Giving children research skills

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Giving students the necessary research skills is impossible without first making them information literate - and this applies to every subject, argues Andrew Shenton.

Should developing a body of knowledge and critical analytical skills underpin history teaching? This formed the subject of debate during the final episode of the lively Radio Four programme, ‘The Moral Maze’, aired in March 2013.

After acknowledging that, for him, the teaching of history had a significant role to play in the latter respect, Matthew Wilkinson, Research Fellow at Cambridge Muslim College and Principal Researcher on the Curriculum for Cohesion, was asked where he would like people to be more critical as a result of the history they learn. He responded by suggesting that, since we live in the digital information age, young adults both in their time at school and in their lives thereafter are ‘bombarded with different types of information of various degrees of reliability and credibility. They need to be able to decode what information is worth believing in’.

In recent years, it has become common for ‘information literacy’ to be championed vigorously by many librarians and other information professionals who, quite understandably, are keen to raise the profile within institutions for learning and society more broadly, of one of their main areas of interest. It would not have been unexpected, then, if the comment made by Dr. Wilkinson had come from such a member of the information community. But the fact that the point was raised by someone from an altogether different background should perhaps make us view from a less cynical perspective, the role that information skills – in all their forms – can play in teaching and learning.

Information literacy and its relevance to research
In several studies over the last five years, I have explored the fundamentals at the heart of the skills typically associated with information literacy and how these can constitute the basis of a toolkit that may be applied in any situation where what we might loosely term ‘scholarly investigation’ is demanded.



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