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.

March 2, 2014

Thoughts on ACRL's New Draft Framework for ILCSHE

Image from
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: