Category Archives: RIOT Discussion/Recap

DART Recap – scoUT Discovery Tool

Yesterday we launched the new platform for our professional discussion group, Discussions About Resources and Teaching (DART), formerly known as RIOT.  Motivated by feedback and transitions within the department, this change better reflects our current structure and goals as a community of practice.  Thank you to everyone who participated in kicking off DART!

Our topic for discussion was teaching with web-scale discovery tools like scoUT. To gather different perspectives, participants were invited to read one of three articles beforehand:

“Teaching Outside the Box: ARL Librarians’ Integration of the ‘One Box’ into Student Instruction” College & Research Libraries

“Beyond Simple, Easy, and Fast: Reflections on Teaching Summon” College & Research Libraries News

“Teaching ‘Format as Process’ in an Era of Web-Scale Discovery” Reference Services Review

We began with a round robin to share how, or in what capacity, people are using or not using our discovery tool scoUT. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a broad and varied spectrum of responses. Some people actively use it as a teaching tool in classes, while others mention it briefly, do not teach with it at all, or find themselves engaging with it more on the reference desk than during instruction sessions. People mentioned using it for developing topics; searching by citation; refining vague reference requests; finding book reviews; and locating material on obscure subjects or with very specific search phrases only found in full-text.  Also, it seems that few people actually call the tool scoUT when talking about it with students, referring to it instead with names like the “all tab” search; “main library” search; or the “big box” search.

Interestingly, some of the features discussed that make scoUT useful are also what can make it challenging. For example, it is helpful in retrieving sources that cover obscure, specific or seemingly unrelated topics because it searches and crawls across so many things. Yet that also means that it often returns a deluge of results, which people expressed can be difficult or overwhelming to deal with.

After the round robin, much of our discussion stemmed from the third article, which explored the concept of teaching format as process and how web-scale discovery tools factor into this approach.  When searching online, sources become decontextualized; content is separated from its package and so visual indicators cannot necessarily be relied upon. Guiding students to consider the creation process inherent in different source types can help foster the development of higher-level critical thinking and evaluation skills.  A tool like scoUT, that requires sifting through a large number of different, and at times random, source types, presents an authentic opportunity to discuss and hone these skills. However, this depth and engagement takes time, and can be difficult to address in a one-shot instruction session.

There was also a general consensus that whether or not we are teaching scoUT directly, students are going to use it. Not only is it the first, obvious search box on the website, but it also has that familiar Google-like quality that will draw students toward it. So if they are going to use it anyway, it only makes sense for us to think about how we can teach them to do so in a discerning and productive manner that will serve them even outside of school.

It was great to hear at the end of the discussion that several people felt interested and inspired to find new ways to incorporate scoUT into their teaching practice. Thanks again for an insightful and engaging first DART!

Do you have an article or topic you would like to bring to DART? Feel free to contact Elise Nacca with any ideas and feedback!

References:

Kulp, C., McCain, C., & Scrivener, L. (2014). Teaching outside the box: ARL librarians’ integration of the “one-box” into student instruction. College & Research Libraries, 75(3), 298-308. doi:10.5860/crl12-430

Cardwell, C., Lux, V., & Snyder, R. J. (2012). Beyond simple, easy, and fast: Reflections on teaching summon. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Seeber, K. P. (2015). Teaching “format as a process” in an era of web-scale discovery. Reference Services Review, 43(1), 19-30. doi:10.1108/RSR-07-2014-0023

 

RIOT Recap – Teaching in the Learning Labs

After a brief hiatus, RIOT returned this week with the opportunity to reflect on teaching in the Learning Labs and using the new technology, led by Sarah Brandt. The topic was introduced with some guiding questions and an article that covered the TPACK framework, which posits technology as an integrated instructional component, alongside content knowledge and pedagogy.

It was great to hear people share the ways in which the Learning Labs, both the physical space and the technology, have sparked new approaches in instruction and classroom design. Having no obvious front of the room has created a decentralized, flexible arrangement, and the table groupings have allowed for better flow in addressing students and circulating around the room. People also expressed that the screens have provided a positive new structure for group work and collaboration, while also making student work visible, which increases accountability and facilitates discussion. In terms of specific learning outcomes, people felt that the whiteboards had been very useful for keyword instruction and that the screens supported evaluation activities. It was also appreciated that the Learning Labs are ultimately student spaces, which helps create ownership and engagement.

With regard to the TPACK framework and the role of technology, people connected with the idea that technology can refer to any tool, digital or analog, and that its use should be directly tied to what it is you are trying to accomplish. We discussed implementing technology in support of our teaching goals, as opposed to throwing it in because it’s the hot new thing. People also shared the importance of being able to think on your feet and adapt instruction for whatever tools are available or in the event of technical difficulties.

There were also some challenges discussed, namely transitioning between activities, time constraints, and dealing with faculty interruptions. Potential strategies included:

  • Have groups assign roles (scribe, reporter, laptop driver) before starting an activity so they know what they’ll be asked to do.
  • Tell students the agenda for the whole class (first we’ll be in small groups, then we’re going to share out, etc.), then have a student repeat it back to you.
  • Communicate ground rules and expectations for both students and faculty prior to the session.
  • Designate a time slot for faculty to make announcements.
  • Ask faculty to prep the students beforehand with the purpose and goals of the library session.
  • Establish with faculty what can and cannot be covered or included in a session. Suggest multiple sessions or encourage extra activities (tours, browsing stacks) to be scheduled separately.

There was also the opportunity to share any tips or techniques for teaching in the Learning Labs or in general. Some excellent ideas were brought up:

  • Play music as students are coming in, creates a welcoming atmosphere and can be a good conversation-starter.
  • Give a Google form pre-test, and have the responses live populate on the screens.
  • Put questions on the whiteboards for students to answer as they come in.
  • Have students use post-its on the whiteboards for organizing keywords or other information.

If you’re interested in additional ideas for teaching with technology, check out this article from the ALA Instructional Technologies Committee.

Need some training or a refresher on using the technology in the Learning Labs? Contact Sarah Dupont, and she’d be happy to meet with you!

 

 

 

 

RIOT Recap – Instruction for Graduate Students

Janelle and Roxanne led a discussion of instruction for graduate students, talking about different articles they had read about the topic and comments they had solicited via this blog before the discussion.  One of the most common questions submitted by fellow RIOTers was about whether or not graduate students come into the class with different levels of preparedness and, if so, how do you handle it?

The answer was a resounding “yes” but one of the unique characteristics of this population is that they understand how valuable to their work as graduate students what librarians are going to teach them.  One way to handle that discrepancy in preparedness is to capitalize on their natural interest and teach them a variety of skills and tools.  Even though some will know some of it, they definitely won’t know all of it and will find value in many areas of the session.   Librarians who regularly teach graduate students agreed that there isn’t a need to struggle to engage this level of students as there is with undergraduates.

The group discussed the different needs graduate students have and how these needs also change depending on where they are in their program.  For example, someone working on their first systematic review will need something different than students writing their dissertation lit reviews or dissertation proposals.  All of them, however, need help understanding what is expected of them when doing this type of research and tools and techniques for finding, evaluating and managing relevant resources.

One tool that is effective with a graduate student population, because of their understanding of how the library will be valuable to their work, is research orientations at the beginning of the semester.  Issues of timing and tying to a particular assignment aren’t necessarily as important with this population.  Roxanne also discussed a workshops program for grad students at another university that was effective.

RIOT Recap – Feminist Pedagogy

Carolyn led a lively discussion at today’s RIOT based on her reading of Maria Accardi’s Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction and the Library Juice Academy course she attended, led by the author.  We were lucky to have perspectives from multiple disciplines in the room to discuss applying these principles to our teaching.  

 

From Accardi (as interpreted by Carolyn), feminist pedagogy is a pedagogy of social justice, which uses education as a vehicle for social change, ending oppression of women and people of color.  This pedagogy is applicable to any discipline, according to Accardi.  As a teacher, Accardi acknowledges and embraces the fact that she isn’t neutral and that she has “an agenda.”  

 

Carolyn opened the discussion by taking us through some of the things she learned from the book and the class.  First is that feminist pedagogy can be incorporated into teaching even when the teacher isn’t an expert.  Incorporating pieces of this ideology can be impactful and instructors should feel empowered to do that.  Second, this pedagogy, like critical pedagogy and constructivism is concerned with de-centering the classroom to privilege the students’ needs and perspectives and to create a participatory and egalitarian learning community.  Third, a feminist educator not only gives voice to, but privileges marginalized voices and ideas, even going so far as to interrupt the interrupter or silencing male students (this was the one we discussed most and had the most issues with – read on).  They also have a consciousness of social justice issues.  Finally, feminist educators care about their students.  

 

Though many of the teaching librarians in the UT Libraries do try to de-centralize their classrooms, some worried about faculty and student reactions to this type of lesson – a common critique of feminist and critical pedagogy.  Students and faculty sometimes do want a “sage on a stage” to tell them what to do.  Carolyn suggests talking to the faculty member in this situation about the theory behind this pedagogy and sharing why teaching this way is a better choice for a library instruction session (and will lead to better learning in general).  Accardi’s book also includes scenarios which allow instructors to see how some aspects of feminist pedagogy might fit into courses.  

 

Though the group seemed to embrace a de-centralized classroom, we did not as thoroughly embrace Accardi’s ideas of how to encourage and privilege marginalized voices.  As one member of the group put it, “how can you make an egalitarian learning environment when you ask half of the class [the men] to be quiet?”  None of us were very comfortable with this idea, though there was a variety of opinion based on discipline, but we did like the idea of shaking up the groups in the classroom and encouraging more students to talk in other ways.  Grouping by Starburst color, by numbering off, or by parts of an article were suggested.  some in the group talked about getting more nuanced and thoughtful answers when the groups were created this way because students stay on task more when not with their best friends in the class.  To increase the comfort of the students, someone also suggested having students pick a recorder and reporter at the beginning of an exercise, that way no one will be surprised to be asked to speak.  Even with these methods, students may not want to speak.  In the spirit of creating a caring environment, it was suggested that those students be allowed to pass.  See pages 50-52 of the book for a chart of connections between feminist pedagogy and what we do in the libraries.     

Finally, we talked about having an agenda as an instructor and librarian, which Accardi undoubtedly does.  Carolyn suggested these resources: Chris Bourg’s blogpost on agendas and librarianship, Agendas: Everyone Has One and the Black Queer Studies Collection project that Kristen Hogan put together to address gaps/silences in the collection development and cataloging practices here at UT Libraries.  In the classroom, though, what does this look like?  We had several suggestions, including using sample searches that have a social justice component and making sure to include multiple perspectives on issues even when no value judgement is made explicit.  Because of the large political spectrum in our classes, we did talk about the idea that proceeding gently when using sources that are challenging to students might be best.  They do need to be confronted with challenging information, but it might not be effective for librarians to press their own opinion.  This, of course, varies by discipline, but is worth considering for teaching or collections development.  

 

Overall, it seems that feminist pedagogy shares a lot of DNA with constructivist and critical pedagogy and parts of this philosophy spoke to us as librarians and teachers.  Thanks, Carolyn!

 

RIOT Recap: Teaching Open Access in Instruction Sessions

The RIOT discussion on December 15 was all about open access.  Sarah led off with a question for all of us sparked by her post – is there a place to incorporate Open Access and OERs into one-shots?

We had an excellent discussion about how this does and could work in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms, and what the challenges are.  Many of us already talk about open access journals in our undergraduate classes and find that students get very engaged when you talk about the price of journal/database subscriptions (about $10m/year for UTL) and “behind the scenes” information about the Libraries.  This line of discussion comes up in the context of evaluating information, including understanding peer-review, and is easy to demonstrate when talking about GoogleScholar.  Nobody has intentionally brought it up or built a lesson around it in undergrad classes, though, and there was some discussion of what this might look like.  Ideas included using Colleen’s infographic from OA week to spark discussion or asking students to look for information in both an open access portal (such as DOAJ) and a database and compare.  This might work better in a class with a social justice component.

When talking about open access in graduate student classrooms, there are natural ties to their own publishing activities.  Janelle works with one seminar class where she spends 1 of her 2 sessions with them talking about this very issue.  Because social justice is a big component of the College of Education, she is able to frame her discussion of OA this way.   As she puts it, she asks them to “think about how what they are creating can’t be accessed by the people they are most trying to help.”  PG talked about the importance of continuing education to social workers and how that lends itself to a discussion of OA.

We also talked about how to tie discussions of OA and Creative Commons to other creative activities besides scholarly publishing.  Sidney talked about how many of her grad students and faculty want to use other people’s work in their own creative work (often without citation) but do not want to openly share their own.  There are fears that sharing your own work under a creative commons license will lead to others profiting from it or using it in ways with which you disagree.  This happens in the College of Ed, too, where people are training to be teachers (or may already be teachers) who heavily borrow from each other’s work already.  Janelle encourages them to think about how to share their work with others for the benefit of those they teach.

One challenge everyone discussed is how to be an activist about this topic with or in front of people who are participating in the system.  For example, when you are teaching undergraduates and talking about changing the model for scholarly publishing, the faculty member in the room is often a participant in that model.  Graduate students often have to participate in that model when they get on the tenure track to achieve tenure.  The trick is to find a balance between raising awareness about the issue and still showing why using library journals/databases now is important in the current environment.  Janelle often explains to her users that if the model did change, the $10m we spend on subscriptions now could go to support research instead.

The discussion went on past the hour and included some non-instruction related threads such as:

  • the importance of educating faculty to write OA into their grant proposals so that the fees for publishing in OA journals are covered
  • the difference between disciplines and how the sciences are more embracing of OA and use different metrics
  • trying to connect with the people on campus who make course packs so that we don’t ask students to pay copyright fees for articles we already subscribe to
  • wishing there was a simple way to add links to articles in our databases within Canvas – the current model is too much of a barrier for faculty and we don’t have the staff to do it for them, although it would be a great cost savings for students

We also had some ideas for OA week that Michele will pass along to Colleen, including having giant checks in the PCL lobby to clearly show the costs of our current system, and taking some undergrad and grad papers, and even a dissertation, and showing how much each “cost” to create (basically adding up subscription fees for the journals they accessed).

Michele also promised to send around the ACRL IL/Schol Comm white paper from a few years ago, which can be found here – http://acrl.ala.org/intersections/.

 

RIOT Recap – GOOD COMPANY: HOW PEER TUTORS IN THE LIBRARY CAN REACH STUDENTS IN UNIQUE WAYS

The RIOT discussion on November 17, 2015 began with Elise’s excellent post about the ways academic libraries have tried to leverage their student workers as consultants for other undergraduate students.  This discussion broadened to include many topics related to student workers in the UT libraries.

We began the discussion by talking about the fears that surface when we consider letting undergraduate students provide research help as a part of our array of services.  Several concerns came up: the need for intensive training, the idea that this is librarian “turf,” and the question of what need we’d be meeting for our users.  We came up with a few possible solutions for the training piece of this discussion – first, as with the students who work in the media lab at PCL, training could be project-based.  For example, students could be given a research problem or question (maybe mined from actual queries on the desk) and be tasked with finding resources that meet the research need.  In this way, students would encounter problems and work through them organically, instead of sitting through long training sessions.  The second idea was to seek students with some kind of interest in library work or mentorship – this would lead to students who care about their job and would be more likely to work hard to get up-to-speed.  These students could be recommended by some of the centers on campus (the Multicultural Engagement Center – MEC is one possibility).  Finally, as a cohort of more experienced students is built, some of the training could be accomplished through student workers mentoring each other.

We also recognized that the domain of the specialized library consultation is for library staff.  Student workers are not mini-me librarians.  Instead, these students will provide guidance and help other undergraduates problem solve in their research (in the model of the student mentors at the UWC).  They may also be able to connect with students who would not have otherwise interacted with library staff.  Part of the idea behind this kind of peer mentoring is to facilitate student to student learning, which can be more powerful than staff to student learning.

When we discussed what need we’re addressing, many topics came to the surface, the most interesting of which was the idea that we’d be reaching a new crop of students.  Some students who would not feel comfortable asking a librarian for help may be able to consult with peers, plus as these student workers become recognizable across campus, they may be able to spread the fact that research help is available in the libraries.

Overall, we liked the idea of student mentors providing research help – it seems to have many potential benefits for undergraduates.  Plus these student mentors could also work at the checkout desk – with more responsibilities and training, maybe they would have additional investment in their jobs.  We also have two possible populations of students to draw from at UT – students already involved in the MEC and students who have served as mentors in UGS Signature Courses (these students already do some research help).  Finally, an idea that came out of this RIOT that we can act on in the coming semester is to have UWC consultants meet with librarians about their own projects so that they can: see the services we offer, assist students with basic research problems, and communicate about our services to students who visit the writing center.    

RIOT Recap – 10/20/15

Krystal’s RIOT enabled us to have a rich discussion regarding the role reading plays in developing student’s information literacy skills while in the library instruction classroom.  To be sure, it would be difficult to evaluate information without reading it, but, as Krystal notes in her blog post, this is often what happens within the classroom setting when we have limited time to integrate active learning and model the research process.
Time is a constant obstacle in the library instruction classroom in even the most concept-driven and pedagogically sound classes. Creating an inauthentic classroom environment, something Roxanne’s earlier blog post investigated, feels appropriately off. However, framing the short evaluation exercises as good habits rather than retain content could help instructors reinforce that the activity is to build skills. Then, after they have developed the skills to evaluate a source, they can deem that source worthy of follow-up and close reading.
So, instead of an active learning classroom scenario like this:
Librarian: “Okay, now take the next five minutes to read your source, in a group develop criteria you would use to evaluate it, and develop a sound argument as to why or why not you would list as a source for your paper, and don’t worry if you don’t finish the article because there isn’t enough time to do that anyway, this is just for a class discussion…” (slightly dramatized)
We could frame it as:
Librarian: “Okay, now take the next five minutes to skim over your source noting elements within and about this source that would help you decide if a closer reading of this source is useful for your paper. Your criteria should be broad enough that it could be used in any class regardless of the assignment or research you’re doing.”
The latter framing would hopefully reinforce that this is a conceptually exercise rather than a content-driven one.
We also discussed a few other strategies, such as:
  • Reaching out to the faculty member to ask if s/he has talked about reading with the students in an effort to compliment or augment that dialogue.
  • Using and promoting educational technology, such as Endnote Web and Noodletools. Roxanne mentioned that she uses Endnote Web to teach students how to keep track of the research they are finding as a way to organize and conceptualize the research process. Michele mentioned that NoodleTools also enables students to annotate their references and add tags which can be used for critical reading.
  • Designing scaffolded assignments, such as the annotated bibliography assignment, which allows students to build skills and draw connections between readings and assignments over the course of the semester.
  • Framing the research question in a way that elicits a more targeted answer. For example, “Does XYZ solve this question” rather than “how does XYZ effect …”?
Many of us already have great relationships with faculty and have collaborated deeply on their courses and using the successes from these partnerships, we discussed ways to reach out to other faculty and illustrate a collaborative approach as a proof of concept. Additionally, are there ways in which we currently support faculty, such as the Information Literacy Toolkit, that can be redesigned to meet faculty where they are or to reach faculty before they have begun to plan their course.
We also discussed that the way in which students reading patterns have changed, mostly online and in segments, could be challenging the way we teaching information literacy.  Students may write a paper first only to go back and find sources that support their points rather than build it from a body of evidence or they may cherry-pick quotes from an article without having read it in entirety.
Roxanne offered up using review articles as a strategy for helping students better understand the synthesis of research papers. You can start with a review article and point out that scholar’s a + b say one thing, scholar’s c + d say this other thing, and then ask students to go back to the original article to see it in full context and how the author of the review article summarized their research. Sarah recommended asking students to read the first paragraph of an article and ask the to pull out keywords from there.
We ended our RIOT with a discussion of the potential of adding an additional approach to our current Signature Course program as a way to reach all students to instill information literacy skills. Because this program already catches all incoming students, it is a captive audience and we already have buy in from the School of Undergraduate Studies. We discussed what such an approach could look like — something online, a tutorial, an interactive video – and perhaps it would be something online that all students are required to complete, that would complement any of the rich course-integration interactions we currently have. Finally, we ended with a reiteration that curriculum mapping could help us define faculty and areas for partnership.

RIOT Recap – 9/22/2015

Roxanne’s RIOT post for 9/22/15, found here, centered on a few articles that advocate “modeling stupidity” for students, meaning that instructors make transparent difficult processes like research, as well as their own gaps in knowledge (along with how to fill them).

One of the best strategies that came out of this discussion is canning the canned search – as Roxanne put it, “we show a perfect search, then students feel badly when their searches aren’t perfect.”  The group generally agreed that this was an excellent strategy that gives students a better view of the research process, and the challenges researchers can sometimes encounter.  Though we liked this strategy, there were some issues with “modeling stupidity” (or curiosity, as some would rather term it) in a single instruction session:

Time constraints

The RIOT group didn’t come up with a good solution for this one.  It is true that showing a real, unpracticed search takes longer than one guaranteed to return results, but in a session with focused learning goals, it can work.  Michele suggested letting the students guide you – ask what would you do next, how can we get more/less results, what would you change here?  This way the time, though still significant, is active for the students and more realistic to what they’ll face when they actually search themselves.

Janelle also advocated for this approach with graduate students.  If you ask for a topic they’re interested in, the time spent in the session will be that much more useful for students, illustrates the iterative nature of search, and keeps students engaged as issues are encountered and worked through together.

The best strategy we identified for reducing the time crunch we feel in sessions, especially when trying a strategy like this one, is to ask the faculty member to help you “flip” your lesson.  If he or she can assign a topic exploration or keyword searching activity before the session, you may be able to create more of a “lab” in the classroom.  This would give you time to show real searches and to allow students to practice.

If you just don’t have the time or (potential) tolerance for chaos it takes for this strategy, Robyn suggested an excellent workaround – be explicit about the fact that you’re using a canned search and that’s why you know which results you’re going to see.  This can remind students that their searches might not be as lovely as yours right away – you already did the messy part in your office!  Pretend you’re on Food Network pulling the perfect cake you made earlier out of the oven!

Potential Cost to Authority or Expertise

Most professionals don’t like to feel or look like they don’t know what they’re doing.  “Modeling stupidity,” even if it is pedagogically useful, has the potential to make us appear less competent than we are.  Many of the RIOTers mentioned that they didn’t mind appearing approachable to students, who can be intimidated by expertise, but that they did want faculty to view them as experts.  This is a difficult line to walk.  

A few RIOTers mentioned that faculty with whom they have a relationship often legitimize their expertise by priming students before class (about why they’re coming to the library) and by introducing librarians as experts.  When working with faculty with whom there is no existing relationship though, a few of the participants again expressed using transparency around teaching methods to solve a problem.  Give the faculty member a “cheat sheet” of things to expect in the session, or talk to them about the ways that you’ll experiment in their class and why.  Revealing the method to your madness can have the dual benefit of making you more approachable to students and preserving your status as an expert with faculty members.  

Also, being able to work through a problem can actually reinforce your expertise with students and faculty – it just depends on the kind of expertise or authority you want to project.   

Here are some other strategies for “modeling stupidity” that came up during the course of our talk:

  • Show your database search history (or one of the student groups’ history – this is possible in the Learning Labs) to students after you’ve tried a few search strings – this can really illustrate how iterative research often is.  
  • Talk to faculty about reiterating what you’ve covered in the session, and about reinforcing that students won’t be experts after just one go at research.
  • If you have to say “I don’t know” to a question – model how you find out the answer!  After all, it helps for students to know that we’re all lifelong learners here.

Have you ever tried to model productive stupidity/creativity in one of your classes?  Let us know in the comments!

Discussion: Alignment of Research and Instruction

We met to discuss April’s post about the article, “Reinventing the Library’s Message through the Alignment of Research and Instruction,” a project by librarians at the Vanderbilt University graduate school of business.  The project described in this article included the librarians choosing 3 broad objectives they thought all of their students should understand and that they could all commit to teaching, using similar language.  Our conversation revolved around two of those three objectives: information has value and research is a process.

Information has value:  The group discussed when and how we talk about the value of information, including the price tag associated with it, and that this resonates with students outside of business schools as well.  Krystal gave the example of how she uses this concept in UGS classes.  Before discussing databases, they discuss how and why you can’t get everything for free on the Internet, which sets the stage for understanding that different information lives in different places and helps students decide where to search.  Others talk about the actual cost of certain databases in their classes to show the value of this information.

Research is a process:     The group spent the majority of time talking about this objective.  We know that students don’t think like librarians, but we also think it is important to teach them that research is a process, that the more you practice the better you’ll become and that we, as librarians, are able to reflexively do some of these things and think in certain ways because of practice.  We should teach students to think differently about the research process so they can improve.

One of the ways people teach the process is to start by asking students “who cares?”  This helps them decide who would collect or create the data/information so they know where to begin looking for it.  There were numerous examples of how people incorporate this into a class, such as Laura’s Art History example.  She asks students to consider who would care about a piece of artwork besides art historians.  It helps them move beyond their discipline and understand that “art doesn’t live in a vacuum.”  Kristen frames it as a “reflective research process” where students are asked to consider who is talking about the topic and map it to databases and research guides before starting their searches.

The group also talked about how there is some resistance from students because just using Google and simple searches has worked for them.  They look at librarians as unnecessarily complicating things.  This led to a discussion of how students don’t really understand what a college or university is and what faculty and librarians do. Instead they see college as a place to get a degree so they can graduate and get a job.  Faculty and librarians, however, are trying to teach critical thinking skills which are what will help students succeed in work and in life.  We discussed ways we can explain what college is and what a research university is so they can understand why they are asked to go beyond what worked in high school and how their work fits in with the mission of a university.  This ties in with understanding and evaluating scholarly sources, and we had our usual discussion about how difficult it is to teach them source evaluation.

We ended with a discussion about alternative ways to show our value and our learning objectives to our students.  We agreed that some of the information literacy threshold concepts apply here, such as authority is contextual, information has value and research as inquiry (research as a process).  One idea was to make posters/infographics showing our objectives and the value of what we have.  This is something we may explore further in the spring.

 

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.