March 5, 2014

More on threshold concepts and #ACRLILRevisions

The three threshold concepts in the new ACRL draft Framework for Information Literacy (Higher Ed) are noted as:
  • Scholarship as a conversation
  • Research as inquiry
  • Format as process
From conversations on Twitter, Andy Burkhardt made a great post about how he has implemented "Research as inquiry" in his instruction. These practical examples are so helpful in understanding such a theoretical framework. Since I have been pushing research as conversation, or "Scholarship as conversation," in my own teaching, I thought I would share what I have done as well (for reference, I wrote about my initial thoughts on the new draft framework in a previous post).

Credit course and scaffolding
We have since paused our for-credit courses at the library, but in the last two sessions, I scaffolded research as conversation throughout the semester. I started off with introducing the concept, then made greater analogies to other modules, and in the end, had students create a short, animated video or comic strip (or script if they were not feeling visuals) illustrating a facet of research as conversation. (And this course is where we initially started using digital badges, as a side-note).

Searching online communities
In the fall, I had two additional opportunities of note to use scholarship as conversation, but also the other two threshold concepts. In a course in the UA's new eSociety program, my colleague, Leslie Sult, and I collaborated with the instructor to develop an in class activity and assignment. Students were researching a current event in a variety of formats/online communities (social media, local news, national/international news, news blogs, etc.), and the instructor wanted her students to do some critical thinking in groups to evaluate information and think about bias and point-of-view. I came up with the worksheet below, and we wound up having some great conversations as each group presented on their resource (YouTube and Twitter were especially interesting):

And additional questions we asked to coincide with the worksheet, after a brief lecture on related issues was delivered, included:
  • Open versus closed community: impact? E.g., Facebook closed vs Twitter open – algorithms on Fbook and Google search when signed in (stay in the echo chamber)
  • Primary versus secondary sources: what is the difference and when might you use either?
    • How are messages changed/altered when they are retweeted or shared? Is anything lost? (like playing telephone), how do you account for this in searching? How do you know what part of the message is accurate? Methods for this
  • Search strategies and tools: hashtags, groups, slang, memes, etc.
  • Trolling: how does it affect communities and how might it change your search strategy?
    • How do you know if someone is trolling a group or a topic discussion? Does trolling have significance in your search? Should you seek it out or ignore it?
  • Back to whose voices are heard? What might the effect of being in the “echo chamber” do to whose voices you hear personally? What search strategies could you use to get out of the echo chamber?
The learning outcomes based on the instructor's course learning outcomes in conjunction with Leslie's and my goals for library instruction were the following:
  1. Engage in a focused process of inquiry within an assigned online community in order to articulate the ways in which online communities function across contexts in contemporary life
  2. Strategically access and evaluate information via search in an assigned online community in order to recognize various perspectives including rhetorical, philosophical, historical, sociological, and psychological viewpoints
  3. Develop insight into the ethical aspects of information creation, use, access, and durability in order to be conscious of many group-related issues and practices relative to the use of computing technologies to facilitate group collaboration

Student athletes and avoiding plagiarism
When working with student athletes later in the semester, I more literally included scholarship as a conversation into my instructional design for a session I collaborated on with the Director of the athletes' writing center and my colleague, Niamh Wallace. I started the session talking about the process of research to frame positive uses of citations (how they help a conversation) and the negative effects of plagiarism, accidental or not (how they harm a conversation). To illustrate the concept in their minds first, I read them Burke's Unending Conversation Metaphor that I slightly adapted to more modern language they could relate to. I asked them to close their eyes and....
Imagine that you enter a party. You come late. When you arrive, others have been there long before you, and are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and fill you in. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you get the gist of the argument and join in. Someone answers; you respond; another comes to your defense; another aligns against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending on the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is endless. It’s getting late, so you have to take off. And you leave, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.
Marisa (Director of writing center) incorporated a short lecture on how to write well when using other people's ideas, and as a hands-on activity had students write about their thoughts based on what we had presented to them (having them cite us). Then, using game design for this session, the theme was the "Citation Olympics," and we had students compete in groups for prizes as they learned content. Our format was introduce concept > practice > compete in the Citation Olympics at the end. Each module was a "sport," essentially. Here is a copy of the PPT we used to guide the session for a better idea (though much detail still gets left out from not including lecture notes).

Workshop on avoiding plagiarism for student athletes from Nicole Pagowsky

Anyhow, thought it might be helpful to share, and I hope to see how others have been teaching these concepts to gain a better understanding of how the new framework can be put into practice.

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