Chapter 6: Guidelines for adapting the generic Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage Model for Lifelong Learning to local contexts – Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage


Guidelines for adapting the generic Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage Model for Lifelong Learning to local contexts


The model proposed in Chapter 5 opens the way for museums, archives and libraries to cooperate and converge in providing integrated training for their clients which includes exposure to the collections in each of these institutions. This chapter provides practical guidelines for museums, archives and libraries to adopt a blended, new culture of practice, and provides some suggestions on research methodology and design, factors to consider in adapting the generic model of information literacy and cultural heritage for lifelong learning to local contexts, suggestions for course design, and course evaluation and review.

Key words

research methodology

research design

literature reviews

survey questionnaires


quantitative research

qualitative research

courses for people with disabilities

evaluation of courses

Suggested methodology and research design for adapting the model to local contexts

As catalysts in providing lifelong learning in information literacy and cultural heritage, museums, archives and libraries need to converge in the adaptation of the model for suitable and effective application to their environments and countries, and to the needs of their users/visitors. Where possible, each of these institutions should be represented, but where there are local limitations – such as only libraries and museums existing in a town or city, but no archives, or only archives and museums, but no libraries – the convergence could include two of the three institutional types. The ideal is for all three to converge, since each domain has a unique perspective that adds value to the learning experience of cultural heritage and information literacy.

It is recommended that working groups are convened, with representatives from museums, archives and libraries who have expertise in working with users and providing instruction to their users, and also who are knowledgeable about their collections and the resources available. The working group should appoint a convenor and chair who will coordinate the overall process, and different tasks can be allocated to sub-groups which focus on a particular aspect, before bringing it all together in one cohesive plan.

Intrinsic components of a research design and methodology to adapt the model to local contexts include:

 Formulation of a description of what data is required, and research questions. The working group should identify what particular questions need to be asked in their context, and clearly present these, with a research plan to explore the questions further using the various social science research methodologies available.

 Literature review and environmental scan. The overview provided in this book can be referred to, but it would be necessary to expand the literature review and environmental scan further in the context of the particular country concerned for a more country-specific contextual focus of existing research and initiatives. As Babbie and Mouton noted, literature reviews should not be too extensive, not mentioning every single study in the field, but rather should highlight the main trends, arguments and disagreements (Babbie and Mouton, 2009: 566).

 Sampling decisions. Before further research can continue, the working group would need to make decisions as to what type of sampling method should be used for surveys of their user and visitor populations at each of the participating sites. There is extensive literature available on sampling methods and techniques, but the most well-known, as described by Uys and Puttergill (2005), are probability sampling where the sample needs to adequately represent variations in the population (ibid.: 109) and non-probability sampling where it is not possible to obtain a representative sample from existing records, thus sampling error cannot be calculated (ibid.: 112). Uys and Puttergill highlight the fact that sampling can be a particular challenge in developing countries, and especially in rural areas where there are often no central records of citizens and users (ibid.: 115). To overcome this, they note that creativity and enterprise are required of the researcher.

 Survey questionnaires of existing users. Survey questionnaires can be helpful instruments to obtain more information on the user profiles of visitors to museums, archives and libraries. It would also be useful to survey potential instructors among staff in each of the institutions (curators, archivists and librarians) in order to determine any skills gaps that need to be addressed before staff themselves can provide training. The questionnaires should be designed to provide data on variables such as ethnic or cultural background, gender, age, education level, religion and home language. They should be designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, although this is never completely achievable. Bookstein referred to the two factors which reduce the reliability of data from questionnaires, namely failure of the respondent to understand the question(s) and response decisions which can be influenced by a number of factors (Bookstein, 1985: 25–7). For this reason, qualitative investigation also needs to be undertaken. An example of a questionnaire which can be adapted and modified to be more relevant to the data required in the given context is included in Appendix 1.

 Follow-up interviews. For more qualitative data, and as a reliability check against possible flaws in the questionnaire process that inevitably occur due to the limitations of applying only one research instrument, it is recommended that follow-up interviews take place with selected respondents, to explore responses to questions in more depth. It is important that a schedule is drawn up within a time frame, and that interviewers are identified and scheduled to conduct interviews over a specified period of time. An example of an interview schedule is included in Appendix 2.

Factors to consider in adapting the model

The core factors in the adaptation of the model are outlined in the model itself, under the heading of “Contextual fluidity” (see p. 131). Additional factors can be added where relevant, and existing factors can be changed to suit the context of the region in which the course will be developed. The following factors can be considered in the adaptation of the model at the inception of the course, and again later, following the review of courses delivered.

 Country-specific contexts, languages and cultures:

    There are very different political, cultural, religious and economic practices, behaviors, values and beliefs in different regions of the world. Some of the core components of the model would not be suitable in the present form in countries where there is no separation of church and state, such as in Islamic countries, and in countries in the Levant region, or in countries where the leadership style is authoritarian and the questioning of leadership is considered to be disrespectful, such as in certain Asian and African countries. In addition, while many countries have experienced migration which has brought a mix of cultural influences leading to the adoption of multiculturalism, other countries are still predominantly defined by one or two main cultures, and in some cases these cultures compete for supremacy. In many countries, only one or two main languages are spoken, such as in Latin America where Spanish or Portuguese predominates, while in others, a variety of languages are spoken, and efforts need to be made to present the courses in a variety of the languages prevalent in that country. In order to teach basic critical thinking skills, culture-sensitive areas should be avoided and more neutral areas of cultural heritage should be chosen. It is emphasized that this is not in order to engage in censorship, but, rather, to be able to convey the skills in a manner that will not lead to anyone shutting down from learning how to think critically. The delivery of training should enrich the skills and knowledge of the learner. It should not attempt to implicitly impose a set of values or beliefs on the learners (such as democratic, socialist or religious values), but rather enable them to evaluate and be aware of their own worldviews, develop worldview literacy and expand their knowledge to learn about and understand other worldviews without needing to embrace, agree with, or be threatened by those worldviews.

    An example of a multiculturally embracing, vibrant, dynamic, adaptive and “future proof” overall approach can be found in the splendid development of the National Library of Singapore (NLS), which embraced the theme of “knowledge, imagination, possibility” in the creation of its new transformative library building, providing a variety of activities, learning programs, research facilities and events (Seet, 2005: 9, 11). This author visited the NLS for a conference co-hosted by the NLS and the IFLA Document Delivery and Resource Sharing Standing Committee in 2007, and found the NLS to be a thriving nexus of activity and learning, and of cultural activities embracing the Chinese, Muslim, Indian and European communities of that country. It was the place where everyone wanted to be. Singaporeans in general were aware of the National Library as a rich source of heritage and research resources, and thought of it as a people-friendly and service-orientated space, with a beautiful building that reflected tradition, technology and the environment, filled with plants and greenery in many parts of the building. The aesthetic and social pleasure of being in such a physical space simply could not be replicated in a virtual environment. The pleasure and inspiration it gave to its many users was evident in a walk-through of the various parts of the Library. The NLS serves as a role model for an inspirational vision that could be extended further in integrating the delivery of information literacy and cultural heritage programs for lifelong learning in museums, archives and libraries.

 Feedback from learners, the changing needs of learners, and different groups of learners:

    It is most important to identify the existing skill sets, cultures, languages, age groups, religious beliefs, educational backgrounds and general awareness levels of the learners, and take these into account in the development of courses. As previously mentioned, these factors can be assessed through questionnaires and interviews before the courses are developed, but should be reassessed periodically. In contexts in which probability sampling was not possible in the initial stages, reassessment is likely to be needed more frequently, over a period of time, until the representative user base is established.

    One of the most important factors to take into account in the development of training courses is the need to accommodate people with disabilities. Addressing the museum environment specifically (but with this also being applicable to archives and libraries), McGinnis noted the need for museums to ensure that people with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs, the blind and partially sighted, the deaf, and people with learning disabilities, are accommodated (McGinnis, 1996: 95). Measures that can be taken include sign-language guided tours, having instructors trained in sign language, the provision of printed transcripts of tours for the deaf, and the availability of braille and audio material for the partially impaired and blind. Buildings should be designed with wheelchair access in mind, and should already have ramps, slopes and facilities built in to accommodate those in wheelchairs. For people with learning disabilities, large print and specially adapted tours and courses should be designed (ibid.: 97–8).

 Changes to the environment (in museums, archives and libraries, and world events globally):

    The speed of change, innovation and development has increased exponentially with the development of the global network society, and museums, archives and libraries are reflecting this rapid pace of change in their changing cultures of practice and overall strategic focus. In addition, rapid political changes can result in different political regimes with different perspectives coming to power in a very short space of time, leading to radical changes in governance, as happened in Egypt in 2012. Political changes can influence cultural practices and norms, and these changes would need to be included and accommodated in courses, which may necessitate further adaptation of the model.

 New developments in the fields of cultural heritage, information literacy and lifelong learning:

    There is a plethora of new developments each year in the field of information literacy, with new models, lenses and updates occurring frequently, and, similarly, the fields of cultural heritage and lifelong learning are subject to frequent review and reconstruction. It is essential, therefore, that the appointed personnel in museums, archives and libraries keep pace with these developments and incorporate them into the model and courses where necessary, so that courses do not become static, rigid and out of date.

 New digital, media and technological developments:

    Technology is perhaps the most rapidly changing area of development of all, driven by the need for continuous new and improved technologies which proliferate in a market-driven quest for supremacy. For example, the rapid speed at which cell phones evolved into smart phones – capable of a variety of functions including telephone calls, text messages, the taking and transmitting of pictures and video, emailing, using software packages for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, and accessing the Internet – reflects the fact that further radical developments are inevitable. At the time of writing this book, technological developments which potentially could completely reshape the way in which cultural heritage is presented, accessed and used are the ongoing work on the Semantic Web and augmented reality. It is also essential for practitioners in museums, archives and libraries to stay informed of new developments in the field of media studies, which is usually among the first to embrace and engage with new technological developments and apply them in media communications.

Applying the model: designing training courses based on the model

The design of the training courses should incorporate the elements outlined under “Components (carrier, content and context)” (see p. 128), and tasks should be designed around selected culturally appropriate examples, following the process outlined in the model under the heading “Core processes and tasks” (see p. 129). This would call for extensive knowledge of the collections housed in each of the institutions and the contextual elements accompanying items in the collections.

Course designers would need to understand the differences in teaching approaches – whether constructivist, or didactic, or a combination of both approaches. In addition, as Poyner noted, courses need to accommodate different types of people, for example those who are active and assertive, or those who are passive, reserved and prefer to observe, those who prefer a theoretical approach, and those who prefer practical engagement (Poyner, 2005: 82).

Courses could be designed to be experienced in stages over a period of time. For example, a course could start with a basic core course covering cultural heritage in the local context of the country concerned, followed later by a more advanced course covering cultural heritage in international contexts. If learners require instruction in basic computer skills it is recommended that these courses are delivered separately, and as a prerequisite to information literacy and cultural heritage training. The courses in information literacy and cultural heritage should assume basic computer literacy, and should offer enhancement of basic computer skills at the beginning of the course, in the “Discover” stage (see p. 129), and further skills in social media and other Internet applications in the “Create” stage (see also p. 129).

Further suggestions for each process are outlined below.


Facilitator’s tasks: provide tours of the learning sites, physical and virtual; provide instruction on searching and using tools of discovery; highlight the differences between print and digital carriers.

This stage entails orientation of the learning sites and instruction on the key searching skills, thus the approach is didactic. In terms of searching electronic resources (catalogs, databases and the Internet), standard electronic searching techniques should be taught. As Barclay noted, these include the structure of electronic databases, standard features, free-text searching, fixed vocabulary searches, Boolean logic, broadening and narrowing searches, and devising search strategies (Barclay, 1995a: 58–71).

Following the instruction there should be tasks for learners to practice and apply the skills. These can include questions and tasks such as:

 How many museums are there in [name of applicable country or city], and where are they located?

 How many archival buildings are there in [name of applicable country or city], and where are they located?

 How many libraries are there in [name of applicable country or city], and where are they located?

 Find a book which describes the traditional cuisine of Hindus.

 Locate a music resource which records the national anthem.

 Look up and find the titles of journals that focus on the arts and crafts of indigenous people in [name of applicable country].

 Trace a newspaper article which reports on the discovery of ancient ruins in [name of applicable country or city].

 Find an online exhibition of art on the Internet.

 Find a blog which specializes in discussion of the social customs of [name of applicable cultural group].

 Find two other calendars that record time and dates other than the one currently used.

 Which three museums have recently repatriated the remains of citizens of their countries who had been exported abroad for scientific research?

 Where are the records of [name of applicable political conflict] stored?

These questions can be expanded further, and can be adapted to local or international contexts. At this stage, the components featured are carrier and content.


Facilitator’s tasks: facilitate the learning of the group, paying attention to any individual difficulties; outline moral, legal and ethical issues in the use of information, including privacy and data security.

Following the instruction, there should be tasks for learners to practice and apply these skills. These can include tasks such as:

 Read the first three chapters of [name of book] and make notes on the key features of the cultural rituals described in these chapters.

 Listen to the following two recordings of speeches by [key political or cultural people], then make notes on their main arguments.

 Watch the following two documentaries about the musical traditions of [name of cultural group] online, make notes on their key features, and then compare the two, noting the differences and similarities.

 Read the following three newspaper articles about contested interpretations of [name of applicable cultural group] tradition, then summarize the key arguments of each of the contesting groups.

At this stage the focus includes carrier, looks in more depth at content, and starts to take into account the component of context.


Facilitator’s tasks: provide training in critical thinking skills; facilitate group role-play in analyzing information; include media analysis.

Building on material and notes from the previous two stages, the facilitator now gives instruction in critical thinking skills and analyzing arguments, and facilitates group practice in hearing arguments, analyzing their key points, finding fallacies and deconstructing arguments. At this stage, the examples of cultural heritage chosen for evaluation and analysis should be culturally sensitive to the crystallized norms of the group. Examples of inappropriate subject selection include:

 critical analysis of the political leadership in a country that imprisons its citizens for criticizing its leaders;

 the deconstruction of a religious practice in a group where some or most participants practice that religion;

 scientific analysis of the beliefs and customs of a particular cultural group.

Examples of appropriate subject selection include:

 analyzing and deconstructing the main arguments of different eyewitness testimonies and interpretations of a historical cultural event;

 exploring competing historical narratives of a colonizing event in a particular country, and identifying flawed arguments;

 identifying and comparing different approaches to the creation of traditional music, and comparing their merits and limitations;

 analyzing different media reports of a cultural tradition, and identifying any biases or misrepresentation;

 tracing missing contextual links in the digital domain, due to information flux on a selected cultural narrative.

At this stage, the focus is primarily on the components of content and context.


Facilitator’s tasks: provide training in basic writing, use of computers, PowerPoint, social media.

As mentioned previously, basic computer literacy is a prerequisite for these courses, thus training would focus on the use of software applications such as word processing packages, the use of social media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and others if relevant, and basic writing skills. This stage invites the participants to create their own story of cultural heritage, which could be taken from their own experiences or which could be imaginary, depending on their preference for privacy.

Subject matter can include:

 tracing a family tree in the archives;

 telling a story about a family tradition;

 writing and sharing a recipe for preparing food for a traditional cultural event, with illustrations;

 compiling an online scrapbook of memories of religious ceremonies, with digital photographs;

 composing song lyrics to accompany music that celebrates a cultural group.

Learners should be encouraged to provide additional contextual narratives to their story, linking the story to related stories where possible, and identifying how their own perspectives influence the creation of the story.

This stage invites a constructivist approach, and focuses on the components of carrier, content and context.


Facilitator’s tasks: ensure a supportive and receptive environment for the presentations; provide further assistance in the use of social media, and media literacy.

This stage would give the participants the opportunity to share with the group their creations from the previous process, both verbally in a presentation and by placing their creations online on a specially dedicated site for the sharing of cultural heritage. Some of the creations, which are from memory not imagination, could be included, with the permission of the participants, in the online collections of museums, archives and libraries to provide enhancing contextual narratives to existing collections.

The components featured at this stage are carrier, content and context.


Facilitator’s tasks: ensure a supportive and receptive environment for the feedback; mediate when any negative feelings are experienced.

This stage allows the facilitator to demonstrate how to give constructive feedback to participants on their creations, and allows the groups to give constructive feedback to each other. The facilitator will need to be alert to any negative feelings that appear, and will need to coach the group in being sensitive to each other’s personal feelings. An example of constructive feedback would be:

 I found your story of your family’s experiences of leading the community in social customs and of teaching religious traditions to be very enriching. I learned so much from your story, and appreciate you sharing it with us. It would be very helpful if you could add in some dates to the two events you describe, as well as a picture to illustrate the traditional wedding attire that is worn in your community.

The components featured at this stage are carrier, content and context.


Facilitator’s tasks: provide support for the modification process; note where the courses themselves may need to be adapted, modified and updated based on learner feedback.

The final stage of the process would be modifying the creation, based on feedback received by the facilitator and from other group members, in order to complete the creative task. Modification can involve correcting errors, providing additional facts, supplying illustrations or refining a story. This final stage demonstrates the outcomes of being able to receive and use constructive feedback and modify existing constructions in a fluid manner.

The components featured at this stage are carrier, content and context.

The ideas presented above are intended to stimulate course designers’ exploration of cultural heritage subject matter, and are presented as illustrative examples rather than prescriptions.

Reviewing, evaluating and revising the model and training courses

The review, evaluation and revision of both the model, if necessary, and the training courses can be assisted by the feedback and evaluation reports from the learners following participation in the courses. Another post-course method of assessment, namely focus groups, can yield rich information about any flaws or gaps in the courses, and provide suggestions from the learners themselves on any further elements to be incorporated in the courses, thus making the process fluid and participatory. It might be necessary, for the focus groups to be effective, to group different categories of learners together according to age, gender or educational background, if it is found to be appropriate in a particular cultural context. It is suggested that the ideal number of participants in any focus group should be no more than eight people at a time in order to facilitate communication, and refreshments should be provided in a comfortable environment in order to make the participants feel relaxed.

Finally, with regard to the use of PMM as a recommended measure of the outcomes, a brief explanatory note is included here for those readers not familiar with the methodology. The method consists of providing candidates, prior to training, with a sheet of paper with concepts listed. Concepts can include: “information literacy;” “cultural heritage;” “museums;” “archives;” “libraries;” “critical thinking,” or any other concepts identified by course designers as important. The concepts can be listed in one color, such as black. The candidates then write or draw anything that comes to mind for them in association with those concepts – this could be words, images, ideas, beliefs, opinions or feelings. The facilitator then interviews the candidate for further clarity, and makes any notes in a different color, such as red. The sheet of paper is then kept until the conclusion of the training. At the end of the course, candidates are asked to add new words, thoughts, opinions, images, ideas, etc., to the original sheet of paper, this time in a third color, such as green. Finally, the facilitator interviews the candidates on the new additions, and summarizes them in a fourth color, such as blue. The completed sheets are retained by the facilitator, and can be used for evaluating outcomes achieved and for reviewing courses and training.

Concluding comments

This chapter highlights the need for museums, archives and libraries to converge and work cooperatively in planning, adapting, designing and implementing the model and any training courses in information literacy and cultural heritage for lifelong learning. Some basic practical suggestions and guidelines have been provided in order to assist with the operationalization of the model, but it should be noted that these are only guidelines and the approaches taken can vary considerably depending on the cultural context and the stage of development of the country concerned.

It only remains now to outline a way forward for museums, archives and libraries, following some summary observations, and this will be undertaken in the conclusion that follows in Chapter 7.