vol. 24 no. 4, December, 2019

Book Reviews

Ranger, Kim L.(ed.) Informed learning applications: insights from research and practice. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited, 2019. xvi, 160 p. ISBN 978-178-769062-2. €89.95. (Advances in Librarianship, vol. 46).

Informed learning is a concept that has emerged from the phenomenographic method of Christine Bruce (2008), in the field of information literacy research. Informed learning brings together information use and learning, considering these in relational terms and is defined as the experience of using information to learn. The pedagogical approach advocated by the informed learning approach focuses on bringing about learning through a creative and reflective engagement with information. Developed through Bruce’s research in workplace, academic and community settings, informed learning has predominantly been explored from an empirical perspective.

Informed learning applications: Insights from research and practice, is edited by Kim Ranger, a US librarian who spent a sabbatical period working with Bruce and colleagues in Queensland, Australia. The book aims to contribute to knowledge by exploring how informed learning is put into practice in educational settings. The result is a short but focused volume of small-scale case studies that describe how an informed learning framework has or could be used to reorient teaching practices. The focus on practical detail means that chapters demonstrate how an informed learning framework can facilitate useful collaborations between educational partners (Chapters 1, 6 and 7) as well as the development of contextualised and subject-specific knowledge (Chapters 2, 3 and 5). While the bulk of the work focuses on the US (Chapters 2-6) the editors also move the concept of informed learning beyond its Australian roots by seeking academic experiences in Taiwan (Chapter 1) and the UK (Chapter 8). Interestingly, the handful of studies (Chapters 2 and 5) that focus on online instructional design also mark an initial attempt to explore the informed learning framework beyond the face-to-face classroom. Given the traditional division between scholarly and practitioner approaches to information literacy (e.g., Julien and Williamson, 2010; Lloyd, 2017) it is encouraging to see increased conversation between research and practice as well as the broadening of approaches to understanding and teaching for information literacy.

At the same time, the issue with a volume such as this is that the various ways in which each author positions their teaching interventions reveals how the informed learning framework is subject to varying and occasionally contradictory interpretations. The addition of the behaviourist-focused Big 6 and Super 3 frameworks in Chapter 1, for example, could be seen to undermine the original constructivist premise of informed learning. In another chapter, researchers who adopt a sociocultural approach and apply methods such as grounded theory to their research are confused with those who apply phenomenography (Chapter 7), although it should be noted that this issue has been amended in online versions of the edited volume. At other times, the influence of informed learning seems hard to gauge. The redesign of LibGuides in Chapters 2 and 5, for example, appears to be very similar to suggestions that have emerged from empirical research that was carried out nearly a decade ago (e.g., Sinkinson, Alexander, Hicks and Kahn, 2012) while further ignoring more recent work that has questioned the pedagogical premise of such tools (e.g., Hicks, 2015).

And, while the emphasis that a number of authors place on the need for situated understandings of information literacy is well-made, a focus on context cannot be seen as limited to the informed learning model, as a number of earlier-published and prominent studies attest (e.g., Tuominen, Savolainen and Talja, 2005; Lloyd, 2005). Lastly, while it is interesting to see how authors explore the connections and linkages between informed learning and other theoretical approaches, including Bakhtin’s philosophy of communication (Chapter 5), Foucault’s notions of power (Chapter 8), and threshold concepts (Chapter 4) as well as information literacy models (Chapters 1), the reliance on alternative conceptual frameworks does raise the question whether informed learning can stand on its own merits within a practice-based setting.


Prof. Annemaree LLoyd

Dr. Alison Hicks

Department of Information Studies
University College, London
October, 2019

How to cite this review

Lloyd, A. & Hicks, A.. (2019). Review of: Ranger, Kim L.(ed.) Informed learning applications: Insights from research and practice. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited, 2019. Information Research, 24(4), review no. R678 [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs678.html]

Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.