Transforming information literacy space(s) to support student learning

Funding year: 
6 years
Massey University
Cross sector
Project start date: 
January 2017
Project end date: 
March 2023
Principal investigator(s): 
Lisa Emerson and Ken Kilpin
Research team members: 
Senga White (Southland Boys High School); Angela Feekery (Massey University); Heather Lamond (Massey University); Catherine Doughty (Whitireia Polytechnic); Anne Macaskill (Victoria University); Anna Greenhow (Massey University)
Research partners: 
Nine secondary schools: Southland Boys High School; Aurora College; Central Southland College; Whanganui City College; Waitara College; Hastings Boys High School; Hato Paroa College; Horowhenua College; Bay of Islands College Five tertiary institutions: Whitireia Polytechnic; Wellington Institute of Technology; Eastern Institute of Technology; Massey University; Victoria University



Information literacy (IL) is central to learning in the digital age. Lloyd (2003) describes IL as “the meta-competency of the knowledge economy.”  If the next generations of New Zealanders are to become effective digital citizens within the knowledge economy (Gilbert, 2005; Lloyd, 2003), it is vital that, at whatever age they leave formal education, they are equipped to engage with an ever-changing information landscape.


The aim of this project is to improve students’ IL competencies and learning within courses/subjects across the senior secondary (Years 11-13) and tertiary sectors (NZQF levels 4-7). 

Why this research is important

Traditionally, IL has been defined simply as the ability to find, evaluate, and use information (ACRL, 2000). However, as Gilbert (2005) and Hipkins et al. (2014) argue, fundamental changes in the information landscape, the professional environment, and our understanding of the purposes of education, have led to educational contexts where we value meaning making rather than simple knowledge acquisition. Students’ interaction with information (audio, digital, visual, multimodal, or printed) must, therefore, be more engaged, fluid, and critical (Sandretto & Tilson, 2013). As students develop IL competencies, they need to think about, learn from, and create new information for a range of disciplinary and digital (and, in the future, professional and civic) purposes. Educators within and across sectors need to engage with “IL space(s)”, that is, those spaces in which multiple factors (libraries and librarians, disciplines and teachers, digital information ecosystems and tools, and institutional learning contexts) create capable, critical, information literate learners.

What we plan to do

We will partner with teams of teachers and librarians from five tertiary institutions and nine secondary schools to investigate and transform the IL space(s). We will bring together librarians, students and teachers into new collaborative relationships, to design and implement instructional approaches and resources that prioritise the critical use of IL skills to learn disciplinary content knowledge. By doing this, we will support students’ IL acquisition and, thus, enhance their learning. We will use participatory action research/mixed methods to develop new ways for teachers and librarians, as embodiments of disciplinary knowledge and IL expertise, to collaboratively plan and implement instructional approaches that prioritise critical use of IL skills to learn disciplinary content knowledge.

Our partners

The project brings together a unique partnership of researchers and practitioners (teachers and librarians). This team combines a comprehensive range of diverse strengths that will contribute to the success of the project and lead to an enhanced skill set and understanding of all team members.  

Contact details

Lisa Emerson                                             Ken Kilpin            
06 3569099 ext 84547                             06 3569099 ext 84466