Towards a model of critical information literacy instruction for the development of political agency

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Lauren Smith


Critical pedagogy is an educational movement which gives people the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and sense of responsibility necessary to engage in a culture of questioning. These abilities are of benefit to young people, increasing their political agency through heightened awareness of social injustice and the means by which to communicate and challenge this. A central feature of the critical pedagogical approach is critical literacy, which teaches analysis and critiquing skills. Critical literacy has been recommended by a number of authors as a valuable aspect to include in information literacy (IL) instruction. Critical IL could contribute to enabling the development of political agency and increasing meaningful and active involvement in democratic processes.

With the focus on the value of IL becoming increasingly important within library and information science (LIS), it is important to be aware of its roots, the problems yet to be overcome and to consider ways in which the concept can be developed. The paper argues that it is necessary for IL to adopt a critical approach in order to meaningfully engage with the democratic social goals of LIS and address some of the limitations of IL theories. The paper focuses on the ways in which the theory of critical IL may be of benefit to young people of secondary school age, in terms of increasing their political agency through increased critical abilities, channeling their perceived political cynicism and distrust into critical thinking and a sense of agency, increased political knowledge, efficacy and participation. It is suggested that libraries could contribute to critical IL instruction in partnership with young people and people in teaching and parenting roles, and that it is important for the LIS profession and discipline to embrace the inherently political nature of pedagogy and LIS practices to effectively apply critical theories.

Further research into the ways in which IL can contribute to democratic goals would be of benefit. A current PhD research project which explores a methodology for identifying the needs of young people in order to apply critical IL practices for political agency is introduced.

This paper is based on a presentation given at LILAC 2013.


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How to Cite
SMITH, Lauren. Towards a model of critical information literacy instruction for the development of political agency. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 7, n. 2, p. 15-32, nov. 2013. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 09 dec. 2021. doi:
critical information literacy; critical pedagogy; democracy; political agency; political participation; secondary schools; librarianship; UK
Peer reviewed articles from LILAC