Discussion: A Major Professional Shift, or Comparing the Framework with the Standards

Cindy led our discussion of this week’s RIOT on the new ACRL Framework for Higher Education with a view to an in-depth discussion open to all Libraries staff coming up this January. Our conversation centered around a few themes:

1. What’s the difference between the new ACRL Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education (Framework) and the previous ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education (2000) (Standards)?

The first clue is in the titles. The Standards offered proscriptive standards for information literacy and specific learning outcomes connected to each standard. This model was similar to education standards models used in some social sciences and STEM disciplines for accreditation.

The new Framework offers instead a series of frames through which to see central concept in information literacy.

2. What do we think about the definition of Information Literacy?

Information literacy is a spectrum of abilities, practices, and habits of mind that extends and deepens learning through engagement with the information ecosystem. It includes:

  • understanding essential concepts about that ecosystem;
  • engaging in creative inquiry and critical reflection to develop questions and to find, evaluate, and manage information through an iterative process;
  • creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and civic purpose; and
  • adopting a strategic view of the interests, biases, and assumptions present in the information ecosystem.

The Good:
It’s focusing on critical thinking!
This definition is how we think about information literacy
This seems like what students should be learning in college
This definition makes clear to faculty that we have an expertise: a broad understanding of the information landscape beyond a single specific field.

The Bad:
It could be hard to use this with faculty
The previous definition seemed more concrete: Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (Standards)
One criticism is that we’re trying to make students into “little librarians.”

The Questions:
If we were to take this to an administrator or professor, they would likely think this is what faculty are doing in their classes. How do we divide that labor? (We have specific outcomes akin to previous standards.)

3. Do the frames resonate with us?
The Framework is built around six frames, presented alphabetically:

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as a Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship Is a Conversation
  • Searching Is Strategic

Background: These six frames were initially called “threshold concepts” (Cindy referenced Meghan’s post about threshold concepts), and after pushback the Framework now identifies these as our six frames. In the description of each frame, the document describes the differences between how experts and novices understand the concepts of the frame. For example, for “Authority Is Constructed and Contextual,” the Framework describes: “Experts understand the need to determine the validity of the information created by different authorities and to acknowledge biases that privilege some sources of authority over others, especially in terms of others’ worldviews, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural orientations. An understanding of this concept enables novice learners to critically examine all evidence—be it a Wikipedia article or a peer-reviewed conference proceeding—and ask relevant questions about origins, context, and suitability for the current information need.” This seemed helpful to identify the novice and the expert as on the same journey.

Uses: The frames can help us reflect on how many of these pieces we are putting into one class session or whether we are working on a novice or expert level and whether that fits our student group.

Politics: In some fields, the first frame might seem political; in others, straightforward. Are we taking a risk here?

4. How can we apply these frames?

Background: The Framework includes for each frame a set of Knowledge Practices, or specific descriptions of what a learner in this frame can do, and a set of Dispositions, or how learners in this frame might feel motivated or where they might ask questions. We described the Knowledge Practices as the practical steps and the Dispositions as the affective influences.

Uses: The frames seem easier to scaffold across a departmental curriculum; while the Standards had their own learning outcomes and were more static.

The frames open up classrooms to critical thinking; while the Standards’ Learning Outcomes focused on tools, now we can teach critical thinking and learn tools along the way.

In the spring, look for a workshop from TLS on this professional shift – we are already doing this work, and now we get to see how deep it is and think in a different way about what we are doing.

RIOT: ACRL Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education

Since March 2013 a task force has been working to update the ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education which, at this point, have been around for almost 15 years. Needless to say, this has been no small task however,  after multiple revisions, calls for feedback, revisions, and criticism, the current and third draft is out and because this will likely be the last version before it is presented for final adoption, it’s a good time to begin a larger discussion of the framework.

Because we hope to have a longer and more inclusive discussion in January with anyone interested in the framework, this post will not will provide a brief overview of the frames, some helpful resources that discuss or describe the frames, and my personal reflection.

The full third draft of the frame work can be found at the ACRL Information Literacy Standards page here and more information about the Taskforce and previous drafts can be found here.  A robust FAQ on the standards can also be found here.

An Overview and What’s Different:
In the most recent third draft, the Taskforce has included a concise and revised definition of information literacy:

“Information literacy is a spectrum of abilities, practices, and habits of mind that extends and deepens learning through engagement with the information  ecosystem. It includes

  • understanding essential concepts about that ecosystem;
  • engaging in creative inquiry and critical reflection to develop questions and to find, evaluate, and manage information through an iterative process;
  • creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and civic purpose; and
  • adopting a strategic view of the interests, biases, and assumptions present in the information ecosystem. “

The current framework uses Threshold Concepts (TC) as the main component and anchor. Meghan wrote a great RIOT post about TC and the Taskforce explains that they used threshold concepts as a way to “broaden our practice from focusing on skills and indicators to focusing on the development and exchange of knowledge within scholarship, professional discourse, and the larger society.” It’s been a point of contention, but that discussion can be saved for another day.  You’ll also note that instead of standards for information literacy, frames (or lenses) are presented.  These frames are more conceptual in nature, according to the Taskforce, were done intentially to reflect the current information landscape:

However, the rapidly changing higher education environment along with the dynamic and often uncertain information ecosystem in which all of us work and live require new attention be focused  on foundational ideas about that ecosystem. Students have a greater role and  responsibility in creating new knowledge, in understanding the contours and the changing dynamics of the world of information, and in using information, data, and scholarship ethically. Teaching faculty have a greater responsibility in designing curricula and  assignments that foster enhanced engagement with the core ideas about information and  scholarship within their disciplines. Librarians have a greater responsibility in identifying core ideas within their own knowledge domain that can extend learning for students, in creating a new cohesive curriculum for information literacy, and in collaborating more  extensively with faculty

This reflects the Taskforce’s  choice to deliver a framework that is not prescriptive but allows for open interpretation on what fits best for each institution. The librarians that first introduced TC in librarianship gave a recent presentation at the Reinventing Libraries conference and have shared what TC might look as different assignments, which may help to ground this theory into practice.

The Frames and What They Include
There are currently six frames:

  1. Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
  2. Information Creation as a Process
  3. Information Has Value
  4. Research as Inquiry
  5. Scholarship Is a Conversation
  6. Searching Is Strategic

Each frame is further broken down and explained by “knowledge practiceswhich are demonstrations of ways in which learners can increase their understanding of these information literacy concepts, and dispositions, which describe ways in which to address the affective, attitudinal, or valuing dimension of learning.” These knowledge practices and dispositions are again, not meant to be prescriptive skills that librarians should aim to use as learning outcomes, but instead as scenarios or concepts to be use for integrating into assignment design, instruction, or other areas. In addition, each frame’s definition is accompanied by expectations of how novices or experts would internalize and react to this frame.

After reading background, updated IL definition, frames along with their knowledge practices and dispositions, I was heartened. This process is messy, especially as the information landscape is constantly changing, where accreditation and assessment is directly affected by deeply embedded standards such as the IL standards. However, as I was reading some of the standards, I felt myself nodding at the definitions of novice and expert levels, while realizing that the language I was using to explain these concepts or frames could be simplified to both the students and the faculty member in a way that accounted for a more scaffolded approach to understanding this concept.

Some questions to consider for our discussion:

  • What was your initial reaction to the new Framework and has it changed?
  • Do you see opportunities for using the Framework in a different way?
  • Subject liaisons, have you heard your colleagues taking a specific approach?
  • What’s a good way for us here at the UT Libraries to begin to better understand the new Framework?

TLS TIPS: Evaluating Sources in the Classroom

This semester I started teaching source evaluation differently and wanted to share this approach in case it can be adapted for use in anyone else’s classroom.

Using the Assignment in Your Classroom

Step 1:  Split the room into groups.   This works really well in PCL 1.124 because they’re already facing each other at tables.  Tell them the first thing they have to do is assign a recorder and a presenter.  This gets their attention.

Step 2:  Explain the exercise and pass it out on a half sheet of paper.  It is  interesting to see the types of things students write down, some of which they will have learned by the end of the exercise isn’t really helpful (for example, “if it is an .edu you can use it but if it is a .com you shouldn’t”).   Here is the exercise - just click on it to make it bigger:

eval sources

Step 3:  Have a student explain the exercise back to you.   This way students hear it two ways and it ensures they understand what they are supposed to be doing.  I didn’t do this the first time and they didn’t really get it, but I didn’t know that until they were reporting out.

Step 4:  Assign each group a source.  I pre-pick the sources and put links to them on the SubjectsPlus course guide.

Step 5:  Give them about 7 minutes to do the exercise and then have each group report out one criteria.  As you add it to the board, ask questions and hold a discussion.

My experiences with it

This has worked well in every class in which I’ve used it (all freshmen classes, though).  Sometimes I mix up the source types and other times I’ll stick to one or two types.  I tie the types of sources I use to the assignment and learning outcomes for the session.  It can be used as a viewpoint evaluation exercise, a web evaluation exercise, a scholarly versus popular exercise, or a more general source evaluation exercise.

I always do this at the beginning of the class, after I’ve introduced myself, gotten them logged on and told them the goals (LOs) and agenda for the class.  It works nicely as an ice breaker, but more importantly, it lays the groundwork for weaving source evaluation in to discussion of tools.   When they are doing their own searching during class, they can refer to the criteria list they generated and apply it to the sources they are finding.

I think you could do this exercise in a classroom with no technology and just hand out print sources.

In the honors classes I’ve taught, they gotten really into it and don’t want to stop talking.  It brings up all sorts of issues they want to know more about including evaluating (or arguing with each other about) Wikipedia, figuring out how funding may impact a web site or figuring out which journals are more important than others (not really a freshmen thing but this exercise has led to that question).  Other times it takes a while because they aren’t quite getting it but they always do eventually and I see that they have begun to move away from black and white criteria (all blogs are bad!  don’t use opinions, etc).

It is really fun and establishes a nice connection with the students.  If I start with this exercise, students seem to ask more questions during the rest of the class and seek out my help more readily.

While I would love to know how effective this is beyond what I can learn from anecdotal evidence, I only have that anecdotal evidence right now.  I’d be interested to know what other people’s experiences are if they adapt this exercise for use in their own classroom.

TLS Tips: How to guide for teaching!

Have you ever been preparing for a class and wished you had a smart buddy who never gets tired of you asking questions about teaching? You’re in luck! Teaching & Learning Services has created a series of web pages that covers everything from emailing faculty to integrating active learning and assessment into your session. Before Meghan Sitar left for Cornell, she and I worked to update and refresh these pages. This may be a good time of the semester to reflect on your teaching: What went well? What would you like to work on? The Tips  & Techniques pages don’t judge, so stop by for a visit!

RIOT: Latin@ Perceptions of the Library: Transforming our Space and Services

Dallas Long, Latino Students’ Perceptions of the Academic Library, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 37, Issue 6, December 2011, Pages 504-511, ISSN 0099-1333, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2011.07.007.(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099133311001613)

As we move forward with our new space considerations and campus collaborations, I am thinking of student perceptions of the library, specifically among our diverse populations. The literature suggests that Latin@ students report lower levels of library usage and do not ask librarians for help as often as other racial and ethnic groups. This group also exhibits lower levels of information literacy (see below studies from Solis and Dabbour and Whitmire).
Over 19% of UT’s student population self-identifies as ‘Hispanic’ according to UT’s Statistical Handbook. What are we communicating to these students as we build our spaces and transform our services? Why is it so hard to find information about the intersections between cultural support and learning support in libraries?

This study is the result of interviews with 9 undergraduate students from a large midwestern residential research I institution. All of the participants held an on campus job for 10-20 hours a week. All self-identified as Latin@ and were recruited for the study by the Latino Cultural Center (LCC), a university program created to support the cultural, educational, and recreational needs of Latin@ students. As such, the researchers acknowledge, the group of students interviewed may not be representative of the Latin@ population at this school or at other schools. These students identify with their Latin@ background and may therefore be “more engaged and better perceive the connection between cultural constructs of identity and educational systems more than other students who share their cultural identity”(507).

All of the participants began using the library after their first semester – sometimes years into their academic career. Many of the students only came to the library after being prompted by their peers. Some reported learning how to use the library catalog or databases from their peers. As with other studies we have read here in RIOT, the students interviewed here rarely ask librarians for help and often do not know what librarians can help with. Not much new information there.

Where the study got interesting was in talking about the participants’ experiences in the library as they related to their specific cultural identities. For instance, one participant revealed that she had felt on several occasions that staff members and student workers could not understand her accent and therefore raised their voices as if she could not understand them (509). Participants also intimated that they are more likely to approach a library staff member who appears to share their cultural identity. One participant is quoted, “It’s good to know who the other people are who are like you, even if it is just to say hello to.” (509)

Another participant felt that the lack of materials on display which reflect her culture make her feel alienated from the space. She said, “seeing materials that are clearly for me and not really marketed to other students…that really sends a message to me that the library knows that I am here and they recognize me and want me to feel included” (509). Her thoughts were echoed by two other participants who lamented the lack of Spanish-language materials, signage, and posters, materials which make them feel at home (509).

Interviews with the subjects also suggest that public and school libraries figure heavily in Latin@ communities. Those interviewed regarded these spaces as part of their community, spaces for cultural support and expression (509). Experiencing a library in this way would make the transition to the typical university library unsatisfying; we do not typically engage students on that level. The authors suggest holding performances, celebrations or showcasing traditions in the library or dedicating space to Latin@ student services (510) in order to make culturally diverse students feel more included.

In anticipation of the Learning Commons, one of the initiatives that I have been working on this semester is building fruitful partnerships with campus diversity organizations, like the Multicultural Engagement Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center and smaller student diversity groups (and credit is due to the hard work and inspiration from Kristen, Jee and the rest of the Diversity Action Staff Interest Group in facilitating this conversation). This article suggests building substantial partnerships with student orgs and support services and any other cultural groups on campus for shared library spaces. I think such efforts in our space could go a long way in communicating our values and promoting our inclusive attitudes, but the key is finding places where our services complement one another.

So, my questions for you are:

  1. Have you ever thought of this issue of students not feeling included in the library space? Do you have examples?
  2. What about in the virtual space – do you think there is a way or a reason to study diverse students’ perceptions of the library based on how they encounter us digitally?
  3. Moving forward with the Learning Commons, what diversity partnerships or initiatives would you like to see?
  4. The students in this study also work on campus. Do you see opportunities for our diverse student worker population in helping us create an inclusive environment?

Footnote:

Jacqueline Solis & Katherine S. Dabbour, “Latino students and libraries: a U.S. Federal Grant Project Report.” New Library World 107 (1220/1221) (2006): 49.
Ethelene Whitmire, “Cultural diversity and undergraduates’
academic library use.” Journal of Academic of Librarianship 29 (3)
(2003): 152.
Ethelene Whitmire, “Campus racial climate and undergraduates’
perceptions of the academic library.” Portal: Libraries and the
Academy 4 (3) (2004): 363.

Discussion: Research Skills and College Readiness

A small group convened to review Carolyn’s post on Research Skills and College Readiness. We discussed the assumption that all students need preparation to be “college ready” when they arrive at UT Austin. All students should learn writing skills and research skills in the UGS courses. Sometimes professors assume that the students have a more advanced set of skills than they actually have. When teaching these classes the expectation is to start from scratch when teaching information literacy skills. In addition, some students are required to take rhetoric classes to become college ready.

 

We then discussed assignment design and the role librarians can play in designing research assignments that are more than just linear but fuzzy. It is not just about solving a problem but formulating it. We also discussed how the research process is cyclical not necessarily linear. It is regularly emphasized to first year students that the research process is circular.

 

We learned that Engineering assignments are set up with formulating problems as well as finding solutions. It would be difficult to break out of the step by step process from first year students and work towards this idea of formulating problems. Topics should be selected after preliminary research gets done but often topics get picked with very little research done.

 

We also learned about primary sources and how important it is to spend time with archival collections and how important it is to really look at things in the humanities. If you look closely, formulating questions should come next. This varies greatly from the social sciences where you are constantly looking at and analyzing the data and the evidence.

 

We discussed how to help the students ask questions when they have a research problem and why students may be reluctant to ask for research help but they don’t seem to be reluctant to ask for writing or tutoring help.   Why is this?   If they were encouraged by their peers to ask for research help this makes a difference. Research shows that students think they are proficient in research skills but much of the time they are not. This may also be a reason that they don’t ask for assistance.

 

We discussed research and writing expectations in high school and how these expectations are different in college and how new skills need to be taught and old skills even unlearned.

Research Skills and College Readiness

I have been thinking about how academic libraries are starting to bring more non-library people into our organizations to help us with our thinking about how to best serve students. Librarians have always looked to education professionals to understand pedagogy and adult learning, and I hope this trend continues as we fine-tune our roles in the wider academic landscape.

I came across an interview with David Connelly, a policy analyst and professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Oregon. The interview was conducted by Project: Information Literacy (PIL), a large-scale, national study about early adults and their research habits, conducted in partnership with the University of Washington’s iSchool. PIL has a whole series of Smart Talks, interviews with professors, authors, and others involved in education who are not necessarily librarians (though there is one with Char Booth!). Very interesting perspectives for us to consider.

Read the interview here:

David Conley: Deconstructing College Readiness

I will try to hit the highlights here and we can discuss further in person. The first thing that jumped out at me is his definition of college readiness. He takes umbrage with how the current admissions system rewards eligibility over readiness. Eligibility here means grades, courses taken, and admissions test scores. Readiness is much more comprehensive:

  • A college and career ready student possesses the content knowledge, strategies, skills, and techniques necessary to be successful in a post-secondary setting.
  • Not every student needs exactly the same knowledge and skills to be college and career ready.
  • A student’s college and career interests help identify the precise knowledge and skills the student needs.

From our perspective, it seems like students would need a lot more information literacy before college to meet this definition.

The next thing I found interesting is that Professor Connelly names “research skills” a key competency for college readiness in his latest book. Students will not learn how to define a research problem and solve it by following predetermined steps. Real research and real workplace problem-solving are often unstructured and fuzzy. He sees librarians in the role of helping students and teachers understand this new “paradigm.” One way is to help teachers design assignments that require formulation of a problem before solving it. That formulation step itself requires exploration and research skills.

Then when the problem has been identified and placed in context, students must know which type of material they will need, and be able to evaluate the quality. For us, this seems like a no-brainer, but it is nice to know that someone who studies education policy sees the role of the librarian in this process.

The last bit I will point out are findings from Connelly’s research related to students seeking assistance when they need it. Students most in need of seeking help are the least likely to ask for it because:

  • Many believe doing so indicates they don’t really belong in college in the first place, so they attempt to do it all by themselves.
  • Some students simply have little experience asking for help, and colleges are far more complex institutional environments than high schools, which it makes it more difficult to get help.
  • Some students do seek help only to be rebuffed or frustrated when a professor or campus advisor does not do what the student wants.

This seems like an important finding to keep in mind as we fine-tune our services and build partnerships across campus units.

Finally, another no-brainer for us, but I really liked what he had to say about librarians helping students in the long-run:

Librarians can guide students toward materials that cast light on the big questions of the subject, and the organizing concepts necessary to connect and unite the specific competencies. They can suggest extensions and ways for students to get more deeply involved in what they are learning. And they can, of course, help the struggling student find resources that break down course content into simpler pieces that can be digested and integrated to reach the level necessary to demonstrate a competency.

 

QUESTIONS

What are some strategies for following the “new research paradigm” that Connelly lays out, wherein librarians help students explore and formulate research problems before solving them? How can we fit this into a one-shot, if possible?

How can we move teachers away from creating assignments where research problems and solutions are predetermined?

What can we do in and outside the library to help students who don’t ask for help, or conversely, to get those students to start asking for help (from us or others)?

DISCUSSION: “Does Library Instruction Make You Smarter?”

Since we didn’t actually have Michele’s RIOT back in the summer, it was good to finally get to this topic. The busy start to the fall semester puts the assessment and instructional effectiveness on all of our minds. A lively discussion followed Michele’s presentation.

All were chagrined that the studies didn’t show any correlation between student success and library instruction (LI), and we wondered about what kinds of instruction interventions do show a correlation to student success. Real-world guest lecturers? Recitation? What?

The tendency for education researchers to work with giant datasets  instead of qualitative researcher leads to literature that doesn’t adequately characterize students’ motivation, an important part of student success. Assessing students’ research papers would show the effect of LI, but one first needs to think about the audience for this information. Creating a controlled teaching environment could help us know what’s effective, but that’s neither practicable or desirable. Besides, there are so many variables that it’s better to collect information on the perceived value of LI, and whether LI changes students’ behaviors.

From here the conversation shifted to library anxiety and creating a culture that takes away the imposter-syndrome discomfort students may feel when they ask for help. Outward-facing attitudes benefit LI, and outreach and campus partnerships can help to create a culture of comfortable help-seeking.

 

Discussion: Grab bag of conference ideas

I was lucky enough to attend both of these conferences that Krystal mentions. It’s great to be able to send two delegates from our institution because we were able to split up, see more talks between the two of us, share what we learned and bring back twice as much to share with our colleagues here in the Libraries.

In RIOT, our conversation led us to think about how we can present our own assessment findings in a more public way – to students and to faculty. We are all excited at the idea of translating the data we gather into infographics and tossed around the idea of looking into easy-to-use softwares, like Piktochart, that could help us out.

We also talked about our own struggles with reaching graduate students. The ideas Krystal brought back inspired us to think about what we can do in our changing space here in PCL to more meaningfully engage with graduate students. We have thus far implemented a few initiatives, including a photo show of research at the Benson, so we would like to think of translating ideas that the branch libraries have thought up over here in the new Learning Commons.

Lastly, in response to our conversation about wanting to focus less on teaching skills (tool-based searching) and more on concepts, Janelle promised to share with us what sounds like a great infographic that explains the cycle of information succinctly.