ILA Results of the Information Learning Activity

 The data collected from Todd, Kuhlthau and Hienstrom’s School Library Impact Measure (SLIM) toolkit (2005) in most instances, indicated a growth in the information literacy skills and knowledge base of the students who participated in the Information Learning Activity (ILA). This post interprets the results of two student questionnaires following their coding. A third questionnaire from the toolkit was not used to collect further data due to unforeseen time constraints in the delivery of the ILA.

The Guided Inquiry and Information Search Process (ISP) (Kuhlthau et al, 2007) formed the framework for the delivery of the ILA. Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry approach to information literacy modeled in the text “Guided Inquiry Design – A framework for Inquiry in your school” consists of eight stages: Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share and Evaluate (Kuhlthau et al, 2012, p. 2). The first SLIM questionnaire was administered at the end of the first ‘Open’ session of the ILA; the second questionnaire was completed at the midpoint of the ‘Gathering’ stage.

Question 1: 

Description of the Results

Questionnaire 1

The topic upon which the students were required to respond to at the end of the first ILA session, was very broad in nature: Aboriginal Art.  Whilst all participants with the exception of one wrote something in answer to this question, the predominance of responses were candid statements declaring their minimal or complete lack of topic knowledge to this point.

Graph 1Figure 1: Question 1:  Questionnaire 1 – Topic Knowledge

Factual statements:

Several students provided dot pointed statements: Student NS recorded two facts concerning the artist Albert Namatjira, but had placed a line through them, as if to suggest she believed them to be incorrect (See Figure 1a). I felt this could be construed as a lack of certainty as to what was expected of her in this question. She did leave one fact without correction, related to a completely different sub topic; bark painting. In all, I could still determine a degree of prior knowledge about the topic in general that was not evident with others in the group. Student SA’s solitary fact: “It’s traditional” suggested a common belief by some students that whilst Aboriginal art is steeped in culture, that it belongs to a past period rather being also being contemporary and of the present.  Student CA asked a question rather than a fact and then answered it with a statement of not knowing the answer:  “what are weapons used for?’ – “not sure”. Of the facts provided by these students, most stated minimal characteristics or qualities of Aboriginal art or artists, one student however was able to suggested a process fact: ” dots are used a lot in Aboriginal art”- student CC

Scan 16 Oct 2013 9_32 am-page1

Figure 1a: Student NS – Response to Question 1

Given that six of the nine students wrote statements admitting to a lack of knowledge of any aspect of the topic, i.e.:  “I don’t know much”, (Student:  LC) or “nothing for now because I just got started” (Student: NC), I decided to code these as statements of fact in themselves and a means of acknowledging a response.

Explanation Statements:

 Student NS’s statement, “bark painting is when you paint on all different bark” is a very rudimentary explanation for this traditional art genre, but still indicates that she acknowledges that bark painting uses a variety of materials. Student  SA wrote: ” I know that most dots paints are the land” , which is not entirely a correct fact, but does provide an explanation of how dot paintings are often used in aerial perspective landscape paintings to reflect landforms, sites significant to dreaming stories or location of food sources within a map like configuration.  This also signaled to me that my students do sometimes know the answers but lack the wherewithal’s to translate these to written responses that best reflect this understanding. This was evident in speaking with individuals to probe for further clarification; often a verbal explanation was easier and more forthcoming. The lack of explanations from other students at this early stage of the ILA again indicated the general lack of knowledge of the topic. In speaking with them, this was also apparent. This supports the notion that explanations are hard to form without the requirement of facts with which to clarify a context or process.

Conclusion Statements:

There were no conclusion statements in Questionnaire 1.

Questionnaire 2

The second questionnaire differed from the first in that students responded to their individual topics of interest within the Aboriginal Art genre:  e.g. bark painting, rock art, weapons, ceramics etc.  Students had three ILA sessions to this point.

Graph 2

Figure 2: Question 1:  Questionnaire 2 – Topic Knowledge


Factual statements:

I was relieved that all of the participants, with the exception of one, showed an increase in the number of factual statements recorded, even if only slightly.   These facts were presented similarly to the first questionnaire, as dot points rather than in sentence form as was requested by me.  The student’s responses were more considered statements that reflected an increased depth to their inquiries and therefore understanding of their topics. Two students (NC and CC) provided facts which demonstrated a greater understanding of a topic as a result of their inquiries thus far. NC, who had been researching Indigenous ceramicist Thancoupie, was able to recall three facts;

“Thancoupie was a teacher who was inspired by her grandmother. She started to make her pots at a young age”. – Student NC

  Student CC who was working with student NC on the same artist, demonstrated the factual information which resonated with him;

          “I know that Thancoupie worked with other artists. She learned stuff when she was young. She is famous for her pottery that is collected all around the world. She has even been in 16 exhibitions”. – Student CC

Of interest to me was the processes that both students (NC and CC) undertook in their research. Typically I might have expected one student to have completed the bulk of the work, and then for both students to present fairly similar responses. It was nice to see each of them seek information from different sources and discuss their own findings. There was a shared interest in the topic that lead each to work independently and contribute collaboratively to build a greater understanding of the artist Thancoupie.

In the original questionnaire student CK responded in a single word that he knew “nothing”. In the second questionnaire he responded to the same question by stating, “It takes a long time”. As minimal as it appears, both were recorded as factual statements, with an increase evident in the second questionnaire. CK has a significantly lower literacy capability than others in the group, this is compounded by his attendance and lack of interest in this subject.

The facts presented in the second questionnaire formed more detailed responses than the students initial reflections had. This suggested an increased knowledge of their topics, as opposed to broad topic ‘Aboriginal art’ which I had posed in the original questionnaire.  An increase in facts was still recorded even if they appeared to be inaccurate. One example of this was: “Europeans were the first to discover bark paintings”(Student NS).  After discussing this with the student, it appeared that her intent was to state that “Europeans were the first to discover Aboriginal bark paintings” (Student NS). This would make the statement a correct fact.

Explanation Statements:

 As facts increased in the later stages of the ILA, so too explanation statements began to appear as the students started to clarify the significance of the factual information that were presenting. An example of such an explanation by student SA reads:

“I know that Aboriginal people used dot paintings for their storys because It was like their own language. It is also important for keeping their stories for the next generation. They used dot paintings for the land too”.  -Student SA

 In this statement, SA shows his understanding of the importance of dot paintings as a form of communication that is visual rather than spoken and also as a means of preserving these stories for the future. The second short explanation seems to be an afterthought in that the use of dots in landscape art is an explanation of its use in this art genre, but is unrelated to the previous facts about story telling.

The level of explanation across the group was not extended beyond dot points as was required by myself.

Conclusion Statements:

There were no conclusion statements in Questionnaire 2.

Interpretation of Question 1

I was genuinely alarmed by the data for the first questionnaire in response to Question 1. Whilst I had acknowledged there would be difficulty in my students recording their responses from a literacy perspective, I had not anticipated the overwhelming lack of at least a basic knowledge of a topic which many might assume they may be well aquainted. To my mind, this deficiency reflects both a loss in traditional cultural knowledge (, p. 212) that has been able to be passed on from elders and the lack of knowledge of contemporary Indigenous art genres. Other considerations for this are also posited below. Overall, the responses made it clear that I have a pivotal role in teaching students to seek this important cultural knowledge through their own inquiries.

The growth in topic knowledge, even if only marginally, was evidenced in the increase of both factual and explanatory statements.  A session in the school library highlighted the need to re-introduce students to finding nonfiction texts in a variety of formats, at an accessible level to facilitate individual and level-appropriate research. These texts were used in combination with a selection of teacher and student sourced websites relevant to individual inquiries.  Central to the students’ capacity to develop and retain knowledge are issues of literacy and disadvantage.

The capacity for the students to work at their own year level standard is often compromised. By definition, many students can be described as being disadvantaged and/or being at risk, with a concerning number under the care of the state, residential care or other foster care arrangements. Other factors impeding some student’s education include: health, attendance and a lack of parental involvement in their student’s schooling.  In essence, learning has been affected by these circumstances prior to secondary education beginning. Whilst this sounds quite pessimistic, the school is making steady progress towards closing the attainment gap through individualized literacy and numeracy programs teamed with learning support in junior secondary classes. The average literacy attainment of my focus group is below the state average for Non indigenous students and above average for Indigenous students in similar schooling contexts (, 2012). 

 Question 2: 

Description and interpretation of the Results

Despite the obvious lack of knowledge in the topic at the commencement of the ILA, there was clearly an interest from the majority of participants prior to their research beginning.  This was maintained well into the Gathering stage despite many expressing difficulties with the research process.  I put this level of interest down to an inherent desire to learn more about a topic that is so intrinsically linked to their cultural identities.  My observations and interviews with the students appeared to back this perception also.  Students stated that they were interested in finding out more because it was “important to find out how our people made their art and passed their knowledge down to the next generation” (Student CC).  As the transfer of this type of knowledge was acknowledged as important by the students; there was a unified belief amongst them that this must be maintained.

With the exception of student CK who upheld a definite lack of interest in the topic throughout the ILA, the students were either interested “quite a bit”, or ” a great deal” in their own inquiries related to the central topic.

graph 3 

Figure 3: Question 2:  Questionnaire 1 & 2 – Topic Interest


Question 3: 

Description and Interpretation of the Results

The wording of Question Three reads:  “How much do you know about this topic?”

Questionnaire 1

There was a correlation between the results from Question 1 and Question 3 in the first questionnaire; that the student’s limited knowledge of the topic was also evident in the limited number of facts and explanations that they were able to record.  Many students wrote statements such as “not much” or “nothing for now because I just got started “(Student SA), which alluded to previous knowledge that they hadn’t considered relevant to the questionnaire. 

The breadth of knowledge that the students may have had, but dismissed as irrelevant or not important enough, was discussed with the class following the first questionnaire.  This discussion revealed that more knowledge was evident than students had written down. The class had needed prompting and reaffirmation that the knowledge they had orally presented was pertinent and shouldn’t be under estimated as having relevance to the questionnaire.

graph 4

 Figure 4: Question 3:  Questionnaire 1 & 2 – Knowledge Estimate


Sometimes the students’ responses to the questionnaires did not reflect the reality of their knowledge base. Students VJ and NS for instance both responded in Questionnaire 1 as having “quite a bit’ of knowledge about Aboriginal art. Student NS was able to support her assertion through the details of her responses to Question 1. Student VJ’s perception however, was that she also knew ‘quite a bit’ about her topic but this was not reflected earlier in the same questionnaire. When asked in question 1 to write down what she knew about her topic, she was unable to write anything down. This is evidence that she had simply ticked a box to try to deflect the teacher away from the fact that she was probably struggling with the ideas presented in this first ILA session, but did not want to admit it on the questionnaire. Students like VJ don’t like their difficulties exposed to others and hope to ‘go under the radar’ by feigning their understanding of new or challenging information.

Questionnaire 2

 As can be seen in Figure 4, some of the student’s knowledge of the general topic “Aboriginal art” in Questionnaire 1 were elevated from ‘not much’ to ‘quite a bit’ when in Questionnaire 2 they were asked to respond about their own genre specific topics. This can be attributed to the new interest they had developed in their own inquiries. The confidence expressed by Kuhlthau’s ISP model ( 2007 p.19  ) as students refine their information gathering processes had become apparent  at the time of the second questionnaire. Whilst four students believed their knowledge estimate remained the same between the two questionnaires, it was good to see that a couple also felt that their topic knowledge had increased.  Students CK and LB continued to rated their knowledge in the topic as ‘not much’, and this provided me with further indicators that intervention was needed in locating information, narrowing and focusing their searches, assisting them with barriers of inaccessible language levels, and putting this information into their own words. 


 Question 4: 

Description and interpretation of the Results

 The responses to this question were similar for both questionnaires. These were summarised as:

  • Writing inquiry questions about their individual topics
  • Finding images
  • Cut and pasting notes and information for further research


With the help of a session devoted to question formulation, students gained confidence in their abilities to refine their questioning techniques to elicit a deeper understanding of their chosen topics.  As a result of this direct instruction and modeling of questioning frameworks, most of the class began to combine their obvious interest in their subjects with purposeful inquiries. In addition to this, the students found that many of the compute related skills that they were familiar with helped them with the collection and processing of their information gathering.


Question 5: 

Description and interpretation of the Results

The responses to this question were similar for both questionnaires. These were summarised as:

  • Finding relevant or useful  information whether on the internet or in books
  • What needs to be typed into the search box ( Google)
  • Putting information into to their own words


Finding information remained a concern for students in both questionnaires.   An early session in the ILA was spent in the library re-introducing students to a space that most had not been into in over a year. Before the location of topic information could be undertaken, locating the art books within the collection had to be established. This was followed by locating Aboriginal art books that were both level and topic appropriate for each student. Luckily our library has many such books. Following sessions involved locating information within books using content and index pages in combination with topic and keyword searches. During Internet sessions I endeavored to teach students to conduct searches using basic Boolean strategies and evaluate the usefulness of websites. For some, the Boolean process remained a difficult concept to gasp and web resources were quickly provided for those who were floundering. Finally the task of putting information into their own words was supported to a great extent by finding level appropriate resources. I taught students to refine their search results by changing the reading level setting in the advanced search options to “basic level”. This was of help to some.


Cited: (2013). Native Title Report 2008: Chapter 7: The protection of Indigenous knowledge’s accessed at:

Kuhlthau, C.C., Manoiotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Manoiotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2012). Guided Inquiry Design: A framework for inquiry in your school. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. (2012). My school data for XXXXXXX School. ACARA. Accessed at:

Todd, R.J., Kuhlthau, C. C., & Heinstrom, J. E. (2005). School library impact measure (SLIM):  A toolkit for tracking and assessing student learning outcomes of guided inquiry through the school library. Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, Rutgers University.


One thought on “ILA Results of the Information Learning Activity

  1. It is unfortunate that the SLIM Toolkit as a written format may disadvantage your students as many standardised tests aimed at White Anglo Saxon Protestants have done in the past for indigenous students and minor groups. As you said in your post, “This also signalled to me that my students do sometimes know the answers but lack the wherewithal to translate these to written responses”. Not only did they know answers but they could give the higher order explanatory answers.

    I wonder if the toolkit could be applied in another format. If the students could record their answers they could allay their inhibitions and avoidance of writing which highlights their shortcomings. Many laptops and desktop computers now have camera function and the students could video record their responses. A small digital voice recorder could be used. Small microphones with USB attachment are available and these would provide another format. These methods might be considered more fun than a written response and perhaps a more enthusiastic response might be given. From this there could be a ripple effect that would affect your delivery of an ILA as your estimation of abilities, student learning . Part of the great unknown! All the best with the project, Rob.

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