Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy Instruction: Frameworks, Pedagogies, and Practices (July 2020): Metaliteracy and “Other” Literacies

Metaliteracy and "Other" Literacies

At the same time that librarians and educators have been developing and complicating the definition of information literacy through the adoption of the Framework and theoretical/practical scholarship on information literacy, the number of books discussing “other” literacies has burgeoned. Data literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, and metaliteracy are the most commonly covered literacies, and there is definitely some overlap in general information literacy instruction and instruction in the other literacies. The role of the librarian in teaching literacy skills focused on specific types of information is emerging as an important topic, and several volumes make noteworthy contributions to the field.

Media literacy is an especially rich topic with its own history and developments, and it has long been a subject of communication courses. In the library context, the connections between information literacy in general and media literacy specifically is a newer topic, as is how instructional approaches to media literacy might be informed by documents like the Framework. The adoption of the Framework has made the alignment of the goals of media literacy education and information literacy instruction more apparent, although books on media literacy taught by librarians as part of an undergraduate information literacy instruction program are still relatively rare. Both Belinha De Abreu’s Teaching Media Literacy (now in its second edition) and Michelle Luhtala and Jaquelyn Whiting’s News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News focus on media literacy instruction in K-12 education, but they suggest lessons that could be adapted for higher education, first-year undergraduate courses in particular. Media and Information Literacy in Higher Education: Educating the Educators, edited by Siri Ingvaldsen and Dianne Oberg, discusses various models for librarian-faculty collaboration (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels). Media literacy has come into focus especially sharply with the emergence of “fake news” in the vernacular, and several recent titles on information literacy engage with media literacy through the lens of “news literacy” and “fake news.” Discussing how librarians in all settings can combat so-called fake news, Information Literacy and Libraries in the Age of Fake News, edited by Denise Agosto, includes suggestions for using the ACRL Framework to bring critical thinking about fake news into library instruction sessions at the college level. In her Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era, Nicole Cook discusses learning theory and provides a lesson plan for a fake news workshop or instruction session. 

Data literacy is sometimes subsumed under information literacy, but it deserves some attention of its own. Some of the skills attributed to the data literate—the ability to interpret charts, graphs, and other visual media; the ability to understand and evaluate statistical information; the ability to assess the accuracy of quantitative data—do not fit neatly into standard information literacy rubrics. Several recent books have been devoted to the librarian’s role in data-literacy instruction, underlining the need for librarians to think about how data literacy and information literacy might be taught in various disciplines. Both Data Literacy in the Real World: Conversations and Case Studies, edited by Kristin Fontichiaro et al., and Creating Data Literate Students, edited Fontichiaro, Jo Angela Oehrli, and Amy Lennex, are geared to high school librarians, but they offer learning activities, lessons, and discussion questions that could be used in first-year college classes as well. On the other end of the audience spectrum, Data Information Literacy: Librarians, Data, and the Education of a New Generation of Researchers, edited by Jake Carlson and Lisa Johnston, focuses on graduate students and argues convincingly for the importance of data information literacy while also providing suggestions for building a data information literacy instruction program.

In some ways similar to data literacy, visual literacy is also finding its way into information literacy instruction sessions by librarians. Visual Literacy for Libraries: A Practical, Standards-Based Guide, by Nicole Brown et al., is particularly useful since it explains how visual literacy skills fit within the research process and work in tandem with the ACRL Framework.

Thomas Mackey and Trudi Jacobson have emerged as the leading experts on the concept of metaliteracy, starting from the publication of their 2011 paper in College and Research Libraries, “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.”1 In the paper, they argue that metaliteracy is a comprehensive concept that can encompass not only more traditional conceptions of information literacy but also the technological fluency required by, and participatory elements characteristic of, the many information resources available in the twenty-first century. Mackey and Jacobsen have produced three books (one authored, two edited) that explore, interrogate, and refine metaliteracy in a way that is both intellectually expansive and adaptable to a variety of instructional situations. In their Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners, Mackey and Jacobson explain the concept of metaliteracy and its significance to contemporary learners. Though it is more conceptual than practical, the book does offer strategies for helping students develop metaliterate skills by rethinking learning goals, and it does discuss how information literacy instruction could evolve to encompass metaliteracy. The first of Mackey and Jacobson’s two edited volumes, Metaliteracy in Practice, offers many real-life examples and case studies of information literacy instruction that address metaliteracy. Their more recent edited volume, Metaliterate Learning for the Post-Truth World, proposes learner-centered pedagogical strategies that specifically address the challenges posed by an information environment that is technologically and socially mediated.