From Secondary Education to Beyond: Information Literacy to Support Young People’s Educational Transitions

Lauren Smith (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Inequitable access to higher education and problems of retention of students from non-traditional backgrounds is an area of significant concern in the UK (Sosu et al. 2016). Young people from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to enter higher education and are more likely to drop out part way through their course than their more privileged counterparts, which can be partially accounted for by the difference in social and cultural capital available to young people, by virtue of their family, community and school contexts (Ibid). Although a number of schemes to support access to higher education for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds exist to address this inequality through the provision of information, advice and guidance for decision-making about post-school options and familiarisation with higher education (Ibid), these schemes do not explicitly focus on differing information literacy capacities of young people and their families which may influence information behaviour and decision-making, for example by drawing on issues of information poverty (Chatman 1996). This is an area of relevance to library and information science research, as well as practice.
Information literacy interventions have been used to support young people in their transitions from school to college and university. Interventions take two major forms: pre-entry outreach schemes and first year transition support. Outreach schemes take place before students enter the institutions and tend to take place within schools or on visits to the institution. These schemes usually focus on academic preparation (Bastone 2011; Nix et al. 2011; Martin et al. 2012. Some schemes specifically focus on the information literacy of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (Barnhart and Stanfield 2013) to boost the likelihood of the academic success of these individuals. First year transition support focuses on developing the competence and confidence of new students (Regalado 2003). Additionally, some school librarians engage in work to explicitly support transitions from school to further and higher education and the workplace (Beaudry 2007), including efforts to support students to overcome library anxiety (Foote 2016). This work has largely taken place in North America, and there is the opportunity for academic librarians to contribute to the development of this work in the UK.
The paper draws on the findings of a research project into widening access to higher education commissioned by the Scottish Funding Council (Sosu et al. 2016), which applied a mixed methods approach of a systematic literature review of widening access intervention studies, qualitative interviews with stakeholders in widening access initiatives (school and university students, teachers, and widening access staff), and analysis of widening access policy documents employing a social justice framework. This paper presents an overview of the impact of information literacy schemes supporting transitions from school to further and higher education and identifies opportunities for academic libraries to engage in outreach and knowledge exchange work, thereby contributing to emerging strategic priorities of higher education institutions (Contandriopoulos et al. 2010). Practical considerations such as budgets and workload are considered (Burhanna 2007), with recommendations for how academic libraries may take the first steps for engaging in transition support. Potential actions for libraries include offering secondary schools and young people support with developing information literacy competencies to help individuals develop the knowledge and confidence to navigate the complex landscape of further and higher education options, as well as the key skills for academic success at advanced levels of education.
Period11 Apr 2017
Event titleLILAC 2017
Event typeConference
LocationSwansea, United Kingdom


  • information literacy
  • careers
  • post-school
  • widening access
  • access to higher education
  • social justice