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Creating High Quality

Information Literacy Tasks


There are 3 major aspects that need to be considered when creating a quality task for information literacy based activities.



Higher Thinking



There are two issues related to resources that we need to cater for as we create high quality tasks for our pupils. Both are related to setting up learners for success.

As I travel through New Zealand, speaking to school and public librarians, I consistently hear this question.

“Why do teachers so often set tasks for which there is no information at a level that the pupils can understand?”

 This is not isolated instances, it is common and frequent, and the result is pupils who are being set up for failure. 

The first part to creating a high quality tasks is to ensure that there is information available to the pupils that is relevant to the task being set. The sad aspect is that this is not as easy or simple as we would like it to be.

The traps I have both fallen into, and observed, are:

·        The teacher creates a good task in the expectation that suitable and appropriate are available.

·        The teacher creates a high level task and then spends (wastes) hours of precious time trying to locate relevant and suitable information.

My first recommendation, for the sake of effectiveness and sanity, is to decide on the broad topic and locate information that is comprehensible to the learners.

Some tips for location of appropriately levelled information:

·        Talk to the school librarian.

·        Talk to the local librarian.

·        Search the internet.

·        Locate local experts.

Searching the Internet can be time consuming so try these tips.

1.     Use a good quality search engine rather than the default one on your browser page.

2.     Google   is currently excellent.            http://www.google.co.nz/

3.     Vivisimo is also an excellent engine at the moment.    http://vivisimo.com/

4.     NB This can change quickly. I frequently visit  http://www.zdnet.com/searchiq/ (searchiq) which is a website that analyses the current strengths and weaknesses of  search engines.


Use key words and phrases.

Key words are entered into the search line just as words.

Key phrases are more powerful because they can narrow searches considerably.

Create a key phrase by combing words within speech marks. Here is a sample of how powerful key phrases are:

A search on Google for  the three words    salt water fish   returned   665000 results.

A search on the phrase “salt water fish”  returned  15200 hits.

The reason for the difference, though both searches give us information overload and still require narrowing, is that the first search looked for any document that contain the three words, while the second search only looked for documents that had the three words tied together as a phrase.


K12  (kindergarten to year 12  educational classification)

Use k12 to narrow the search to material that has been categorised as being educationally useful for Kindergarten to year 12.

In Google  fish  returns 13800000 hits

While  fish k12  returns  108000 hits

Refined further “salt water fish” k12  returns 99 hits

K12 is not a cure all. There are a number of sites that incorporate letters and number like k12 for many other reasons, but it will narrow searches usefully many times.

Want to narrow it down to a younger age level try k3

Having found a topic which has resources available at a level suitable for your pupils you now have the tools to help you set your pupils up for success when they search for the information.

Keep note of the key words and phrases that led you to the material and when you write the task embed these words and phrases in the task. A basic skill the pupils will develop will be to extract key words and phrases from a task. When they search on these they will be led to the useful information. Ahhhh Success!!!!

The following is a sample set at teacher/adult level.


A new pupil is arriving in your class tomorrow, the notes say he is possibly Hyperlexic. You will need to research Hyperlexia and create a resource that you and other teachers at the school can use to evaluate whether a pupil is Hyperlexic. You may need to consider the definition of Hyperlexia and its characteristics.

This task has been worded to set up the learner for success. A search on Hyperlexia characteristics will lead you to a number of sites that contain the relevant information.

The next step is to start constructing a task which those resources will support.



I believe that quality Information Literacy requires us to use information, a notion supported by most definitions of Information Literacy.

The following diagram shows how I feel information usage fits into the information process.


Technical Critical


The ability to identify an information need.

Locate, acquire, store, retrieve and comprehend information from a variety of sources.

Discard irrelevant information

Validate relevant information



Use information to:

Form or alter an opinion

Govern an action

Meet a need

Predict an outcome

Debate an issue

Create a strategy

Form a hypothesis

Create or modify a product


Design a strategy

Suggest a solution

Solve a problem

Deepen understanding

Communicate information


Communicate relevant information appropriately clearly and creatively.


Communicate the outcome appropriately, clearly and creatively. Justifying decisions where relevant from gathered information.


To construct a task where learners will actually use information, make a choice about the type of use you will expect. Remembering the analogy of the two types of shopper, write a task that deliberately targets a real life usage of information. Let us move away from having the presentation of information as the goal of information literacy. Be aware that in the term Information Literacy we have information as the source and Literacy as the goal.


Higher Thinking

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Thinking was presented to many of us during our teacher training. It has, like every aspect of educational and learning philosophy, come in for some criticisms. I believe it can be a very useful tool, if we combine it with other strategies, to ensure that we give our pupils opportunities for extending their thinking. (NB most practicising teachers are very good at combining the good and powerful aspects of many different approaches and ideas)

Quality Information Literacy should encourage the type of research activity that moves learners into higher level thinking skills as emphasised by Probert (1999, p12) “But wait! There’s more – this process is a wonderful way to develop thinking skills. …. Raising the thinking levels and questioning skills of our students should be an aim for all teachers. Using an information problem solving approach is an excellent way to accomplish that aim”.

 A useful summary of Bloom’s taxonomy is found on St Edwards University (Center for Teaching Excellence) web-site giving a basic description of each level.





The learner must recall information (i.e. bring to mind the appropriate material).


The learner understands what is being communicated by making use of the communication.


The learner uses abstractions (e.g. ideas) in particular and concrete situations


The learner can break down a communication into its constituent elements or parts.


The learner puts together elements or parts to form a whole.


The learner makes judgments about the value of material or methods for a given purpose.

St Edwards University, Centre for Teaching Excellence http://www.stedwards.edu/cte/blooms.htm

 There is also a revised version of the taxonomy created by Anderson.

There are numerous charts available that link verbs for task writing to specific levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  One example of this is found on  St Edwards University’s web-site. Here the verbs are utilised as a tool to assist in creating behavioral objectives. However they can be a powerful tool to use in the creation of high quality thinking tasks. Choose the type of thinking you want the pupils to major in during the task and utilise one of the appropriate verbs to set the task.


Knowledge- (recall)  Remembering previously learned materials

cite, label, name, reproduce, define, list, quote, pronounce, identify, match, recite, state

Comprehension-Ability to grasp the meaning of material

alter, discover, manage, relate, change, explain, rephrase, substitute, convert, give examples, represent, summarize, depict, give main idea, restate, translate, describe, illustrate, reword, vary, interpret, paraphrase

Application-Ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations

apply, discover, manage, relate, classify, employ, predict, show, compute, evidence, prepare, solve, demonstrate, manifest, present, utilize, direct

Analysis-Ability to break down material into its component parts of that its organizational structure may be understood.

ascertain, diagnose, distinguish, outline, analyze, diagram, divide, point out, associate, differentiate, examine, reduce, conclude, discriminate, find, separate, designate, dissect, infer, determine

Synthesis-Ablity [sic] to put parts together to form a new whole

combine, devise, originate, revise, compile, expand, plan, rewrite, compose, extend, pose, synthesize, conceive, generalize, propose, theorize, create, integrate, project, write, design, invent, rearrange, develop, modify

Evaluation-Ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose

appraise, conclude, critique, judge, assess, contrast, deduce, weigh, compare, criticize, evaluate

(St Edwards University)

Look back at the Hyperlexia task set earlier and you will see that the task targets synthesis. It sets a task using the word create which comes from the set of verbs relevant to synthesis. If you want the pupils to work across a range of thinking styles then use verbs from across the range.



Creating a quality task takes time but you will get quicker with practice.The main steps are:

1.     Locate resources at a level appropriate to the pupil’s abilities.

2.     Choose the usage for which the information is being gathered. Word the task to that end.

3.     Choose the thinking styles you want the pupils to work in, use appropriate verb/s in the task.

4.     Embed the key words and phrases that will lead the learners to success in the task.

5.     Give your pupils a map (model or process) to help them on their way

Research and Information Models


Evaluating Research and Information Literacy Models: Issues to consider.

What then are the issues that a school needs to consider when deciding on or devising a research process? There are 4 major issues that I feel need to be examined, the first two relate to structure of the process and the others to outcome of the process:

·        Linearity    

·        Assessment

·        Technical skills

·        Critical skills 



Information seeking is becoming recognised as a non-linear activity. Gavin Brown emphasises that in the recent NZCER research on how well NZ students can find information the model used is sequential in structure but (Brown,2000, p27) “students will need to go back over what they have found and revise it as new information is bought to light”. The reality of quality research is that the learner will revisit stages of the process a number of times as the foundation of required information is built. Given the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I would expect any research process to have some sort of diagram that illustrates its structure.



Assessment, evaluation and review should be an integral part of each stage of a good model.  I make this statement because if a model is non-linear then assessment no longer belongs entirely at the end of the process. Obviously it will occur at the end as teacher and learner review the process, assess the performance and evaluate the product. However in a non-linear process it becomes apparent that some sort of evaluation must take place at each step so the learner has grounds on which to base their decision of where to go next.


Technical and Critical skills


There will be an expectation that any good model or process will include and cover in a natural manner the range of skills from both the critical and technical aspects. (see Daigram on page 4)

I would expect that there is some recognition of the importance of the ability to recognise an information need.

There should be coverage of all the technical gathering skills of location, acquisition, retrieval, storage and comprehension of information from a variety of sources.

Pupils should also develop the skills to validate information and the ability to discard any irrelevant material. There should be an expectation for pupils to use information in a valid manner beyond just presenting it. Learners need to be able to express their thinking, the reasons for their decisions and the outcome of the usage creatively and clearly.


Higher Level Thinking

An acceptable model should encourage the type of research activity that moves learners into higher level thinking skills as emphasised by Probert (1999, p12) “But wait! There’s more – this process is a wonderful way to develop thinking skills. …. Raising the thinking levels and questioning skills of our students should be an aim for all teachers. Using an information problem solving approach is an excellent way to accomplish that aim”.