March 2, 2014

Thoughts on ACRL's New Draft Framework for ILCSHE

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I've finally had a chance to read through the draft framework from ACRL, for Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (ILCSHE), as well as some good blog posts reflecting on the draft from Barbara Fister, Jacob Berg, and Andy Burkhardt. After attending ACRL Immersion - Program Track this last summer and also recently reading Susanna Cowan's, "Information literacy: The battle won won that we lost?" it seems like at least the existentialist part of the conversation on information literacy has been brewing for quite awhile. Cowan asks, "at what point does trying to interrupt the research process with the intrusion of instruction sessions, consultations, and tutorials become anachronistic, out of touch, and eventually irrelevant?" (2014, p. 29). And quoting Sugata Mitra, Cowan says we should "let learning happen," instead of essentially forcing/inserting ourselves into the process (p. 30). So the question then it seems many of us are asking ourselves is what does "information literacy" (IL) really mean, and if librarians don't "own" information literacy, what will our role be?

The draft framework focuses on three threshold concepts that would help advise our path, more so than define. Since others have taken a more theoretical perspective on their reflections, I am going to speak more practically:

  • Scholarship is a conversation: I am so happy this concept is being included, as I have been pushing it in my own instruction for awhile, yet have found it more difficult to plan and assess (though assessment is a murky area, even more so with this new framework). This notion can inspire students to see themselves as creators of information, having a greater stake in the research they are doing (as the framework notes). One thing I wonder here is how can libraries better enable this, regardless of if we own IL or not. Libraries including student output might be one way to encourage students to perceive themselves in this way, to show their work is worth something in the world beyond a class grade and that they are truly a part of the "conversation." One issue Barbara Fister brings up that I'd like to echo is that "we need to bear in mind how these thresholds we define are cultural constructs and avoid assuming upper-middle-class white American experiences that might seem hostile or exclusionary to those who don't fit that assumed identity." Who will determine what these universal threshold concepts are, and how?
  • Research as inquiry: Again, I think it's great this is included as a major concept. The framework talks about this meaning students understand that research is an iterative process and that "reflecting on errors or mistakes leads to new insights and discoveries" (p. 13). A major thought here seems to be teaching through failure, which research has shown to be effective. I'm just going to quote something I wrote in a previous post addressing this:
"Kluger and DeNisi (1996) support this notion of learning through failure by arguing that after doing an enormous meta-analysis of feedback interventions research, the conclusion is that the feedback literature is inconclusive and highly variable based on situations and learners involved. They explain that learners are most successful in learning through discovery, rather than feedback, particularly controlling feedback (ahem, grades)." via October 31, 2013
This also certainly mucks us up, as mentioned above, in regards to assessment. Though, as we partner more with faculty outside of the library, we will likely find more opportunities for reinvention and different ways to express our instructional "value."
  • Format as process: This last concept, although I think it is going in a good direction, is the one I feel is missing the most. Overall, I would like to see the framework be a bit more radical, and I think this is an example of one excellent spot to invoke critical pedagogy in a very specific way. In looking at how information is produced and considering the peer-review process, medium as message, and the value of information, I was hoping to see a discussion on marginalized groups and whose voices get to be heard in traditional publishing and media (and why). These are important conversations to have with students, and particularly so when we are encouraging them to be creators of information, joining the conversation themselves. What impact might avenues of publishing have on their ability to be vocal when considering their perspective and identity? How is privilege intertwined in format and volume? 

Overall, I am pleased with the draft and am keeping in mind that it is just that: a draft. Other issues I have echo what others have stated, including that the framework set out to rid itself of jargon, but wound up only replacing old jargon with new jargon (metaliteracy, knowledge practices, etc.). I think not only do we want faculty and administrators to implicitly understand what we're talking about with this framework, but it would be great if students could read it and quickly, easily understand our objectives. Tomorrow, I am meeting with other instruction and research services librarians at my library to discuss the new framework as a group (as well as Cowan's article), so I am interested to see what my colleagues will say. I'll be leaving my own feedback to the draft soon after that and am also curious to see other points of view and engage in more conversations on the future of information literacy and library instruction.

Edit: Adding an additional thought as I work through my perspective on this, but I'm wondering what effect the theory of cognitive development, or rather, Perry's theory of cognitive/moral development will have on the success of this framework, particularly with early undergraduate students. When students are freshmen especially, they tend to think in duality, black vs white, and the instructor as absolute authority figure, having difficulty to move outside the box. With the framework being so flexible to student exploration, will it in fact improve learning for these students? Here is a good resource to color this in a bit: 

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