Story-time for faculty: the pedagogical allure of the new Framework for Information Literacy

Like most people, I love stories. The longer and more complicated, the better. In the last year, nothing has grabbed my attention more than the riveting saga of the new Framework for Information Literacy. It has all the ingredients of a wonderful thriller, with the potential to change our professional lives in unsuspected ways.

I am a science librarian at Denison University, where I teach information literacy. Until three years ago, I was using the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education as the theoretical backbone for my classes. But that changed in 2012 when I learned about the pedagogical theory of threshold concepts (Meyer & Land, 2003). My first contact with threshold concepts came through an article by Townsend, Brunetti, and Hofer (2011), which described how the theory could be applied to information literacy instruction. Truly enchanted by this new way of thinking, I moved from standards to concepts and never looked back. Since most professors at my institution care deeply about pedagogy, adding a discussion about educational theory really enriched our meetings.

The release of the first draft of the Framework in 2014 provided the backup I needed to show faculty that this change in vision was not a fad. Immediately I contacted some of the major stakeholders in pedagogy on campus and set up appointments to talk about the draft. I brazenly told them I was convinced the Framework contained the kernel of what would be the future of information literacy and that we had to work together to be ready for the change. The result of those conversations was a 90-minute-long faculty workshop in September of 2014, organized by the library with the support of several other groups on campus.

The workshop was titled “A Roadmap to Better Class Assignments: Helping Students Understand the New Information Ecosystem” (Fig. 1), and it was led by Professors James Craig Gibson and Karen Diaz from the Ohio State University Libraries. Participants included faculty from all divisions of the college and librarians from three nearby institutions. Readings included the second draft of the Framework and an article by Alison J. Head (2013), Director of Project Information Literacy, describing the information-seeking behavior of college students. In addition, participants were asked to bring an assignment dealing with some aspect of information literacy that they would like to improve. After a short introduction to the Framework by Professor Gibson and to Bloom’s Taxonomy – a classification system that describes the different cognitive steps involved in learning – by Professor Diaz, attendees worked in groups to incorporate the new concepts in their exercises. Each group reported on its experience to the entire audience at the end, followed by some time for Q&A with the presenters.

Invitation card to Denison’s information literacy workshop

Figure 1. Invitation card to Denison’s information literacy workshop. Image courtesy of Denison University Libraries.

Since the workshop, several professors have reported discussing the new information literacy concepts with their classes, while others have mentioned the usefulness of learning about threshold concepts and Bloom’s Taxonomy in general. This suggests that a small, but important, shift is happening in some of our professors’ perception: information literacy is not the library’s sole responsibility anymore; it has become a common project. To support faculty interested in learning about information literacy, a new Libguides page with links to different resources related to the Framework was added recently to our Information Literacy Faculty Toolkit.

My main purpose in organizing the workshop was to give faculty the chance to read the Framework and to think about it. I wanted professors to realize that our understanding of information literacy is ever changing, and I wanted them to join the process. At the time, it did not cross my mind to wait for the final, approved iteration of the Framework – released in February of 2015. I was comfortable bestowing upon them the unrefined version of the story in all its rich and intricate detail. I did it because I believe that librarian’s evolving relationship with information literacy is a complicated and interesting saga that deserves to be told and shared widely, most of all with faculty. Some of them genuinely like it.

References

Head, A. J. (2013). Project Information Literacy: What can be learned about information-seeking behavior of today’s college students? ACRL 2013 Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2013/papers/Head_Project.pdf

Meyer, J., and Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practicing within the disciplines. Edinburgh: ETL Project Occasional Report 4. Retrieved from http://www.etl.tla.ed.ac.uk/docs/ETLreport4.pdf

Townsend, L., Brunetti, K., and Hofer, A. R. (2011). Threshold concepts and information literacy. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 11(3), 853-869. Retrieved from http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/7417

Author

Moriana M. Garcia is Natural Sciences Liaison Librarian at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Email: morianagarcia@gmail.com

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