Tag Archives: acrl standards

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?

Discussion: What are our standards?

The RIOT discussion in response to Krystal’s post gave helpful context for the revision of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards, ways to advance information literacy initiatives apart from the standards, and the current information literacy climate at UT. Krystal’s insightful post and informative explanation of the background of the revision process led to a discussion of how we might start to think outside the box when advocating for information literacy in curriculum.

Reporting on the recent presentation by Patricia Iannuzzi, Dean of Libraries at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Krystal laid out Iannuzzi’s and her own thoughts about why the standards are not an end-all, be-all roadmap for information literacy success on campus. It is our job to take those standards and find out how they best fit in the curriculum as we work with departments. Michele demonstrated that wording of the standards is not of utmost importance. Most discussants agreed that we refer to them occasionally, but do not constantly scour them. It was suggested by Iannuzzi and again in our discussion that instead of focusing on the wording of the standards, we should be creating and strengthening partnerships on campus in order to have a strong information literacy presence in curriculum.

UNLV underwent a process of curriculum mapping, and was able to identify and map information literacy learning outcomes in each department and figured out the sequencing to build on previously-taught concepts. Some specific differences were pointed out by Meghan. UNLV looked at required courses across the curriculum, not just for first years. Also, librarians have faculty status which would give them an automatic seat at the table for those discussions. Our group discussed how that would be a difficult process at UT because the culture of assessment is disjointed among departments. Everyone seems to do their own thing.

Laura Schwartz shared her experience of mapping information literacy learning outcomes to the curriculum in her departments a few years ago. Even with faculty buy-in, the program was not able to be implemented. By completing the process, though, Laura is armed with a tool when the departments revisit their curriculum. Kristen Hogan has also started looking at required courses in her areas and seeking opportunities to work with instructors on embedding information literacy.

One thing on campus that is progressing is assessment for UGS classes. Michele shared that the UGS Assessment Group is made up of support folks and faculty who are interested in assessment and how we are meeting the general education curriculum outcomes. One tool being looked at is the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) VALUE rubric. Michele shared this document with the group via email. This rubric measures things like information literacy and critical thinking. Michele would like to take the information literacy learning to the next level in the coming years by integrating these learning outcomes in the next QEP.

Although every undergraduate is required to take a UGS course, and syllabi are reviewed for the six required elements, information literacy doesn’t always happen the way we would like.

Some departments have their own assessment measures like peer evaluation or evaluation by the chair. There are other resources for faculty to examine themselves, apart from the elements of their tenure packets. Doris Adams works at the Center for Teaching and Learning as the head of the faculty liaison program. CTL liaisons are assigned to each college and work with faculty to improve classes and build communities of like-minded folks. The Provost’s Teaching Fellows program aims to enhance faculty collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and support faculty-led projects to improve teaching and learning:


It was clear that the librarians present at the RIOT are interested in continuing this discussion and their work with departments advocating for information literacy. Michele offered to provide LIS support to anyone interested in mapping learning outcomes to curriculum in their departments.

RIOT: What are our standards?

Last week, Meghan and I attended a Student Learning Outcomes Symposium hosted by the Greater Western Library Alliance. The symposium was the culmination of work done by a GWLA taskforce to find out how member libraries were implementing and assessing information literacy  learning outcomes at their institutions, and included workshops, presentations, and roundtables highlighting current and best practices. Patricia Iannuzzi, Dean of Libraries at University of Nevada, Las Vegas opened the symposium with a talk focused on “the challenges and opportunities in creating a campus-wide information literacy agenda.”

During the talk, she remarked on the current work being undertaken by an ACRL task force to revise the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. If you haven’t done so already, you can learn about the revision and watch recordings of online forums that recently took place to discuss the coming changes. While much remains unclear, we do know that the standards will somehow incorporate threshold concepts and metaliteracy. Though it is probably fruitless to discuss the merits of the revised standards before we can actually see them, I was intrigued by a statement Dean Iannuzzi made during her talk. Her discussion focused on the importance of aligning learning outcomes, assessments, and learning activities at the library, course, major, and institution level, and communicating outcomes in a way that resonates with your campus. In other words, how to infuse information literacy into the curriculum by paying attention to campus culture and framing what you’re doing so that others buy into it. It was within this context that Dean Iannuzzi expressed her opinion that the IL Standards revision process is focused on the wrong things and mentioned that she had written a forthcoming article for a special issue of Communications in Information Literacy explaining her position. I tracked down the preprint and thought it was pretty interesting and could spur discussion.

Iannuzzi begins the article by arguing that the original Standards were so influential in 2000 because they incorporated the growing push for colleges and universities to “articulate measurable learning outcomes that extended beyond disciplinary content knowledge.” She argues that work done by those within our profession has has placed information literacy among other important sets of outcomes (critical thinking, oral and written communication, etc.) that everyone pretty much agrees need to be integrated throughout the curriculum and infused within disciplinary content. While the creation of the Standards was an important starting place, Iannuzzi argues that they should serve as a framework for campuses to develop their own measurable outcomes and that those discussions are the ones librarians should be focusing on.

If the challenge before the reviewers was to reword, reframe, and rehash the writing of each learning outcome, then the recommendations would suffice. However, I see little to gain from continuing the decades-old battle of “the literacies.” That discussion is a red herring, which leads ACRL and advocates of reform down the path of professional naval gazing at a time when academic libraries should expand their focus on the challenges of undergraduate and graduate education. (Iannuzzi 2013)

Her point (as I take it) is that we have already taught many within higher ed what information literacy encompasses and how it is important to our students, and we don’t need to continue focusing on refining our message. Instead, we need to move toward partnering with others at our institutions to comprehensively and systematically build information literacy into the curriculum and assess it throughout. Rather than focusing on changing the Standards, she calls for ACRL to:

  • work with groups involved in education reform (AAC&U, regional accreditation associations, etc.)
  • distance itself from technology associations on this issue
  • clarify how information literacy is included within existing national frameworks (such as The Degree Qualifications Profile)
  • create developmental models to assist in curriculum mapping
  • address issues of assessment through leadership on standardized testing (since comprehensive tests like the Collegiate Learning Assessment that are meant to measure integrated skills often do not include information literacy)
  • partner to promote already developed, normed, and reliable rubrics that integrate information literacy with related skills and abilities
  • promote research on the relationship between information literacy and student success

Her views keep the idea that information literacy must be addressed within the disciplines, and expand the role of librarians to one that includes curriculum mapping and vertical integration. What do yall think?

Possible questions to discuss include:

  1. What do you think about the direction of the Standards revisions?

  2. Do you/how do you currently use the Standards? What issues do you have?

  3. What is our campus culture – how can we best communicate outcomes?

  4. Has anyone been involved with curriculum mapping in your department? Do you see this as part of our role?

  5. Could we create a campus-wide information literacy agenda at UT?