.
In contrast uncertainty-accepting cultures are more tolerant of opinions different from the norm, and they try to have as few rules as possible. A high Uncertainty Avoidance ranking reflects a society’s low Lorraine for uncertainty and ambiguity, while a low Uncertainty Avoidance ranking suggests that a society is more flexible and accepting of varied opinions. Finally, Long Term Orientation (L TO), according to Hefted, deals with Virtue regardless of Truth’. Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with the opposite of L TO, Short Term Orientation, are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and saving face.
A high L TO ranking would mean that perseverance and thriftiness predominate in a culture or group, whereas a high STOP Nanking would suggest that respect for tradition and social obligations predominate. In our view this is the least convincing of Hypotheses categories, and he does indicate that this was derived differently from the other four categories. What does this cultural categorization look like in practice? The simplest way to answer this is to compare the profiles of three countries as determined by Hefted – New Zealand, Thailand and South Korea, for example. Looking at Figure 4, we see 10 that New Zealand is characterized by a low PDP (or PDP, Power Distance Index) and a sigh IDT, that is, for New Slanderer there is little distinction between a person’s power and wealth, and they value individuality very highly.
Korea Figure 4. New Zealand, Thailand and South Korea Profiles Factors such as these begin to highlight specific issues related to the use of Western or Western-derived ILL models and pedagogical methods in developing countries. In the remainder of this paper, we shall examine these issues in the context of Hypotheses Dimensions of Culture. In Culture’s Consequences (2nd deed. 2001) Hefted examines the implications of the dimensions on a variety of life situations – some that relate specifically to a particular dimension (e. G. , masculinity and femininity in gender roles) and some (e. G. , the family, work) that relate to all of the cultural dimensions.
Of particular interest to us is his examination of the implications of four of the dimensions on schools and educational systems, and on the fifth dimension – Long Term/ Short Term Orientation – on Ways of thinking, which also relates closely to our discussion here. 11 We shall now examine what Hefted says about the implications on schools and educational systems and ways of thinking, and then ask questions about how these views apply to the cognitive process for ILL as derived from Bloom’s taxonomy so that we can respond to the question, How can cultural awareness improve information literacy education? According to Hefted (2001, p. 100), the Power Distance dimension has large implications in conceptualizing of any educational endeavourer.
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