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Information Literacy in High School Civics

Data from our national survey of high school civics teachers shows that many understand the importance of teaching information literacy, but need support to do so.

With news sources changing rapidly and fragmenting along ideological lines, understanding how to use news and information media (“information literacy”) is an important civic skill.

A new fact sheet by CIRCLE Deputy Director Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg explores the extent to which information literacy is taught in high school civics classes and how its teaching varies.

Using the data from CIRCLE’s National Civics Teacher Survey, which asked teachers about the courses they taught in Fall 2012, this analysis found that overall:

  • Civics teachers believe that information literacy is critical and that students must be able to identify and gather credible information
  • Less than half of teachers are very confident about teaching information literacy. A majority are interested in receiving more training and resources.
  • Teachers commonly use news articles as sources, and 80% discuss election-related issues at least weekly
  • AP and honors courses are more likely to incorporate information literacy than courses that are required for graduation.
  • Teachers who perceive more support are more likely to teach information literacy.

This analysis has important implications for those with an interest in high school education:

  • Schools of education and other professional development providers can increase teacher confidence about teaching information literacy by devoting time and resources to developing peer exchanges, trainings, and lessons on teaching information literacy.
  • State education officials should seek to understand the possible reasons why information literacy receives more attention in AP/honors classes than in graduation-requirement courses. For instance, do state standards for social studies overlook information literacy, or are the existing standards not being implemented consistently?
  • Funders in government and philanthropy should consider supporting resources, training, experimentation, and innovation to enhance teachers’ grasp of information literacy and to ensure that all students are exposed to it.

The National Civics Teacher Survey was conducted as part of CIRCLE’s Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge.